anonymous asked:

Just curious-- what makes the 2009 Emma adaptation a work of art?

*cracks knuckles* *pulls out color coded binder* I’m so glad you asked.

I’ve seen a lot of Emma adaptations: Clueless, Emma (1996), Aisha, the other BBC series (the one with Kate Beckinsdale and Mark Strong), Emma Approved, and of course, the 2009 BBC Miniseries. The 2009 version is my favorite, it always has been, and it always will be. Most of that comes down to characterization, but it is also about the way it captures Austen’s story magnificently though language, set design, costuming, and music.

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#139 - “Is that my shirt?”


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afirewiel  asked:

I get why Mr. Elton married his wife. She's rich. She comes from a wealthy family. Which begs the question, why did she marry him? She did she give all that up to become the wife of a country vicar? Was there seriously no one else that would take her?

Oh, I am so glad you asked. Essentially, it comes down to the fine distinctions and interactions between money (which Augusta Elton, nee Hawkins, has plenty of,) and class/breeding (which she has not.)

To start with, let’s examine what various people throughout the novel have to say of Mr. Elton, a handsome vicar of 26 or 27.

He is often described in the most glowing terms, even by those who are not Harriet and Emma while they (or at least Emma) are actively scheming for him on Harriet’s behalf–Mr. Woodhouse and Mr. Knightley are not alone in praising Mr. Elton’s virtues.

“…pretty, well-liked, gentle manners more than Knightley or Weston…”
“…good humoured, cheerful, obliging, and gentle.”
“…quite the gentleman himself, without any low connections…” with a “comfortable home,” and a “very sufficient income.”
“…good-humoured, well-meaning, respectable…” with useful knowledge of the world and a good understanding.
“…a very pleasing young man, a young man whom an woman not fastidious might like…”
“Mr. Elton had not his equal for beauty or agreeableness.”
“…reckoned very handsome…”
“Elton is a very good sort of man, and a very respectable vicar of Highbury, but not at all likely to make an imprudent match.”
“He knows he is a very handsome young man, and a great favourite wherever he goes…”
“…the handsomest man that ever was, and a man that every body looks up to…his company so sought after that he need not eat a single meal by himself…”
“…Never saw a man more intent on being agreeable. It is downright labour to him where ladies are concerned. With men he can be rational and unaffected, but when he has ladies to please every feature works.”
“Mr. Elton is the standard of perfection in Highbury, both in person and mind.”

[Emma herself says this last bit of praise to Jane Fairfax after the news of Mr. Elton’s engagement to Miss Hawkins. Granted it is prior to his sneering treatment of Harriet and Emma at the ball and Box Hill picnic, but he’s already given away his own pompousness and truly resentful nature by small hints…but there is yet a powerful public image of Mr. Elton in society which Emma’s privately growing dislike cannot hope to counteract. Again, in the interests of being neighbourly in such a small community, Emma is forced to tell polite fibs when it comes to somebody she cannot stand.]

While the vicarage is not so pretty nor grand as Hartfield or Donwell Abbey, it is nonetheless acknowledged to be a comfortable property–it would have been the home of Mrs. and Miss Bates, before the death of Mr. Bates, and so it is certainly a genteel home. In addition to this, it is noted that Mr. Elton also possesses some other independent property, and while it’s not specified what addition this is to his income, it is an added measure of security, and further cementing his place as a part of the landed gentry. His mother and sisters, moreover, are hinted to reside in London at least part of the time, and in no shabby fashion.

He’s young, widely acknowledge to be handsome, and his manners extremely pleasing, especially as he exerts himself to the utmost to please around ladies. While it is surprising to some that he should be able to secure an engagement to a young lady within four weeks, he must have been putting the pedal to the metal in Bath to woo the lady of his choice, and as Augusta Hawkins was apparently “easily impressed” and “ready to have him”, it must have been pretty easy to get her…but then she has her own particular reasons for wanting such a match as Mr. Elton, beyond his personal charms–chiefly, his position as a gentleman of property and a respectably genteel profession.

Now let us consider Miss Hawkins, who is to become Mrs. Elton–while Mr. Elton has first set his sights on Emma and her 30 000 pound dowry, he has also spoken of a large party of ladies in Bath, intimate friends of his own sisters, who each have 20 000 pounds apiece. It is also noted that if he has no success with Emma and her 30 000, he’d move on to a lady with 20 000, then 10…and so on.

As his match is made within four weeks of his departure from Highbury for Bath, he evidently skips the 20 000 pound option (or finds it impossible to secure quickly, if haste must be his object, as a clergyman cannot neglect his parish for very long holidays to go chasing after a wife, and his prime object then is to find a rich and admirable bride to flaunt in Highbury as soon as possible to prove his own consequence, rather than dwell in the shame of his rejection by Emma. Miss Hawkins is NOT one of these ladies who are friends of his sisters, as we later find out–she has ‘only’ 10 000 pounds to her dowry, though that is no paltry sum, certainly. Money, however, is not all there is to her. We know plenty of other facts about Augusta Hawkins, or can fill in with safe assumptions what is left vague:

She is initially rumoured to be “handsome, elegant, highly accomplished, and perfectly amiable”–now, as this is all before anybody in Highbury has met her, it’s meant to be taken with a grain of salt, and as her arrival rather proves that she is not elegant, nor all that accomplished, nor anything like perfectly amiable, though some other characters refer to her as being good-looking, there is certainly nothing like any glowing praise of looks which may be offered to other young ladies, like Jane Fairfax or even Harriet Smith, and it may simply be politeness making the most of average charms. I doubt Mr. Elton would have married an ugly woman, but in being damned by faint praise, I think we can safely assume Augusta Hawkins is nothing especially spectacular in her looks.

She is the “youngest of the two daughters of a Bristol – merchant…” whose parents are both now dead, and who is kept by an uncle “in the law line”, and not evidently at all distinguished. I’ve written before on the differences a man’s career might make to his apparent class-level, and a man “in the law line” without the distinguishing factor of being a well-to-do barrister, is not of the gentry. All of Augusta Hawkins’ money is very new, and entirely from trade–there is nothing to connect their family to the gentry except, now, the marriages of these two daughters. The elder, Selina, apparently made the more glorious match with Mr. Suckling, a man of leisure and property at Maple Grove. (Also, look at the given names of Selina and Augusta–both very fashionable Greco-Roman names, compared to the old English names of the other women in the novel–Emma, Harriet, Anne, Jane…even in their Christian names, the Hawkins girls are set apart to seem flashier, and ‘newer’, with a greater push for seeming grandiose.) Augusta’s endless talk of her high connections, her contradictory statements to attempt to hastily ingratiate herself with whatever genteel person (usually a gentleman) happens to be talking, her affected use of the bad Italian ’caro sposo’ to affectionately refer to her husband…all these things point to Augusta being desperate to make herself a place among the quieter, genteel folk of Highbury, having first seen her sister married into a barely-genteel-though-rich establishment, and now herself accepting a place as a wife to a man with a less impressive income, but a much more impressive pedigree and undeniable respectability.

We cannot be deceived by how much Augusta talks up Maple Grove and the Sucklings and her connection to them. Later on, she lets slip that Maple Grove was only purchased 11 years earlier, (she thinks just prior to old Mr. Suckling’s death, making the estate only technically In the Family for two generations, at a stretch,) while she is berating another family–the Tupmans, who come from Birmingham and have probably made their own fortune by trade or some other undistinguished but honest line of work, who bought West Hall near Maple Grove and now presume to address themselves to the Sucklings as equal neighbours–for being upstarts. The Tupmans are precisely what the Sucklings were only ten years previously, yet Mrs. Elton loves to talk of her sister’s people as though they are landed gentry of long standing. She talks of Maple Grove as a 'seat’, when it is simply a country house, no more, no less. Mr. Suckling has no title, nor does he own any other property. (If he did have any town-houses or other second-homes, I have no doubt we would hear no fucking end of it from Mrs. E.) But Mrs. Elton jumps at the chance to compare Hartfield to Maple Grove, to talk very generally of what the landed gentry are like, with their extensive grounds, etc.., though Emma, very much OF the landed gentry, privately disagrees with her presumptions. Augusta often hints at her intimacy with the Sucklings and such people as if it is to her credit, as well as talking a great deal of their TWO fashionable carriages–going so far as to mention the barouche-landau so frequently that it comes up three times in a single block of (presumably breathless) dialogue.

Augusta also sniffs at Mr. Weston’s story of how Mrs. Churchill was 'barely a gentleman’s daughter’ before marriage, only to now have swelled to even greater pride than was already in the Churchill family she married into–without seeming to realize that she herself stands a fair chance of doing exactly the same thing in the years to come–and worse, for nobody would argue that Miss Hawkins, for all her money and finery and put-on airs of breeding, was a gentleman’s daughter. No, her father was in trade–and while that is not in itself a mark against her, it highlights her own hypocrisy and clumsy, social-climbing ways. (Jane Austen’s father’s family were themselves descended from wool merchants, and only by his own education and his marriage to Cassandra Leigh, a comparatively-poor daughter of a more ancient line of genteel people, was his family admitted among the minor gentry. Jane would have been well-aware of the criss-crossing of social class lines and how 'good breeding’ could oftentimes be at odds with material wealth.) Augusta, digging for compliments and declaring she has 'a horror of upstarts’, cannot begin to fathom how she is hurting her own cause by her hypocrisy.

We know that Selina Hawkins married Mr. Suckling (himself scarcely a gentleman,) which was supposed to be a very grand match, for her. Augusta’s age is never specified that I can recall, but she seems very eager not to be left behind, though her sister has married, and apparently her connections to Maple Grove have not yet helped her to find another Mr. Suckling, there. In an effort to be wittily pert, she leaps at the chance to contradict Mr. Weston’s attempt to compliment the strength of ladies in general, and ends up giving a spirited defense to the notion that women are squeamish and weak creatures, and inadvertently disavowing that her sister is a fine lady–the precise opposite of what she wished to do, but she spoke so quickly that she cannot immediately think of a way to counteract it without sounding completely stupid, even to herself. Rather than listening and actually saying something sensible, Augusta rushes out to behave as she might have read or imagined a spirited, educated woman ought to do, and only succeeds in putting her foot in her mouth. (She’s a less-clever Miss Bingley who imagines herself a Lizzie Bennet.)

Augusta, before her marriage, still lives with her low-connection uncle in Bristol (despite her insistence that she’s spent months staying at Maple Grove, though Selina and Mr. Suckling have likely only been married less than two years by this point–the barouche-landau having been acquired only 18 months previous…possibly at the insistence of the new Mrs. Suckling?) Despite her principal residence being in Bristol, Augusta spends her winters in Bath with her friend Mrs. Partridge, whose acquaintance she offers to further with Emma in a broad hint that it would help Emma meet and catch a husband. Emma is, naturally, affronted at this suggestion, surmising that Mrs. Partridge is “probably some vulgar, dashing widow” who takes in boarders to help pad out her meager income. Though Bath was a spa town, and, given its southern location, probably had a fair amount of society throughout the winter months, the social season itself was more largely confined to the spring–the winter would be a cheaper and quieter season to spend in such a city, with many of its visiting residents there for their health, rather than strictly pleasure. That Augusta is regularly in Bath for the cheaper, less-social time of the year, even with a healthy dowry and adequate prettiness, is perhaps telling as to why she jumps at her chance to marry a handsome and well-set-up young gentleman! It may be that she appears to her best advantage when she is NOT surrounded in society by many gentleman’s daughters with greater assets than even she has got. Money, as she is well aware, isn’t everything–but it’s about all she’s got.

So much of Emma is an examination of how we let those around us affect our own views and behaviour. Compare Augusta to Harriet, who is certainly of lower origins, but whose sweet temper, obliging ways, and humble acceptance of who she is ultimately lead her to respectability and happiness when united with Robert Martin–only when Emma tries to drag her upwards in the world by marriage do things begin to go wrong for Harriet. Emma Woodhouse is certainly a snob, but I think the ultimate take-away from the cautionary tales of the novel is not 'know your place and never stray from it’, but to make certain that your aspirations are in keeping with what will do the truest good for you and those around you. In the end, it’s acknowledged that Harriet would have been a far better match for Elton than Augusta, as her personal virtues far outweigh the lapse of her birth and indifferent education, whereas Augusta’s riches and trying-too-hard ways endear her to absolutely nobody except perhaps the vain and pompous Mr. Elton–but their ardour is that of newlyweds, and those who wish to show off their marital success as a gloating snub to others, rather than anything like true affection.