We are two part-time academics. Ellen teaches in the English department and Jim in the IT program at George Mason University.

The lost letters of Jane Fairfax and Mrs Elton · 11 January 06

Dear Miss Vane,

You know what I wish I had the talent for: a post-modern type sequel, rereading, change of perspective type thing, for Emma. I dream that I and Miss Schuster-Slatt find the long-lost letters of Jane Fairfax and Mrs Elton and publish them. They were written from the time Mrs Elton and Jane Fairfax met until the time Jane left Highbury to marry Frank Churchill. We find the diary of Miss Smith too. And Miss Bates’s journal. And we write a post-script to the collection telling of how Jane died early (poor dear); what then happened to Miss Bates; how Mrs Elton went to America, and how, after Emma died, Miss Smith married Mr Knightley and became mistress of Donwell Abbey.

I see that Kathy in Blue Earth Notes often dreams of ideal occupations, well, this is a book I wish I had the talent for.

What would we call it? I can’t even think of a name, but know I like dreaming of Samantha Morton as Miss Smith (above) and Jeremy Northam as Mr Knightley (below) in the two 1996 film adaptations of Emma.

In the same dream world I would transpose the type Doran Goodwin projected as Emma (in the 1972 BBC Emma) into Jane Fairfax:

The psychological baggage of these types in these films interplays in my mind with Austen’s texts, and my view of Jane Fairfax as the true heroine of Emma where she and (ah! her brother) Frank are direct lovers rather than as in Mansfield Park fobbing us off with the beloved sailor brother, William, and cousin relationships (veiled incest), or renaming him as the painfully betraying Frederick Wentworth.

Think about how many heroines in Austen have to hide their love —from Elinor to Fanny to Jane to Anne—while they watch the beloved male court or be engaged to another woman.

Miss Drake

Posted by: Ellen

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  1. Writing the letters between Mrs Elton and Jane Fairfax would be fun, but they couldn’t begin until after Jane left Highbury on her marriage; the two women wouldn’t be writing letters to each other when they’re living in the same village. It’s an excellent device for an Emma sequel though, and I must say I do pant to write in Mrs. Elton’s voice again! There’s not much in this world that’s more fun than that. Great idea having Miss Bates’ and Harriet Smith’s voices chiming in too.
    Diana Birchall    Jan 12, 6:10am    #
  2. Dear Miss Schuster-Slatt,

    My idea is also to include a very different (and jaundiced or satiric and I’d hope refreshing) view of Emma out of the eyes of Harriet Smith and Miss Bates (who’s smarter than Emma thinks -- Miss Bates has a comment about observing what's in front of her that echoes a similar one Fanny Price utters). I want to play with Edith Lank's sister's playful theory about Harriet's birth too. That’s why I’d want to retell some of the original novel story. I’d also like to include a prequel—Jane’s story before the novel opens.

    It might be piquant for Austen readers to go through the novel once again from this different perspective. Also less work for us as much has been pre-imagined. We need only pull out the many many suggestive hints.

    I know you’d enjoy Mrs Elton. I’d enjoy doing a number which links Harriet Smith ironically to how Mrs Clay and Lucy Steele triumphed in S&S and P. It’d be modern for it would have been partly the result of chance and sex; no consciously calculating work to it.

    I like kicking this around, and thinking about it. One summer bout together, eh? We take three weeks together somewhere. We shut off computers. We do it. Night and day. Until it's done -- at least a first full draft.

    Miss Drake
    Chava    Jan 12, 8:34am    #

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