Category Archives: Emma

Emma’s Debt to Sense and Sensibility

[the first half of this article on Sense and Sensibility is a highly compressed encapsulation of Exploring Sense and Sensibility, and the second is concluding section of some notes on Emma. The join is not intended to be seamless, but to help provide an entry point for the book.]

While Emma (1815) is seen as Austen’s masterpiece, Sense and Sensibility (1811) is said to show ‘evidence of artistic immaturity’ (Duckworth (1994), p. 82, n. 1), but I beg to differ; it seems to show almost miraculous artistic maturity, that we are to this day still coming to terms with. Just as Austen’s first great critic, Scott (1815) reviewed Emma for John Murray only to finish with a sally at Sense and Sensibility that makes little sense, so his antecedents have been following in his footsteps, rightly celebrating the vastly superior technique of Emma, while failing to properly comprehend the debt that Emma owes to Jane Austen’s first-published novel, and not merely getting Austen established as a published authoress.

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