Jane Austen began to write Emma in January of 1814 and finished it a little over a year later, in March of 1815. At the time of completion, Austen was thirty-nine years old. Emma was published at the end of 1815, with 2,000 copies being printed—563, more than a quarter, were still unsold after four years. She earned less than forty pounds from the book during her lifetime, though it earned more after her death. Austen died a year and a half after publication. [Source: The Cambridge Companion To Jane Austen, Edited by Edward Copeland and Juliet McMaster, Cambridge University Press, 1997.]
Emma was Austen's fourth published novel, and the last to appear before her death. Both Persuasion and Northanger Abbey would be published posthumously. Though she published anonymously, her previous works were noticed by critics and literature lovers. One of her admirers was H.R.H. The Prince Regent. Through the prince's librarian, Austen was invited to dedicate one of her works to the prince, she complied to the royal command in the dedication of Emma—though her reluctance to do so is apparent in the wording of the dedication.
For more information on Emma: Emma Links
Chapter descriptions are designed to be very vague and cryptic. They are for people who are familiar with the book to help them find the chapter they want, and they are not designed for the student who might be looking for a quick way to get out of reading the novel.
The chapter list below has two different sets of chapter numbers. The Roman numerals reflect the fact that the novel was originally published in three volumes, with each volume starting with chapter 1. The second set, in parentheses, represents a start-to-finish numbering of the chapters.
- Chapter I — Mrs. Weston leaves, but Mr. Knightley arrives.
- Chapter II — Such a wonderful thing for poor Miss Taylor. Mr. Weston is a lucky man to have such a wife and such a son.
- Chapter III — Mr. Woodhouse likes to have quiet company about him, and Emma invites his favorites. Miss Smith and Mr. Elton come.
- Chapter IV — Harriet seems awfully fond of Mr. Martin, while Emma certainly is not.
- Chapter V — Mr. Knightley believes Emma will do Harriet no good, but perhaps an unrequited romance would help.
- Chapter VI — A portrait! Just the thing, believes Mr. Elton. What an excellent likeness.
- Chapter VII — A proposal arrives, but the lady must decide on her own without any interference from anyone else.
- Chapter VIII — Mr. Knightley knows and approves of the proposal. Vanity working on a weak head, produces every sort of mischief.
- Chapter IX — A book of riddles. Behold him there, the monarch of the seas!
- Chapter X — It is poverty only which makes celibacy contemptible. Cellery root.
- Chapter XI — The London Knightleys arrive for the holidays.
- Chapter XII — Does not the lapse of one-and-twenty years bring our understandings a good deal nearer? The gruel came and was the subject of much conversation.
- Chapter XIII — Poor Harriet has a sore throat and must not go to Randalls. Better to fall short by two than exceed by two.
- Chapter XIV — The Weston's Christmas party. Frank sends word that he shall be coming, if his aunt allows it.
- Chapter XV — Emma must not expose herself to Harriet's cold. Have not I some right to complain? The snow begins and Mr. Woodhouse must be brought home. Alone in a carriage! Allow me to interpret this interesting silence.
- Chapter XVI — Christmas day. Poor Harriet must be told, but the weather keeps everyone at home.
- Chapter XVII — Mr. Elton leaves for Bath. Harriet learns the truth.
- Chapter XVIII — Frank puts off his visit again. Mr. Knightley believes that a man can always do his duty. You seem determined to think ill of him.
- Chapter I (19) — Harriet needs to stop talking of him, a visit to the Batses should help. A letter from Miss Fairfax, who is expected in a week.
- Chapter II (20) — Poor Jane's very few hundred pounds make independence impossible. Jane and Emma meet, and Jane is uncommunicative.
- Chapter III (21) —
Emma tells Mr. Knightley that Jane is elegant, and Mr. Knightley tells Emma of Mr. E's good fortune. Harriet runs into Mr. Martin and takes Emma's news well.
- Chapter IV (22) — Mr. Elton returns, a very happy man. All speculate about Miss Hawkins, who must be elegant indeed. Harriet should call on Elizabeth Martin.
- Chapter V (23) — The Martins receive Harriet coolly. Frank comes tomorrow. This time he really does come. Emma is pleased with him.
- Chapter VI (24) — Frank settles in at Highbury. Frank and Emma discuss Miss Fairfax.
- Chapter VII (25) — All the way to London to get a haircut! The Coles are having a party, should Emma go?
- Chapter VIII (26) — The Cole's party. Jane has received a great gift, could it be from Mr. Dixon? Mrs. Weston plays matchmaker with Jane and Mr. Knightley. Emma and Miss Fairfax exhibit their talents.
- Chapter IX (27) — Jane's gift must be seen by all, and Emma, Harriet, Mrs. Weston and Mr. Churchill will pay her a visit.
- Chapter X (28) — Frank fixes a pair of glasses. Jane's playing is much admired on her new pianoforté. Mr. Knightley goes to Kingston and offers to run errands for the Bateses.
- Chapter XI (29) — It may be possible to do without dancing entirely, but a ball would be just the thing. Shall the Crown be the place for it?
- Chapter XII (30) — Mr. Knightley doesn't care for a ball. The ball is canceled; Frank must return to his aunt. I think you can hardly be quite without suspicion.
- Chapter XIII (31) — Emma continues to entertain no doubt of her being in love. Mr. Elton marries.
- Chapter XIV (32) — Mrs. Elton is first seen at church, and found to be elegantly dressed, and very pleasing. So extremely like Maple Grove!
- Chapter XV (33) — Mrs. Elton quite raves about Jane Fairfax. Have you been settling that I should marry Jane Fairfax?
- Chapter XVI (34) — Miss Woodhouse must have the Eltons to dinner. John Knightley and Jane discuss getting letters at the post-office.
- Chapter XVII (35) — Mrs. Elton wishes to help Jane find a position. Frank sends word that he shall come again soon.
- Chapter XVIII (36) — Mrs. Churchill will not be second to any lady in the land. These amazing engagements of mine-what have they been?
- Chapter I (37) — Emma worries that Frank feels too much. The ball is rescheduled.
- Chapter II (38) —
No misfortune occurred, again to prevent the ball. A lady is snubbed by a little man, while his wife cheers him on. A gentleman comes to the rescue. Brother and sister! no, indeed.
- Chapter III (39) —
Frank comes to Hartfield with Harriet leaning on his arm. Gipsies give a fright.
- Chapter IV (40) — Harriet's most precious treasures. Harriet is in love again; Emma does not wonder, after the service he rendered her friend.
- Chapter V (41) — Mr. Knightley has suspicious about a certain couple. Mr. Perry's carriage. Blunder.
- Chapter VI (42) — Mrs. Elton loves the idea of exploring Donwell Abbey. Emma is pleased to see Donwell again. Jane leaves abruptly. Frank finally arrives very out of spirits.
- Chapter VII (43) — Box Hill. Three very dull things indeed. Proving myself your friend by very faithful counsel.
- Chapter VIII (44) — Emma calls on the Batses and finds that Jane is ill and has accepted a position. Mr. Churchill leaves again.
- Chapter IX (45) — He was certainly on the point of carrying it to his lips, but suddenly let go. Mrs. Churchill dies. Emma tries to cheer up Jane with some arrow-root.
- Chapter X (46) — Mrs. Weston must see Emma at once to hear important news. Emma has not been injured.
- Chapter XI (47) — Harriet seems cheerful in light of such news. Emma was dreadfully mistaken with respect to Harriet. She had been entirely under a delusion, totally ignorant of her own heart.
- Chapter XII (48) — Emma contemplates her future. Mrs. Weston and Miss Woodhouse discuss the future Mrs. Churchill.
- Chapter XIII (49) — Mr. Knightley returns from London. You speak as if you envied him. Don't speak it, don't speak it. He cannot make speeches. What did she say? Just what she ought, of course. A lady always does.
- Chapter XIV (50) — Poor Mr. Woodhouse little suspects what is plotting against him. Mr. Churchill explains himself.
- Chapter XV (51) — Mr. Knightley reads Churchill's explanation, then makes an extraordinary offer; Mr. Woodhouse must not be upset.
- Chapter XVI (52) — Harriet is sent to London. Emma calls on the Batses; Mrs. Elton knows a secret. Jane and Emma become friends.
- Chapter XVII (53) — Miss Anna Weston arrives. Cannot you call me 'George' now? Mr. Woodhouse learns the awful truth.
- Chapter XVIII (54) — Harriet is getting married; excellent news! Frank comes again and offers his apologies.
- Chapter XIX (55) — The wedding was very much like other weddings.
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