Until Emma, reviews of Austen’s novels had never been done before. With the publication of Emma, the author gained more attention and allowed for the public to respond to her work. One of the reviewers, Sir Walter Scott published a detailed review in the The Quarterly Review. Literary reviews offered a critical view of the novel and another chance to advertise the work. Overall, the public reception of Emma was positive; in the critical notices they enjoyed the commonality of the plot and how it was an easy read. The novel deals with the “common occurrences” (418) and “common life” (419) of the middling class as Scott calls it. It was applicable to the masses, because readers could relate to the common nature of the novel’s themes. The public also enjoyed how Austen paid specific attention to two families and developed the plot and characters in a realistic manner.
Scott directly praises Austen’s technical skills, such as the characters that are finished “up to nature and with a precision” (421) that allows for those characters to be relatable to the general public. Scott is also aware of what drives the public towards the novel calling it “excitement of curiosity” and the “simple plan of a story” that readers may follow (421). He also critiques against the characters of Mr. Woodhouse and Miss Bates, who are considered to be “folly [and] simple [and] ridiculous.” (421) Scott’s complaints appear to be fair, as those characters are supplementary; the more they appear, the more the audience grows tired of their presence.
One of the limitations of Austen’s novel, according to Scott, is her originality. The commonality limits the novel, as it is not imaginative but merely a copy of the given form of the novels of the era. Romantic fiction novels followed a general plot formula, and Emma is no exception.
Works Cited :
Debora & Moe