Tuesday, February 05, 2013
Hating Emma Woodhouse
I thought this little anecdote might help to chase away those winter blues. It comes from Quentin Bell’s Elders and Betters, a book of Bloomsbury reminiscences.
Quentin, son of the artist Vanessa Bell and nephew of the writer Virginia Woolf, and his brother-in-law, the writer David ‘Bunny’ Garnett, are talking about Jane Austen’s Emma.
Bunny had no time for Emma. ‘She was a very unpleasant character, a desperate snob, callous, conceited and vain,’ he said. In his view, she had no redeeming features whatsoever.
Quentin Bell expostulated. ‘Although she had her faults, she did suffer from an unbearably silly father and she bore his silliness with angelic patience.’
‘Well, we only have Jane Austen’s word for that,’ responded Bunny, darkly.
It made me laugh out loud. But it does illustrate Jane Austen’s ability to create characters so real that they seem to have an existence entirely independent of their creator.