Emma "Not Quite The Thing"
by Jane Austen

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"Not Quite The Thing"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: The most amusing secondary character in this novel is Mr. Woodhouse, father of the heroine. A rich widower living at Hartfield, the great house of the village, with Emma, his younger and unmarried daughter, he is a complete hypochondriac. He is kindly, generous, and hospitable and devoted to his daughter. But life at Hartfield revolves around his health. He has two established daily walks in the grounds, one for the winter and a longer one for the summer. He enjoys entertaining, yet he is torn between his desire to see that his guests are well served and his fear that rich food will give them indigestion. He dislikes parties because he considers late hours un-healthful. Any change in his long-established routine makes him ill. His tranquillity is much disturbed by the visit to the neighborhood of Frank Churchill, a young man who is the stepson of Mrs. Weston, Emma's former governess. Churchill finds social life at the village of Highbury rather dull, and he proposes that a dance be arranged for the younger people in the families that make up local society. But where to have the dance? The Crown Inn at Highbury is decided upon, and then follows much discussion about the size of the rooms. The whole plan is agonizing to Mr. Woodhouse, one of whose obsessions is the extreme danger of draughts. In his usual fashion, he foresees all kinds of dire consequences if the dance should take place.

The doors of the two rooms were just opposite each other. "Might not they use both rooms, and dance across the passage?" It seemed the best scheme; and yet it was not so good but that many of them wanted a better. Emma said it would be awkward; Mrs Weston was in distress about the supper; and Mr Woodhouse opposed it earnestly on the score of health. It made him so very unhappy, indeed, that it could not be persevered in.
"Oh, no," said he, "it would be the extreme of imprudence. I could not bear it for Emma!–Emma is not strong. She would catch a dreadful cold. So would poor little Harriet. So you would all. Mrs Weston, you would be quite laid up; do not let them talk of such a wild thing; pray do not let them talk of it. That young man" (speaking lower) "is very thoughtless. Do not tell his father, but that young man is not quite the thing. He has been opening the doors very often this evening, and keeping them open very inconsiderately. He does not think of the draught. I do not mean to set you against him, but indeed he is not quite the thing."