In this paper, I discuss the source of wealth of Mr. Suckling and Mrs. Elton in Emma (1815) by focusing on the campaign against the slave trade in Britain and the implications of their origin, family name, and estate. Mr. Suckling is a shadowy minor character whose history is hardly mentioned. However, his origin, family name, and estate may provide a hint to help the readers understand his characterization. He is from Bristol, which was the center of the British triangular trade with the colonies, and his wife and sister-in-law Mrs. Elton are from Bristol as well. Emma was written in the aftermath of the 1807 abolition of the slave trade. The Sucklings’ strong connection with Bristol implies that their family business involved the slave trade. Moreover, Mr. Suckling’s family name and estate—Suckling and Maple Grove—hint sugar, one of the primary products that Britain traded with the colonies. The family name “Suckling” can be easily associated with the words “sucking” and/or “coerced.” Both of Mrs. Elton’s maiden and married names imply the slave trade, too. Mr. Suckling’s and Mrs. Elton’s fashioning themselves as a gentlemen and gentlewoman from a good family represents Austen’s awareness of the social mobility by which the new rich are accepted by their social betters.
Akiko Takei, Chukyo University, Japan
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