Saturday, March 05, 2016

Emma's Swearing

In Jane Austen's Emma, Emma Woodhouse keeps swearing. Obviously it's not the sort of thing that would normally stand out to us as swearing, since we live in a much more deliberately vulgar society, and it wouldn't even usually be noticed as swearing by us, but it's there nonetheless. (Several of Jane Austen's novels have people using the name of the Lord profanely -- and in American editions this was often censored for New England sensibilities, since in Puritan-heritage New England all of the expressions would have sounded much stronger than they probably sounded to Austen herself. I'm not sure of the history of the American editions of Emma in particular, but I'm sure someone somewhere knows.) It is almost certainly not accidental that Emma swears seven times in Volume III, Chapters 10 and 11. It is perhaps a bit surprising, though, that she's the one almost always doing it throughout the book -- Mr. Elton does it once, and I'm not sure there's any other examples unless you account an occasional "Thank God!" that might be meant to be taken literally.

Volume III, Chapter 4: And secretly she added to herself, "Lord bless me! when should I ever have thought of putting by in cotton a piece of court-plaister that Frank Churchill had been pulling about! I never was equal to this."

Chapter 10: "Break it to me," cried Emma, standing still with terror.—"Good God!—Mr. Weston, tell me at once.—Something has happened in Brunswick Square. I know it has. Tell me, I charge you tell me this moment what it is."

Chapter 10: "Your word!—why not your honour!—why not say upon your honour, that it has nothing to do with any of them? Good Heavens!—What can be to be broke to me, that does not relate to one of that family?"

Chapter 10: Emma even jumped with surprize;—and, horror-struck, exclaimed, "Jane Fairfax!—Good God! You are not serious? You do not mean it?"

Chapter 10: "Good God!" cried Emma, not attending to her.—"Mrs. Smallridge, too! Jane actually on the point of going as governess! What could he mean by such horrible indelicacy? To suffer her to engage herself—to suffer her even to think of such a measure!"

Chapter 11: "Harriet!" cried Emma, after a moment's pause—"What do you mean?—Good Heaven! what do you mean?—Mistake you!—Am I to suppose then?—"

Chapter 11: "Good God!" cried Emma, "this has been a most unfortunate—most deplorable mistake!—What is to be done?"

Chapter 11: Harriet was too much agitated to encounter him. "She could not compose herself— Mr. Woodhouse would be alarmed—she had better go;"—with most ready encouragement from her friend, therefore, she passed off through another door—and the moment she was gone, this was the spontaneous burst of Emma's feelings: "Oh God! that I had never seen her!"

Chapter 15: "Poor Jane Fairfax!"—thought Emma.—"You have not deserved this. You may have done wrong with regard to Mr. Dixon, but this is a punishment beyond what you can have merited!—The kindness and protection of Mrs. Elton!—'Jane Fairfax and Jane Fairfax.' Heavens! Let me not suppose that she dares go about, Emma Woodhouse-ing me!—But upon my honour, there seems no limits to the licentiousness of that woman's tongue!"

Chapter 18: "I mean that he has done it," answered Mr. Knightley, with smiling but determined decision, "and been accepted." "Good God!" she cried.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please understand that this weblog runs on a third-party comment system, not on Blogger's comment system. If you have come by way of a mobile device and can see this message, you may have landed on the Blogger comment page, or the third party commenting system has not yet completely loaded; your comments will only be shown on this page and not on the page most people will see, and it is much more likely that your comment will be missed.