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"If Mr. Knightley did not begin seriously, he was obliged to proceed so, for his proposal was caught at with delight; and the “Oh! I should like it of all things,” was not plainer in words than manner. Donwell was famous for its strawberry-beds, which seemed a plea for the invitation: but no plea was necessary; cabbage-beds would have been enough to tempt the lady, who only wanted to be going somewhere."

Emma by Jane Austen chapter 42

Context: Mr.knightley here proposing for Mrs. Elton, who is sad for her plan to go to Box Hill for picnic was cancelled due to sick hourses, to visit Donwell where he lives.

  1. in "was not plainer in words than manner" does it mean that "neither the words nor the way she said them are plain"?

  2. "plea for invitation" what does plea mean here? I don't think it means request!

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  • 1
    to be plain in words; to be plain in manner. This is a comparative.
    – Lambie
    Commented Aug 20, 2022 at 18:43
  • Ali, if you have two unrelated questions, it's best to ask them in two separate questions, even if they appear right next to each other in the same text. Someone may have a good answer to one question and not the other, and choose not to answer or only answer one of them.
    – gotube
    Commented Aug 21, 2022 at 3:20

2 Answers 2

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This excerpt contains logic games. It is not sarcastic.

“Oh! I should like it of all things,” is very plainly [clearly] worded. The manner it which it was said was at least as plain [clear] as its wording. Which is consistent with "the lady" being "delight[ed]" to accept the suggestion. It is also consistent with three themes of the following sentence: "the lady" "wanted to [go] somewhere"; "the lady" wanted to be tempted; and there was something tempting or delightful at (or near) Donwell.

The "plea" is a metaphorical request, not a literal request. The request is being made by a place (Donwell). The request is in the form of the attractive scents and beauty of strawberry fields. The request is metaphorical (not literal) because the place is neither speaking nor writing.

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This is written in a Victorian¹ style, which likes to say things very politely, indirectly and euphemistically and make the reader figure out what people are really saying.

Not plainer in words than manner

is a roundabout way of saying

It was as plain by her manner (body language, tone of voice) as by her words.

That is, when the lady said, “Oh! I should like it of all things,” he could tell that she really meant it.

¹ Although the novel Emma is a few years older than Queen Victoria, and her uncle was regent on behalf of her grandfather when it was written. So it’s more properly “Regency” style.

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  • @Jasper do you mean to argue that that somehow means the book cannot be in what is now considered Victorian style?
    – sehe
    Commented Aug 21, 2022 at 12:36
  • @Jasper You got me. I’ll edit.
    – Davislor
    Commented Aug 21, 2022 at 13:32

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