Inguiring readers, I literally SWOONED when I received a review copy of Emma: An Annotated Edition edited by Bharat Tandon. Readers of this blog know how much I have cherished this annotated series of Jane Austen’s novels by Harvard University Press. Click here for my review about the Annotated Pride and Prejudice and here for the Annotated Persuasion.
Lushly Illustrated Jane Austen Annotated Edition
Foremost, the books are lushly illustrated, beautifully produced, and well-researched by known Jane Austen scholars. Jane Austen Emma: An Annotated Edition is no exception. Considering the beautiful package, the book is very reasonably priced at $35 U.S., a perfect gift for the Janeite or historian in your family. Jane Austen Emma: Annotated Edition begins with a comprehensive introduction by Bharat Tandon, an academic, writer, and reviewer, who has lectured at the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford and specializes in teaching British literature after 1700 and American literature after 1900.
Emma is the only novel Jane Austen named after her heroine. Although she was fond of this eponymous character, she did not foresee Emma becoming a general favorite with the reading public, saying, ‘I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like.’ Truth be told, I’ve never quite warmed up to Emma Woodhouse, but in relation to 99% of the novels I’ve read my dislike is minor.
Annotated and Scholarly Insights on Emma
Her father, Mr. Woodhouse, on the other hand, has completely won me over with his odd, endearing hypochondriac ways, encouraging Mrs. Bates to eat a soft boiled egg and a very little bit of apple-tart, and a small half glass of wine put into a tumbler of water, for instance. Later in the novel, Mr. Woodhouse engages in a discussion with Frank Churchill about the room at the Crown, in which Frank tries to reassure the older man that the room reserved for the ball will be so large that there would be no occasion to open the windows and let in cold air upon heated bodies. Mr. Woodhouse nearly goes apoplectic at the thought, for both men are convinced that sweaty bodies should not be exposed to fresh air, a concept wonderfully explained by Tandon, who quotes The Code of Health and Longevity by John Sinclair (1807) as an explanation. Then there is this quote:
They were stopping, however, in the first place at Mrs. Bates’s; whose house was a little nearer Tandalls than Ford’s; and had all but knocked, when Emma caught their eye. – Immediately they crossed the road and came forward to her;”
I was delighted to discover that Jane Austen’s use of ‘catching an eye’ was one of the earliest citations of that particular use of that phrase in the OED, which cited Pride and Prejudice in the instance when Darcy catches Elizabeth’s eye and withdrew his own.
Tandon discusses the meaning of making an entrance, the etiquette of dinner seating, square pianos, the plight of governesses, and so forth, and while I have seen some of the illustrations quite a few times before, such as the two that sit in this post, the author chose many that are new to me and add to my visual repertoire. Annotated books are such treasures for the serious reader of Jane Austen’s novels, explaining her words and old-fashioned idioms and making long dead customs come alive. This generously illustrated annotation from Harvard University Press both instructs and entertains with its running commentary along the margins, enhancing our enjoyment of one of Jane Austen’s most perfectly realized novels.
Jane Austen Emma: An Annotated Edition is well worth the purchase.
I give this new addition to the Harvard University Press annotated Jane Austen novels five out of five regency teacups.
Purchase information: Harvard University Press
$35.00 • £24.95 • €31.50