New ‘Emma in Print’ exhibition at Jane Austen’s House Museum
In a new exhibition, ‘Emma in Print’, Jane Austen’s House Museum explores the stories behind the publication of the novel. Emma was the fourth and last of Jane Austen’s novels published in her lifetime and the one for which there is the most evidence of her involvement in the business side of its production.
The highlight of the exhibition is the Prince Regent’s 1st edition copy of Emma, generously loaned from the Royal Collection by Her Majesty The Queen. Jane Austen dedicated the novel to the Prince Regent on the suggestion of the Prince’s librarian, James Stanier Clarke. The exhibition looks at Austen’s correspondence with Stanier Clarke through manuscript letters, and at the business dealings Austen had with her new publisher John Murray, through reproductions from the Murray Archive (held at the National Library of Scotland). On display will also be a selection of different editions of Emma including foreign translations.
Following the more serious Mansfield Park, published in 1814, Emma saw Jane Austen returning to a style more akin to that of Pride & Prejudice with power, marriage and social status as recurring themes. Emma is much wealthier than any of Jane Austen's other female heroines, has greater confidence in her own abilities and does not need to marry to survive. Despite all these advantages, the book still reflects the confined nature of existence for women at this time – despite her liveliness and intelligence Emma has little to occupy her time and her mind, except plotting weddings and activities which simply serve to pass the time such as drawing and music.
In one letter to Stanier Clarke just before Emma was published Jane wrote:
“My greatest anxiety at present is that this 4th work shd not disgrace what was good in the others. But on this point I will do myself the justice to declare that whatever may be my wishes for its’ success, I am very strongly haunted by the idea that to those Readers who have preferred P&P. it will appear inferior in Wit, & to those who have preferred MP. very inferior in good Sense”
This exhibition is the final exhibition in a series of events held at the Museum to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the first publication of Emma in December 1815. The exhibition opens on 23rd March and runs until the end of July.
Image Credit: Royal Collection Trust/ © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016.
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