View Full Version : Secret snog in Emma

05-29-2015, 01:00 PM
Apparently, Jane Austen expert, Professor John Mullan, has found a snog (http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/news/the-secret-snog-in-jane-austen-revealed-10274082.html?icn=puff-14) in Emma:

"The appearance of the little sitting-room as they entered was tranquillity itself; Mrs Bates, deprived of her usual employment, slumbering on one side of the fire, Frank Churchill at a table near her, most deedily occupied about her spectacles, and Jane Fairfax, standing with her back to them, intent on her pianoforte.”

I did not really pick up on this, but I did think it was odd that Frank Churchill was still trying to fix Mrs Bates' spectacles when they came in. Miss Bates had just been telling Emma and everyone how Frank Churchill had offered to replace the screw into the spectacles earlier on. I imagine it would be a fiddly job, but it wouldn't take that long.

05-29-2015, 03:30 PM
I got that from the first time I read it, I think. I think it's quite obvious. It's like the second proposal of Darcy that was broken off at the last moment by the letter apprising Lizzie of Lydia's elopement. Darcy is alone and he comes when Lizzie is alone. A man only came alone to find a woman alone for one thing, especially when he had been trying to impress and introduced his sister... And he paces the room in silence. The scene closes with Lizzie's thought that she will no doubt never see Darcy again. :lol: So it wasn't the first time that Austen claimed the entirely opposite thing of what was in her mind. :)

But back to Emma. With Miss Bates not there and the old lady having a nap, Frank sees a rare chance to be able to have a more tender moment than he usually can with his secret fiancé. At this point the two of them can't do anything. They can do even less than a normal engaged couple who would have been chaperoned, but not really barred from doing anything together in public. Jane and Frank, as they keep their engagement a secret, are really starved of each other's company, as he can't even turn up too much to the Bates' house because that would raise suspicion. They can't take too much together beyond the strictly civil, because it would raise suspicion. That's why Frank initially rubbishes Jane's complexion to Emma, because he wants to cover his tracks before they're there.

You see, that particular scene has all the hallmarks of two people who are almost caught in the act and hastily pull away from each other to take up a seemingly innocent occupation. I think the subtlety of it would have been quite obvious to readers back then, so Austen uses the irony of a tense atmosphere being passed off as 'tranquility itself' to add an extra joke to the clue of what's really going on. It's also pretty funny how Emma is totally blind to this, which is the whole point of it, I believe. She namely flatters herself that Frank is in love with her.

I wonder why it hasn't been picked up yet. Regency people, like Victorians were just like us. Victorians stared at pornographic pictures or other erotic decorative things. 50-odd years before Austen's time, lots of sex and erotic things had been acceptable in moderation. In writings too. What makes people think these people didn't want some tenderness? I'm sure they sneaked about if they couldn't do it on the market square ;) and I'm sure Austen wasn't so naive about it as to pretend it didn't happen. She clearly plays with that idea, though. It's quite witty.