Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • VOLUME I

  • CHAPTER I

  • Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy

  • disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived

  • nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.

  • She was the youngest of the two daughters of a most affectionate, indulgent father;

  • and had, in consequence of her sister's marriage, been mistress of his house from a

  • very early period.

  • Her mother had died too long ago for her to have more than an indistinct remembrance of

  • her caresses; and her place had been supplied by an excellent woman as

  • governess, who had fallen little short of a mother in affection.

  • Sixteen years had Miss Taylor been in Mr. Woodhouse's family, less as a governess

  • than a friend, very fond of both daughters, but particularly of Emma.

  • Between them it was more the intimacy of sisters.

  • Even before Miss Taylor had ceased to hold the nominal office of governess, the

  • mildness of her temper had hardly allowed her to impose any restraint; and the shadow

  • of authority being now long passed away,

  • they had been living together as friend and friend very mutually attached, and Emma

  • doing just what she liked; highly esteeming Miss Taylor's judgment, but directed

  • chiefly by her own.

  • The real evils, indeed, of Emma's situation were the power of having rather too much

  • her own way, and a disposition to think a little too well of herself; these were the

  • disadvantages which threatened alloy to her many enjoyments.

  • The danger, however, was at present so unperceived, that they did not by any means

  • rank as misfortunes with her.

  • Sorrow came--a gentle sorrow--but not at all in the shape of any disagreeable

  • consciousness.--Miss Taylor married. It was Miss Taylor's loss which first

  • brought grief.

  • It was on the wedding-day of this beloved friend that Emma first sat in mournful

  • thought of any continuance.

  • The wedding over, and the bride-people gone, her father and herself were left to

  • dine together, with no prospect of a third to cheer a long evening.

  • Her father composed himself to sleep after dinner, as usual, and she had then only to

  • sit and think of what she had lost. The event had every promise of happiness

  • for her friend.

  • Mr. Weston was a man of unexceptionable character, easy fortune, suitable age, and

  • pleasant manners; and there was some satisfaction in considering with what self-

  • denying, generous friendship she had always

  • wished and promoted the match; but it was a black morning's work for her.

  • The want of Miss Taylor would be felt every hour of every day.

  • She recalled her past kindness--the kindness, the affection of sixteen years--

  • how she had taught and how she had played with her from five years old--how she had

  • devoted all her powers to attach and amuse

  • her in health--and how nursed her through the various illnesses of childhood.

  • A large debt of gratitude was owing here; but the intercourse of the last seven

  • years, the equal footing and perfect unreserve which had soon followed

  • Isabella's marriage, on their being left to

  • each other, was yet a dearer, tenderer recollection.

  • She had been a friend and companion such as few possessed: intelligent, well-informed,

  • useful, gentle, knowing all the ways of the family, interested in all its concerns, and

  • peculiarly interested in herself, in every

  • pleasure, every scheme of hers--one to whom she could speak every thought as it arose,

  • and who had such an affection for her as could never find fault.

  • How was she to bear the change?--It was true that her friend was going only half a

  • mile from them; but Emma was aware that great must be the difference between a Mrs.

  • Weston, only half a mile from them, and a

  • Miss Taylor in the house; and with all her advantages, natural and domestic, she was

  • now in great danger of suffering from intellectual solitude.

  • She dearly loved her father, but he was no companion for her.

  • He could not meet her in conversation, rational or playful.

  • The evil of the actual disparity in their ages (and Mr. Woodhouse had not married

  • early) was much increased by his constitution and habits; for having been a

  • valetudinarian all his life, without

  • activity of mind or body, he was a much older man in ways than in years; and though

  • everywhere beloved for the friendliness of his heart and his amiable temper, his

  • talents could not have recommended him at any time.

  • Her sister, though comparatively but little removed by matrimony, being settled in

  • London, only sixteen miles off, was much beyond her daily reach; and many a long

  • October and November evening must be

  • struggled through at Hartfield, before Christmas brought the next visit from

  • Isabella and her husband, and their little children, to fill the house, and give her

  • pleasant society again.

  • Highbury, the large and populous village, almost amounting to a town, to which

  • Hartfield, in spite of its separate lawn, and shrubberies, and name, did really

  • belong, afforded her no equals.

  • The Woodhouses were first in consequence there.

  • All looked up to them.

  • She had many acquaintance in the place, for her father was universally civil, but not

  • one among them who could be accepted in lieu of Miss Taylor for even half a day.

  • It was a melancholy change; and Emma could not but sigh over it, and wish for

  • impossible things, till her father awoke, and made it necessary to be cheerful.

  • His spirits required support.

  • He was a nervous man, easily depressed; fond of every body that he was used to, and

  • hating to part with them; hating change of every kind.

  • Matrimony, as the origin of change, was always disagreeable; and he was by no means

  • yet reconciled to his own daughter's marrying, nor could ever speak of her but

  • with compassion, though it had been

  • entirely a match of affection, when he was now obliged to part with Miss Taylor too;

  • and from his habits of gentle selfishness, and of being never able to suppose that

  • other people could feel differently from

  • himself, he was very much disposed to think Miss Taylor had done as sad a thing for

  • herself as for them, and would have been a great deal happier if she had spent all the

  • rest of her life at Hartfield.

  • Emma smiled and chatted as cheerfully as she could, to keep him from such thoughts;

  • but when tea came, it was impossible for him not to say exactly as he had said at

  • dinner,

  • "Poor Miss Taylor!--I wish she were here again.

  • What a pity it is that Mr. Weston ever thought of her!"

  • "I cannot agree with you, papa; you know I cannot.

  • Mr. Weston is such a good-humoured, pleasant, excellent man, that he thoroughly

  • deserves a good wife;--and you would not have had Miss Taylor live with us for ever,

  • and bear all my odd humours, when she might have a house of her own?"

  • "A house of her own!--But where is the advantage of a house of her own?

  • This is three times as large.--And you have never any odd humours, my dear."

  • "How often we shall be going to see them, and they coming to see us!--We shall be

  • always meeting!

  • We must begin; we must go and pay wedding visit very soon."

  • "My dear, how am I to get so far? Randalls is such a distance.

  • I could not walk half so far."

  • "No, papa, nobody thought of your walking. We must go in the carriage, to be sure."

  • "The carriage!

  • But James will not like to put the horses to for such a little way;--and where are

  • the poor horses to be while we are paying our visit?"

  • "They are to be put into Mr. Weston's stable, papa.

  • You know we have settled all that already. We talked it all over with Mr. Weston last

  • night.

  • And as for James, you may be very sure he will always like going to Randalls, because

  • of his daughter's being housemaid there. I only doubt whether he will ever take us

  • anywhere else.

  • That was your doing, papa. You got Hannah that good place.

  • Nobody thought of Hannah till you mentioned her--James is so obliged to you!"

  • "I am very glad I did think of her.

  • It was very lucky, for I would not have had poor James think himself slighted upon any

  • account; and I am sure she will make a very good servant: she is a civil, pretty-spoken

  • girl; I have a great opinion of her.

  • Whenever I see her, she always curtseys and asks me how I do, in a very pretty manner;

  • and when you have had her here to do needlework, I observe she always turns the

  • lock of the door the right way and never bangs it.

  • I am sure she will be an excellent servant; and it will be a great comfort to poor Miss

  • Taylor to have somebody about her that she is used to see.

  • Whenever James goes over to see his daughter, you know, she will be hearing of

  • us. He will be able to tell her how we all

  • are."

  • Emma spared no exertions to maintain this happier flow of ideas, and hoped, by the

  • help of backgammon, to get her father tolerably through the evening, and be

  • attacked by no regrets but her own.

  • The backgammon-table was placed; but a visitor immediately afterwards walked in

  • and made it unnecessary.

  • Mr. Knightley, a sensible man about seven or eight-and-thirty, was not only a very

  • old and intimate friend of the family, but particularly connected with it, as the

  • elder brother of Isabella's husband.

  • He lived about a mile from Highbury, was a frequent visitor, and always welcome, and

  • at this time more welcome than usual, as coming directly from their mutual

  • connexions in London.

  • He had returned to a late dinner, after some days' absence, and now walked up to

  • Hartfield to say that all were well in Brunswick Square.

  • It was a happy circumstance, and animated Mr. Woodhouse for some time.

  • Mr. Knightley had a cheerful manner, which always did him good; and his many inquiries

  • after "poor Isabella" and her children were answered most satisfactorily.

  • When this was over, Mr. Woodhouse gratefully observed, "It is very kind of

  • you, Mr. Knightley, to come out at this late hour to call upon us.

  • I am afraid you must have had a shocking walk."

  • "Not at all, sir.

  • It is a beautiful moonlight night; and so mild that I must draw back from your great

  • fire." "But you must have found it very damp and

  • dirty.

  • I wish you may not catch cold." "Dirty, sir!

  • Look at my shoes. Not a speck on them."

  • "Well! that is quite surprising, for we have had a vast deal of rain here.

  • It rained dreadfully hard for half an hour while we were at breakfast.

  • I wanted them to put off the wedding."

  • "By the bye--I have not wished you joy. Being pretty well aware of what sort of joy

  • you must both be feeling, I have been in no hurry with my congratulations; but I hope

  • it all went off tolerably well.