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A Calendar for Emma

The 1972 BBC Emma, scripted Denis Constanduros, directed by John Glenister
Mr Woodhouse (Donald Eccles), dressed, readied, comforted, waited for
by Mr Knightley (John Carson) and Isabella (Meg Gleed)

Emma "works"somewhat differently from Austen's other realistic prose narratives. Austen still exploits the differences between psychological and calendar time to pace her book and our response to it, and she paces the events of the book in a closely intertwined way with detailed references that move back and forth in time; she still introduces but one new turn at a time. However, in this book she pays attention to seasons as well as the artificial calendar, she plays hidden games with the reader, and at turn in the narrative time is allowed to seem to float free, although a study of all the references to time shows that Austen is still using her almanac to attach narratives consistently to one another across hundreds of pages.

There are two explanations for this. First Emma was never written as an epistolary novel over a sequence of time. Individual letters (like Frank's at the end) were always planned to be "dropt" into the book. Second the book is very indirect; Austen is coy, hidden; she is intensely concerned to marginalise some of her stories so we only see them out of her heroine's eye. The hidden nature of the calendar is of a piece with the book's silences and Austen's distance from this heroine.

Chapman was the first to notice the difference. Since he has until recently been so respected, when he didn't try to work a calendar out, no-one did. The situation changed when Jo Modert published an article on time and the various calendars in Austen's novels in which she did work out the cruxes of a calendar and showed the novel follows an almanac for the years 1814-1815.

In brief, Modert demonstrated there is a "hidden calendar game" in the novel. Thus, for example, the Monday on which Frank's gift of a piano arrived at Jane Fairfax's home was Valentine's Day; the Tuesday he was forced to leave Highbury for Yorkshire and tried to confess to Emma was Shrove Tuesday; the momentous occurrences at Donwell Abbey and Box Hill occur on June 23rd and 24th, Midsummer Day and Eve, and thus correlate to the day Emma writes Harriet a letter telling Harriet their friendship is over for the time being; that day (momentous in the novel about female friendship where Harriet is a central character) is July 4th, Old Midsummer's Eve, and the unusually cold wintry Wednesday which followed, July 6th, when Mr. Knightley proposes, is Old Midsummer's Day. All this cannot be coincidental.

I have been asked if Austen worked into the calendar August 1st (Lammas Day). I don't find that she did specifically because I traced only the major events of the novel; the little turns such as Knightley walking into a field or conferring with William Larkins I didn't attend to. I worked out the following calendar by an intensely close reading of Austen's Emma after reading Modert's commentary.

Anyone who looks will see that Chapman was right in this: while one can draw a calendar out, one must deal with Austen's new procedure of zeroing in on very few days over a two or three week period of time and then moving on to a later period; this requires conjecture; thus others may disagree with my calculations; what I did was keep to the folk-festival-church and calendar year and to the birthdays of the characters and those days of the week we are given against a month. I remember that Eugene McDonnell also posted a brief partial calendar for Emma on Austen-l in which he showed the alignment of its events to the seasonal and folk year.

I have come across evidence which suggests our extant Emma is another of Austen's "gradual performances". There are Miss Bates's references to Ireland which would have been fitting in 1801-2 ("[it] must make it very strange to be in different kingdoms, I was going to say, but however different countries", Ch 19,p. 173) or very early in the 1810s. In her Jane Austen, Feminism and Fiction Margaret Kirkham has shown that Emma may have taken its initial inspiration from a performance of an English translation of a play by Kotzebue, whose full English title is The Reconciliation, or The Birthday Party, first performed in England in 1799. However, I still think this novel was not originally epistolary: the controlled distant point of view suggests a wholly new approach to the delivery of narrative. Since Austen moved away from it in Persuasion, it may be that she was unconscious of the nature of her achievement and did not mean the reader to read this novel as ironically as many readers do. It's revealing that she made the mistake of thinking many of her readers would not like Emma; in fact, many identify. This supports the contention the text is not meant to be fundamentally or consistently ironic.

All the page references are to the Penguin edition which numbers the chapters consecutively.

1776: Birth of George Knightley -- he is 37-38 when the novel opens

1789, June 8: Birth of Robert Martin; he is 24 years old in 1813

1789, early in year. Captain Weston marries Miss Churchill; end of the year Frank Churchill is born; Frank is 23 when the novel opens in 1813; said to have been 2 when his mother died. Can be dated precisely for when Mrs Churchill dies on July 26th, 1814, we are told she "had been disliked for "at least twenty- five years". Captain Weston and Miss Churchill have to know each other before they wed; so they met in 1788 and married 1789. It all locks together. 11:119; 45:379

1793 Birth of Jane Fairfax; she is 21 when story opens; death of Mrs Weston (nee Churchill) at beginning of year (thus make the boy child just 2), of a lingering illness 3 years after their marriage, leaving a small male child. Date arrived at by subtracting from 1813 the number 18-20, and taking into account the statement that Frank was a very small boy when he was taken over by the Churchills. 20 is the second of the numbers the narrator offers to delimit how much time passed from the death of Captain Weston's first wife to his marriage to Miss Taylor

1796 Jane Fairfax's mother dies when Jane is three

1796, June 23: Harriet is 17 when novel opens so Harriet Smith born in the same year that Mrs Jane Fairfax died. Edith Lank has suggested Miss Henrietta Bates could have left Highbury during this time to help her poor sister, thus giving an alibi for a pregnancy (!). See Edith Lank's intriguing essay in Persuasions 7, pp. 14-15.

1797 Miss Taylor comes to be governess to the Woodhouse daughters "sixteen years ago" (said as the book opens). Emma then 5. Later we are told that at 10 Emma could answer questions that puzzled Isabella at 17; this implies that Isabella is 7 years older than Emma so Isabella was 12 when Miss Taylor arrived. This is time advised for getting a governess for a young girl 1:38

1802 (just before): Jane Fairfax adopted by the Campbells; we are told she was adopted before she was 9.

1804 During one of Emma's "amiable fits" she persisted in calling Mr Knightley "George", 53:445

1805. Age 12 Emma draws up her first reading scheme, 5:65. Mr Knightley says ever since she was 12 she has been mistress of "the house and you all". Was it in this year Mrs Woodhouse died?, 5:66; 53:445

1806 Isabella Woodhouse marries John Knightley. Emma alone with Miss Taylor during the "last seven years" after Isabella married John. Isabella would have been 20-21 and Emma 13. Mr Knightley says he has known and (unconsciously?) loved Emma since she was 13. 1:38

1807: Age 14 Emma draws up her second reading scheme which "does her judgement much credit" 5:65

1809 "Four years ago" Miss Taylor and Emma met Mr Weston in Broad-way Lane; it began to mizzle, and he darted away to bring back two umbrellas. "I planned the match from that hour". 1:43

December and after
Mr. Elton enters the neighborhood 16:155

the time of Jane Fairfax's last visit 19:170
2 years previous Mr Woodhouse had been at Donwell Abbey 42:352
Last September:
Mr Weston wrote note to Isabella Knightley to assure her there was no scarlet fever at Cobham 11:118

John and Isabella Knightley had not come since last Easter 9:104, and then only for a few days, during which time on a windy day Mr Weston helped little Henry fly his kite 11:119

birth of little Emma? 12:121
Tues, 8 June:
Mr Martin was 24 4:59
Wed, 23 June:
Harriet was 17 4:59

There had been a 2 months in the country by Miss Smith to Martin farm just before Emma's first invitation to her 3:53; first Sunday back they had had a goose Mrs Martin had sent 4:58; during visit in September it's called Harriet had been measured 23:199; described in very early February as not six months ago a visit of 6 weeks 23:200, so really an August into September visit

We find ourselves in the evening of the day (in September?or early October) on which Miss Taylor married 1:39

"All the autumn", by which is meant September, the Knightley children went sea-bathing; in previous years had come to Hartfield 11:115

Tues, 28th Sept:
Letter from Frank Churchill from Weymouth to the new Mrs Weston 2:48; 11:119
One morning
a note comes asking if Mrs Goddard can bring Miss Smith 3:53
Harriet says she didn't know Mr Elton to speak to until then, 9:100; Emma hatches her plan for Harriet to marry Mr Elton the very first evening Harriet came to Hartfield 4:63; that evening Emma hatches her plan to marry Miss Smith to Mr Elton 3:53;

The very next day after Harriet and Emma's first talk they meet Mr Martin on foot on the Donwell Road; Emma's insinuating insidious conversation occurs immediately afterward 4:61

At Weymouth a solemn engagement formed between Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill 46:387
The time that Miss Campbell was married, and didn't expect her parents to come to see her until the summer 19:172

Thus far we know that many long October and November nights are on their way 1:38

Then we are thrust into an on-going conversation between Mr Knightley and Mrs Weston 5:65ff; we are told that Mr and Mrs Weston had been speaking of it "yesterday;" that is, the day before; how well she looked last night? 5:67: an evening party or dinner was there?

Again sudden set down "the sitting began 6:74 Harriet to sit again the next day 6:75 on the morrow the civilities and courtesies the same 6:75

a month before Knightley's visit Mrs Bates had her bad cold; Mr Wingfield said this autumn more colds generally and very heavy 12:125
Sun, 7th Nov:
Jane Fairfax caught a bad cold 19:174
November late
Mrs Anne Weston gets pregnant; baby born in late July see below; Miss Bates's observation about "seeing [her] pass by so often, and knowing how much trouble you have" occurs in May; at that time Mrs Weston would be 7 months pregnant; she is "gently" coerced into constant walking near Bates's. 38:320

Following events occur between Dec 1st-17th, Wed of one week to Friday of 2 weeks later

December A Wednesday Evening
Martin had visited Knightley and been encouraged to propose to Harriet Smith 8:86
Thursday (next day)
By time Mr Elton takes painting to London to be framed it's December 6:76; on that day he meets Mr Perry on the road and tells Mr Perry he will not be back in time for whist (it was the whist-club night), not meaning to return until the morrow 8:93; that very day Mr Martin leaves a letter which contains a proposal of marriage to Harriet an hour before she arrives in a parcel which contains 2 songs Harriet left Elizabeth to copy That night Harriet sleeps at Hartfield; for some weeks spending half her time there, has bedroom;
Friday or next morning
she's off to Mrs Godddard for a hour or two and will return to make a visit of several days; while Harriet there Miss Nash tells her what Mr Perry said about Mr Elton 8:93; Mr Knightley arrives 8:84; he had had his visit from Mr Martin whether he should propose 2 evenings ago 8:86; she then says yesterday he made his proposal by a letter and was refused 8:86-7
the next few days
the behavior over the picture, the riddles; the day before Mr Elton declined to show skill at riddles 9:95
the very next day
Mr Elton brings riddle9:97; a month ago Harriet had no idea 9:98; Mr Elton to come back that evening 9:101; actually returns just before 4 o'clock to asks permission to go to Coles for dinner 9:106; middle of December
the morrow
when Emma goes on charitable visit 10:108; they meet Elton also on his way to call; Emma destroys her own bootlace to inveigle a visit into Elton's house 10:111

More firmly in the middle of December:

Dec 7th-8th, Tuesday or Wednesday
She "forgets exactly the day -- but perhaps it was the Tuesday or Wednesday before that evening.Harriet tells Emma that "one morning" she saved the stub of Elton's pencil when he cut away part of it to write down "something about brewing spruce beer". Austen must have flipped back and forth with her almanac as this is said in the the third week of May (see below) 40:336
Dec 13th-14th, Monday or Tuesday
"It was but a very few days before I had my sore throat -- just before Mr and Mrs Knightley came". Just before above revelation in third week of May Harriet tells Emma that she saved the court plaister 40:335
Sat, Dec 18th:
the first of the 10 day visit of Knightleys 11:115; that evening Mr Knightley comes to dine 12:121; next morning John K to come to the Abbey 12:128; court plaister incident 40:334; there are visits, morning and evenings, evenings are quieter but
Thurs, 23rd Dec:
Harriet spends day at Randalls, and gets a cold; she returns to Mrs Goddard because she wants to be nursed by her 13:130
Fri, 24th Dec:
early in the day Emma visits Harriet, sits as long as she can, Mrs Perry spoken of; for dinner a Christmas visit to Randalls; that morning letter from Frank saying he means to come in a fortnight; the return drive in which Elton proposes 13:130; 14:140
Sat, 25th Dec:
Emma awakens refreshed from sleep; snow on ground, though Christmas day, she cannot go to church 16:156
Mon, 27th Dec:
stay around 10 days, Knightleys leave; that evening Mr Elton's note saying he is leaving for Bath the following morning 17:158
Tues, 28th Dec (Innocents Day):
Elton goes to Bath, will stay "a few weeks;" on this morning too Emma has to tell Harriet the truth; we are told the Knightleys must be in London on the 28th 9:104, 17:158; 17:159 (Knightleys will stay Christmas for only one week 9:104; then we hear of a 10 day stay 11:115)

In this part of the calendar one of those elements which makes me feel I have conjectured rightly is that we are told the Coles' party was on a Tuesday and by my scheme it falls on a Tuesday; working out from the holiday years, by my calendar Frank tries to make his confession to Emma on a Tuesday and it is Shrove Tuesday; on Tues, July 5th, Old Midsummer Eve, Emma sends her letter to Harriet cutting Harriet off from their "friendship;" the weather then clears on Wednesday ( we are told it is a Wednesday) when Mr Knightley shows up and proposes. Of course as so many people have noticed Frank gives Jane the piano on Valentine's Day, this works out in my calendar in such a way as to cohere with the Coles's party.

1814, Sat, Jan 1st
A fortnight after Frank's letter which came on the 24th would make his visit the "second week in January" (so in fact say Mr Weston on that very evening of party at Randalls); however, Frank sends another letter in "early January" saying he cannot come after all; immediately after Christmas Emma also gets Harriet to Hartfield with the idea of being a real friend to her -- which she has been anything but before. Time is at this point overdetermined: there are so many references to it. Does Austen do this at turning points as she gathers up her threads. So Emma also says she had been misinterpreting, misguiding and misleading Harriet "for the last six weeks" 14:140, 17;159-160; 18:162
Before Tues-Wed, Jan 4th-5th:
Unexpected letter from Jane Fairfax; in the common course they should not have heard from Jane until next Tuesday or Wednesday 19:170, 172
Fri-Sat, Jan 7th-8th:
Jane to arrive next week, Friday or Saturday Miss Bates can't say which; Jane to stay 3 months at least (until April) 19:172, 175
Mon, Jan 10th:
Campbells leave town on way to Holyhead the Monday following; 19:175
Tues, Jan 25th:
Emma has the Bateses and Jane over 20:181-2
Wed, Jan 26th:
We can date this from Miss Bates's statement that Mr Elton has been gone just four weeks yesterday Morning following evening Emma has Batess and Jane over Mr Knightley comes to do some business for Mr Woodhouse; on this day Mr Cole receives Mr Elton's letter and Mrs Cole writes note to Miss Bates to say Mr Elton is going to be married; Emma says Elton gone only 4 weeks so this makes this morning to occur at the close of the week of Jan 24th or opening of week of Jan 31st.
Saturday, Jan 29th
Harriet's meeting with Robert and Elizabeth Martin at Ford's 21:184, 186, 190
Mon, Jan 31st:
A few days after Harriet meets Martins, Elizabeth comes to Mrs Goddard's and so engineers it that Harriet is out; leaves Harriet a note 22:197
First week of Feb:
Not a week had passed when we hear of how Miss Hawkins described, Mr Elton's short return, Emma's short encounter with him 22:194
Tues, Feb 8th:
On morning he sets off for Bath, Emma takes Harriet to call on Martins; half hour before she sees his trunk; 14 minute visit only; at Hartfield she learns of a letter from Frank, he is to come tomorrow and stay for a fortnight; arrives that evening, since he spent 2 nights on the road he must have left immediately after sending his letter 22:197-8; 23:199-200, 203
Wed, Feb 9th:
Frank Churchill was to come, Emma watching the clock hourly and a few minutes after twelve find Mr Weston and Frank at Hartfield; Weston hurries on, Frank ignores hint he should stay and instead goes on to see Jane at Bates's 23:201, 203
Thurs, Feb 10th:
Next morning FC calls again; spends day with Emma and Mrs Weston, passes Elton's house and envies him 24:208
Fri Feb 11th:
Frank goes to London ostensibly to have hair cut, actually to buy pianoforte; Mr and Mrs Weston visit also coincides with invitation to Coles; while Emma and Harriet visit Ford's (see below Wed, Feb 16th)
Sat, Feb 12th
we are told that Mr Martin dined with with Coles "last Saturday" . Martin is acceptable To Coles from whose party Emma was almost excluded 25:216, 218; 27:240
Mon, Feb 14th:
Valentine's Day the Pianoforte arrives
Tues, Feb 15th:
The Coles's Party: "We must remember to let James know that the carriage will be wanted on Tuesday"; Frank remembers he came a week tomorrow, half his time, so he had to have arrived on Wed, Feb 9th 26:220, 222, 27:230
Wed, Feb 16th:
Emma sits down and practices for 1 and 1/2 hours; Harriet arrives, tells of Mr Martin's dinner at Coxes on past Saturday, Emma and Harriet go to Ford's; met by Frank and Mrs Weston, Frank has engineered trip to Bates's to listen to piano; the fixing of the spectacles 27:239-41
Thurs-Fri, Feb 17th-18th: suddenly indeterminacy
We are simply told that during "the last half hour of an evening which Mr Woodhouse was persuaded to spend with his daughter at Randalls"; Frank and Emma suddenly begin to plan a ball; Frank has "a fortnight" so he must extend only to Feb 23rd; later when extension revoked he leaves on the Tuesday so this measuring of rooms, given other indications of time, can only occur on one of these two nights 29:253; 30:262
Sat, Feb 19th:
The letter came from Mrs Churchill in which she did not oppose extension of Frank's stay; Middle of next day Frank at Hartfield with proposal of a ball at the Crown Inn; she and Frank go to Crown to see Mr and Mrs Weston there to discuss plan 29:255, 30:263
Sun-Mon, Feb 20th-21st:
2 days of joyful security pass; during this time Knightley disparages, Jane Fairfax looks forward to said ball 30:262-3; wedding of Eltons has to take place before Shrove Tuesday 31:270
Tues, Feb 22nd:
The note from Mr Churchill commanding Frank to return instantly; sum of it in a note from Mrs Weston comes to Emma at breakfast; he indeed been there a full fortnight. We learn it was a "Tuesday" in Frank's letter; so this is Feb 22nd; 30:263; 3:269
Indeterminate but almost immediate time before
Frank's letter to Mrs Weston arrives 31:269-70
Wed, Mar 2nd:
Three weeks of "happy exemption from Mr Elton's doings" 31:270
Sun, Mar 6th:
Mr Elton first seen at church 32:273
Mon-Thurs, Mar 7th-17th:
Emma pays first visit to Elton's, Harriet in tow, three months after her trick over the shoelace; visit then returned by Mrs Elton. Time becoming increasingly indeterminate again: "When the visit was returned ..." 32:273-4
Early-mid, Mar:
Letter referred to 3 months later in which Jane told Frank Mr Perry setting up carriage; Jane had it from Miss Bates who got it from Mrs Bates who was told by Mrs Perry 41:341

Later in March Mrs Elton and Emma distance themselves from one another, Mrs Elton patronizes Jane Fairfax, walks, talks; Jane comes to spend the day with her 33:286. In April, Jane now there three months; Campbells to stay in Ireland until midsummer, Mrs Dixon presses her to come to Ireland, still Jane stays away 33:286. During this period, there's a visit of some weeks in the spring by two eldest Knightley children, Henry and John with father bringing them and staying one whole day which day coincides with day of Emma's dinner party for Eltons 33:292.

Nonetheless, Austen still keeping time within indeterminacy: Mrs Elton will say "From Monday next to Saturday, I assure you we have not a disengaged day"; Emma "talked about [the dinner for the Eltons] for ten minures", 33:291-292

Thurs, Apr 7th:
The evening dinner party for Mrs Elton: "the evening of a cold sleety April day"; Mr Weston summoned to town and must be absent 33:292: at party are Eltons, Emma & her father, both Knightleys, Jane, Mrs Weston; Mr Weston joins them later; that morning Mr Knightley had met Jane on her way home from post-office before breakfast; also comment "here is April come;" Jane determined to do nothing for 2-3 months (June-July); Frank's letter tells them he is to come "tomorrow or Saturday" so that makes it Thursday; they will be only 2 nights on the road, again letter sent on day journey begins. Among the many obsessive indications of time are about Mr Weston, "A man who had been in motion since eight o'clock in the morning"; Mr Suckling has been 11 years at Maple Grove, the Tupmans only in the neighborhood "a year and one half at the utmost"; Mr Knightley absent from home five hours for every one of of Emma's 34:294-9; 35:300, 302; 36:306, 312
Fri (tomorrow) or Sat, Apr 8th-9th:
Frank to come to London with Churchills and to stay through month of May; Emma thinking about immediately afterwards explicitly makes time of Frank's absence as "two months" since Frank has been at Highbury 36:307, 37:313
Sat-Tues, Apr 9th-19th:
During next ten days Frank came once; Churchills are however in London; Mrs Churchill in a weaker state than she was half a year ago; letter during this time from Frank says they will rent in Richmond; "by ten days' end" his aunt has had enough of London 37:314-5
May 1st-June 30th:
Churchills take "ready-furnished house in Richmond "for May and June". "What were nine miles to a young man? -- An hour's drive"; "Sixteen miles -- nay, eighteen -- it must be a full eighteen to Manchester-street" 37:315. It's worth noting continual obsessive attention to time and distance:
May, Second week, Mon-Thurs, May 9th-12th:
Ball: Wherein Frank appalled at Mrs Elton's behavior, gives himself away in thousands of ways; wherein Eltons snub Harriet and Mr Knightley asks her to dance. Second week arrived at by working backwards from last; sudden shift to indeterminacy heralds sudden looseness in narrative as Jane Fairfax & Mrs Elton plots are about to be held at bay (next few chapters we hear about doings from Emma and Harriet's perspective 38:318
Fri, May 13th?:
Next morning: Gypsy incident from which Frank Churchill saves Harriet 39:329**Someone pointed out to me this is a folk calendar day but I cannot find my reference and would be grateful to anyone who could say what such a Friday in May would be in the church or festival year. May 19th is St Dunstan's day: Dunstan said to be most famous of Anglo-Saxon saints, born near Glastonbury, an Archbishop of Canterbury, but next two references makes it clear the Ball was held the second week
May, Third week, Mon-Tues, May 16th or 17th:
A very few days after ball and Gypsy incident: Harriet gives up relics, and says she loves another 40:334
May, Fourth Week, Thurs-Fri, May 27th-28th:
"A fortnight after alarm" (i.e. gypsy incident) Harriet confesses her aspirations for Knightley to Emma; Emma thinks she is talking of gypsy incident while Harriet is talking of mortification at ball and Mr Knightley's sparing her that anguish 40:340

"June opens upon Highbury"; Campbells not to return from Ireland until "August" rather than "Midsummer" so Jane to be with Bateses two months more 41:340

One day: Knightley at dinner with Randalls' family (Mr and Mrs Weston and Jane at Eltons. We see Emma is excluded. He sees a look pass between Jane and Frank in the role of admirer of Jane 41:340

Another time again from Mr Knightley's eyes (or was it "himself creating what I saw" as in Cowper): in company of Jane and Frank, an evening in June, after dinner: rain threatens; Westons & son walking with Miss Bates and niece "who had accidentally met"; they meet Mr Knightley, Emma, & Harriet; Frank makes mistake of referring to gossip Jane sent him "three months ago" in a letter, attributes to Mrs Weston; Miss Bates "trying in vain to be heard for two minutes", for "about three days" "last spring" it was "quite a secret" that Perrys were planning to buy and to use a carriage; Jane lags behind in embarrassment; tea & alphabet game, "box of letters" left over from nephews' "visit of some weeks in the spring". This, says Frank, "a dull looking evening, that ought to be treated rather as winter than summer" 41:34-343

Now middle of June (42:349)

Thurs, June 23rd:
Midsummer Eve and Harriet's birthday; Donwell Abbey expedition; Mrs Elton's nagging at Jane over taking position as governess; Frank comes late in day after Jane has left, they quarrelled on the road; Emma sees him at 3 o'clock 42:352; 43:362
Fri, June 24th:
Midsummer Day: Frank stays at Randall's, 7 miles to Box Hill, remain there for 2 hours; terrible moment with Knightley, evening playing back-gammon with her father; earlier in day Jane tells Mrs Elton to say no to Mrs Smallridge; but later in the evening when Miss Bates & Jane at Elton's, Jane says yes after she hears that Frank returned to Richmond that evening after his stepfather said he could wait until the next morning. Jane told this by Miss Bates, "closes with the offer, resolving to break" with Frank entirely. 43:361; 44:370; 44:373; 50:427
Sat, June 25th:
Next morning, Emma's visit to Miss Bates, Jane very ill, headache from writing long letters to Colonel Campbell and Mrs Dixon, also painful one to Frank; she has accepted position with Mrs Smallridge; she has written to Frank (we find out from his letter), and the lines are "She felt the engagement to be a source of repentance and misery to each: she dissolved it. Mr Knightley arrives to say he is going to London to spend "a few days" with his brother and Isabella. Time again obsessively kept track of: Jane has taken up Mrs Elton's offer because she heard of Frank's going off; Mr Knightley at Hartfield for half an hour; Emma wishes she had left Miss Bates 10 minutes earlier. 45:377.
Sun, June 26th:
"Thirty-six hours" after Frank's return, Mrs Churchill dies: Mrs Churchill had been disliked for more 25 years so that brings us back to somewhat before 1789 for meeting of Miss Churchill and Captan Weston; that this "event" occurred this day made explicit in Frank's letter of July 5th, Tuesaday: "the event of the 26th ult." It was on this day that Frank received Jane's letter; he replied "within an hour" but the multiplicity of business, the many letters confused him so he locked letter up in his desk (this he says in his letter of Tuesday, July 5th). 45:379; 44:371; 50:426; 45:377; 50:428
Mon, June 27th (perhaps through to June 29th):
Short letters from Frank to Highbury follow Mrs Churchill's death, her funeral kept at distance, Yorkshire. Frank's stepfather to visit a friend in Windsor he has been promising to visit for 10 years 45:379
Monday, June 27th:
Next day after letter telling of death of Mrs Churchill and surrounding events and suppositions, Emma invites Jane to come to Hartfield for day; that "same morning" Mr Perry had seen her, in very bad state; "her present home unfavourable to nervous disorder"; problem is precisely in the "care and attention"; an hour or two's relief would help; Emma sends note; verbal message sent back refusing. It was on this day that Frank and Mr Churchill went to Windsor. 50:428
Tuesday, June 28th:
"The following morning" Emma writes "again to say in the most feeling language she could command" that she will call for Jane "at any hour", mentioning Mr Perry on exercise; answer a short note in third person. Emma then drives to Bates's; denied and sees how other women had forced themselves on Jane; from home sends arrowroot, "in half an hour" arrow-root returned with "thousand thanks" from Miss Bates, but Jane "could not take" & will not rest until it is sent back; in "the afternoon" Jane seen wandering in meadow at some distance from Highbury 45:380-382
Thursday, June 29th :
Two days after Frank received his letter from Jane in which she dissolves the engagement, he is aware he has not received an answer; doesn't worry until on one of these days he receives "a parcel from her, all my own letters returned", with despair and Mrs Smallridge's address, near Bristol. They must have gone to Windsor on the Tuesday, June 28th 50:427-428.
Fri - Sun, July 3rd:
Frank gets his step-father to agree to marriage.46:389; 50:427
Fri, July 1st:
Frank and Mr Churchill come to visit a friend in Windsor 45:379
Sun, July 3rd:
Frank finds out Jane is to go as a governess to Smallridge's; step- father agrees. We are actually told that "two days after Frank and Mr Churchill came to Windsor, Frank got Jane's letter(s?) 46:389; 50:427
Mon, July 4th:
"By counting June 26 and the Monday as full days", "about ten days after Mrs Churchill's decease, Frank's ride from Windsor to Jane to make-up and then to Randalls to announce engagement ("he had not time to enter into much explanation. Jane looked "wan, sick", Frank thinks he persuaded it all away. He was here only a quarter of an hour") also occurs day after he and Mr Churchill received letters and he has time to tell his adopted stepfather; on same day, but "he cannot stay five minutes" and she "must come this morning" Mr Weston brings Emma to Mrs Weston; as they walk Frank "half way to Windsor by this time"; Emma tells Mrs Weston that "for at least three months" (from May, time of second visit) she has "cared nothing for him"; now that afternoon Emma and Harriet first understand one another. Time mentioned twice: Emma withdraws eyes from Harriet and meditates "for a few minutes. A few minutes ...", and she sees "Mr Knightley must marry no one but herself" ... her own conduct ... her own heart ... before her in the same few minutes. Harriet's story of Mr Knightley's growth of love for her are described as "Circumstances that might swell to half an hour's relation ...": Harriet measures strength of Mr Knightley's attachment by how much time he spends with her: "they had been walking some time before Emma came ... his having sat talking with her nearly half an hour ... when he first came in, he said he could not stay five minutes ... " The rest of the day; the following night, were hardly enough for her thoughts. 46:384, 387, 389; 47:396, 399
Tuesday, July 5th:
If we date time from midnight on we find another humiliation: The rest of the day; the following night, were hardly enough for her thoughts. Every moment brought a fresh surprise; and every surprise must be a matter of humiliation: that she had been imposed on by others in a most mortifying degree; that she had been imposing on herself in a degree yet more mortifying; that she was wretched and should probably find this day but the beginning of wretchedness 47:501 Old Midsummer Eve: Day of cold July storm. Day insisted on twice: "I did not quite like your looks on Tuesday ... I felt for your dear father very much in the storm of Tuesday". Emma's letter to Harriet that they should not meet except in company of others for a few days, and then never on the topic of Knightley; Mrs Weston's visit to Jane Fairfax, takes her for a drive, and then her and Emma's conference; a forlorn rainy day, unusual, a July storm; a letter from Jane to Frank dreading Mrs Weston's visit. Long dramatic scene which contains novels within novels. The day insisted upon four times. On this day Frank writes his long letter to Mrs Weston too. 48:405; 50:424
Wed, July 6th:
Old Midsummer Day: in the afternoon it clears; that morning Mr Knightley had letter from Mr Weston telling of Frank's engagement to Jane, left Brunswick Square, arrives after dinner and proposes. He says he went to London to avoid Emma after Box Hill; too painful to watch her flirt; cannot bear to watch brother and sister-in-law; "staied on, however, vigorously day after day" until news of Jane Fairfax's engagement; "hidden home through the rain". Emma observes "beautiful effect of the western sun", 49:420; 50:421
Thurs, July 7th:
A "sleepless night ... the tax for such an evening", Emma considers her father and Harriet; she does have thought that if marriage "were divested of the danger of drawing her away, it might become an increase of comfort to him"; she then sits down to write a long and presumably painful letter to Harriet. It is interesting to note how rarely Austen allows her heroine's letters to be read, and how those that we have are often brief & performative. We are to be content with the statement that writing this letter leaves Emma so "serious & nearly sad" that it takes "half an hour's walk in the shrubbering with Mr Knightley to "reinstate" her happy frame of mind from the "evening" before. A note from Mrs Weston to Emma arrives, and then herself ushering in Frank's letter ("very thick ... it must be waded through") sent by Mrs Weston who did not like Emma's looks "on Tuesday, day repeated twice; Mrs Weston just received the letter in which Frank refers to Monday as "yesterday", so this is a Tuesday letter; it took 2 days to arrive at Randalls; now Thursday, Mr Knightley reads it with Emma, then offers to come live at Hartfield. He had been "walking away from William Larkins the whole morning to have his thoughts to himself" 50:422-8; 51:429, 433

We return to indeterminate time: the following takes place between July 8th and 14th:

Harriet writes back, and we are told that even Emma could see it in "something of resentment ... which increased the desirableness of their being separate". Harriet "rather a dead weight" is Emma's real thought. 52:435;

Emma gets invitation from Isabella for Harriet, Emma writes Harriet, and Harriet agrees and leaves for at least a fortnight for London 52:435

Emma will wait a fortnight before telling her father; she wants Mrs Weston to be "safe" and "well" first. The first overt reference to the pregnancy 52:436

Thurs, July 14th
From Emma's conversation we learn that Mr Knightley had visited her on a Thursday to to tell her he would not be meerting Elton tomorrow (Friday, but on Saturday. 52:439
Fri, July 15th:
Emma meets Jane who is all welcome hospality; Mrs Elton there and asserts Elton gone to meet Knightley today at Crown. Intention to give piece a "holiday atmosphere": "Half an hour of holiday spirits spent in calling on Jane; she is there on Friday as they speak of Elton and Knightley and Emma sure Knightley yesterday said he was to meet Elton not today but Saturday, tomorrow (see below in determinate time). Since Mrs Elton has a letter from Mrs Smallridge and Jane was to come within a fortnight, and the Eltons were for a while publicly resentful towards Jane; so it may probably somewhat after July 9th at this point. We also learn on that morning Elton had sent a note to Knightley to talk at Donwell about tomorrow (meaning Saturday, July 16th); Knightley sent a note back promising to wait at home until "one." Not even an apology. "Perhaps he went to Hartfield, perhaps the Abbey Mill, perhaps into his woods". We are to feel Mr Knightley now in love. Finally, Jane to stay at Highbury until she is claimed by Campbells who are to return in August; she & Frank to mourn for 3 months and then marry and live at Enscombe (that would've made the wedding late October). Gushy meeting on stairs saved by Emma's coolness and Jane's nervous apprehension 52:436 52:441, 443
Sat, July 16th:
Meeting actually to be at Crown on this day 52:440

Interdeterminate time begins again, Sun, July 17th to Wed, July 27th, a ten day interval is common in Austen's books:
  • Mrs Weston has her baby, an Anna 53:444
  • Harriet and Emma's friendship now gone as Emma depends on Isabella's letters to hear about Harriet; Isabella sees Harriet "at first out of spirits", but then must've improved; her fortnight now becoming a month 53:446
  • Letter arrives from John Knightley congratulating brother on engagement 53:446
  • Mr Woodhouse is told of the coming marriage; letters arrive from Isabella which express "the strongest approbation". 53:449
  • Mrs Weston comes with her baby, ready to consider the subject "as settled" and decision "a good one"; Mr Woodhouse ready to consider marriage occurring in another year or two 53:449
  • Mr Weston spends "five minutes" surprised, "by the end of an hour he was not far away from believing he had always foreseen it"; tells Jane "the next morning" . It is all timed. 53:449

We are told that Isabella's family to visit Highbury in August and will bring Harriet back with them them; we are waiting for Campbells to return 52:443; 53:446

1814: time becomes determinable again
Saturday August 6th:
Three days earlier than Knightley and Emma's conversation: Robert Martin goes to London on business for Knightley; delivers papers and then asked to join Knightley family party at Astley's in the evening; Mr Martin asked to dine "the next day". Harriet made a real person as we are told she was "uneasy in a crowd". Time made somewhat determinate by Emma's statement on the day that Mr Knightley tells her that it was "five weeks ago" that Harriet had her disappointment; Harriet's disappointment was Monday July 4th 54:453
Sunday, August 7th:
Mr Martin dines, find his opportunity, speaks, and does not speak in vain; Harriet accepts. A Good Tuesday! 54:453
Monday, August 8th:
Martin returns by coach 54:453
Tuesday August 9th::
Time passes and a few more tomorrows and the party from Brunswick Square are to arrive. This is timed by Emma's statement that five weeks ago Harriet had been disappointed. We are told that Emma has been thinking of "change one morning" as one which must bring "a great deal of agitation and grieve her". Knightley comes with new and puts on a "grave" look; "not half an hour ago" Robert Martin told him (so "that morning") that he and Harriet Smith will marry. Emma finds this entertaining and makes fun. What saves scene is Mr Knightley's distress at her more than mocking words on his delusion" He says he is accurate as Martin came to him to find who to go to; Mr Knightley said he must see Mrs Goddard. Mr Woodhouse now drives daily to Randalls and receives "the thanks he asks for" Frank arrived this morning and Jane persuaded to spend the day at Randalls; Campbells still not back 54:452, 458

August 12-13th: "a very few days" brings Harriet back, with family party in tow.

Harriet tells tale to Emma, all "unintelligible" to Emma; Harriet's parentage discovered, 55:462. We should remember Harriet's last words: "now I seem to feel that I may deserve him; and that if he does choose me, it will not be any thing so very wonderful", 47:407. Here is the criss-cross of keeping time and symbolic representative in a place in an ongoing text.

"Before end of September" Emma attends Harriet to church where Rev Mr Elton marries them, 55:463

"Waiting for November": by time of Harriet's marriage, Jane Fairfax has quit Highbury, restored to comforts of Campbells' home in London. So Fairfax-Churchill marriage an autumnal affair, and Miss Bates's last words are sycophantic gush over Mr Elton's proposed ceremonious visit, "That will be a favour indeed!", 52:439, with her "looking about her happily"; Jane's last words: How can you bear such recollections is astonishing to me! -- They will sometimes intrude -- but how you can court them!", 52:461

"The intermediate month", October, the one fixed on for wedding of Emma and Mr Knightley; made possible by housebreaking into chicken coup. You see Mr John Knightley "must be in London again by the end of the first week in November". So Emma and Mr George Knightley married "within a month from the marriage of Mr and Mrs Robert Martin", the third week of October the one aimed at as we are to think that Mr George and Mrs Emma Knightley took a trip perhaps to the sea 55:483-484

Final Comment and Bibliography

At a minimu, the picturesque and appropriate touches of using seasonal, folk, and religious festivals of the year to coincide with and reinforce the events and psychological movements of the novel occur throughout the book. Austen was attempting a new approach to time even if she felt that her material was too much of the same sort of thing she had been doing. The bibliography for studies of time in the novel is very short.


  • Chapman, Emma 497-8;
  • Kirkham, Margaret. Jane Austen, Feminism and Fiction. London: The Athlone Press, 1997;
  • Lank, Edith, "The word was blunder": Who Was Harriet Smith's Mother", Persuasions, 7 (1985), pp. 14-15.
  • Jo Modert "Chronology Within the Novels," The Jane Austen Companion, edd. J. David Grey, A. Walton Litz, and Brian Southam (New York: Macmillan, 1986), 56-7.
  • But see Sutherland's objection in "Apple-blossom in June" Is Heathcliff a Murderer (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996) 14-9.

The 1996 BBC Emma, scripted Andrew Davies, directed by Diarmiud Lawrence
Harvest festival: Mr Knightley's tenants; the great table and speeches; dancing couples
Mr and Mrs Knightley, Mr and Mrs Frank Churchill, Mr and Mrs Robert Martin

Contact Ellen Moody.
Pagemaster: Jim Moody.
Page Last Updated: 3 January 2003.