Emma ... produced the portfolio containing her various attempts at portraits, for not one of them had ever been finished … Her many beginnings were displayed. Miniatures, half-lengths, pencil, crayon, and water-colours had been all tried in turn. She had always wanted to do everything ... She played and sang;--and drew in almost every style; but steadiness had always been wanting; and in nothing had she approached the degree of excellence which she would have been glad to command, and ought not to have failed of. She was not much deceived as to her own skill either as an artist or a musician, but she was not unwilling to have others deceived, or sorry to know her reputation for accomplishment often higher than it deserved.
Reading Jane Austen’s Emma, propped up in my bed at home, the summer before college, is one of my most intense reading memories. It was not a pleasure: to want to be Elizabeth Bennett and find that one is, after all, Emma Woodhouse, is not a welcome realization; it is, however, a useful one.
Twenty years later, I read it with different eyes. I’m more patient with her; her faults are clearer and more charming. But, alas, they are also still mine.
Amardeep Singh at the Valve, links to a great story about how one woman tracked down one footnote in another Austen novel: her story is a really riveting and fun story of academic detective work. I will say, too, that the Valve is moving in a more promising, rich, direction these days: more correspondents and merrier, too.