Jane Austen’s Emma

December 2015 marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s classic novel, Emma.

Emma was first published in December 1815, in 3 volumes.

Before she began the novel, Austen wrote, “I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like." In the first sentence, she introduces the title character as "Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich.” Emma is spoiled, headstrong, and self-satisfied; she greatly overestimates her own matchmaking abilities; she is blind to the dangers of meddling in other people’s lives, and her imagination and perceptions often lead her astray. (Wikipedia)

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.

These illustrations are from an edition of Emma held among the State Library's Rare Books in the Model School Library collection.

For more on Jane Austen, access these eResources available to NSW residents with a valid State Library card:

The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen

Literary Reference Center Plus

Literature Resource Center