Mr Knightley’s Love for Emma
The Knightleys and Woodhouses were old family friends. When Emma was 14, her older sister Isabella married Mr Knightley’s younger brother John. Therefore Emma and Mr Knightley were practically brother and sister-in-law, or at least considered so by other people. Even before that, Emma was of “special regard” to him. He was always watching out for her like an older brother, and since no one else would do it, scolded her when she acted wrongly.
Here’s a conversation they had near the end of the book about it:
“I am losing all my bitterness against spoilt children, my dearest Emma. I, who am owing all my happiness to you, would not it be horrible ingratitude in me to be severe on them?”
Emma laughed, and replied: “But I had the assistance of all your endeavours to counteract the indulgence of other people. I doubt whether my own sense would have corrected me without it.”
“Do you?—I have no doubt. Nature gave you understanding:—Miss Taylor gave you principles. You must have done well. My interference was quite as likely to do harm as good. It was very natural for you to say, what right has he to lecture me?—and I am afraid very natural for you to feel that it was done in a disagreeable manner. I do not believe I did you any good. The good was all to myself, by making you an object of the tenderest affection to me. I could not think about you so much without doating on you, faults and all; and by dint of fancying so many errors, have been in love with you ever since you were thirteen at least.”
“I am sure you were of used to me,” cried Emma. “I was very often influenced rightly by you—oftener than I would own at the time. I am very sure you did me good.”
His love was unselfish. He always cared about Emma’s well-being; he wanted to see her doing the right thing. His ‘scolding’ at Box Hill is a good example of this:
“Emma, I must once more speak to you as I have been used to do: a privilege rather endured than allowed, perhaps, but I must still use it. I cannot see you acting wrong, without a remonstrance. How could you be so unfeeling to Miss Bates? How could you be so insolent in your wit to a woman of her character, age, and situation?—Emma, I had not thought it possible. … Her situation should secure your compassion! It was badly done indeed! ...This is not pleasant to you, Emma—and it is far from pleasant to me; but I must, I will,--I will tell you truths while I can, satisfied with proving myself your friend by very faithful counsel, and trusting that you will some time or other do me greater justice than you can do now.
An Emma-Knightley conversation I like, when they are at the ball:
“Whom are you going to dance with?” asked Mr Knightley.
[Emma] hesitated for a moment, and then replied “With you, if you will ask me.”
“Will you?” said he, offering his hand.
“Indeed I will. You have shown that you can dance, and you know we are not really so much brother and sister as to make it at all improper.”
“Brother and sister! no, indeed.”
The ball, by the way, is my favorite part of the 2009 mini-series. Furthermore, my favorite scene is the dance just after the quote right there (although it was not fully included in the movie). It’s such a lovely dance, and very sweet between Emma and Mr Knightley, which, sadly, is not currently on YouTube.
The book tells about Mr Knightley’s love for Emma better than I ever could. I’m inclined to copy down most of chapter 49, but I shall just put these parts that tell so much about Mr Knightley’s feelings; it is after the proposal.
He had, in fact, been wholly unsuspicious of his own influence. He had followed her into the shrubbery with no idea of trying it. He had come, in his anxiety to see how she bore Frank Churchill's engagement, with no selfish view, no view at all, but of endeavouring, if she allowed him an opening, to soothe or to counsel her.--The rest had been the work of the moment, the immediate effect of what he heard, on his feelings. The delightful assurance of her total indifference towards Frank Churchill, of her having a heart completely disengaged from him, had given birth to the hope, that, in time, he might gain her affection himself;--but it had been no present hope--he had only, in the momentary conquest of eagerness over judgment, aspired to be told that she did not forbid his attempt to attach her.--The superior hopes which gradually opened were so much the more enchanting.-- The affection, which he had been asking to be allowed to create, if he could, was already his!--Within half an hour, he had passed from a thoroughly distressed state of mind, to something so like perfect happiness, that it could bear no other name.
Her change was equal.--This one half-hour had given to each the same precious certainty of being beloved, had cleared from each the same degree of ignorance, jealousy, or distrust.--On his side, there had been a long-standing jealousy, old as the arrival, or even the expectation, of Frank Churchill.--He had been in love with Emma, and jealous of Frank Churchill, from about the same period, one sentiment having probably enlightened him as to the other. It was his jealousy of Frank Churchill that had taken him from the country.--The Box Hill party had decided him on going away. He would save himself from witnessing again such permitted, encouraged attentions.--He had gone to learn to be indifferent.-- But he had gone to a wrong place. There was too much domestic happiness in his brother's house; woman wore too amiable a form in it; Isabella was too much like Emma--differing only in those striking inferiorities, which always brought the other in brilliancy before him, for much to have been done, even had his time been longer.--He had stayed on, however, vigorously, day after day--till this very morning's post had conveyed the history of Jane Fairfax.--Then, with the gladness which must be felt, nay, which he did not scruple to feel, having never believed Frank Churchill to be at all deserving Emma, was there so much fond solicitude, so much keen anxiety for her, that he could stay no longer. He had ridden home through the rain; and had walked up directly after dinner, to see how this sweetest and best of all creatures, faultless in spite of all her faults, bore the discovery.
He had found her agitated and low.--Frank Churchill was a villain.-- He heard her declare that she had never loved him. Frank Churchill's character was not desperate.--She was his own Emma, by hand and word, when they returned into the house; and if he could have thought of Frank Churchill then, he might have deemed him a very good sort of fellow.
After she is ‘his own Emma’, he does something further to demonstrate his love; he offers to move to Emma’s house, because she would not leave her father. He’s willing to go from living alone, to living with an old man who worries about everything, so he could marry his dearest Emma.
What do you think of Mr Knightley? What do you think of Emma and Mr Knightley’s romance? I think it’s quite splendid myself. =)
In case you missed: Mr Knightley (Part I)