So back in 2015 I started going through Emma to celebrate her 200th anniversary.
I paused her to go through Northanger Abbey and Persuasion for their anniversary years, but have decided to throw her back into the mix with the others.
So as I was reading, I was thinking what a boring life Emma must have been living at the time “her story” starts.
So Emma and her sister were raised by a father who doted on them and the governess Miss Taylor. Miss Taylor was more a sister than an elder, so I imagine the girls must have had a lot of fun together.
But then Isabella married John Knightley and there was just the two girls.
And then Miss Taylor married…leaving Emma alone with a hypochondriac father.
And who did her father have for constant companions?
Besides her father, Miss and Mrs. Bates. Now Mrs. Bates is very old and Miss Bates is a kind, sweet woman but to Emma she is also dull, older, and not one Emma could have interesting conversation with.
And who else? Mrs. Goddard, the woman who owns and runs a boarding house. Also kind, caring, but much older than Emma and another she would find dreadfully dull.
Yes these were the ones that Emma spent most of her days with after the marriage of Miss Taylor to Mr. Weston.
Now what about Mr. Knightley, you may ask? Yes, it is true that he and Mr. Elton visited but…
“…Mrs. and Miss Bates, and Mrs. Goddard, three ladies [were] almost always at the service of an invitation from Hartfield, and who were fetched and carried home so often…” –Emma, pg 17
“These were the ladies that whom Emma found herself very frequently able to collect…She was delighted to see her father look comfortable…but the quiet prosings of three such women made her feel that every evening so spent was indeed one of the long evenings she had fearfully anticipated.” –Emma, pg 18-19
No wonder she plunges herself heart and soul into breaking up Harriet and Robert and matching up Harriet and Mr. Elton. She bored out of her socks! Can you imagine spending every day for long periods of time with Miss Bates?
And then triple that with Mrs. Bates and Mrs. Goddard.
I think I’d be going mad for anything else to bring “excitement” into my life.
This made me think of when I was a child and mother brought me to all kinds of adult functions. She is a pastor and we had to go to everything, and I remember being bored out of my skull and wishing there was another kid there to do things with.
Good thing I had my books-
As I grew older I learned to take part in the conversation and grew less bored with being with people not in my years-but then again none of the people I have spent long periods of time with were as difficult to be with as Miss Bates.
Poor Emma-especially as one who doesn’t really play, read, sing, paint, embroider, etc-she has no escape. NO escape that is, except meddling!
For more on Emma Woodhouse, go to Jane Austen Chinese Zodiac
For more on Mrs. and Miss Bates, go to Should We Pity Miss Bates or Strive to Be Her?
For more on Mrs. Goddard, go to A Visit to Highbury: Another View of Emma
For more Emma, go to Pride, Prejudice, and Personal Statements