"Most Precious Treasures": Eroticized Collection within Emma

Jennifer Leeds

[1] James Gillray's engraving, "The great South Sea Caterpillar, transform'd into a Bath Butterfly," depicts famous late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century collector Joseph Banks, emphasizing an eroticism attached to the act of collection (see Figure 1). Gillray's illustration captures Banks amid his transformation from a phallic caterpillar into a beautiful, albeit dirty and grim, butterfly. Banks hovers above a stretch of land that is filled with caterpillars, noticeably lacking other creatures or vegetation despite the variety of leaves attached to his new form. Published in 1795, the engraving "evoked the earlier pornographic satires stemming from Banks' sexual exploits as a botanist in the South Seas" while it targeted the scientific community, articulating "conservative fears of the dangerous political implications of philosophical experimentation" (Fara 203). As a result, Banks represents the consequences of becoming erotically involved with collected objects or specimens, maintaining some of the foreign attributes associated with the South Seas. Gillray's citation of The Order of the Bath contextualizes this eroticism because he blatantly references Banks' interest in the British order of chivalry while depicting him as a dirty and "native" butterfly; therefore, even as Banks transforms into a chivalric Bath Butterfly, he still retains the filth of his deviant sexual acts with foreign others.

Figure 1

Figure 1. James Gillray, "The great South Sea Caterpillar, transform'd into a Bath Butterfly."

[2] Jane Austen wrote Emma in 1814, during Joseph Banks' Presidency of the Royal Society, a gentleman's club whose membership required only social standing and an interest in science, which furthers the connection between collecting and the expression of desire in the book, because Austen would have known of Banks' infamous behavior. Austen uses the trope of collecting, which was familiar to her audiences through the Romantic period's interest in exploration and science, to mask same-sex erotic intimacies in her favorite of all novels, Emma. These same-sex erotic intimacies, emblemized by Joseph Banks, not only refused Regency England's normative sexual ideologies regarding reproductive purposefulness, but they also engaged Percy Shelley's idea that "love makes all things equal" (Sha 51). Employing such progressive notions of gender and sexuality could have been potentially devastating to Austen's career as a female writer of drawing room romances as well as to her reputation, thereby emphasizing a need for a coded eroticism.

[3] Austen famously declared, "I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like," and crafted Emma Woodhouse, a character who vocalizes Austen's use of masked eroticism by blatantly linking herself to the language of collection (Marcus xxiii). Referencing a dinner party that she assembles, Emma states that there is a group of people "whom [she] found herself very frequently able to collect" (Austen 19). By admitting that she collects "frequently," Emma identifies herself as a collector and people, specifically women, as her collected objects. Within her role as a collector, Emma subverts gender roles and exerts masculine agency through her collection of other women, echoing the behavior of explorers like Banks, who "are chiefly present as a kind of collective moving eye on which the sights/sites register" and suggest "the fantasy of dominance and appropriation ... [where] the eye 'commands' what falls within its gaze" (Pratt 59-60). In this way, Emma covets the appearances of other women in the same manner in which the imperial eye views land; while explorers produce "subsistence habitats as 'empty' landscapes, meaningful only in terms of a capitalist future and of their potential," Emma views beautiful women as unhappy and undervalued until they are defined by their relationship with her, their collector (Pratt 61). By linking Emma with the language of collecting early within her novel, Austen recognizes a need for coded rhetoric while simultaneously describing her methodology to her readers in an effort to allow her social commentary to remain intact.

[4] Emma's reflection about withholding information from Harriet Smith further emphasizes Austen's coded negotiation of erotic representation. Emma states, "Seldom, very seldom does complete truth belong to any human disclosure; seldom can it happen that something is not a little disguised, or a little mistaken" (Austen 391). To be sure, this moment certainly invites readers to agree with the majority of scholars who contend that Emma's reflection serves to exonerate her betrayal of Harriet, but, more importantly, it reveals Austen's complexities as a female writer in Regency England. Claudia L. Johnson notes that "fiction by women must be fiction by young women—modest, delicate, wispy, delightful... and as soon as a woman has anything significant to say, she is... past her career as a novelist and a woman" (Johnson xv). Austen conforms to this patriarchal sanction for female authorship – that is, she crafts a novel that focuses upon already established themes of love, exploration, and domesticity – but, at the same time, she undermines this sanction by depicting same-sex desire, and she does this through the already familiar trope of collecting. Austen therefore augments her role as a female writer by using patriarchal constructs of femininity and female authorship as a means to mask and disguise the importance of her progressive observations.

[5] Austen may have been masking the "truth" in Emma, but most of her readers did not see beyond the mask. Her contemporaries depicted Austen as delicate, domesticated, and feminine, and this image was further propagated by her brother, Henry. Austen's critics insisted that she was "'always the lady,' [and] had the good sense to avoid getting out of her depth," constructing what Johnson calls "the myth of limitation" (Johnson xvi). Her readers posited that Austen was without literary or philosophic culture and was "so destitute of ideas" that she had no choice but to write about affairs within the realm of domesticity (Johnson xvi). Henry Austen began his projection of an image of Austen as a "ladylike, unmercenary, unprofessional, private, delicate, and domestic author" in 1813 and repeated his statements within the Biographical Notice printed with Northanger Abbey and Persuasion in 1818 (Fergus 12). Jan Fergus, a scholar whose work has focused upon Austen's public image, pointedly notes that Henry Austen reflects patriarchal ideologies regarding propriety through his depiction of Jane, as Regency England would have demanded modesty, domesticity, and privacy, making authorship that entailed publicity a loss of femininity. However, she also asserts that the image Henry Austen presents of Austen conflicts with evidence found within her letters and publishing decisions which ask us to view her as professional. In essence, Fergus contends that Henry Austen's false portrayal of his sister has "prevented subsequent readers from understanding that, for Austen, being a professional writer was ... more important to her than anything else in life" (Fergus 13). Jill Heydt-Stevenson's groundbreaking book, Austen's Unbecoming Conjunctions: Subversive Laughter, Embodied History, agrees with Fergus and argues that Austen uses humor to "breach convention... [and] evade those constraints that required women in general to conform to a 'presence of indisputable virtue' and that 'redefin[ed]' and 'limited' women writers... by transforming them into the 'signifier of moral purity and incorruptible truth' (Heydt-Stevenson 7). Rejecting Henry Austen's projected image of Austen as "a perfect lady" and viewing her as the professional, progressive female author asks us to also reconsider our preconceived notions of Austen's famously heteronormative love stories. Veiling her progressive ideas of same-sex intimacies behind the familiar Romantic trope of collection would have not only allowed Austen to maintain her pristine public image, but it also would have allowed her to voice her significant opinions regarding the notion that heteronormativity depends upon same-sex intimacies. By looking at the way in which Emma seemingly situates herself as a collector and those around her, and Hartfield (her father's estate), as her collected objects, I contend that Austen uses the act of collecting to express homosexual desire and its culminated heteronormativity.

[6] In the second half of the eighteenth century, "the status of natural history was in no sense secure: collecting was not self-evidently scientific, and science was not self-evidently deserving of public attention," while "curiosity, collecting, ... and licentiousness were uncomfortably connected, despite the best efforts of scientists to represent their interests in terms from which passion was evacuated" (Thomas 118). As scientists tried to evacuate desire from their findings, the books and illustrations published regarding the collection of specimens introduced curiosity, collecting, and licentiousness to the public. Because "much of Europe was inaccessible to the traveler and... even the routes between major cities were fraught with danger," explorers such as Banks and Captain James Cook carried with them cultural assumptions that included "a belief in their own superiority" (Hetherington 1). This belief in English superiority is reflected within the published accounts of these voyages, whose readers began to expect tales of difference, tales that would emphasize the advancements of English society. As a result, world voyages became performative acts in which explorers were responsible for documenting English superiority by way of detailed accounts of foreign others.

[7] Following this tradition of performative travel narratives, Captain Cook's second Pacific voyage arrived back in England in 1774 and provided "more tales to add to those disclosed in the published account of Cook's first voyage, and in addition, proof as to the accuracy of those tales" (Hetherington 1). The proof that Captain Cook carried on board his vessel was the first Pacific Islander to reach British shores: Tetuby Homey, who would become known as Omai. Referencing Omai as scientific proof emphasizes his role as a collected object while simultaneously representing a trend in scientific collection that revolved around collecting and classifying human specimens as representations of their culture. As Stuart Hall argues, "stable cultures require things to stay in their appointed place... [while] social groups impose meaning on their world by ordering and organizing things into their classificatory systems" (Hall 236). Therefore, the classification of foreign specimens, such as Omai, solidifies a pattern of normative collection with the purpose of supporting patriarchal society and English superiority.

[8] Austen overturns this traditional mode of collection, in which explorers such as Banks and Captain Cook obtain and catalogue foreign objects and specimens, and, instead, reconstructs it as a model of erotic desire. Rather than using collecting as a means to learn about other cultures, Emma seeks to contain her intimacies, maintaining her microcosm of English culture by situating them in heteronormative marriages within a very limited proximity: within walking distance from Hartfield. David Miller describes Banks as constituting a "center of calculation" where "immutable mobiles," or collected objects, could be accumulated and correlated. Though Austen differentiates Emma from Banks by way of their motivations for collecting, she draws a distinct parallel between them as they share a methodology; Hartfield is Emma's "center of calculation." The act of situating the objects of her erotic desire within heteronormative relationships within walking distance from her home is a marker of permanence. After all, as Mr. Knightley remarks of Miss Taylor's match, "she knows how very acceptable it must be at Miss Taylor's time of life to be settled in a home of her own, and how important to her to be secure of a comfortable provision" (Austen 9). Mr. Knightley's comments serve to emphatically observe the temporality of Miss Taylor's residence at Hartfield; it is no longer appropriate or necessary for Miss Taylor to stay as Emma's governess because Emma is old enough to marry. Emma's collection, therefore, is not driven by her acquisition of knowledge, but, rather, her acquisition of permanence as she strives to maintain her intimacies with women. Emma's pursuit of permanence exhibits her discomfort with change as well as her need for control as a collector, clearly marking the areas within walking distance from Hartfield as the cabinet in which her collected objects reside.

[9] While scholars such as Marvin Mudrick recognize that "the fact is that Emma prefers the company of women...[and that] Emma is in love with [Harriet]: a love unphysical and inadmissible, even perhaps undefinable in such a society," and contend that she is disagreeable, sinister, and unable to commit to her emotions, I believe Austen's heroine is more complex (Mudrick 193, 203). Through recognizing the already established interpretation of Emma as a lesbian and extending these readings to view Emma's homosexual desire through the reconfigured lens of eroticized collection, she becomes a more sympathetic character. As Claire Lamont notes, "although many of Austen's houses give an air of permanence, the loss of the house, or the threat of it, hangs over all her heroines except Emma" (Lamont 233). However, by viewing Emma as a collector and those who are permanently situated within walking distance from Hartfield as her collected objects, it becomes clear that like the rest of Austen's heroines, Emma is also concerned with displacement. She remarks to Mrs. Weston, "A young woman, if she fall into bad hands, may be teased, and kept at a distance from those she wants to be with; but one cannot comprehend a young man's being under such restraint" (Austen 110). In this moment, Emma vocalizes social commentary regarding patriarchal ideologies concerning gendered spheres of public and private while revealing her motivation for collecting.

[10] Consider, for instance, the way in which Emma begins. Austen introduces her novel with a scene that occurs directly after Mrs. Weston's wedding, depicting Emma's discomfort with change inside her realm of domesticity while simultaneously marking the culmination of Emma's collection of Mrs. Weston. Austen writes, "Sorrow came – a gentle sorrow – but not at all in the shape of any disagreeable consciousness. Miss Taylor married. It was Miss Taylor's loss which first brought grief" (Austen 4). This introductory "loss" allows Austen's readers to witness Emma's unhappiness while also recognizing that her state is mild, and, as we find out later, self-inflicted. Situating Emma as a collector and the married Mrs. Weston as the collected object emphasizes that the only way Emma could ensure the permanence of Mrs. Weston's presence was to sacrifice their erotic intimacy and place her within a heteronormative relationship. This sentiment is furthered through Emma's confession that "she had always wished and promoted the match; but it was a black morning's work for her. The want of Miss Taylor would be felt every hour of every day" (Austen 4). By specifying her emotional attachment to Miss Taylor, Emma constructs a dichotomy between the identities of Miss Taylor and Mrs. Weston as she relegates her desire for her erotic partner away from the newlywed. Through this action, Emma demonstrates her ability to disrupt heteronormative society by way of homosexual desire while also exemplifying how she restores and cultivates it as she refuses to eroticize Mrs. Weston's newly established identity within a heterosexual relationship.

[11] Although Emma demonstrates an assertive agency by actively divorcing her desire from Mrs. Weston's heteronormative sexual identity, Mrs. Weston remains passively confused as she struggles to negotiate her erotic loyalties. At this point in the novel, Mrs. Weston is much like Gillray's depiction of Joseph Banks as "The great South Sea Caterpillar, transform'd into a Bath Butterfly"; despite the fact that she is firmly situated within the realm of heteronormativity through her marriage to Mr. Weston, she still retains some of the filth and dissonance associated with her deviant erotic relationship with Emma. However, because Austen undermines traditional depictions of collecting, it is the collected object rather than the collector that preserves the mark of a deviant relationship. In this way, while Mrs. Weston concedes, "she felt herself a most fortunate woman," she also describes her marriage as "a partial separation from friends" (Austen 14). Through describing her marriage and elevation in social station as a partial separation from friends, Mrs. Weston defines her erotic situation and normative intimacy in terms of the time she is able to spend with other people, specifically Emma. Assessing her husband's "disposition and circumstances," Mrs. Weston concludes that "there was every such comfort in the very easy distance of Randalls from Hartfield, so convenient for even solitary female walking... which would make the approaching season no hindrance to [Emma and her] spending half the evenings in the week together" (Austen 15). Mrs. Weston therefore displays not only a willingness to be collected and situated within the realm of normative sexuality, as she recognizes that she is fortunate, but she also refuses to ignore her attachment to Emma through her analysis of opportunities for them to be together. The newlywed prioritizes Emma and reveals that she must learn to adjust to her new heteronormative lifestyle, emphasizing a distinct shift in paradigms that must occur in order to successfully assimilate.

[12] Emma's collecting methodology is a process. Rather than relying upon a scientific network to request and catalogue specimens as Joseph Banks did with the Florilegium, his collection of published copperplate engravings, Emma refuses to publicize her collection, marking it as intimate and erotic. Unlike collectors such as Banks, whose collections were "associated with the social power of private... ownership which dared to collect the heterogeneous meanings of the world within the enclosing and totalizing walls of the cabinet," Emma collects for personal satisfaction (Leask 32). She collects intimacies by first establishing an erotic relationship and then permanently situates the object of her desire in a heteronormative marriage to a man who lives within walking distance from her home, Hartfield. Thus, the culminated finality of the collection of Mrs. Weston is an appropriate beginning for Emma; the novel identifies Emma as a successful collector before allowing Austen's readers to witness her unusual methodology of eroticized collection.

[13] Due to Regency England's belief that women were expected to be docile, domestic, and passive, legitimate collecting was characterized as a masculine enterprise and traditionally female collectors, such as Emma, would have been trivialized. As Susan M. Pearce notes in On Collecting, women "are faced with self-images which present them as whores, madonnas, little girls, or house-holding adults... [and] evidence suggests that women gather collected material in ways which support these roles" (Pearce 201). Women's collections of jewelry or of the transcribed riddles "into a thin quarto of hot-pressed paper... ornamented with ciphers and trophies" publicly displayed within Emma were trivialized in comparison to the scientifically masculine collections of skulls and specimens (Austen 61). Sharon Marcus' Between Women: Friendship, Desire, and Marriage in Victorian England extends Pearce's analysis of collection by further analyzing the link between collected objects and eroticism while suggesting that erotic collection was common in Victorian England. Marcus writes, "A fashion plate is not overtly sexual, but it is designed to evoke erotic feelings in ways that a sewing pattern is not...Voluminous sales of dolls and fashion plates... prove that women responded eagerly to their presentation of femininity as a voluptuous, pliable spectacle" (Marcus 114). In this way, the notion of collecting femininity within the domestic sphere would not have been new; despite that, Austen brings this trope to life quite literally, as Emma collects living women, or specimens, rather than dolls. Consequently, Emma undermines both normative, feminine representations as well as scientific methods of collection through her acquisition of same-sex erotic intimacies and her transformation of them into collected objects.

[14] To be sure, Austen's novel depicts collectors other than Emma. However, these traditional representations of both masculine and feminine collection are normative, and, when juxtaposed with Emma's role as a collector, further demonstrate the subversive nature of her collection. Upon viewing Harriet's collection of a small piece of court-plaster and the end of an old pencil, Emma exclaims, "My poor dear Harriet! And have you actually found happiness in treasuring up these things?" (Austen 309). Austen marks distinct differences between Emma and Harriet as collectors, especially when Emma privately admits she was "never equal" to Harriet in terms of collecting and cannot understand the importance of Harriet's collection, which is held in a parcel with "the words 'Most precious treasures' on the top" (Austen 307-8). When "Emma saw only a small piece of court-plaister," Harriet demands that she "must recollect" (Austen 307). While they are not a fashion plate or a doll, the eroticism linked with these seemingly benign objects still exists to Harriet. The collection Harriet shares with Emma exhibits an obsession with the heteronormative relationship (with Mr. Elton) that never was; Harriet collects only mementos, material representations or reminders of the man she wished to be collected by. Deemed "something still more valuable... because this is what did really once belong to him," Mr. Elton's pencil that had "so little lead that he soon cut it all away, and it would not do" is the most important piece of her collection (Austen 308). Austen belittles Harriet's showpiece through her narration, writing, "Emma was quite eager to see this superior treasure. It was the end of an old pencil, the part without any lead" (Austen 308). Emphasizing the uselessness of a leadless pencil, an object linked to an event that Emma does not remember without prompting, marks Harriet as Emma's most trivialized collector while simultaneously underlining an inherent difference between her and Emma.

[15] We also witness Mr. Elton ignore Emma's refusal to be collected, as he convinces her to construct a portrait of Harriet and then covets it, proclaiming the portrait an "exquisite possession," which we later find out is his first step in his failed collection of Emma (Austen 37). Yet, even more notable is Austen's portrayal of behaviors of consumption. As Frank Churchill remarks, "to be a true citizen of Highbury, I must buy something at Ford's" (Austen 181). It is through the word "must" – just as Harriet tells Emma that she must recollect – that Austen remarks upon the ingrained nature of collection and consumption in Regency England, for "must" is obligatory rather than voluntary. Ford's, "the very shop that every body attends every day of their lives," illustrates the collection behind the consumption, the coveting, purchasing, and, finally, owning, of material goods that each member of Highbury participates in every day (Austen 181). This method of coveting, purchasing, and owning – or situating into a situation of permanence – should not be unfamiliar, as it echoes Emma's own process.

[16] However, as we've established, Emma is no ordinary collector. In fact, much of what differentiates her from the avid consumers of Highbury is paralleled in what separates Emma from the rest of Austen's novels. Emma is a quintessential novel of cultural transition. As Claudia L. Johnson notes, "Emma is a world apart from conservative fiction in accepting a hierarchical social structure ... because within its parameters class can actually supersede sex" (Johnson 127). The subversive nature of Emma's collection is again emphasized through the included portrayals of different classes and sexes participating in acts of consumption at Ford's. While Austen uses other characters, such as Harriet, the Martin family, and Mr. Weston, to distinguish Ford's as a place for consumption, she separates Emma, only portraying her visits as social; she goes to Ford's once with Frank Churchill after his infamous remark, and again with Harriet, a visit which Emma deems "prudent" to attend, as "another accidental meeting with the Martins was possible, and in [Harriet's] present state, would be dangerous" (Austen 209-10). Thus, while Emma certainly takes part in these acts of consumption, shopping for muslin, gloves, and ribbons, she asserts a manipulative agency that is only present through her process of collecting intimacies. Tellingly, her entire reason for going to Ford's with Harriet, her desired object, is to isolate her from the Martin family, who could potentially ruin Emma's chances to obtain her. Emma comments – "I always deserve the best treatment, because I never put up with any other" – highlight a sense of privilege that characterizes her methodology as a collector (Austen 428). Emma consciously draws upon the self-assurance of her position as a gentleman's daughter, using charm, manipulation, and the perks of her social status to obtain her collected objects. The agency Emma asserts to collect her objects marks her as being closer to collectors like Banks and more powerful than the consumers of either sex who simply exchange money for goods, allowing Austen to portray a progressive culture where "class can actually supersede sex."

[17] After establishing Emma as a successful collector through portraying the acquisition of Mrs. Weston, Austen reveals the process by which Emma collects, and in it, social commentary on how homosexual desire provides a foundation for heterosexual relationships. The "loss" of Miss Taylor drives Mr. Woodhouse to feel emptiness within Hartfield, which Austen also describes using the language of collection. She writes, "There was no recovering Miss Taylor – nor much likelihood of ceasing to pity her; but a few weeks brought some alleviation to Mr. Woodhouse" (Austen 15). Though Austen clearly limits this mourning period to Mr. Woodhouse, it does seem to echo Emma's sentiments pertaining to a dramatic shift in Miss Taylor's identity. Miss Taylor is associated with Mr. Woodhouse and Emma's intimacy, while Mrs. Weston is seemingly beyond their eroticized reach. Notably, Mr. Woodhouse's "alleviation" takes the form of a dinner party, held in Hartfield, where Emma begins the process of collecting a new object, Harriet Smith.

[18] Referencing the women who live in the proximity of Hartfield, Emma claims that "these were the ladies whom [she] found herself very frequently able to collect; and happy was she, for her father's sake, in the power" (Austen 19). As I mentioned earlier, the phrase "to collect" contextualizes Emma's activities by connecting the act of collection with normative and scientifically cutting-edge figures within English society. After all, there is a vast difference between Joseph Banks' collection of Omai from the Pacific Islands and Emma's collection of figures from a society in which she actively participates. In 1769, Banks financed a naval vessel, the Endeavour, with the purpose of finding a human specimen. Although this first expedition with the purpose of obtaining a human specimen failed (as his choice, a priest named Tupia, contracted a disease and died), Banks tried again, sending Cook back to Tahiti in 1773. Interestingly, Omai was not just collected, but he volunteered to be collected after witnessing "first-hand the power of the Europeans" and was "keen to obtain guns" in an effort to reclaim his land from the Borabora (Hetherington 3). Consequently, Omai was not only voluntarily collected, but he also encouraged his collectability with the ulterior motive of personal gain. Similar to Banks' differentiation between the voluntary object and the chosen object, Emma specifies that she collects the Bates women as well as Mrs. Goddard in terms of company, "for her father's sake," simultaneously casting her as active and masculine while implying that these particular women would not normally be objects within her collection. Emma differentiates the collection of her objects of desire and the forced, convenient collection of other objects; using this model, Banks' first choice of human specimen, Tupia, would have been a chosen object versus Omai, who asked to be collected. Emma therefore organizes this dinner party as a means to please her father and reveals that it is only the prospect of meeting Harriet Smith that allows "the evening [to be] no longer dreaded by the fair mistress of the mansion" (Austen 19).

[19] The opportunity to meet Harriet Smith, "a girl of seventeen, whom Emma knew very well by sight, and had long felt an interest in, on account of her beauty," represents a new purpose for Emma, the collector, and also serves to identify Emma's deviant sexual identity (Austen 19). Emma has already taken note of Harriet due to her appearance, which implies that Emma's collection desires and values beauty above substance. This valuation reflects patriarchal ideologies regarding the idea that women should be seen and not heard, domestic and not political, and delicate instead of muscular. Thus, this masculine reflection complicates Emma's identity as a collector, as she is a woman other characters view as beautiful and who strives to collect other beautiful objects. Emma therefore represents a subversive portrayal of femininity because she actively refuses to enter into heteronormative matrimony, stating, "I am not only not going to be married at present, but [I] have very little intention of ever marrying at all," while simultaneously pursuing erotic same-sex relationships (Austen 76).

[20] While Emma subverts gender roles through the act of collecting, she simultaneously subverts normative culture. Pearce argues that collection, in itself, is an act of subversion, stating, "the theme which runs through [collecting] is the intention to overturn the world of accepted material values... of quality, fidelity to evidence, purity, and normality in which the social world is grounded" (Pearce 189). Austen actively differentiates Emma from the rest of her female characters as she is portrayed as a subversive figure on two accounts; through her method of collecting, Emma ignores social sanctions regarding normative sexuality, and by collecting, she exudes a masculine agency that renders weaker male figures, such as her father, passive and feminine. On both accounts, she threatens patriarchal society. Although Emma's interest in Harriet stems from her appreciation of the girl's appearance, as "she was not struck by anything remarkably clever in Miss Smith's conversation... [but] her beauty happened to be of a sort which Emma particularly admired," Emma projects a value upon Harriet's company that normative society refuses to acknowledge (Austen 20). This is further represented by Mr. Knightley's disapproval of Emma's intimacy with Harriet as well as Mr. Elton's refusal to acknowledge Harriet as an erotic object. As a result, "the accepted order is subverted when very ordinary, every day things, things which are worthless by 'accepted' moral or aesthetic standards, are collected with the same obsessive care which others would lavish upon 'accepted material" (Pearce 189). Clearly, a woman whose lineage, and therefore value within Regency England, is uncertain, should be deemed an unfit intimacy for a woman in Emma Woodhouse's social position. However, Emma, as collector, refuses to recognize social order and projects value upon Harriet on the basis of her appearance and Emma's erotic attraction to her. Emma emphasizes this subverted value system, stating, "Those soft blue eyes, and all those natural graces, should not be wasted on the inferior society of Highbury... The acquaintances she had already formed were unworthy of her. The friends from whom she had just parted... must be doing her harm" (Austen 20). By claiming the friendships and intimacies Harriet has already forged are not only unworthy of her, but are actually doing her harm, Emma insists upon a need to collect her. Juliet McMaster notes that to Austen, "the quality of humanity is to be judged by moral and humane standards...not by social status; but like her own temporary snobs, Darcy and Emma, she pays full attention to their social status first" (McMaster 125). Referencing Emma as a "temporary snob" contextualizes Emma's intent to collect Harriet. Instead of paying attention to her social status, Emma takes note of Harriet's appearance, subverting social value systems and replacing them with her own.

[21] Emma elaborates her intention to collect Harriet, stating, "She would notice her; she would improve her; she would detach her from her bad acquaintance and introduce her into good society; she would form her opinions and her manners" (Austen 20). In this way, Emma forms an intimate relationship with Harriet that will result in Harriet's dependency upon her. Austen italicizes the word "she," implying that what follows will be significant in terms of understanding her deeply coded novel. Emphasizing the word "she" in Emma's narration suggests an emotionality regarding the idea that nobody has paid Harriet the attention that Emma feels that she deserves. Through the intent to notice, improve, and detach Harriet from her "bad" acquaintances, Emma seeks to isolate Harriet from the intimacies of others while forming a deviant, erotic, attachment to her.

[22] Within her book On Longing, Susan Stewart analyzes the dynamics of collected objects as well as processes of collecting: in a collection, "once the object is completely severed from its origin, it is possible... to start again within a context that is framed by the selectivity of the collector" (Stewart 152). After Emma realizes her intention to collect Harriet, she begins what Stewart references as severing her from her origin and redefining Harriet's identity, both sexually and socially. "Harriet Smith's intimacy at Hartfield was soon a settled thing," Emma thinks. "Quick and decided in her ways, Emma lost no time in inviting, encouraging, and telling her to come very often; and as their acquaintance increased, so did their satisfaction in each other" (Austen 22). By removing Harriet as often as possible from Mrs. Goddard's boarding house and into the intimate domesticity of Hartfield, Emma has the ability to control Harriet's experience and interactions as well as the way in which Harriet views her. Austen characterizes Emma as "quick and decided in her ways," stating quite blatantly that this process of collection is familiar to Emma while describing the order in which Emma pervades Harriet's life; she first invites, then encourages, and finally tells her to visit Hartfield often. This progression reveals Emma and thus collecting itself as manipulative, as she pervades Harriet's life and convinces Harriet to submit to her control.

[23] However, Harriet's former intimacies with the Martin family present an obstacle for Emma, especially when Robert Martin proposes marriage to Harriet, threatening to ruin the prospect of her becoming part of Emma's collection. Emma relies upon Harriet's severed and newly contextualized origin, which she has manipulated in an effort to convince Harriet to refuse him. Emma has "no doubt" that Harriet is a "gentleman's daughter," and instructs Harriet to "support your claim to that station by everything within your power" (Austen 26). Because Austen references Harriet earlier as "somebody's daughter," it is clear that Emma constructs a possible, but improbable, origin for Harriet as a means to manipulate her, an action Stewart identifies as part of the process of collecting – "the collection is a form of art as play, a form involving the reframing of objects within a world of attention and manipulation of context" (Stewart 151). Emma's advice to Harriet can therefore be viewed as a manipulation of context and the equivalent of Banks taking plant, animal, and human specimens from their contexts in Tahiti, Australia, and India for the purpose of placing them within his house-turned-museum in Soho Square. Emma cannot be certain as to Harriet being a gentleman's daughter, despite her claim of having "no doubt," extending Stewart's analysis to include a manipulation of the object itself.

[24] Austen implies that Emma's manipulation of Harriet is self-serving through her narration of what follows. Austen writes, "Emma watched her... and saw no alarming symptoms of love. [Robert Martin] had been the first admirer, but she trusted there was no other hold, and that there would be no serious difficulty on Harriet's side to oppose any friendly arrangement of her own" (Austen 26-7). Through this act of studying Harriet, Emma invokes what Laura Mulvey calls the male gaze. In her article, "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema," Mulvey analyzes the male gaze in terms of cinematic spectatorship. She asserts, "In a world ordered by sexual imbalance, pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female. The determining male gaze projects its phantasy on to the female figure which is styled accordingly" (Mulvey 2186). Essentially, through the act of watching Harriet, Emma projects herself as active, "the watcher," and assigns Harriet the passive role of "being watched." Thus, Emma identifies herself as a masculine collector in pursuit of a feminine collected object. She projects an ambiguous fantasy upon Harriet, which she references as "any friendly arrangement of her own," implying that she is Robert Martin's erotic rival, and without his heteronormative distraction, "there would be no serious difficulty on Harriet's side" to oppose her. By watching Harriet for "alarming symptoms of love," Emma seemingly pathologizes Harriet's love for anyone who is not an extension of her.

[25] Similar to the gradual way in which Emma coaxes Harriet to spend time at Hartfield, first inviting, then encouraging, and finally demanding her company, Emma gradually achieves Harriet's passive dependence. Seeking to replace Harriet's heteronormative erotic interest with an extension of herself, Emma reviews available men who live in close proximity to Hartfield and decides upon Mr. Elton as "the very person [she was] fixed on for driving the young farmer out of Harriet's head" (Austen 29). Although Emma admits that she thinks Harriet and Mr. Elton will be an excellent match, her first reaction is to remove Robert Martin from Harriet's thoughts, as he has known Harriet longer than Emma and might therefore, potentially, be prioritized over her own self. Robert Martin represents a tie to Harriet's past, something that, as a collector, Emma has actively tried to destroy in an effort to redefine Harriet's identity. Tellingly, Harriet's desires are absent from Emma's analysis of her potential erotic interests because the process revolves around Emma's tolerances rather than what Harriet prefers. This demonstrates Harriet's voluntary passivity while simultaneously underlining Emma's pervasive control; she pursues Harriet as an eroticized object rather than a friend or companion.

[26] Austen uses Emma's collection of Harriet to emphasize a distinct difference between Emma's collection and constructing a normative social circle. Emma's collection is acquired with an eye toward permanence, control, inequalities, and boundaries instead of assembling a group of equals for mutually enjoyable company, which is underlined by her justification of Mr. Elton as a potential erotic interest to Harriet. Emma begins, stating, "This is an attachment which a woman will feel pride in creating. This is a connection which offers nothing but good. It will give you every thing you want – consideration, independence, a proper home" (Austen 66). Convincing Harriet that Mr. Elton will be an appropriate attachment, Emma chooses to stress the permanence of his situation rather than claims of love. This strategy echoes Mrs. Weston's initial assessment of her husband, highlighting that Emma's persuasive speech to Harriet is not impromptu. Instead, it is a rehearsed pattern within her eroticized method of collecting that seemingly divorces affection from heteronormative marriage and replaces it with the idea of permanence. Emma deliberately uses ambiguous language, as she refuses to clarify which woman will feel pride in creating the match between Mr. Elton and Harriet; in Emma's ambiguous rhetoric, Harriet could be the woman "creating," as the word could be used to mean choosing, or it could suggest that Emma congratulates herself in coded language for encouraging such a match. In either case, Emma projects a list of wants upon Harriet – "consideration, independence, [and] a proper home"—which are all assets that Emma uses to define herself. Engaging the notion that collectors view their objects as extensions of themselves, that the collected objects are defined by the same wants and needs that drive the collector, Stewart argues, "when one wants to disparage the collected object, one says 'it is not you'" (Stewart 159). By projecting the characteristics that seemingly define her upon Harriet as a means to endorse a potential intimacy with Mr. Elton, Emma not only further identifies Harriet as an erotic object, but she also redefines what it means to have a "proper" home.

[27] Emma negotiates normative propriety in terms of her desired objects with the same manner in which she engages normative structure of class, where Harriet, "the daughter of somebody," should have been viewed as an inappropriate companion, as she is Emma's social inferior; she selectively ignores it and chooses only to invoke her snobbery when it doesn't apply to eroticized objects. As a consequence, Emma's version of a "proper" home for Harriet is one where she is permanently situated within Highbury and near Hartfield. After all, her selection of Mr. Elton stems from his property being adjacent to her own home, rather than any erotic chemistry he may have with Harriet. Emma redefines propriety for Harriet in terms of "a proper home," stating, "[This attachment] will fix you in the centre of all your real friends, close to Hartfield, and to me, and confirm our intimacy for ever. This, Harriet, is an alliance which can never raise a blush in either of us" (Austen 66). By calling Harriet's potential marriage an "alliance," Emma continues to strip the erotic connotations from the heteronormative union as she emphasizes the importance of friendship, and, more importantly, an intimacy with her. The use of words like "fix" and "confirm" implies an uncertainty regarding Harriet's social position as well as an impairment focused upon her lack of permanence within the realm of Emma's reach, which Emma cleverly contextualizes in terms of Harriet's relationship with her. By doing so, Emma structures her speech to Harriet in such a manner that if Harriet were to reject Mr. Elton, she would also be rejecting Emma, solidifying Emma's choice of Mr. Elton as an erotic extension of herself while simultaneously enforcing the boundaries of her collection.

[28] From the book's introductory scene, Emma has a sole motivation: to permanently situate her desired objects in Highbury, rendering them collected. Emma establishes boundaries and a system of control for her collection which regulates not only who her objects will marry, but also with whom they will socialize. Reflecting upon her collection of Mrs. Weston, Emma states, "For Mrs. Weston there was nothing to be done; for Harriet every thing" (Austen 22). This statement underlines that everything Emma offers Harriet has already been offered to Mrs. Weston, clearly marking patterned behavior and Emma's method of collection. Austen seemingly makes a spectacle of the fact that Mrs. Weston is situated "only a half mile" from Hartfield and later reiterates this sentiment from the point of view of multiple characters, suggesting that this fact is crucial to understanding the nuances of her social commentary. Stewart applies boundaries to the collected object, noting, "The collection relies upon the box, the cabinet, the cupboard, the seriality of shelves. It is determined by these boundaries" (Stewart 157). Emma begins with the collection of Mrs. Weston and identifies Emma's collection with the pursuit of Harriet, which marks its seriality. However, it is during the pursuit and failure of collecting Harriet in which Emma, herself, is transformed from a collector into a collected object, solidifying Austen's use of collection as a means of expressing the notion that heterosexual relationships rely upon same-sex intimacies to ensure the success of normative society.

[29] Austen relays this social commentary by way of issuing heteronormative endings for each eligible female character, Emma included. In order to do so, Austen must deconstruct Emma's role as a collector and transform her into a collected object. This necessity is emphasized through Austen's constant reminder to her readers that Emma is an attractive, eligible woman, despite her masculine agency and stubborn independence. Emma's transition from a collector to a collected object is gradual and begins with her thwarted collection of Harriet. This is made quite clear when Mr. Elton proposes to Emma instead of Harriet, reminding Austen's readers that although Emma collects eroticized objects, she still must actively avoid those who wish to collect her. She rejects Mr. Elton's advances, stating, "Nothing could be farther from my wishes – your attachment to my friend Harriet—your pursuit of her...gave me great pleasure" (Austen 117). In this moment, Emma implies that she is not a pursuable object, unlike Harriet, while suggesting a possessive intimacy over her. Mr. Elton's rendering of Emma as an erotic, collectable, object marks a significant moment within Austen's novel, for Emma's role as a collector thus far has remained unthreatened, despite other characters' remarks about her beauty. Mr. Elton's rejection of Harriet for Emma, despite her deviant behavior, underlines that Emma's collecting of Harriet has been irreparably damaged; Harriet no longer views Emma as infallible and therefore cannot be solely dependant upon her, forming her own thoughts and opinions while simultaneously refusing to become an extension of Emma. Therefore, upon the assumption that she cannot trust Emma to find her a suitable husband, Harriet begins to exert her own agency as she rejects the role of an eroticized object.

[30] Harriet's agency presents itself to Emma after another failed attempt to enter Harriet into a heteronormative relationship with a man who is interested in another woman. When Emma delivers the news to Harriet that Frank Churchill is to be married to Jane Fairfax, Harriet doesn't seem to mind – "Harriet's behavior was so extremely odd, that [she] did not know how to understand it. Her character appeared absolutely changed" (Austen 367). Juxtaposed with Emma's understanding of Harriet's behavior before her continuous erotic disappointments, it becomes clear that Harriet has actively decided to pursue a heteronormative relationship on her own terms. Harriet reveals to Emma that she has chosen Mr. Knightley, an eligible man who lives close to Hartfield, and who would essentially meet the criteria of Emma's collection, except for the fact that Emma's control, as a collector, would have been removed entirely from this heteronormative match, causing Emma to cry, "Good God!" She continues, asserting, "This has been a most unfortunate—most deplorable mistake! What is to be done?" (Austen 369). In this moment, Emma recognizes that she no longer has control over Harriet and that Harriet has as much agency and independence as her, recontextualizing Harriet as a threatening figure. However, instead of threatening to collect Emma and overthrow her status as a collector, Harriet seemingly challenges Emma's control over the vicinity of Highbury through her interest in one of its inhabitants, thus situating herself as Emma's erotic rival instead of her collected object.

[31] Consequently, when Harriet replies "modestly, but not fearfully" that she believes Mr. Knightley returns her affections, Emma realizes that "Mr. Knightley must marry no one but herself!" (Austen 370). Emma refuses to sacrifice her role as a collector until she must choose between her masculine agency and her control of Highbury; when these attributes are divorced from the role of the collector, Emma redefines herself in terms of her priorities. Emma maintains her methodology of collection even when she is not a collector, voluntarily becoming a collected object as a means to maintain her control of Highbury. Expressing concern regarding Harriet's agency and her transformation into an erotic rival, Emma states, "How was it to be endured? ... if [Mr. Knightley] were to be lost to them for Harriet's sake; if he were to be thought of hereafter, as finding in Harriet's society all that he wanted; if Harriet were to be the chosen, the first, the dearest, the friend, the wife to whom he looked for all the best blessings of existence" (Austen 382). Emma uses the language of collection previously applied to Miss Taylor to emphasize a cognitive shift. She is no longer actively pursuing new objects, or women, for her collection, and instead seeks to protect the society that she has already created by situating herself within a heteronormative marriage that will neutralize the presented threat. Emma therefore expresses her desire to become Mr. Knightley's "chosen" object as a means to keep her microcosm of Highbury society intact. By doing so, she blatantly identifies Harriet as a threat that must be neutralized by way of her own marriage to Mr. Knightley.

[32] After identifying Harriet as a threat to her collection and neutralizing her by way of encouraging the affections of Mr. Knightley, Emma exiles Harriet from Hartfield, the "heart" of the collection that she has threatened. Consider – "She would have been too happy but for poor Harriet... who must now be... excluded from Hartfield... poor Harriet must, in mere charitable caution, be kept at a distance... she would be a loser in every way" (Austen 407). Austen repeats the word "must," implying that it is an order issued to protect the isolated society that Emma has created. Emma thus instills the very social values she had earlier subverted through the exclusion of Harriet from Hartfield. To be sure, Emma's motivations for reinstating normative value systems are different from her reason for subverting them, but, nevertheless, she restores her society's heteronormative impulse by removing Harriet from Hartfield, wordlessly encouraging her to go back to the places of her past. Austen also repeats the word "poor" to describe Harriet, emphasizing Emma's regret at having to displace an attractive woman. Emma is calculated and manipulative, underlining the fact that her marriage to Mr. Knightley and her subsequent removal of Harriet are strategic actions to insure the safety of her collection. This exile from Emma's sphere of collection allows Harriet to restore her origin, something Emma insisted upon removing as a means to collect her. By doing so, Harriet reconnects with Robert Martin and establishes a heteronormative relationship, using her own agency rather than Emma's. Thus, Austen's famously heteronormative novel is concluded by way of situating all of her eligible female characters within heterosexual relationships, but only after they have first experienced a same-sex intimacy.

[33] Emma's final pages depict the heroine's reflection upon her transformation into a collected object. Much like Gillray's engraving of "The transform'd Bath butterfly," Emma, as a collected object, retains some of the filth associated with her subversive acts as a collector. Responding to Mr. Knightley, who asserts that she is "materially changed," Emma states, "at that time I was a fool" (Austen 429). By calling her experience as a collector foolish, Emma submits entirely to her new identity as a collected object and as a participant within a heterosexual relationship. In this way, Emma relies upon the familiar Romantic trope of collection as a means to not only express same-sex erotic desire, but it also allows Austen to mask her progressive social commentary regarding the necessity of homosexual relationships in order to provide a foundation for heterosexual intimacies to succeed. Austen first situates Emma as a beautiful female collector through her successful acquisition of Mrs. Weston, then portrays her thwarted collection of Harriet, and finally deconstructs her role as a collector by making her assimilate into heteronormative society in order to protect the collection she has already cultivated. Ultimately, Austen's portrayal of eroticized collection results in prescribed heteronormativity for every eligible woman within the novel, and, in so doing, asks her readers to reconsider the way in which same-sex intimacies operate within normative society.

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