Thursday, January 21, 2021

"A very handsome letter": Repetition and the establishment of truth in Jane Austen's "Emma"

When Mr. Weston marries Miss Taylor in Jane Austen's "Emma", the women of Highbury expect his son, Frank Churchill, to visit his stepmother: "There was not a dissentient voice on the subject, either when Mrs. Perry drank tea with Mrs. and Miss Bates, or when Mrs. and Miss Bates returned the visit." The expectation increases when Mrs. Weston receives a letter from him, but the gossipers only "hear of" it; they "understand it was a very handsome letter"; Mr. Woodhouse tells them "he never saw such a handsome letter in his life." Repetition turns hearsay into understanding, and the subsequent reference to an authority figure fully establishes a truth beyond dissent. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 21 January 2021)

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