"I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like," wrote Jane Austen in planning Emma (1816).
Yet few readers have failed to enjoy the ironies of Emma's high-handed vanity, or to warm to her liveliness and wit. While she devotes her formidable energies to matchmaking between friends and acquaintances in the village of Highbury, the plot turns on a romance of which she is wholly unaware. Her own falling in love delights readers who have been anticipating it as profoundly as it perplexes Emma, who has not.
"I never have been in love; it is not my way, or my nature; and I do not think I ever shall."
Beautiful, clever, rich—and single—Emma Woodhouse is perfectly content with her life and sees no need for either love or marriage. Nothing, however, delights her more than interfering in the romantic lives of others. But when she ignores the warnings of her good friend Mr. Knightley and attempts to arrange a suitable match for her protégée Harriet Smith, her carefully laid plans soon unravel and have consequences that she never expected. With its imperfect but charming heroine and its witty and subtle exploration of relationships, Emma is often seen as Jane Austen's most flawless work.
This edition includes a new chronology and additional suggestions for further reading.