Thursday, 3 July 2008


A bwca sent me a link last week to this story (BBC) about the high price someone paid for an inscribed presentation copy of the first edition of Emma.

Let me just quote a bit:

'Slightly spoiled'

Austen gave nine presentation copies of Emma to family, one to the library of the Prince Regent and one to a countess.

Ms Sharp's was the only one given to a personal friend - a demonstration of the bond between the two women.

They became friends while Ms Sharp was working as governess to the author's brother Edward, and remained close for many years.

For the novel, Austen created a governess character called Miss Taylor.

Set in Regency England, the novel's heroine, a young woman aged 21, is described in the opening paragraph as "handsome, clever and rich", but also "slightly spoiled".

Don't worry about the book or Anne Sharp or anything for a minute.

This is Emma's entire opening paragraph.

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.

Trying to be fair I checked the rest of the first page and a bit, until the topic changes. Funnily, no trace of 'slightly spoiled' there either.

I thought: hmmm, where do journalists (and press release writers) go when they want some random yet marginally relevant words with which to pad out their articles?

Wikipedia's page on Emma says, under the subheading 'Principal Characters':

Emma Woodhouse, the protagonist of the story, is a beautiful, high-spirited, intellectual, and 'slightly' spoiled woman of almost 21.

At least the Wiki kids managed to get her age right. 'Intellectual'? - well, I suppose to them Emma seems like a bit of an egghead. I don't know why 'slightly' appears in quotation marks like that. It's not a quotation.

Stuff like this makes me sad for the BBC, of whom it's not unreasonable to expect better.


librarygirl said...

My 14 year old daughter (at a government secondary school) tells me that using Wikipedia is "frowned upon" because it's unreliable. A friend whose daughter is at a very posh girls' school told us Wiki is completely banned. I gather the BBC has no such reservations. Sadly.

Ampersand Duck said...

I thought the 'slightly spoiled' was going to allude to the look of the book after all these years! What a treasure.

Gosh, Bumblebee and I just finished watching Gwynnie as Emma tonight. What timing.

Surely the only use of anything near 'spoiled' would be 'thoroughly unspoiled'? Or was that in Mansfield Park? Haven't got time to look it up...

Pavlov's Cat said...

I think it is far too late to ban Wikipedia and expect it to stick. If I were still an academic I would be proposing general entry-level courses on how to recognise cod "information" in teh intertubes.

lucy tartan said...

I'm experimenting on my students in a big way this semester and not only will Wikipedia be banned, I'm going to slander and ridicule it as well. What would be a credible way of measuring how well that sticks?

Dysthymiac said...

drat damn and blast dear LT - I didn't want to upset you!

I've always thought 'Slight Foxing' a great blog title.

I will promote your student blog to my small but respectable readership.

peace and love, aka Bwca.