Miss Bates

Miss Bates is a supporting character in Jane Austen's 1815 novel Emma. Shabby genteel, and a compulsive talker, she is memorably insulted on one occasion by the book's heroine, to the latter's almost immediate remorse.

Miss Bates
Jane Austen character
In-universe information
OccupationSpinster
FamilyMrs Bates

BackgroundEdit

Living in genteel poverty with her ageing widow of a mother, and only one servant, Miss Bates was nonetheless on visiting terms with the best in Highbury society.[1] At the same time, she was dependent on her neighbours for much support – pork from Mr. Woodhouse, apples from Mr Knightley.[2] Those who see Austen as painting uncritically a rural Tory paradise should remember the latter's words to Emma:[3] “She is poor; she has sunk from the comforts she was born to; and if she live to old age, must probably sink more”.[4]

CharacteristicsEdit

Miss Bates has as her main characteristic an unending flow of trivial speech, freely associating from one unimportant event to another – something which was to make her an immediate comic success among Austen's first readership.[5] Many of the clues to the book's intrigue are in fact artfully concealed and revealed within her verbose patter.[6] Her speech is overtly a recognition of her grateful dependence on her neighbours, but it can also be seen, in its overwhelming impact on all other discourses, as almost tyrannical in its passive-aggressive self-assertion.[7]

Possible inspirationEdit

Austen was, like Miss Bates, the single daughter of a clergyman's widow, and, while she herself was notoriously silent in company,[8] her letters by contrast have a rambling, inconsequential flow that has been compared to the speech of her creation:[9] “my coarse spot, I shall turn it into a petticoat very soon. - I wish you a Merry Christmas, but no compliments of the Season”.[10]

While she herself has thus been seen as a possible model for Miss Bates,[11] another single spinster, Miss Milles, who “talked on...for half an hour, using such odd expressions & so foolishly minute that I could hardly keep my countenance”, has also been suggested as a possible external influence.[12]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ E. Copeland, The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen (Cambridge 1997) p. 125-6
  2. ^ E. Copeland, The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen (Cambridge 1997) p. 107 and p. 141
  3. ^ R. Jenkins, A Fine Brush on Ivory (Oxford 2007) p. 153
  4. ^ Jane Austen, Emma (Penguin 1973) p. 368 (Ch. 43)
  5. ^ C. Harman, Jane's Fame (Edinburgh 2009) p. 74
  6. ^ P. Graham, Jane Austen and Charles Darwin (2016) p. 37
  7. ^ E. Auerbach, Searching for Jane Austen (2004) p. 209
  8. ^ C. Harman, Jane's Fame (Edinburgh 2009) p. 66-7
  9. ^ E. Copeland, The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen (Cambridge 1997) p. 104
  10. ^ Deirdre Le Faye ed, Jane Austen's Letters (Oxford 1995) p. 30
  11. ^ P. Graham, Jane Austen and Charles Darwin (2016) p. 53
  12. ^ Deirdre Le Faye ed, Jane Austen's Letters (Oxford 1995) p. 245, p. 332 and p. x