Printer Friendly

Music, character, and social standing in jane austen's emma. (Miscellany).

Kathryn Libin teaches music history and theory at Vassar College. Her specialties include music of the late 18th and early 19th centuries and early keyboard instruments. Ms. Libin has lectured and published on Mozart's concertos, music in Jane Austen's novels, and Goethe's Faust in music. Currently she is writing a book on Mozart's keyboard concertos.


MODERN READERS MAY NOT BE FULLY AWARE of the crucial and all-pervasive role of music in English domestic life during the nineteenth century. Jane Austen's affectionate and disciplined attachment to music, which she cultivated throughout her life, is manifest in her novels, all of which contain scenes of music and dancing. Accomplished musicians appear in Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Mansfield Park; however, in Emma musical accomplishment reaches its peak in the person of Jane Fairfax, while musical symbols and implications lie at the heart of Austen's narrative. In no other novel does Austen employ a musical instrument as a central plot device, and in no other novel do so many of the main characters reveal essential aspects of their personalities through their attitudes toward music. Indeed, musical affinities, or their lack, help to define character and to illuminate the true social hierarchy in Austen's Highbury.

The mysterious arrival of a Broadwood piano and a parcel of sheet music at Jane Fairfax's humble home triggers the speculation and intrigue that eventually reveal her as Frank Churchill's fiancee. Austen treats this plot element with an unusual degree of detail; the unique indication of a brand name for a household item, and the specification of title and composer for the music played on it are most significant. As I will explain, the names "Broadwood" and "Cramer," and the titles "Robin Adair" and "Irish melodies," would have transmitted to the informed reader of Austen's day valuable information about the tastes of their donor and the nature of the complicity, even deception, which binds him to Miss Fairfax.

We can also use music as a lens through which to examine the tension between Emma Woodhouse and Jane Fairfax. In Jane Fairfax we find an illustration of the ancient equation of virtuosity with virtue; despite Fairfax's poverty, her rich personal gifts ennoble her. Emma Woodhouse, who sees herself as the leader of Highbury society, nonetheless regrets her inferiority as a musician. Emma's conversation with the artless and under-educated Harriet Smith (who possesses no musical pretensions whatever) about "taste" versus "execution" in musical performance not only alludes to a long-standing cultural debate, but reveals Emma in a rare moment of honest self-examination -- a small milestone on her road to self-knowledge.

Musical Artefacts: Pianos and Music

Let's begin with the tangible musical artefacts that Austen introduces in the course of her story. As Emma states, Highbury is "'a very musical society,'" (277) and all the main houses have pianos, and likely good ones. Emma obviously possesses a good instrument at Hartfield, one in keeping with their status as the first family of the area; Mrs. Weston also plays the piano, and surely has a good one at Randalls (perhaps a wedding present); and the Coles, who though "in trade, and only moderately genteel" (207) are rising in society, have a "'new grand pianoforte in the drawing room'" (215) for their little girls and occasional guests to play upon.

Indeed, it is Mrs. Cole who first reveals to Emma and to the reader, during dinner at her home, the mysterious arrival of an instrument at the home of the Bates ladies and Jane Fairfax: "Mrs. Cole was telling that she had been calling on Miss Bates, and as soon as she entered the room had been struck by the sight of a pianoforte -- a very elegant looking instrument -- not a grand, but a large-sized square pianoforte;" and that "this pianoforte had arrived from Broadwood's the day before, to the great astonishment of both aunt and niece..." (214-15).

This unusually detailed description of an ordinary household item, and Austen's unique use of its maker's name, immediately signifies its key importance in the ensuing drama. What would the name Broadwood have meant to a reader in 1816?

John Broadwood began his career building harpsichords in the shop of his father-in-law, Burkat Shudi. At Shudi's death in 1771 Broadwood took over the firm, which rapidly became the leading piano manufacturer in England. Broadwood introduced a good many innovations into both the design and the manufacture of the pianoforte, bringing it into the modern age by expanding its size and volume, and using mass production techniques to complete many instruments at once. The greatest musicians of the age played on Broadwood's pianos; Haydn played and endorsed them when he was in London in the 1790s, and Beethoven owned one from 1817. Broadwood built magnificent, one-of-a-kind instruments, such as a 1796 grand piano designed by Thomas Sheraton with jasperware medallions by Josiah Wedgwood for Manuel de Godoy, Prime Minister of Spain; this survives as one of the most remarkable objects made in late 18th-century Britain (Koster 161-80). Other grand pianos more typical of Broadwood's work, beautifully made of mahogany wit h decorative brass hardware, were considered the best instruments available and would have found their places in drawing rooms such as the Woodhouses' and the Coles' (Roster 196-201). (1)

When Frank Churchill went to London to "get his hair cut," he no doubt had Broadwood's shop in Great Pulteney Street, Soho, already in mind; he did not, after all, have much time to shop. However, he bought his fiancee not a grand, but a square pianoforte of the type more common in middle-class households. When Emma first broached the idea with Frank that the piano might have come from Col. Campbell, she wondered why the Campbells had not lent Jane their own instrument; to which Frank swiftly replied (betraying his intimate knowledge of the situation, had Emma only been listening), "'That is a grand pianoforte, and he might think it too large for Mrs. Bates's house'" (216). In 1802, a Broadwood square piano of the "elegant" type, with damper pedal and decoration, listed for about 35 pounds (Wainwright 99); an easy purchase for a young man of Frank Churchill's expectations, but far more than Jane Fairfax or her Highbury relations could have afforded. There is even a hint that Broadwood made some custom adjustm ents of the piano, as they frequently did for good clients; Frank at one point comments particularly on "the softness of the upper notes," and adds, "'I dare say, Miss Fairfax, that he [Col. Campbell] either gave his friend very minute directions, or wrote to Broadwood himself'" (241).

The Broadwood piano was the best that money could buy at the time. Frank's private message to Jane in making this gift was therefore that he appreciated her worth, both as a musician and as his future bride; and that he appreciated her current circumstances, which would not allow for a more grandiose gesture. The fact that the gift was also a highly compromising one that created endless discomfort for the woman he loved shows another side of Frank's character, about which I will say more later.

Emma's first glimpse of Jane and her new piano comes in the presence of the Bates ladies and of Frank Churchill. When Frank asks Jane to favor them with one of the waltzes from the party the previous night, she plays something that he at once recognizes from Weymouth; the place where, as we know, their bond was formed and where, obviously, they had waltzed together. The waltz, it should be noted, was still considered by many to be rather scandalous, although it had been popular since the 1780s in parts of Europe. In England, where the informality and sociability of the country dance was favored, the waltz offered an encounter of unusual intimacy within the public sphere. Danced by one couple, alone, spinning in a tight circle that often engendered dizziness and breathlessness, the waltz centered the couple within their own little world, separate from the larger community of the assembly or drawing room. Couples that waltzed together, as opposed to taking part in the more general company of the country dance, presented onlookers with a spice of sexuality that could lead to misunderstandings. Clearly for Frank and for Jane, who blushed at Frank's recollection, their waltz was a potent memory, easily revived at the piano.

In the same scene, Frank picks up a piece of music near the piano and pronounces, "'Here is something quite new to me. Do you know it?--Cramer'" (242). John Baptist Cramer stemmed from a distinguished family of German musicians who settled in England soon after he was born in 1771. He studied piano with the two most prominent keyboardists in London, Johann Samuel Schroeter and Muzio Clementi, and in time surpassed them both as a professional performer; he acquired the nickname "Glorious John" in England. He concertized widely and was especially noted for his brilliant and sensitive performances of Mozart's music, which he emulated in his own compositions. His most successful work commercially was the Studio per il Piano Forte, eighty-four exercises published in two parts, in 1804 and 1810. These became the cornerstone of modern piano technique; it would not be an exaggeration to say that all serious pianists, such as Jane Fairfax, would have studied these etudes, which Beethoven admired and said were the best preparations for learning his works. (2) Cramer also wrote numerous sonatas for piano that are lyrical and often challenging; some are dedicated to his musician colleagues such as Haydn, Clementi, and Dussek, and others to his female pupils. He published sets of sonatas in 1806 and 1811, which are the closest in time to Emma. (3) None of Cramer's works appears in Jane Austen's own music notebooks, preserved at Chawton. However, her notebooks contain mostly light keyboard pieces and many vocal works; no keyboard sonatas by Haydn, Mozart, or Beethoven are there either. But Austen's cousin and sister-in-law, Eliza Hancock Austen, owned volumes of music that included Cramer, and it is likely that Jane Austen knew these (Piggott 160-61). (4) Austen would probably have chosen Cramer for Jane Fairfax because his music was both fashionable and serious, a worthy choice for an accomplished woman pianist.

Next Frank Churchill produces a group of songs, which he immediately appropriates for the deception developing:

"And here are a new set of Irish melodies. That, from such a quarter, one might expect. This was all sent with the instrument. Very thoughtful of Col. Campbell, was not it? He knew Miss Fairfax could have no music here. I honour that part of the attention particularly; it shews it to have been so thoroughly from the heart. Nothing hastily done; nothing incomplete. True affection only could have prompted it." (242)

"A new set of Irish melodies" could only refer to a serial publication, begun in 1808, by the Irish poet-musician Thomas Moore. A Trinity College graduate who studied at the bar in London and made himself popular in society with his singing and poetry, Moore provided the words and tunes for the collections called Irish Melodies, which took advantage of the contemporary vogue for exotic and sentimental Scottish and Irish folk song. Moore's Irish Melodies appeared in ten collections between 1808 and 1834 and became wildly popular, making Moore famous and rich. His close friend Lord Byron wrote of him: "Moore has a peculiarity of talent, or rather talents--poetry, music, voice, all his own; and an expression in each, which never was, nor will be, possessed by another" (Marchand 87).

The last piece that Jane Fairfax plays in this little scene is named quite specifically by Austen. Frank comments, "'She is playing Robin Adair at this moment--his favorite"' (243). The song Robin Adair was well known to Jane Austen, as it would have been to most British people at the time; its relevance to Frank and Jane's romance would have been instantly clear. While the origins of the tune for Robin Adair are somewhat obscure--probably Irish, as it appeared in the first volume of Moore's Irish Melodies under the name Eileen Aroon--and date from early in the eighteenth century, the words were written by Lady Caroline Keppell in the early 1750s, and concerned her lover, a doctor named Robert Adair. They were forced to keep their love a secret and were only permitted to marry in 1758, some years after the writing of the song (Fuld 468). The song Robin Adair was first printed in 1793 in The Edinburgh Musical Miscellany, and became popular on the stage in the early nineteenth century; the title page from an 18 11 edition shown here testifies to its vogue in the London theatre of Austen's day. (5) The words deal with the heartache of parting and separation, which Jane Fairfax felt keenly; indeed, many a Marianne Dashwood would have played this song and wept. Even more pointedly, the middle verse speaks of the meeting grounds for young lovers--the assemblies, balls, and plays--that Frank and Jane would remember from Weymouth.

What's this dull town to me? Robin's not near

What was't I wish'd to see? What wish'd to hear?

Where's all the joy and mirth, made this town heav'n on earth?

O they're all fled wi' thee, Robin Adair.

What made th'assembly shine? Robin Adair.

What made the ball so fine? Robin was there.

What, when the play was o'er, What made my heart so sore?

O it was parting with Robin Adair.

But now thou'rt cold to me, Robin Adair.

But now thou'rt cold to me, Robin Adair.

Yet he I lov'd so well, still in my heart shall dwell;

Oh, I can ne'er forget Robin Adair. (Hopekirk 176-77)

Evidence that Jane Austen probably played this tune herself survives in the music collection at Chawton, where one volume of printed music contains a set of variations on the theme Robin Adair by G. Kiallmark. (6) In the tradition of early Romantic theme and variations sets, this version is playful and challenging, perhaps more suited to Jane Fairfax's mettle than a simple harmonized setting of the song would have been.

Thus we may see that each item of music that accompanied the Broadwood pianoforte was artfully selected to reflect the tastes of both donor and recipient, to offer what was new and fashionable as well as familiar and nostalgic, and to enhance the private enjoyment of two persons engaged in a secret dialogue in which music provided the link between memory and reality.

Music and Character

Jane Austen's central characters in Emma reveal significant aspects of their personalities and their roles in society by their musical attitudes and behavior. Leaving aside for the moment the two most important female characters, Emma and Jane Fairfax, I will concentrate for now on a few of the other persons. To begin with, let us consider the three main male characters--Frank Churchill, Mr. Knightley, and Mr. Elton--and what their musical affinities, or lack thereof, suggest.

First we must understand that the question of whether men should make music or not was quite troublesome in England in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Most writers on conduct felt that music was a waste of time for an English gentleman, and could lead to all manner of improper connections and immoral behavior. Lord Chesterfield, writing in 1773 to his godson Philip (then on the Grand Tour in Italy), stated, "I do not know by what strange luck music has got the name of one of the liberal arts. ... Nothing degrades a gentleman more than performing upon any instrument whatever. It brings him into ill company and makes him proud of his shame" (Gulick 59). (7) Writer David Hartley, in his Observations of Man, pointed out, "It is evident, that most Kinds of Music, Painting, and Poetry, have close Connexions with Vice, particularly with the Vices of Intemperance and Lewdness ..." (Hartley 253-54). One of the most influential statements on the subject came from John Locke, whose famous essay, Some Thoughts Concern ing Education, was issued in a tenth edition in 1801:

[Music] wastes so much of a young Man's time, to gain

but a moderate Skill in it, and engages often in such odd

Company, that many think it much better spared: And I

have, amongst Men of Parts and Business, so seldom

heard any one commended, or esteemed for having an

Excellency in Musick, that amongst all those things that

ever came into the List of Accomplishments, I think I

may give it the last place. (Locke 235-36)

Variations on this remark were repeated in numerous conduct books during the 18th century. (8) The general outlook seems to have been that musical accomplishment was not gentlemanly, because it required work and exercise that should be channeled into more productive activity Gentlemanly pursuits included hunting, fencing, riding about one's estate and assuming the other responsibilities of a property owner, as well as giving service to one's country.

Certainly there were noble amateurs--the Prince Regent, for example, was well known for his cello playing (if not for his high moral standards)--as well as other gentlemen who played music. But they did so with little encouragement from society at large; and those who actually made it their profession could never be considered true gentlemen. Cramer's teacher, pianist Johann Samuel Schroeter, was forced to give up his career upon his marriage to a gentleman's daughter.

Dancing, however, was quite another matter. While 18th-century conduct books tended to oppose the study of music for gentlemen, they strongly endorsed dancing for both sexes. John Locke supported dancing for gentlemen because it engendered "above all things, manliness and becoming confidence" (Locke 190-91). In other words, a man who danced well had disciplined his body and learned to comport himself with dignity Moreover, since dancing was one of the primary social activities among the upper classes, it was considered a duty, not an option; it signified the gentleman's willingness to take his place in the social order and, by performing well, to help uphold the graciousness of his class.

What then do we learn from the behavior of our three Austenian men? Frank Churchill poses problems: on the one hand, he loves to dance and sets about energetically to create opportunities to do so; in this there is clearly nothing wrong, though his motivation--to dance with his secret love as they had danced at Weymouth--is perhaps somewhat underhand. However, he has behaved in less than gentlemanly fashion in anonymously presenting his fiancee with so generous and conspicuous a musical gift that he embarrasses her. And when he unexpectedly joins in the musical performances at the Coles' party, revealing "a delightful voice" and "a perfect knowledge of music," (227) he is also demonstrating that he has frittered away valuable time developing ungentlemanly accomplishments. One is reminded of Mrs. Elton's assessment of Frank, when she says, "'his manners are precisely what I like and approve--so truly the gentleman, without the least conceit or puppyism"' (321). Given the fact that Mrs. Elton's opinions are usu ally precisely wrong, one must wonder: is Frank, musically, a puppy? One can't help but think that his pouncing on Emma's (and later Jane's) performance and demanding his share of the spotlight was puppy-like behavior.

And what of Mr. Elton? Here is a clergyman who has earnestly and anxiously sought to move himself up in the world; he has achieved a decent income, a pleasant house, and when disappointed of his first choice in a wife--aiming for once too high--immediately finds another who if not gentle is at least genteel. As Emma once reflected, he seemed a "good-humoured, well-meaning, respectable young man, without any deficiency of useful understanding or knowledge of the world" (35). However, all this falls to the ground on the evening of the ball at the Crown. Knowing Mr. Elton as we do, it is perfectly clear that he would be a willing and quite an able dancer; a man with his anxiety to shine in society would certainly have hired a dancing master and learned his steps. Indeed, when Mrs. Weston first approaches him, asking, "'Do not you dance, Mr. Elton?,"' he promptly replies, "'Most readily, Mrs. Weston, if you will dance with me."' However, when she makes it clear that it is Miss Hariet Smith on whose behalf she inq uires, he immediately withdraws, saying, "'Miss Smith! -- oh! -- I had not observed. -- You are extremely obliging -- and if I were not an old married man.-- But my dancing days are over, Mrs. Weston. You will excuse me. Anything else I should be most happy to do, at your command -- but my dancing days are over.'" He then is seen exchanging "smiles of high glee" with his wife (327-28). Any pretense that Mr. Elton may have had to being a gentleman at that moment was stripped away While any gentleman might avoid dancing with a particular lady by simply making himself scarce, Mr. Elton had hovered near the dancers, had shown a willingness to dance, and at the last moment had prevaricated, thus shaming the object of his insult and shocking his well meaning hostess. English country dancing, at its best, offered an image of an ideal society in which the bonds of community and family and a spirit of joyful cooperation united its members; in rejecting the dance so flagrantly, Mr. Elton threatened the very stability and harmon y of the society he had worked so hard to join.

Finally, a word about Mr. Knightley. It is clear that he is Austen's -- and Emma's -- ideal gentleman. There is no evidence that he himself plays any music, but he is an attentive and thoughtful listener. He is active with many tasks, and small incidents throughout the novel make it clear that he runs his estate himself, with no details too small for his attention. Music, therefore, is for him a purely passive enjoyment to be shared with friends in moments of leisure, exactly as the conduct books prescribe. During the ball at the Crown, Emma observes him standing alongside the dancers and notes, with "how gentlemanlike a manner, with what natural grace, he must have danced, would he but take the trouble" (326). And finally it is Mr. Knightley whose gentlemanly grace -- not only physical, but spiritual -- makes him the hero of the evening, when he steps in to dance with Miss Smith after Mr. Elton's rude rejection. The fact that Mr. Knightley's dancing proves to be, as Emma describes it, "extremely good," should come as no surprise (328).

Two women characters apart from Emma and Jane have musical associations: Mrs. Weston, formerly Emma's governess and companion, and Mrs. Elton, transplanted to Highbury from the cultured town of Bath. Mrs. Weston distinguishes herself in the novel by playing the piano for dancing; at the Coles' party the furniture is cleared away and "Mrs. Weston, capital in her country-dances, was seated, and beginning an irresistible waltz..." (229). At a later stage Mr. Knightley calls Mrs. Weston "the very best country-dance player, without exception, in England" (245). What does it mean to be a fine country-dance player? A lady to play dance music was of course indispensable at such informal gatherings--Anne Elliot in Persuasion also excels in this regard. (9) The ability to accompany dance well bespeaks thorough competence and musicianship; the player must be able to carry a beat steadily and with a lilt, to project adequately for all the dancers to hear (even with conversation and laughter), and never to falter or lose one's place. It also requires the ability to efface oneself, which Mrs. Weston as a former governess was well able to do. It is interesting to regard Mrs. Weston as a Jane Fairfax one generation removed; they probably had similar upbringings and educations, but where Jane finds herself removed to the safety of the upper classes before she actually has to go to work, Miss Taylor in fact became a governess. In so doing her own education, including her music, was put at the service of her pupil. It is very much to her credit that she maintained the energy and discipline to keep up her own musical skills, not only during her period of servitude, but also after her marriage.

Which brings us to Mrs. Elton. In her memorable first conversation with Emma, Mrs. Elton gushes about how she is "'doatingly fond of music -- passionately fond'" (276); phrasing that should immediately arouse the suspicions of the reader. However, despite all her insistence on her devotion to music, all her plans for concerts and musical clubs, she divulges at the same time the fact that she has no intention of playing again, now she is a married woman. Married women, as she says, "'are but too apt to give up music"' (277). It is no accident that the very next turn in the conversation takes them to Mrs. Weston, who of course continued her musical activities after marriage as any truly accomplished woman would, and did. It is also fascinating to examine another facet of this conversation that carries echoes from earlier remarks of Emma's; here Mrs. Elton says how gratified she is to find a musical society in Highbury, because she was giving up so much else in terms of entertainment to go into the country Yet, sh e says, "'Blessed with so many resources within myself, the world was not necessary to me. I could do very well without it. To those who had no resources it was a different thing; but my resources made me quite independent" (276-77) my italics on "resources"]. Compare this with Emma's words when, reflecting on growing old, she says, "'If I know myself, Harriet, mine is an active, busy mind, with a great many independent resources, ... If I draw less, I shall read more; if I give up music, I shall take to carpet-work"' (85). Surely this near identical use of language, citing music as a resource that may be used or abandoned, is not coincidental. Emma finds in Mrs. Elton, as in Jane Fairfax, an uncomfortable mirror in which to gaze, disclosing her own shortcomings as well as her strengths.

Taste vs. Execution

The relationship between Jane Fairfax and Emma Woodhouse is a complex one. What should have been a friendship founded on similar tastes and interests is hampered by misunderstandings, lack of trust, and--on Emma's side--a view of a woman with polished talents that she would like to possess, but knows she has not been diligent enough to achieve. These complicated feelings crystallize during the evening at the Coles', when both young women perform at the pianoforte and suddenly become, in a sense, contenders; placed side by side with their musical skills and weaknesses on display, for all their friends and neighbors as well as themselves to judge. Emma plays first, and then, "resign[s] her place to Miss Fairfax, whose performance, both vocal and instrumental, she never could attempt to conceal from herself, was infinitely superior to her own" (227).

Emma's conversation with Harriet Smith the next day helps to illuminate the tension inherent in the musical, and personal, competition. Harriet begins,

"Oh! if I could but play as well as you and Miss Fairfax!"

"Don't class us together, Harriet. My playing is no more like her's, than a lamp is like sunshine."

"Oh! dear -- I think you play the best of the two. I think you play quite as well as she does. I am sure I had much rather hear you. Every body last night said how well you played."

"Those who knew any thing about it, must have felt the difference. The truth is, Harriet, that my playing is just good enough to be praised, but Jane Fairfax's is much beyond it."

"Well, I always shall think that you play quite as well as she does, or that if there is any difference nobody would ever find it out. Mr. Cole said how much taste you had; and Mr. Frank Churchill talked a great deal about your taste, and that he valued taste much more than execution."

"Ah! but Jane Fairfax has them both, Harriet."

"Are you sure? I saw she had execution, but I did not know she had any taste. Nobody talked about it." (231-32)

This little musical contest, and the exchange afterwards, calls to mind a now fabled competition that took place in Vienna in 1781, before the Emperor Joseph II. The contenders were Mozart and the Italian-English keyboardist Muzio Clementi. They took turns playing and improvising, and Mozart's comment afterwards was that Clementi played well, as far as execution went, but did not possess a farthing's worth of taste or feeling. This he stated twice, in letters four days apart, using the same wording each time (Anderson 792-98). (10) Execution versus taste or feeling. These were terms that writers had been grappling with, and weighing one against the other, throughout the eighteenth century. In Voltaire's article on "Taste" for the Encyclopedia, he writes, "It is not enough to see and become familiar with the beauty of a work, as far as taste is concerned. We must feel it and be touched by it" (le Huray 57). (11) Rousseau takes up the subject in his Dictionnaire de musique, stating, "Each man has his peculiar taste, by which he gives to things which be calls beautiful and excellent, an order which belongs to himself alone.... It is taste that makes the composer catch the ideas of the poet; it is taste which makes the executant catch the ideas of the composer" (le Huray 90). (12) Charles Burney attempts to define how taste and execution interact in a musical composition or performance:

If a complete musical composition of different movements were analysed, it would perhaps be found to consist of some of the following ingredients: melody harmony, modulation, invention, grandeur, fire, pathos, taste, grace, and expression; while the executive part would require neatness, accent, energy, spirit and feeling .... But as all these qualities are seldom united in one composer or player, the piece or performer that comprises the greatest number of these excellences and in the most perfect degree, is entitled to pre-eminence. (Burney 8) Implicit in all these remarks is the idea that taste is akin to feeling, and indeed requires feeling in order to elicit the beauty inherent in a work of music. Taste in that sense is a kind of spiritual aptitude, which Emma indeed possesses along with Jane. However, she is sensitive enough to realize that the possession of taste alone will not make her a sterling performer; the qualities of mental discipline and physical control necessary for fine execution at the piano elude her. As Burney says, taste and execution are seldom fully united in one player. When they are, that player is a virtuoso, and this is part of Emma's problem with Jane Fairfax. Jane Fairfax as humble and penniless relative of the Bates ladies is someone for whom Emma can feel compassion. Jane Fairfax as virtuoso -- and in the old sense of the term, this implies someone with great and noble virtues -- is a higher species, someone as great or greater than Emma, and a threat to Emma's eminence as first lady of Highbury.

Emma's increasing maturity and self-knowledge as the novel progresses eventually make it possible for her to understand and appreciate Jane, and to comprehend, as Mr. Knightley put it, "'the beauty of truth and sincerity in all our dealings with each other"' (446). Music plays a central role in this revelatory journey. The "very musical society in Highbury" provided felicity, nourished complicity, and often unveiled more than its members would have desired.


(1.) Both the Godoy Broadwood and an 1804 Broadwood grand piano are found in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston; but such pianos are numerous, and fine examples may also be seen in The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), the Smithsonian Institution (Washington, DC), the Schubert Club (St. Paul), and many other collections in America and abroad.

(2.) An annotated copy of Cramer's etudes that supposedly belonged to Beethoven survives in Berlin. The source for many of Beethoven's comments on Cramer was his associate and biographer, Anton Schindler; the third edition of his Ludwig van Beethoven (1860) cites Beethoven's admiration for the etudes.

(3.) These are the Three Sonatas, Opus S7, dedicated to Miss Cornewall (1806); and the sonatas Opus 48, 49, 51, and A Parody inform of a Sonata, Opus 50 (1811).

(4.) Eight volumes of music at Chawton belonging to Jane Austen and her family have been catalogued by Ian Gammie and Derek McCulloch (1996); however, other bound volumes of music in Chawton, including Cramer along with many other composers, continue to be held in the private possession of Austen descendants and remain uncatalogued.

(5.) The "Mr. Braham" of the title page was the celebrated English tenor John Braham (1774-1856). Of Jewish extraction, Braham established himself early as a singer of Italian opera, and formed a liaison with soprano Nancy Storace (one of Mozart's favorite singers), with whom he travelled throughout Europe. He reportedly possessed a magnificent voice, and enjoyed pleasing his audiences not only with operatic selections, but with popular songs from the patriotic and sentimental repertories. He was still performing into his seventies. William Reeve (1757-1815) centered his career largely at London's Covent Garden theatre, where he composed and arranged numerous musical pieces for plays, operas, and pantomimes. Note that the date of Reeve's memo on the Robin Adair title page is Decr 16th 1811.

(6.) This piece also forms part of the uncatalogued Austen music in Chawton. Its first page, showing the main theme and part of the first variation, appears in Piggott (135).

(7.) Letter of 19 February 177s.

(8.) For further discussion see Richard Leppert, Music and Image: Domesticity, Ideology and Socio-cultural Formation in Eighteenth-century England (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1988), 11-27.

(9.) "The girls were wild for dancing; and the evenings ended, occasionally, in an unpremeditated little ball.... Anne, very much preferring the office of musician to a more active post, played country dances to them by the hour together..." (Persuasion 47).

(10.) Letters of 12 January and 16 January 1782.

(11.) Francois Voltaire, "Le Gout," Encyclopedie, on dictionnaire raisonne des sciences, des arts et des metiers, vol. 7 (Paris, 1757), 761.

(12.) Jean Jacques Rousseau, "Le Gout," Dictionnaire de musique (Geneva, 1767, Paris, 1768).


ANDERSON, EMILY, ed. and trans. The Letters of Mozart and His Family. London: Macmillan, 1966; New York: Norton, 1985.

AUSTEN, JANE. The Novels of Jane Austen. Ed. R. W. Chapman. 3rd ed. Oxford: OUP, 1933-69.

BURNEY, CHARLES. "Essay on Musical Criticism," in A General History of Music. London, 1789; New York: Dover, 1957.

CRAMER, JOHN BAPTIST. Sonatas for Pianoforte Solo. Ed. Nicholas Temperley in The London Pianoforte School 1766-1780. Vol. 10. New York: Garland, 1984.

__________. Studio peril Piano Forte. Ed. Nicholas Temperley in The London Pianoforte School 1766-1780. Vol. 9. New York: Garland, 1985.

FULD, JAMES J. The Boo/c of World-Famous Music. 4th ed. New York: Dover, 1995.

GULICK, SIDNEY L., ed. Some Unpublished Letters of Lord Chesterfield. Berkeley: U of California P, 1937.

HARTLEY, DAVID. Observations of Man, his Frame, his Duty, and his Expectations. 1749. Gainesville, FL: Scholars' Facsimiles & Reprints, 1966.

HOPEKIRK, HELEN, ed. Seventy Scottish Songs. New York: Dover, 1992.

HURAY, PETER LE, AND JAMES DAY, eds. and trans. Music and Aesthetics in the Eighteenth and Early-Nineteenth Centuries. Cambridge: CUP, 1988.

KOSTER, JOHN. Keyboard Musical Instruments in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1994.

LOCKE, JOHN. Some Thoughts Concerning Education. London, 1693.

MARCHAND, LESLIE A., ed. Lord Byron: Selected Letters and Journals. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard UP, 1982.

PIGGOTT, PATRICK. The Innocent Diversion: A study of Music in the life and writings of Jane Austen. London: Cleverdon, 1979.

WAINWRIGHT, DAVID. Broadwood by Appointment. A History. London: Quiller Press, 1982.
COPYRIGHT 2000 Jane Austen Society of North America
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2000 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Shanks Libin, Kathryn L.
Publication:Persuasions: The Jane Austen Journal
Article Type:Critical Essay
Geographic Code:4EUUE
Date:Jan 1, 2000
Previous Article:Message from the president: code word Jane Austen, or how a Chinese film about martial arts teaches life arts.
Next Article:The purity of jane; or, austen's cultural importance in nineteenth-century America. (Miscellany).

Related Articles
The purity of jane; or, austen's cultural importance in nineteenth-century America. (Miscellany).
Libertinism in jane austen's novels. (Miscellany).
The riddles of emma. (Miscellany).
Emma and her influence on future self-deceiving literary heroines. (Miscellany).
Jane austen: closet classicist. (Miscellany).
What jane austen meant by "raffish". (Miscellany).
Jane austen: in search of time present. (Conference Papers).
"Not a day went by without a solitary walk": elizabeth's pastoral world. (Conference Papers).
Jane austen, works and studies 1999. (Conference Papers).
Austen's Emma and the gendering of Enlightenment satire.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2020 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters