“[I]t was a very great event that Mr. Woodhouse should dine out,
on the 24th of December” (ch. 13).
On December 23, 1815, Jane Austen’s fourth novel, Emma, was published. Today is its two-hundredth birthday! It is appropriate that it was published during December, as events surrounding the Christmas season are an integral part of the story.
Mr. Elton’s unwelcome proposal to Emma takes place on Christmas Eve, resulting in Emma realizing the dangers of matchmaking. Emma’s sister, Isabella (Mrs. John Knightley), visits with her family over the season, and Emma enjoys being confined to the house with them because of some Christmas snow. Isabella’s husband gives his delightful tirade against holiday engagements on the way to a party at Randalls. When they were all returned safely to Hartfield, Mr. Wodehouse and Isabella enjoyed a bowl of gruel together.
There could hardly be a happier creature in the world than Mrs. John Knightley, in this short visit to Hartfield, going about every morning among her old acquaintance with her five children, and talking over what she had done every evening with her father and sister. She had nothing to wish otherwise, but that the days did not pass so swiftly. It was a delightful visit;—perfect, in being much too short. (ch. 13)
So, here’s wishing everyone a delightful time visiting with family — sans traveling in bad weather or being subjected to bowls of gruel — and celebrating Emma’s bicentennial!