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The End of Emma

In Puerto Rico last week, I read Emma for the sixth time. It is more than ever a beloved book. This go-round, the horrors of Mrs Elton came even more to the fore, while Emma's cocksure marital schemes for Harriet Smith and Frank Churchill seemed less gratuitous stunts than unavoidable hurdles to her own understanding of connubial love. When I got home, I slid the Douglas McGrath's 1996 adaptation (can it really be ten years old!) onto the tray, and was instantly reminded of Monty Python's "Summarize Proust" sketch. How the movie dashed about in mad abbreviation! One performance stood forth as immortal, Juliet Stevenson's as "Mrs E," and I only wished she'd been given more lines. Lots more lines. Such as the speech in which Jane Austen makes clear that "explore" is not a verb that becomes a lady's vocabulary - a nicety that I'd missed in earlier readings. (It is a bit overwhelmed by repetitions of "barouche-landau.")

What most caught my attention in this reading was the extent of the material that follows the happy ending. Emma and Mr Knightley finally reach their romantic understanding in Chapter 49. That leaves six more chapters for tying things up, and I suppose that that's how I've read those chapters in the past. This tim ...

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