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Written by Stephanie
(3/3/2013 9:59 p.m.)
Author Austen sometimes adds depth, humour or emotion by way of letters in her novels. In Emma, many letters are mentioned, but only actually given us literally a few times, only when they add to the character's delineation, or when explanations are needed. (Frank's letter to Mrs. Weston about his engagement is the only one I can think of at the moment.)
However, I am curious about the letter Emma writes Harriet after Mr. Knightley has removed Emma's doubts and insured her own happiness.
I will not try to compose in Emma's words, but do people think these are the ideas conveyed?
Dear Harriet, I have no wish to write this letter, for I know the pain it will bring you. But I must act your friend, now, as I have lead you far astray so often. I must tell you some news that you will find distressing. No others are to know of this at the moment, but you, as my dear friend, whose heart will be so very affected in the matter, must know. Mr. Knightley has returned from London, and I find that his attentions to you in the recent past did not have the meaning you attributed to them. I am sorry to give such painful intelligence to you, but is it best that you know the truth as early as may be, that you may be as collected as possible when next you meet. I am sure of my conclusion, for a very emotional interview with Mr. Knightley upon his arrival, ended with his professing his affections towards another -- to say the truth, Harriet, he has declared himself attached to myself. My surprise was great, and, as you may imagine, the knowledge almost took from me my senses. However (and this may be more comforting to you in future than it can be during the initial shock and disappointment you must be undergoing), I feel quite certain that Mr. Knightley, while viewing you with goodwill, has no intimation of your heart being opened to his merits. Finding myself, though so unexpectedly, the recipient of Mr. Knightley's proposals, I have accepted his addresses. I could not do otherwise, but do not imagine that I did not know that my future prospects would cause you mortification and loss. Dear Harriet, I write you an explanation that is certain to injure you, and yet, please believe me that I am still your friend, and alive to all your merits. Let us stay asunder for the immediate future, and continue our amity by letters only. This is to protect your own damaged feelings, and to give you time to be a little healed when next we meet. It will be more likely to keep you out of the way of meeting Mr. Knightley very early, as well. I will look for your answer, and will ever stay your devoted friend, EW
No matter how I try to construct the substance of the letter, it comes out awkward and inelegant, almost harsh. I can not think that Emma would write such a letter, but I would like to know what she WOULD write.
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