quiet prosings

Category: Daily Life | Type: Glossary Word | Title: Emma (in Context) | Author: Jane Austen | Vol: Volume I | Ch: Chapter III

Chatter about trivial subjects. Emma dreads the boring evenings and so finds in Harriet Smith a human pet—docile, worshipful, and easily manipulated. Observant and imperious, given to imagining and arranging, Emma practices on Harriet. Though she lacks the discipline and ambition to write fiction, Emma nevertheless is a sort of proto-author and Harriet the principal character in her (Harlequin) fiction.

It requires an effort of imagination to capture the full tedium and desolation of a young woman's life in the country. The leisure and greater wealth the 18th-c. gentry began to enjoy had its dark side. One way to pass time was to read, especially novels, and the growing popularity of fiction must owe much to the desire to experience more than a constrained life limited to a radius of ten miles permitted. Outside of company, reading, letter-writing, music, and needlework were a young woman's chief activities. One can see why Emma undertakes her Harriet project.

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