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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe

The sounds of Jane Austen Christmas

Emma Woodhouse’s Christmas holiday is not a good one, as readers of Emma will recall: On Christmas Eve, she fends off Mr. Elton’s surprising and unwelcome marriage proposal, and a few days later, she has to break the news to poor Harriet Smith.


Bad as all this is for Emma, however, it’s tremendously entertaining for the reader, and so I’m sorry to miss the Christmas treat on offer through January 7 at Jane Austen’s House in Chawton: A three-room audio installation entitled “Christmas at Randalls” that features actors--including the great Bertie Carvel as Mr. Elton--reading Christmas scenes from Emma, accompanied by appropriate sounds (creaking carriages) and scents (roaring coal fires). A first edition of the novel will also be on display.


Indeed, only one part of this enterprise gives me pause: The presence of “handcrafted decorations made from discarded copies of Emma . . . nodding to the eighteenth-century passion for paper crafting.”


So let me get this straight: Someone has been cutting up copies of Emma to use for decorations? I’m not a book fetishist, but—no. Just no. Badly done, as Mr. Knightley might say.


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