“Very lucky--marrying as they did, upon an acquaintance formed only in a public place!--They only knew each other, I think, a few weeks in
What is Frank Churchill doing in Emma when he makes this statement at the Box Hill Picnic? Ridiculing the Eltons, whom this speech was about, and expressing his disdain for them? Carrying on the campaign of deceit in Highbury to hide his secret engagement with Jane Fairfax, which had also been formed on a few weeks' acquaintance in a public watering place, Weymouth, and having a private, ironic joke about it? Trifling with the affections of Jane Fairfax by insinuating that he might have tired of their engagement? He is doing all of these simultaneously and moreover, giving voice to an opinion generally held at the time about acquaintances formed in public, and especially watering, places.
Mr Knightley holds this opinion himself and expresses it in his succinct history of their engagement:
“He meets with a young woman at a watering-place, gains her affection, cannot even weary her by negligent treatment--and had he and all his family sought round the world for a perfect wife for him, they could not have found her superior.”
The point being of course that at watering places such as
It was unseemly undoubtedly of Jane Fairfax to agree to an engagement, and a clandestine one at that, with a man who's guardians it's known as a certainty will object to her poverty despite her excellent character and real attachment to their kinsman. The treatment she receives from Frank Churchill and Emma however, the irksomeness of Mrs Elton's attentions and the tediousness of Miss Bates', and the very uncomfortable notion that such a woman as Jane Fairfax should have to waste her life as a governess, more than makes up for losing her head by the seaside, no? On the topic of Mrs Elton, Austen gives her two portions of association, and rightly so. She hails from
Austen visited the seaside many times, and at many different spots, during her life. Impropriety by the seaside was on it's way to theming itself into an entire novel but Austen's last illness and her sad early death left her novel of a seaside town, entitled Sanditon unfinished