Writer Georgina Wallace discovers what happens when you follow the lead of one of Jane Austen’s most beloved heroines…
Emma Woodhouse is my absolute favourite of all Jane Austen’s many heroines, so you can understand my excitement to learn that she’s coming back to the big screen in new film Emma.
Straight off the bat she’s introduced as “handsome, clever and rich”, which is basically the shadow-self I’ve spent years attempting to create through my Insta.
As she sets about matchmaking for various members of her social circle in Georgian-Regency England, she comes to realise that finding your equal and earning your happy ending isn’t quite as straightforward as she first believed.
With a brand new adaptation of the classic story about to hit UK cinemas on Valentine’s Day, starring Anya Taylor-Joy as Emma alongside the likes of Bill Nighy and Miranda Hart, I decided to get in the mood by spending a week living my life in accordance with some of Emma’s most perceptive pearls of wisdom.
Here’s how it played out…
Patience is a virtue
Despite being a great pal to most of her circle, Emma does ridicule good-natured drudge Miss Bates in front of all their friends and relatives.
It’s a pretty awkward moment, and I resolve to learn the lesson on her behalf by being a bit more patient in my day-to-day life.
So when I see the office bore approaching me in the kitchen, I abandon my usual tactic of attempting to blend in with the mugs, and indulge in a bit of good-natured small talk.
Do I want to know what she got up to at the weekend? Reader, I do not. But this way, nobody’s feelings are hurt and I feel suitably virtuous upon returning to my desk.
Nobody applauds, which feels unfair, but still. A moral victory.
Because I’m worth it
Ah yes, Emma’s magnum opus, the quote to end all Austen quotes. The 1800s equivalent of a “Female Boss” tattoo.
“I always deserve the best treatment, because I never put up with any other.”
Oof, now this is more like it – truly some words to live by.
I decide to bring this one into play during dinner with a friend, a meal that’s pretty underwhelming from start to finish, but particularly disappointing when my main course arrives both late and stone cold.
“Is everything alright?” asks the waitress, and while my friend waits for the ground to swallow her whole, I explain that my meal is basically cold.
Sure enough, I get a replacement main (straight out of the microwave? Very possibly, yes), and it even disappears from the bill.
Needless to say, I am suitably thrilled. I will be standing up for myself again!
Make me a match
Emma holds matchmaking to be the very greatest amusement, and while she occasionally has mixed results, I decide to try my hand at it anyway.
A male colleague has recently declared himself single, and so when one of my female pals complains that Hinge has been serving her a production line of duds, I decide that now is the time to act.
Before you can say “busybody” I’ve created a new WhatsApp group entitled “Fresh huns 2k20” and added them both to it.
“Have fun you guys” I type before making a graceful exit. I am Emma setting up Miss Smith! Fireworks are sure to ensue.
Did it work out? I, well… look, I can’t be blamed for the social inadequacies of my social circle.
The thought was there.
“Silly things do cease to be silly if they are done by sensible people in an impudent way,” says Emma, in perhaps the best defence of so-called “low culture” you could hope to hear.
I decide to put her advice into practice by giving myself a night off from BBC Four’s latest awards-harvesting Scandi noir in favour of binge-watching Love Island for hours on end.
My boyfriend raises an eyebrow, but I remain unfazed.
“Um, I’m actually a very sensible person watching it in an impudent way!” I shout at him.
He seems unconvinced, but I know better. Emma knows better.
She always knows better.
Emma, starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Bill Nighy and Miranda Hart, opens in cinemas nationwide this Valentine’s Day. Find out more here.
Illustrations by Ana Jarén.