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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Saturday, January 12, 2019

An Austen Quiz: six passages in Emma united by one hidden theme

It’s been a very long while since my last Austen quiz, but I have another one for you today.

Quiz Question: What hidden theme unites the following six passages, taken from six different chapters, in Emma?

Hint #1: The answer resonates strongly with my recent comments in the Janeites group (which is in tthe process of transferring its online home from yahoogroups to the superior Io platform) about the relationship of the bull and the hare as subtext of Mrs. Elton’s allusion to Gay’s Fable “The Hare and Many Friends”, as it relates to Jane Austen’s veiled prediction of Fanny Knight’s future marriage to Sir Edward Knatchbull.

Hint #2: Unless you’re a scholar of late 18th and early 19th century literature, you’ll need Google in order to find the answer – but if you bark up the right virtual tree, you’ll know immediately that you’ve found the answer when Google serves it up to you on a virtual platter.

Now here are those six seemingly unrelated passages from Emma:

21: [Miss Bates to Knightley] “Well! that is quite—I suppose there never was a piece of news more generally interesting. My dear sir, you really are too bountiful. My mother desires her very best compliments and regards, and a thousand thanks, and says you really quite oppress her.”

42: It was a sweet view—sweet to the eye and the mind. English verdure, English culture, English comfort, seen under a sun bright, without being oppressive.

43: [Jane to Frank] “…I would be understood to mean, that it can be only weak, irresolute characters, (whose happiness must be always at the mercy of chance,) who will suffer an unfortunate acquaintance to be an inconvenience, an oppression for ever.”

46: “Much, indeed!” cried Emma feelingly. “If a woman can ever be excused for thinking only of herself, it is in a situation like Jane Fairfax's.—Of such, one may almost say, that 'the world is not their's, nor the world's law.'”

53: [Emma to Knightley] “Oh!” she cried with more thorough gaiety, “if you fancy your brother does not do me justice, only wait till my dear father is in the secret, and hear his opinion. Depend upon it, he will be much farther from doing you justice. He will think all the happiness, all the advantage, on your side of the question; all the merit on mine. I wish I may not sink into 'poor Emma' with him at once.—His tender compassion towards oppressed worth can go no farther.”

54: Emma could not help laughing as she answered, “Upon my word, I believe you know her quite as well as I do. --But, Mr. Knightley, are you perfectly sure that she has absolutely and downright accepted him. I could suppose she might in time—but can she already?—Did not you misunderstand him?—You were both talking of other things; of business, shows of cattle, or new drills—and might not you, in the confusion of so many subjects, mistake him?—It was not Harriet's hand that he was certain of—it was the dimensions of some famous ox.”

Happy hunting!

@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

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