Emma Chapter 1
Emma Woodhouse is a beautiful, bright, well-off young woman. She is the youngest daughter of Mr. Woodhouse. Her older sister married years ago, and their mother died even longer ago--two events which left Emma as mistress of the house. The only real check on her rule was Miss Taylor, her kind and affectionate governess. For sixteen years Miss Taylor lived with the Woodhouse family, and she became a particular friend to Emma, in spirit more a sister. Under such kind care, Emma lived,
"doing just what she liked; highly esteeming Miss Taylor's judgments, but directed chiefly by her own. The real evils, indeed, of Emma's situation were the power of having rather too much her own way, and a disposition to think a little too well of herself...." Chapter 1, pg. 3
She was still a generally charming and kindhearted young woman, and her only recent sorrow was the loss of Miss Taylor. She had married the nice Mr. Weston, and she no longer lived with the Woodhouse family. Though it was a good match, and Emma had wanted this good fortune for her governess, she could not help but feel sadness. Emma had been Miss Taylor's single charge since her sister Isabella married seven years ago, and it was hard for Emma to imagine spending her days without her. Though her new home was only a half mile from Hartfield, as Mrs. Weston she would not have the same time for Emma. And though Emma loved her father, he was not a playmate or a good conversationalist like Miss Taylor.
Hartfield lies within the village of Highbury, but unfortunately there is no one in Highbury who can replace Miss Taylor in Emma's life. The Woodhouses are the most respectable family in Highbury, but Emma and her father still lead a rather solitary life. Mr. Woodhouse is a hypochondriac, fearful of any amusement. Hating change, he takes Miss Taylor's departure very hard, and Emma, though sad herself, does her best to comfort him. He had not yet grown accustomed to Isabella's marriage, and the removal of Miss Taylor made him even more depressed and disapproving of matrimony:
"from his habits of gentle selfishness, and of being never able to suppose that other people could feel differently from himself, he was very much disposed to think Miss Taylor had done a sad thing for herself as for them, and would have been a great deal happier if she had spent all the rest of her life at Hartfield." Chapter 1, pp. 5-6
Though Miss Taylor's new home at Randalls was lovely, Mr. Woodhouse did not understand why she needed to move away. He worried about visiting Randalls, and was only cheered by the thought that James, his servant, would be able to see his daughter, Hannah, when they visited.
Emma tried to keep her father happy with a game of backgammon, but they were interrupted by Mr. George Knightley. Mr. Knightley, thirty-seven, is a reasonable man, a good friend of the family. Isabella is married to his brother John, and Mr. Knightley had just returned from Brunswick Square with news of the family. Mr. Woodhouse worries over the rain and Mr. Knightley's walk, then expresses his sorrow about Miss Taylor. Mr. Knightley is happy about the marriage, and he scolds the Woodhouses for their long faces. "Mr. Knightley, in fact, was one of the few people who could see faults in Emma Woodhouse, and the only one who ever told her of them...." Chapter 1, pg. 8 He is skeptical when Emma tells him that she made the match between Miss Taylor and Mr. Weston. No one thought Mr. Weston would marry again, but Emma knew he would. Mr. Knightley suggests this was just a lucky guess, but Emma is still pleased with herself. She is convinced she promoted the relationship, and she is deaf to Mr. Knightley's criticisms. She promises only one more match--she wants to find a bride for Mr. Elton, the village preacher. Both men suggest that she ask him to dinner instead, as Mr. Knightley is quite sure that Mr. Elton, who is in his mid-twenties, can find a wife himself.