Jane Austen began writing Emma in 1814, though it was not published until 1816, and then it was anonymous (as were all of her novels initially due to the prejudices of her times). Emma Woodhouse, the eponymous heroine (of sorts) is endowed with wealth, good-looks, prestige and is, moveover, well aware of how clever she is. Anne Taylor, who had been extremely close to both Emma and her father, moves out to live with Mr Weston. In the absence of this confidante, Emma looks for a new friend and becomes acquainted with the 17-year old, illegitimate girl Harriet. Emma attempts to aid Harriet with a series of disastrous schemes to prove the girl to be of worthy parentage and deserving of a good man. However, in doing so, she prevents Harriet from marrying Robert Martin who despite being an eligible young farmer is deemed by young Woodhouse to be 'beneath' Harriet. She tries to bring together the orphan and Mr Elton, a young vicar who in fact despises Harriet. Such tinkering much annoys Emma's brother-in-law Mr Knightley. He can see Emma's faults in a way in which the girl herself cannot. Emma is the story of the self-styled protagonist's gradual realisation of her own lack of self-knowledge. Along the way there is much in the way of heartbreak, romance and detailed, subtle character portraiture. It is widely considered to be Austen's finest work and the one which most fulfils her ambition to present the lives of a small community of "3 or 4 families in a Country Village" realistically and excitingly. It is often very amusing and is a wonderful depiction of the workings of a well-meaning but ill-directed mind wishing to act selflessly.