“Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.” So begins Emma by Jane Austen, describing her leading character who, she said, was “a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like.” Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss this, one of Austen’s most popular novels and arguably her masterpiece, a brilliantly sparkling comedy of manners published in December 1815 by John Murray, the last to be published in Austen’s lifetime. This followed Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813) and Mansfield Park (1814), with her brother Henry handling publication of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion (1817).

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  • Janet Todd 3 episodes
    Professor Emerita of Literature, University of Aberdeen and Honorary Fellow of Newnham College, Cambridge
  • John Mullan 14 episodes
    Professor of English at University College, London
  • Emma Clery 2 episodes
    Professor of English at the University of Southampton

Reading list

  • Jane Austen and the War of Ideas
    Marilyn Butler (Oxford University Press, 1988) Google Books →
  • The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen
    Edward Copeland and Juliet McMaster (eds.) (Cambridge University Press, 2010) Google Books →
  • A Fine Brush on Ivory: An Appreciation of Jane Austen
    Richard Jenkyns (Oxford University Press, 2004) Google Books →
  • Jane Austen: Women, Politics and the Novel
    Claudia Johnson (University of Chicago Press, 1988) Google Books →
  • Jane Austen and the Enlightenment
    Peter Knox-Shaw (Cambridge University Press, 2004) Google Books →
  • Emma
    David Monaghan (ed.) (Palgrave Macmillan, 1992) Google Books →
  • Jane Austen and the Popular Novel
    Anthony Mandal (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) Google Books →
  • What Matters in Jane Austen?: Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved
    John Mullan (Bloomsbury, 2012) Google Books →
  • Jane Austen and the Morality of Conversation
    Bharat Tandon (Anthem, 2003) Google Books →
  • Jane Austen
    Tony Tanner (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) Google Books →
  • The Cambridge Introduction to Jane Austen
    Janet Todd (Cambridge University Press, 2015) Google Books →
  • The Hidden Jane Austen
    John Wiltshire (Cambridge University Press, 2014) Google Books →
  • Jane Austen and the Body
    John Wiltshire (Cambridge University Press, 1992) Google Books →

Related episodes

Programme ID: b06pd3b9

Episode page: bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06pd3b9

Auto-category: 823.7 (English fiction - 1800-1899)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. At the end of 1815, the great London publisher John Murray brought out a novel by an anonymous writer identified as the author of Pride and Prejudice, etc, etc.