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6 things you might not know about ‘Emma’ (footnote edition)

There are countless editions of “Emma.” The program’s preferred edition is the Penguin Classic.  I happened to read David M. Shapard’s informative (and, at 800-plus pages, exhaustive) annotated “Emma.” Here’s a smattering of interesting footnotes I came across:


OED alert

“She was so busy in admiring those soft blue eyes, in talking and listening, and forming all these schemes in the in-betweens, that the evening flew away at a very unusual rate; and the supper-table, which always closed such parties, and for which she had been used to sit and watch the due time, was all set out and ready, and moved forwards to the fire, before she was aware.”

The use here of “in-between” and one other reference in 1815 are the first two given in the Oxford English Dictionary.


Jane Fairfax = Jane Austen?

Jane Austen practiced the piano for about an hour every day for most of her life.


Austen Fairy land

“A piece of paper was found on the table this morning—(dropt, we suppose, by a fairy)—containing a very pretty charade, and we have just copied it in.”

Jane Austen told her nieces and nephews “the most delightful stories chiefly of Fairyland, and her Fairies had all characters of their own,” according to her niece Caroline.


Knit one, purl one

Knitting (different from needlework) was done mostly by poorer women, such as Mrs. Bates and Mrs Smith in “Persuasion,” as a matter of practicality.


From the mixed-up files of Mrs. Augusta Elton

Mrs. Elton uses both “cara sposo” and “cara sposa” in the novel, and both are misused: The former mixes the feminine and masculine forms of the words, and in the latter usage, she is saying “dear wife.”


Buy a vowel …

When Frank and Jane are playing with the letter tiles…

“She was immediately up, and wanting to quit the table; but so many were also moving, that she could not get away; and Mr. Knightley thought he saw another collection of letters anxiously pushed towards her, and resolutely swept away by her unexamined.”

In a memoir Austen’s nephew says she revealed to family members that the letters formed “pardon.”


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