Critical Appraisals

  • Norman Page
Part of the Macmillan Master Guides book series


When Emma appeared in December 1815, Jane Austen had already published three novels and enjoyed a modest reputation among readers and reviewers. It thus received a reasonable amount of attention from the periodicals of the day. By far the most important of the reviews was that by Sir Walter Scott in the Quarterly Review, issued in March 1816. Scott had recently published his own earliest novels, and was to become the most important of Jane Austen’s contemporaries in fiction. Although Scott’s novels are very different from Jane Austen’s, he had the penetration to recognise that she was doing something new and doing it remarkably well. He writes:

The narrative of all her novels is composed of such common occurrences as may have fallen under the observation of most folks; and her dramatis personae conduct themselves upon the motives and principles which the readers may recognize as ruling their own behhaviour and that of most of their acquaintance.

This kind of realism of incident and character, subject-matter and treatment, may strike us as nothing very remarkable, but this is because we are the heirs of a tradition now nearly two centuries old in which Jane Austen was a major influence.


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© Norman Page 1985

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  • Norman Page

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