The charades and riddle in Emma, and their answers

"He was invited to contribute any really good enigmas, charades, or conundrums that he might recollect"

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See also the other "charades" by Jane Austen: 1st, 2nd, 3rd.


First Charade

This was a "well-known charade". To solve this word-puzzle, "my whole" is the word to be guessed, "my first" is its first syllable, and "my second" its second syllable.

My first doth affliction denote
Which my second is destin'd to feel.
And my whole is the best antidote
That affliction to soften and heal.

[Answer here.]

Second Charade


My first displays the wealth and pomp of kings,
Lords of the earth! their luxury and ease.
Another view of man, my second brings,
Behold him there, the monarch of the seas!

But ah! united, what reverse we have!
Man's boasted power and freedom, all are flown;
Lord of the earth and sea, he bends a slave,
And woman, lovely woman, reigns alone.

Thy ready wit the word will soon supply,
May its approval beam in that soft eye!

[Answer here.]

Date: Wed, 17 Jan 1996 10:46:46 EST
From: Mark Turner
Subject: Kitty, a fair but frozen maid

The riddle or conundrum partly remembered by Mr. Woodhouse in Emma is:


Kitty, a fair, but frozen maid,
Kindled a flame I still deplore;
The hood-wink'd boy I call'd in aid,
Much of his near approach afraid,
So fatal to my suit before.

At length, propitious to my pray'r,
The little urchin came;
At once he sought the midway air,
And soon he clear'd, with dextrous care,
The bitter relicks of my flame.

To Kitty, Fanny now succeeds,
She kindles slow, but lasting fires:
With care my appetite she feeds;
Each day some willing victim bleeds,
To satisfy my strange desires.

Say, by what title, or what name,
Must I this youth address?
Cupid and he are not the same,
Tho' both can raise, or quench a flame --
I'll kiss you, if you guess.

-- The Poetical Works of David Garrick, 1785

Note: The word "hood-wink'd", which we now take to mean tricked, meant blindfolded or blinded, either literally or figuratively.

[Answer here.]

"When a lady's in the case..."

The following posting from AUSTEN-L tracks down a literary allusion of Mrs. Elton's (which is not a riddle or charade):

"You remember those lines -- I forget the poem at this moment:

``For when a lady's in the case,
You know all other things give place.''"

Date: Sat, 5 Oct 1996 15:48:45 -0700
From: Karen P.

I looked up Mrs. Elton's quote in Chapter 52 of Emma. It turns out to be from the John Gay fable The Hare and Many Friends, which is a poem also mentioned by Jane Austen in Northanger Abbey. We are told there that Catherine Morland learned this fable "as quickly as any girl in England", suggesting that it was often given to children to memorize.

The fable concerns a hare who thinks she has made many real friends simply by being civil and inoffensive to everyone (she seems to be the Sir William Lucas of the animal world). She finds out she is wrong one day when she is pursued by hounds and seeks help from her "friends". She is first turned down by her friend the horse, and then seeks help from the bull, who says,

"Since ev'ry beast alive can tell
That I sincerely wish you well,
I may, without offence, pretend
To take the freedom of a friend;
Love calls me hence; a fav'rite cow
Expects me near yon barley mow;
And when a lady's in the case,
You know, all other things give place."

So Mrs. Elton is comparing Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax to a bull pursuing a cow. Elegant indeed.

*Go to on-line excerpts from Gay's The Hare and Many Friends
*Go to a list of Jane Austen's literary allusions

An allusion in Emma which is not a charade or a riddle

In the passage from Emma in which Emma Woodhouse promises to call Mr. Knightley by his first name "in the building in which N. takes M." for her wedded husband "for better, for worse", Jane Austen is directly quoting from the "Form of Solemnization of Matrimony" (i.e. wedding ceremony) from the Church of England Book of Common Prayer.

In this prayer book, when a person's name is to be said as part of a ceremony (such as baptism, etc.), then the place where the person's name should be said is generally indicated by the letter "N.", which stands for Latin nomen "name" (insofar as it stands for anything at all).

In the earlier versions of the prayerbook, this "N." occurred wherever either the man's name or the woman's name was to be spoken as part of the wedding ceremony. In most later editions of the prayerbook, in order to prevent any possible confusion as to where the man's name was to be spoken, and where the woman's name, two different letters have been used -- "M." was introduced to mark places where the man's name should be said, while "N." was left to mark places where the woman's name should be said. The differentiation was probably done in this way merely because the man's name is usually said before the woman's name in the ceremony, and "M." comes before "N." in the alphabet; as far as I'm aware, there is no deeper significance to the particular choice of letters for the man's and woman's names, and the letter "M." doesn't seem to abbreviate anything (in the way that "N." can be said to abbreviate nomen). (One ingenious suggestion, that "M." and "N." were intended to stand for Latin maritus "husband" and nupta "bride", must remain rather doubtful.)

Remember that "M." and "N." are never actually part of the ceremony as such (never spoken aloud), but are merely convenient little written markers to help tell the minister what he should say as part of the ceremony.

*Go to the wedding ceremony from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer


In the charade, "my first" is woe and "my second" is man, so that "my whole" is woe-man = woman (boo! groan! hiss!).


The answer is "courtship" (wooing).


The originally-published official answer to "Kitty, a fair but frozen maid" is:

"a chimney sweep"

It seems that the passion of the narrator is tied quite closely to the state of his fireplace. (However there has been some skepticism about this answer, and some racier alternative solutions, of lesser or greater degrees of ingenuity, have been offered.)

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