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Emma, Volume III, Chapter 2 (Chapter 38)

This chapter is really something - it's about the ball at the Crown. I shan't summarize the whole thing for you, but will instead pick out a few bits and pieces I feel like talking about, and then provide you with yummy video footage.

A number of privy councillors

Emma is flattered and delighted (at first) to be asked by Mr Weston to come early - but somewhat less so when it turns out that half the company has been asked to come early, and that Mr Weston isn't especially discriminating in bestowing his favor. It leads to an interesting bit of analysis, followed by a lovely bit of foreshadowing:

Emma perceived that her taste was not the only taste on which Mr Weston depended, and felt, that to be the favourite and intimate of a man who had so many intimates and confidantes, was not the very first distinction in the scale of vanity. She liked his open manners, but a little less of open-heartedness would have made him a higher character.--General benevolence, but not general friendship, made a man what he ought to be.--She could fancy such a man.

Frank is eager for the Eltons' carriage to arrive

Because he cannot wait to see Mrs Elton, he says. And then the Eltons, who were to have picked up Jane Fairfax and Miss Bates, arrive without having done so, and have to send off for them. Worried about the threat of rain, Frank rushes out with an umbrella to look after Miss Bates.

Mrs Elton is eager to discuss her carriage

Its acquisition was delayed, based on earlier remarks by her about the carriage. And truly, the care and keeping of a carriage was an expensive proposition, as I remarked upon in this post, which talks about Lady Catherine's carriages, when we read Pride & Prejudice. Mrs Elton now cannot stop herself from talking about their carriage, which is a true trapping of luxury.

Miss Bates is the comic relief

But there are facts and clues strewn throughout her babble, both times it occurs. Just so you know.

Mrs Elton is also eager to discuss what she's wearing

She corners Jane Fairfax immediately to discuss her own attire and to add to the comic relief in her way - pray, do not sing, because she probably thinks that song is about her. And while claiming not to pay attention to what people wear, she essentially makes a cutting remark about the other ladies in attendance:

"Nobody can think less of dress in general than I do--but upon such an occasion as this, when every body's eyes are so much upon me, and in compliment to the Westons--who I have no doubt are giving this ball chiefly to do me honour--I would not wish to be inferior to others. And I see very few pearls in the room except mine."

I wonder if she considers herself to be the pearls before the swine?

Emma notices Mr Knightley

And for once, she notices him in the way that a woman notices a man, and not as a mere friend or pseudo-family member, and she remains quite aware of him at all times - while she is dancing with Frank Churchill, no less:

She was more disturbed by Mr Knightley's not dancing than by any thing else.--There he was, among the standers-by, where he ought not to be; he ought to be dancing,--not classing himself with the husbands, and fathers, and whist-players, who were pretending to feel an interest in the dance till their rubbers were made up,--so young as he looked!--He could not have appeared to greater advantage perhaps anywhere, than where he had placed himself. His tall, firm, upright figure, among the bulky forms and stooping shoulders of the elderly men, was such as Emma felt must draw every body's eyes; and, excepting her own partner, there was not one among the whole row of young men who could be compared with him.--He moved a few steps nearer, and those few steps were enough to prove in how gentlemanlike a manner, with what natural grace, he must have danced, would he but take the trouble.--Whenever she caught his eye, she forced him to smile; but in general he was looking grave. She wished he could love a ballroom better, and could like Frank Churchill better.--He seemed often observing her.

Mr Elton deliberately cuts Harriet

He ensures that his availability will be noticed during a dance for which Harriet has no partner, then evinces an interest in dancing with other women, then flat-out refuses to dance with Harriet based on his marital status. And then he and his horrible wife giggle about it as he makes his way over to converse with Mr Knightley, who, having seen what has transpired, walks away from Mr Elton and asks Harriet to dance, thereby impliedly cutting Mr Elton and instructing him on proper manners. In a public ballroom. *swoon*

Emma and Mr Knightley chat

I love this bit, and therefore share it with you in its entirety. It's notable for several points, including Mr Knightley's remarks about Harriet Smith and his willingness to dance with Emma.(And then the yummy video clips, in which we see sexy English country dancing!)

"I do own myself to have been completely mistaken in Mr Elton. There is a littleness about him which you discovered, and which I did not: and I was fully convinced of his being in love with Harriet. It was through a series of strange blunders!"

"And, in return for your acknowledging so much, I will do you the justice to say, that you would have chosen for him better than he has chosen for himself.--Harriet Smith has some first-rate qualities, which Mrs. Elton is totally without. An unpretending, single-minded, artless girl--infinitely to be preferred by any man of sense and taste to such a woman as Mrs Elton. I found Harriet more conversable than I expected."

Emma was extremely gratified.--They were interrupted by the bustle of Mr Weston calling on every body to begin dancing again.

"Come Miss Woodhouse, Miss Otway, Miss Fairfax, what are you all doing?--Come Emma, set your companions the example. Every body is lazy! Every body is asleep!"

"I am ready," said Emma, "whenever I am wanted."

"Whom are you going to dance with?" asked Mr Knightley.

She hesitated a moment, and then replied, "With you, if you will ask me."

"Will you?" said he, offering his hand.

"Indeed I will. You have shewn that you can dance, and you know we are not really so much brother and sister as to make it at all improper."

"Brother and sister! no, indeed."

The song that Gwyneth's Emma and Jeremy's Mr Knightley are dancing to is called Mr Beveridge's Maggot. It has nothing to do with the life-cycle of a fly, but refers to a type of tune popular in the 1700s that is embellished by the players on each repetition. It is the same song to which Darcy & Elizabeth dance at Netherfield in the 1995 BBC version of Pride & Prejudice, by the way.

The tune to which Romola's Emma and Jonny Lee's Mr Knightley are dancing here is an original composition for the score of the movie by Samuel Sim and is (I believe) called "The Last Dance" - the soundtrack is a delight to listen to, but is not put together in chronological order, so it's not always easy to tell what is what.

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( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 21st, 2011 12:20 am (UTC)
That's one of my favorite bits as well.

Yay! for sexy English country dancing.

So, brothers and sisters couldn't dance, what about husbands and wives?
Jun. 21st, 2011 03:19 am (UTC)
Husbands and wives could dance, although it was considered gauche in some circles for them to dance with one another. Isn't that funny? Unmarried couples had to watch how often they danced together - three dances in an evening was tantamount to an announcement of an engagement!
Jun. 21st, 2011 09:19 pm (UTC)
Yes, that is funny. So, one dance was just: Hi, I think you'd dance well. Two was: I kinda like you a little. And three was: Let's get married! Is that accurate? And I think you said that one dance was actually two, or am I imagining things?
Jun. 21st, 2011 11:30 pm (UTC)
Ordinarily, partners danced together (one dance) for two songs at a time. So dancing that second song wasn't counted as a second dance.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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