Emma, by Jane Austen, was published two hundred years ago last month.
I should have written about Emma before, but as Emma is, as far as I know, the best novel ever written by a human being, I assumed I'd already featured it.
Anyway, where on earth do I start with the delights of Emma? Even John Mullan, the great Austen critic, admits to finding new subtleties and delights as he studies the book, and a proper appreciation of Emma might end up as long as the book itself.
Well, here, in brief, are just a good things about Emma.
It's very funny indeed.
It's alive with interesting and believable characters, with some of whom you'll fall in love.
The plot is mind-boggling.
It presents (and quite possibly invents) a couple of literary devices (stream-of-consciousness and free indirect style) and has fun with them, while never forgetting that it's bad manners to baffle or alienate the reader.
It has a really proper ending.
Oh, and did I mention the best-novel-ever-written thing?
I'll leave you with something I realised about Emma on about a tenth reading. So tell me, all you Janeites: what is the point of Mrs Bates? (Mrs Bates is a deaf old lady who sits quietly by the fire and is looked after by her garrulous daughter.)
My answer is below - but I expect there are others.*
Word To Use Today: Austen. This name is a variant of Augustine or Augustus and means great or magnificent.
Fair enough, I'd say.
*I think that Mrs Bates is Jane Austen's revenge on the ghastly Mrs Elton. They are both wives of vicars of Highbury - and Mrs Elton shows no sign of having either a child or loving friends to look after her in her old age.
Clever, isn't it - and really rather chilling.