Oh, dear, Mary Musgrove irritated you more than Mary Bennet, whose idiosyncracies you forgave. This week we turn our attention to two famous Jane Austen villages: Meryton and Highbury. So, which village do you prefer? Meryton with its militia and milliner's shop or Highbury with its fine neighbours for evening societies? Both villages feature public assembly rooms for dancing, and of course, we would have the opportunity to meet either the Bennet or Woodhouse families.
Meryton, Pride and Prejudice
Meryton has an assembly hall and is within walking distance of Longbourn. As Jane writes: "The village of Longbourn was only one mile from Meryton; a most convenient distance for the young ladies, who were usually tempted thither three or four times a week, to pay their duty to their aunt, and to a milliner's shop just over the way. The two youngest of the family, Catherine and Lydia, were particularly frequent in these attentions; their minds were more vacant than their sisters', and when nothing better offered, a walk to Meryton was necessary to amuse their morning hours and furnish conversation for the evening; and however bare of news the country in general might be, they always contrived to learn some from their aunt. At present, indeed, they were well supplied both with news and happiness by the recent arrival of a militia regiment in the neighbourhood; it was to remain the whole winter, and Meryton was the head quarters."
What village is the real Meryton based on? Read this post from Austenblog.
Emma Woodhouse made her rounds of visits in Highbury, a habit which kept her occupied throughout the week. The assembly hall was the setting for a memorable scene, especially the one in which Mr. Elton declines to dance with Miss Smith. Jane describes Highbury society as thus: "[Mr. Woodhouse's] horror of late hours and large dinner-parties made him unfit for any acquaintance, but such as would visit him on his own terms. Fortunately for him, Highbury, including Randalls in the same parish, and Donwell Abbey in the parish adjoining, the seat of Mr. Knightley, comprehended many such. Not unfrequently, through Emma's persuasion, he had some of the chosen and the best to dine with him, but evening-parties were what he preferred, and, unless he fancied himself at any time unequal to company, there was scarcely an evening in the week in which Emma could not make up a card-table for him."
Want to know more about Highbury? Visit the Emma Adaptations page in this link.