Jan 082016


“Happy those, who can remain at Highbury.”

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Source: Purchased

It has become my tradition these last three years to read an annotated edition of a Jane Austen work during the holiday break. After thoroughly enjoying the experience with Harvard University Press’s Pride and Prejudice: An Annotated Edition in 2013, I decided to give another Harvard University Press edition a try. And this year my choice must definitely be Emma, after all we did just celebrate its bicentennial!

My rating of 4 stars is for the annotations and comments provided by Bharat Tandon, for Jane Austen’s novel alone my rating would be 5+ stars. I think Emma is a brilliant masterpiece and, depending on my mood, often designate it as my most favorite Jane Austen novel.

Here are some of the insights and understandings I learned while reading Bharat Tandon’s’ annotations:

  • Bristol Means Something Very Significant: When Jane Austen says that Miss Hawkins was a daughter “of a Bristol – merchant, of course, he must be called” she is implying to her audience what she presumes they already know. That if you were working in Bristol at this time you were most assuredly involved with the slave trade. The dash she uses after Bristol and the inclusion of “of course, he must be called” confirms that she is hinting at something she cannot say outright. For me, this was a jaw-dropping disclosure! Never in all my previous readings of Emma did I make such a connection! Wow!
  • Definitions, Etymology, and References: With this edition there was a lot of annotations devoted to Jane Austen’s word choice. The editor canvassed the definitions of the words she chose (and how they differ from our usage today), the history of word origins, and how some of her turns of phrase may be in reference to another work or author. Understanding the older meanings of words and phrases helped provide a stronger understanding of what Jane Austen was trying to convey. I also liked being “in” on some of the allusions and “inside jokes” she was imparting to her audience.

Compared to the other two annotated works I read, I felt this edition was a little sparse and light with the overall amount of notes and insight. There were so many pages completely free from annotations. So I’m afraid the new-insights and discoveries didn’t reach the extent for which I was hoping. In addition, I did feel that there seemed to be more emphasis placed on language and less on the overall themes and analysis. I am curious to see if I like David Shapard’s The Annotated Emma better.

For readers who are looking for an attractive edition of Emma to display and and peruse, this would be a great choice. The layout is elegant and all the images are stunning and appropriate to the text. This edition is also beneficial for readers who want to learn a little more about Jane Austen’s Emma but not spend much time reading a lot of scholarly notes and text. For readers already familiar with a lot of history and context of Jane Austen’s time, this edition may not be as illuminating and edifying as desired.

Since rereading any Jane Austen work (even without annotations) is like a new experience, and readers often make new discoveries on subsequent re-readings, I thought I’d share some of mine here:

  • maxresdefaultThe Knightley Brothers Are Indeed Most Snarky!: (First heard this label applied in Emma Approved, and it fits well!) I never realized some of the sarcastic digs and instigating remarks both brothers make. They definitely aren’t afraid to speak their true mind!
  • I Shall Always Love Emma: I first read Emma before I heard she was an unlikable character, and established no impression of dislike towards her myself. And even on this reading I still cannot summon any dislike towards her. I love Emma. I love that she is very flawed, that her flaws are real and understandable, and that she strives to improve.
  • My Dad is Starting to Resemble Mr. Woodhouse: When visiting my parents (who live 25 minutes away) my dad always tries to talk me into spending the night and laments my driving home and all the “dangers.” He also protests when we travel: “I don’t know why you need to go the Dominican Republic. What is there for you to do? The beach? We’ve got beaches right here. Why can’t you just stay here?” I laughed out loud at the similarities!

Emma: An Annotated Edition is a beautiful and engaging edition that would suit a first-time reader as well as an ardent admirer. I definitely recommend this edition for readers, who like me, always long to be in Highbury!

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~ Reviews of Past Annotated Editions ~

2013 – Pride and Prejudice: An Annotated Edition (Edited by Patricia Meyer Spacks)

2014 – The Annotated Persuasion (Edited by David Shapard)

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  22 Responses to “Emma: An Annotated Edition – Jane Austen (Edited by Bharat Tandon)”


    The reference about Bristol is indeed interesting finding out that one does not mention it. Thank you for that Meredith. I must say though, that ‘Emma’ is not my favourite and it may be due to the ‘whiny’ voice of Gwyneth Paltrow! I loved Jeremy Northam as Mr. Knightly though. I did enjoy ‘Clueless’ and the portrayal of Emma in other versions by Kate Beckinsale and Romola Garai. Maybe, I just need to read it as Jane Austen has written it to appreciate it better. You are lucky you went in not being influenced by other’s opinions and portrayals.


      I’m happy to share this with you, Carole. I found it so interesting. I always knew Mrs. Elton was very vulgar and pretentious, but this lends a different understanding to her character and history all together. You should read and see if you like Jane Austen’s Emma better. For me Emma always comes across as having good intentions, and I find that very likable. 🙂 Oh! For me Jeremy Northam is Mr. Knightley! Thanks for reading my review!


    I have the annotated edition of Persuasion which I still have to read and having read your review on Emma annotated it’s definitely up next to be read. Persuasion is my favourite Austen novel. Unfortunately Emma is my least favourite. But it’s some time since I read it so maybe I’ll give it a go again soon. This edition, you reviewed might be a good idea.


      Very fun! What annotated edition is it that you have? I learned a lot when I read Shapard’s last year. 🙂 Oh no! Least favorite! This means we can’t be friends…I’m just kidding! 😉 Hopefully if you give it another go you may feel different. 😉


    I never knew that about the Bristol reference, either! I really appreciate your insights on the annotated editions, in particular because I am trying to decide which editions might be considered the “standards” today, to use for citation in a project I have percolating. I had sorta thought the Harvard UP editions might do, but maybe not . . . I’ll have to look up and see if you’ve reviewed the Northanger Abbey one, which is the only one I have.


      I’m so glad you found the review helpful, Abigail! I’m sorry to say I haven’t read any annotated editions for Northanger Abbey yet. I know I would like to read another Shapard edition this year though. I’ll be curious to see your project! Do let us know more about it when you can! 😉


        Project is no secret, but my life would have to change its contours for it to become a reality. Back in the mid-1980s I published a “Dictionary of Jane Austen’s Life and Works” as part of The Jane Austen Companion. I’ve been thinking about reviving and expanding it, and publishing it as a freestanding book with illustrations. For this, I need a new standard edition of all the novels to use for the citations! The original publication used the old R. W. Chapman, Oxford University Press editions, now obsolete.


    I liked Emma, I liked all the 6 novels pretty much the same. Anyway, about Bristol, where exactly in the book is Jane talking about this? and also who is she referring to was involved in the slave trade? thanks.


      Hi there! 🙂 Jane mentions Bristol in Chapter 22 when she is discussing the known facts about Miss Augusta Hawkins who later marries Mr. Elton. Hope that helps! It was so interesting to make this discovery!


    Thank you, I learned new things from your post. 🙂 I think in my re-readings of Austen this year, I will read annotated versions–I haven’t (read annotated versions) since college! I enjoyed your post, and I too love Emma.


      Thanks for reading my review, Reina! I only started reading annotated versions 3 years ago and I love it so much! Definitely a rewarding experience! Yay! So glad to hear you also love Emma!


    I didn’t know about the Bristol reference either – always something new to learn. But can’t say Emma is a favorite of mine. Too much unfulfilled potential. Thanks for the review. I only have one annotated edition and it is not Emma.


    I just finished the Annotated Pride & Prejudice with David Shapard so I know what you mean about getting to be ‘in the know’ now with stuff the author mentions or quotes and her contemporary audience would have gotten, but flew right past me in earlier reads.
    I had heard that there was a slave owner reference years ago when it came to Emma, but didn’t realize what it was. Interesting to know that now.
    Sorry this one wasn’t as full of notes as you were expecting. Maybe another annotated version will offer that.
    Love what re-reading does to bring out more things to the reader’s attention each time. Snarky Knightley. LOL


      Hi Sophia! How lovely that you just read an annotated edition too! A great way to start the year, isn’t it?

      I have heard that some people compare the two and say that HUP editions to be a little ‘shallower’ and that the Shapard’s are more ‘scholarly.’ I didn’t find the P&P by HUP to be shallow though. A lot of good content. 🙂 They are snarky!


    Happy New Year to you Meredith, and your merry band of followers. I have lusted after these gorgeous HUP annotated Austens for a long time now. I do love Shapard’s works though, and have several.

    So sorry M., to say Emma isn’t my fave, well, to read that is. But then, honestly, when any of Jane’s heroines are being most themselves, their own individual flaws can really shine forth in the most aggravating way. But what makes us like our own favorite best? That’s the interesting thing.

    Ooo, I am so pleased you said what you did about Bristol!!! I recently have discovered, read and loved a new author who writes a series of books based on a supporting character in Emma, Jane Fairfax. In this series of books she Jane, mentions several times that her aunt and grandmother’s household eschewed coffee, cane sugar and other goods that were products provided by slave labor. And that she disliked Mrs. Elton not just for her snobbery but because of the source of her wealth. These books are Sarah Waldock’s, Jane and the Bow Street Consultant. I’m not sure how many of your readers would enjoy these books, but I certainly have. She has taken Jane Fairfax’s character and circumstances after the close of Emma in very interesting direction, and I daresay many may just prefer to stay closer to Highbury/Emma/Mr. Knightly fan fic. These are hard to categorize but romantic comedy comes closest. They are squeaky clean, laugh-out-loud hilarious, (yet with many serious historic subject matters discussed and dealt with) and romantic! And not without flaw. The author has obviously done a lot of research about the Regency.

    You’re already off to a wonderful start on 2016. 🙂


    I completely enjoyed Mr. Shapard’s version. I have all of Jane’s annotated by him (with the exception of Mansfield Park which isn’t available yet). I haven’t managed to get through all of them but I did read Emma because she, and Mr. Knightley, are my favorites. I have always loved Emma. It is my favorite, followed by P&P and S&S equally. I love Mr. Knightley and he and his brother’s snark. LOL


      Hi Stephanie! I loved the image of your books you shared yesterday. I only have the one Shapard (Persuasion) but definite want to get them all! I would love to read MP with annotations, I feel like there is definitely a lot to learn. Yay for some Emma love! I knew you were a fan of Knightley, but I’m glad you like Emma too! Yes! It sometimes surprises me that they were allowed to get away with such derisive and unflattering comments. But I love the snark!


    I’m very late in making a comment, due to the revelation of the “Bristol-merchant” annotation above sending me off on a quest to find out how David Shapard annotated this hyphenated work. He missed this subtle reference. He noted that Bristol was the second largest port in England and heavily involved in the slave trade (page 323). He even referred the reader to a later notation (page 529) about the slave trade. He took this paragraph as referring to the social rank of Miss Hawkins father.
    I’ve now ordered the annotated version you rated. I love annotated JA works for this very reason. It is fascinated to be reminded what a true genius JA was. There is always something more to learn about her work. Up to this moment, I have preferred David Shapard’s annotations, but now will have to read any and all the others!!


      Always happy to read your comments, Cat! No matter when you get a chance to chime in! I appreciate you looking up the same Bristol reference in the Shapard edition – that’s very interesting! Maybe he didn’t think it was as significant a revelation as this other editor did. Very interesting! Thanks you so much for sharing – like you I plan to read as many annotations as I can because they all could introduce different topics and reveal different understandings!


    A little annotation to my comment above. 🙂 In the first sentence I meant hyphenated word, not work.

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