Rational Creatures: Emma Woodhouse, Miss Bates, & Harriet Smith


Rational Creatures edited by Christina Boyd

For those of you who might have missed the last post, Rational Creatures is an anthology of short stories on the different women of Jane Austen:

But just not the main heroines-there are a few other side characters like Miss Bates-and of course a couple of bad girls like Mary Crawford and Mrs. Clay. Each story gives us a look at these rational creatures.

So far we have reviewed Elinor and Marianne Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility with Self-Composed by Christina Morland and Every Past Affliction by Nicole Clarkston & Elizabeth Bennet and Charlotte Lucas from Pride and Prejudice in Happiness in Marriage by Amy D’Orazio and Charlotte’s Comfort by Joana Starnes. And I loved them!!!!

This one is on Emma

Emma is the story of a girl who has been mistress of her house and doted on by her father. After her governess marries (a match she believes she put together) she becomes bored and intends on trying her hand at matchmaking. She pygmalions Harriet Smith as she plans to set her up with the new minister. Things do not go according to plan as her matches do not take hold and her “creation” takes a life of her own.

Oh Emma, some people hate her-others love her. With adaptaions, it has been a toss up for me. Half of them I have enjoyed, while the other half I haven’t liked how they portrayed Emma or Mr. Knightley. Emma is an interesting character and it can be hard really difficult to grasp who she is at the heart.

Then I saw that we had a Miss Bates storyline. That deeply interested me as I haven’t read anything from her point of view-and I was interested in how her constant chatter was going to be interpreted.

And then we have Harriet Smith. Were they going to make her silly, lonely, desperate, hopeful, or naive?

Well, I can’t wait!

Knightley Discourses by Anngela Schroeder

So all the other stories thus far in the anthology have all started at some point in Jane Austen’s tale and then taken the author’s own flavor, twists, and turns. This is the first that takes the story in a completely new direction, years after the original Emma story ended.

So the book starts off similar to Emma‘s beginning, except we have an Emma Knightley who is now 36 years old. She has been mistress of Donwell Abbey and Hartfield, until her father passed away a year ago, in which her sister Isabella and brother-in-law John took over the estate.

She has been so busy managing the estates, her father, marriage, children, etc. But now she is in a state of restlessness. One estate managed by her sister and brother-in-law, opens a lot of extra time. The children are managed by a nanny, her husband spending more time with his brother-in-law who has moved back.

She is feeling a little lost when she spots something that makes her remember the picnic on Box Hill all those years ago, and decides to go to visit Miss Bates. While she is visiting, she hears news from Jane (Fairfax) Churchill, all news that Jane already wrote her and read-until Miss Bates gets in a flurry over Jane’s acquaintance with the Winthrops.

Emma has locked on to this and after bugginginterrogating…asking others, she discovers that there was the possibility of something between a Mr. Winthrop and Miss Bates. With the Winthrops planning on visiting, Emma starts thinking…

Mr. Knightley tries to get Emma to promise to leave the two alone and she doesn’t plan to, but also doesn’t promise she won’t.

Emma and Knightley also have a cute scene when they talk about their marriage and about poor Jane Churchill who’s marriage is not happy at all-what with Frank Churchill doing his own thing, being away, and caring only about himself.

Slight pause on the story…I think it is AMAZING how the stories are written by two different authors, but the Frank Churchill storyline in Dangerous to Know, goes perfect with this one. Where that story ends is right where we pick up on Jane and Frank’s marriage.

Emma visits Mrs. Weston who drops a bomb on her. Mrs. Weston met Miss Winthrop, Mr. Winthrop’s brother, and she should be what Emma focuses her attention on-not matchmaking. Miss Winthrop is after Mr. Knightley.

Say what!

Yes, she was carrying on about how she and Mr. Knightley were engaged at one time and that if she hadn’t had to leave they’d have kids and ever grandchildren by now.

Forget you!

Emma feels okay and secure in her marriage, plus she’s much younger but then she meets Miss Winthrop, Miss Winthrop-always-gets-her-man-Sanchez. She’s a hunter and she’s after Mr. Knightley.

OMG! When I reached this part I was locked into this story. I had other things to do, but they were no longer important as I had to find out what happened next!

Argh, Miss Winthrop! She’s a maneater, we all know the type and an excellent villain. The perfect foil for Emma.

I loved this story. So far it has been my favorite as it captured the essence of Emma, presented the loved characters in a new, interesting, and adorable way (married Emma and Knightley are so cute). Plus women like Miss Withrop, they always get me going.

And I adored the friendship between Jane and Emma.

I HIGHLY recommend it, as I LOVED it!!!

I’d start early as you won’t want to stop.

You’ll notice that this is the one story I didn’t do a quote from, and that’s because I was reading so fast to finish it and find out what happened, I forgot to highlight.

For more on Emma Woodhouse, go to Call Me, Maybe: Austentatious (2015)

The Simple Things by J. Marie Croft

So first of all, reading Miss Bates in Jane Austen’s Emma always gave me a major headache. I loved her, felt for her, but the endless chatter made my brain hurt.

J. Marie Croft did a perfect, perfect, representation of her. You can tell she really studied Austen and the character and put her all into it.

But, while the character in Emma was annoying-Croft did an excellent job not making her chatter unbearable. She would go on when speaking to people, but didn’t continue this within her mind, or with her close friends.

Good job, this was not an easy feat.

We start the book off with Miss Bates turning down a Mr. Franklin as she doesn’t love him. Even though he could answer all their family money woes. She knows Mr. Franklin doesn’t want a wife, but a nanny/nursemaid/cook/cleaning woman/housekeeper/etc and is not interested in becoming a free servant.

“The sacred institution of matrimony is too often perverted, Patty. Perverted by men and women shackling themselves to a mate for whom they feel no special regard. No attachment. No affection. No ardent admiration. No that is not the life for me. I will not doom myself to a marriage of apathy, misery, or fear. I would rather live independently, if poor.”

As Mr. Franklin was the landlord, they have lost their home and will have to find another cottage. But Miss Bates refuses to be shackled to a man she does not love. This makes her think back to her first love.

Hmm…

This story was so cute and amazing in how it portrayed Miss Bates. We were able to see a new side of her-her touched by love, the care she had for her sister and best friend, her devotion as an aunt, I loved it. And how even through the suffering and the trials she goes through, she still remains an amazingly cheerful person.

“And yet she was a happy woman, and a woman whom no one named without good-will[sic].” –Emma, Jane Austen

Croft did an amazingly good job. An excellent read!

For more by J. Marie Croft, go to “The Art of Sinking” from Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues

For more on Miss Bates, go to Should We Pity Miss Bates or Strive to Be Her?

In Good Hands by Caitlin Williams

This story picks up after Emma tried to match Harriet up with Mr. Elton, and failed.

Then Emma thought Harriet was into Frank Churchill and tried pushing them together-but that failed.

Harriet tried to get with Mr. Knightley and that failed.

Harriet and Emma’s friendship broke up. And Mr. Knightley and Emma got engaged.

Poor Harriet Smith and to top it off-she has a horrible toothache. Emma arranges for her to go to London, and stay with the Knightleys, while she sees the dentist. Harriet is exuberant as she wants to get away from it all and her embarrassment over what has happened.

So embarressed

Harriet tells Isabella what happened-all of it from Mr. Martin to Mr. Elton to Mr. Knightley. Isabella feels for her and has her stay longer, as Harriet is a great help with the children. Harriet is trying to figure our what to do next (and how to keep from returning to her embarrassment) when Robert Martin comes walking in.

Harriet is embarrassed, tongue-tied, and a little scared at what to do or say.

“Now the pretty decorated timepiece felt like an enemy, a thief robbing her of the opportunity to say something meaningful to Robert Martin before he went.”

Will this be just more embarrassment to pile on, or a second chance?

You know I really like this choice. I like the view into Harriet, her resolution to improve herself, and that we get to see how the two get together. Plus Mr. Knightley sent him, Mr. Knightley is matchmaking. So adorable!

I loved how Harriet was written as well. She wasn’t desperate or dumb, but she was a pleasant, sweet girl, a pinch lonely and unexperienced.

For more by Caitlin Williams, go to “Death of a Bachelor” from The Darcy Monologues: Part I, The Regency

For more on Harriet Smith, go to Emma (1996) AKA the Kate Beckinsale Version

These stories were just as great at the others, especially the Emma one.

 So we have had seven stupendous and striking stories. Will the rest be just as good? I guess I’ll just have to wait and see! 🙂

For more reviews of Rational Creatures, go to Rational Creatures: Elizabeth & Charlotte

For more by Christina Boyd, go to Rational Creatures: Elinor & Marianne

For more Emma, go to Austen Avengers Assemble!

For more Austen book reviews, go to Little Literary Classics Mansfield Park Cloth Book

10 thoughts on “Rational Creatures: Emma Woodhouse, Miss Bates, & Harriet Smith

  1. Christina Boyd says:

    “I think it is AMAZING how the stories are written by two different authors, but the Frank Churchill storyline in Dangerous to Know, goes perfect with this one. Where that story ends is right where we pick up on Jane and Frank’s marriage.” I love that you notice/appreciate these things. As the anthologies have evolved, we really have tried to stay true to Austen’s characters and not change her canon but fill in the in between or “off stage” scenes…while creating or own canon of “truths”.

    Thank you again for another thoughtful and creative review. And super glad you didn’t reveal The Big A-Ha moment in Miss Bates story. Muahahahhahah! I can never think of Miss Bates differently now that we know her history.

    • Moreland says:

      I didn’t want to ruin anything for other readers by revealing too much. I really enjoyed how all the writers really focused on not changing or taking away from Austen but representing the characters with their own unique style and story.

  2. Sophia Rose says:

    Loved your take on them. Such a range of tone to the stories and feeling they bring out.

  3. Christina Morland says:

    Another set of fun and fascinating reviews! Thank you! I agree that Emma adaptations are very challenging because the character Emma lives on the edge of protagonist and antagonist. Do you root for her or wish she’d get her comeuppance — or both? And Miss Bates, as well as Harriet Smith, possess an equal share of admirable and annoying qualities, so writing about them must have been just as challenging. Congrats to Anngela Schroeder, J. Marie Croft and Caitlin Williams!

  4. karenmcoxbooks says:

    Reblogged this on Karen M Cox and commented:
    Awesome review for our Rational Creatures!

  5. Another stellar review 🙂 I’m so glad you’re enjoying Rational Creatures (hint, hint – the audiobook is also superb)

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