Emma & new shelves

Thank you all so much for your many kind comments on my last post! I’ve told my husband about them and they brought a smile to his face too. He is on a lot of antibiotics to clear up his abscess and infection, instead of a surgery, which is always nice and he may even be home today. I’m just waiting to hear about that. They’re inserting some kind of more direct IV thing into him, so he’ll have to come to the hospital and continue to get infusions of antibiotics every day, but at least he’ll be able to be home again.

Yesterday I picked up some of Claire’s bookshelves as she is moving this week, with my practical sister along to help park the car in the snow (I would have got stuck) and to fit three bookshelves into the car! Here they are in my place now, although I’ll be moving them soon too. The small shelf holds most of my minimalist collection of the only books I’ve kept, the rest are already at the cottage at my parent’s place, waiting for me. You may notice I’ve mixed my favourite movies in with my books, just for something different. The second shelf holds some of my husband’s movies and books and I’ve got a few library books up top, including a very huge biography of Elizabeth Gaskell! I absolutely love these shelves, Claire, so peaceful and orderly and well worth all the pushing and tugging to make them fit in the car yesterday!

I’ve also gone back to reading Emma again (you can see my beautiful clothbound edition first on my shelf) and since watching the lovely new miniseries of it, am enjoying it all the more. Despite often thinking of Jeremy Northam as Jeremy Knightley, Jonny Lee Miller, who seemed very miscast as Mr. Knightley initially, has done a wonderful job with the role too and I now often find myself torn between them! Miller brings such warmth and understated humour to the role. He’s not tall, dark and brooding with stately grace like Northam, he’s “not a gallant man, but he is a very humane one”, as Emma herself says (at about page 208). “I know no man more likely than Mr. Knightley to do the sort of thing — to do anything really good-natured, useful, considerate, or benevolent.” Miller makes the character less romantic or intimidating and more like the best friend you’d always overlooked. He softens Mr. Knightley and makes him more sensible (I especially love his pleasure in walking) yet approachable. Mr. Knightley has always seemed too much of a scold before (see Mark Strong in the role, or better yet: don’t) and really, so much older than Emma, that he just wasn’t as attractive as an Austen hero as some, but with this gentler version of him in mind (and really, there’s nothing saying what he looks like or that he is even tall and intimidating! Mr. Darcy is described that way, but Mr. Knightley is far kinder from the very beginning) I’m liking him more and more.

As usual, I also get a kick out of John Knightley, his younger brother, and the way he complains over everything, especially over having to go out to parties on Christmas Eve! Emma has the best Christmas scenes of all the Austen novels, with Mr. Woodhouse’s fuss over an inch of snow when he’s away from home and his older daughter Isabella’s determination to walk home in the snow to get to her children despite her general overconcern over everyone’s health and of course, Mr. Elton’s botched proposal to Emma. It’s such a wonderful comic piece, I do hope you have time to revisit at least that little corner of Highbury on your holidays!

Here’s one of my favourite phrases in all of Austen (italicised), at the end of this quote:

He was too angry to say another word; her manner too decided to invite supplication; and in this state of swelling resentment, and mutually deep mortification, they had to continue together a few minutes longer, for the fears of Mr. Woodhouse had confined them to a foot pace. If there had not been so much anger, there would have been desperate awkwardness; but their straight-forward emotions left no room for the little zigzags of embarrassment.

16 thoughts on “Emma & new shelves

  1. Claire - The Captive Reader says:

    Oh I’m so glad that you like the shelves! They certainly look nice in your photo and I’m particularly pleased to see that Emma is one of their first inhabitants!

    You know that, as far as I’m concerned, it is impossible to praise Emma too highly. When we were reading Pride and Prejudice in high school and all my friends were falling in love with Mr Darcy I sat there confused as to how anyone could prefer the high-handed and rather immature Darcy to the considerate, dependable Mr Knightley. I still get in trouble with Darcy fans for holding this opinion but oh well.

    Mr Woodhouse’s reaction to the snow always reminds me of my mother! She’s terrified of the stuff and will do anything to avoid it (which makes her sacrifice to come and help me with the move this week that much more noble).

  2. bookssnob says:

    I love Mr Knightley. He’s sensible and proper but he has a sense of humour, a very good heart, and he’s a right old softy really. He wins my heart every time! I thought Jonny Lee Miller’s Mr Knightley was nigh on perfect, as did I Romola Garai’s Emma. I loved that adaptation. I really do think it’s the closest anyone has got to capturing the book on film yet.

    The Christmas scenes in Emma are wonderful, aren’t they! The odious Mr Elton…the overly fussy Mr Isabella Knightley, the stress over a 2 minute ride in the snow…wonderful!!! Now I want to reread Emma!

    Glad to hear that your husband is on the mend, Carolyn! And lovely bookshelves. 🙂

  3. Audrey says:

    The best thing about finally reading Emma and Persuasion, even thinking I knew the stories backwards and frontwards, was finding all those wonderful little passages! Doesn’t ‘zigzags of embarassment’ sound completely modern? I hope your comfort reading is comforting you…and I hope your husband is 100% better soon.

  4. Karenlibrarian says:

    Mr. Knightley is one of my favorite Austen men, right up there with Henry Tilney and Captain Wentworth. And great news about your husband! I’m so glad he won’t have to have surgery again.

    And I loved looking at your bookshelves! It is so fun to see what other people love reading. We like so many of the same books.

  5. Erin says:

    I’m so glad to hear your husband is doing better! I hope the news you get is good and he can come home.

    I love those cloth-bound classics editions! I also like how you blend movies and books. Very interesting! The shelves look happy and settled in their new (temporary) home 🙂

  6. Allie says:

    I just finished Emma, and in that same cloth-bound edition! It was my second time reading it and I didn’t remember how wonderful it was. And I have to agree that Mr. Knightley was just wonderful, and dreamy. I haven’t watched the BBC version yet, but I am going to have to get it from the library soon.

    Your shelves look great!

  7. Katherine Cox says:

    I’m glad to read that your husband is doing better.

    The Penguin cloth-bound editions are so lovely! I recognized Emma on your shelf right away.

    Is the Gaskell biography the one by Jenny Uglow? (Mine is a paperback edition so I can’t tell). It’s a wonderful read! I started it a few weeks ago.

  8. litlove says:

    So delighted to hear that your husband is on the mend and may even be home soon – such good news! I read Emma for the first time this year (although I’d seen a couple of tv adaptations before) and loved it. You are so right about the Christmas scenes, and also about the possibilities of Mr Knightley. I love the thought of him as that ocntinually overlooked friend – such a good call!

  9. BuriedInPrint says:

    I’m sure it will make a positive difference for both and your husband for him to be able to be at home to convalesce, even if it does mean a bit of back-and-forthing. And how nice of you to bring bookshelves in as part of the Welcome Home committee!

  10. Jillian says:

    Like the others, I’m glad to hear your husband is doing better. A hispital vigil can be unbearable.

    I’m not a big Austen fan yet, but I’m trying…

  11. Simon T says:

    Lovely post 🙂 I’ve only read Emma once, and that was more than 7 years ago, so I must re-visit. But I’ve already decided my big 19th century read for Christmas is going to be Great Expectations… I don’t think I need any encouragement to revisit Austen, though, and I might need the dark winter evenings to convince me to lug a Victorian novel around.

  12. Anbolyn says:

    I really loved the current adaptation of Emma, but I’ve never been able to get through the book! I hope to finally read it through in the new year. Good luck on your move!

  13. Jenny says:

    I am not crazy about Jeremy Northam, but I’m never sure if he made me dislike Mr. Knightley, or Mr. Knightley made me dislike him. Mr. Knightley. Hrmph. Not my favorite of Austen’s heroes.

  14. Penny says:

    I love Mr Knightley and I’m quite partial to Jeremy Northam, too (also liked him in Gosford Park). Chacun a son gout!
    Overheard in John’s school, two girls, about 14 years old, chatting…
    Girl 1 (browsing in her diary): Today’s Jane Austen’s birthday.
    Girl 2: Who’s Jane Austen?
    Oh, dear!

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