Poignant Sting

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Title: (The) Poignant Sting
Author(s): Ione
Date(s): 2008
Length: ~13,500 words
Genre: het, sequel
Fandom: Emma (Jane Austen)
External Links: Yuletide; AO3; podfic

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Poignant Sting is a novelette by Ione, a sequel to Austen's novel Emma, written as a stocking stuffer for Yuletide 2008. It is rated PG. It is inspired by the line from the novel:

"Ay, very true, my dear," cried Miss Bates, though Jane had not spoken a word--"I was just going to say the same thing."

The title comes from Mr Knightley's question in the novel:

"Pray, Emma," said he, "may I ask in what lay the great amusement, the poignant sting of the last word given to you and Miss Fairfax?"

The author's original summary is: Emma and Jane have become close friends. But when Emma stumbles on what may be a secret, communication becomes difficult . . . She also notes I was thinking about what life would be like for the newlyweds, then when I saw that one line Miss Bates spoke . . . there was this story.

The story is also archived at Archive of Our Own (under the title "The Poignant Sting"). The author summary at AO3 reads: Inspired by a single line in EMMA, spoken by Miss Bates, this story examines the early days of marriage for both couples, through the vector of Miss Bates' unknown special ability . . .


Ione writes:

There we are, two days before Christmas, and no pinch hit. Oh noes! So of course the thing to do is troll the request list for possible stocking stuffer prompts. And there is Hafital's request for early married moments in the lives of Emma and Mr. Knightley, and Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill.
A few years back, on one of my many rereads, a line from Miss Bates struck me--she seems to know what Jane is saying before she says it. I'm sure the line is for comic effect, but what if she really heard thoughts? I dashed out the bones of a story . . . and then got involved in other things, and there it languished, at an awkward length. Now I decided in a night of madness (and I fear the errors show it--it needs to be redone and uploaded when things are quieter) I finished it. Still an awkward length, but for a stocking stuffer, who cares? Anyway, the story (titles taken from Mr. Knightley's words in Emma) is here.[1]

Characters & Themes

Like the majority of fanfiction for Emma, "Poignant Sting" is a canon-compatible sequel which follows the novel's pairings. The main pairings are Emma Woodhouse/George Knightley and Frank Churchill/Jane Fairfax. Miss Bates plays an important role, and Mr & Mrs Elton, Mr & Mrs Weston, Harriet Martin, Mr Woodhouse, Mr Perry and an original character all also feature.

The story deals with pregnancy and childbirth with Regency-period medical care; three of the newly married women give birth during its course. More broadly, it considers happiness in marriage, comparing the marriages of the Churchills and the Knightleys. There's also an unexpected touch of the supernatural, with one of the characters being revealed to be telepathic.


The story was generally well received, gaining particular praise for its character voices and for capturing the style of Austen. Most readers enjoyed the way it believably integrates telepathy into the Austen world, adding depth to the original.

"Poignant Sting" is one of the most widely recommended works of Emma fanfiction, appearing at Crack Van and elsewhere. As of July 2013, "The Poignant Sting" is the second most popular fanfiction in the Emma category at AO3 by number of hits.

Related Fanworks

Luzula recorded a podfic of the story for Amplificathon 2011; it is 1 hour 24 min long.[2] As of July 2013, it is the only piece of Emma podfic in the Audiofic Archive.

Recs & Reviews

This sequel has everything. Irony, a nice regency voice, a very canon-like view of the characters and spots of really weird stuff hanged from the most unassuming canon lines. (hele in Crack Van)[3]
Emma seems the most difficult Austen for a writer to penetrate, and some aspects of Ione's sequel weren't entirely successful for me. It's well worth a try, however, for its unexpected insight into Miss Bates, which has gone straight into my personal canon (Espresso Addict)[4]
...another Jane Austen, with a bit of angst throw in. Emma with angst! It's almost too lovely to bear. (n00blici0us)[5]
The Poignant Sting by Ione on Archive of Our Own is a wonderful, well written, imaginative story, following on from Emma. (Madeleine St Just)[6]
This is a wonderful post-canon story, and I enjoyed getting to spend time with the characters! (Luzula)[2]
Oh, this is glorious. I was a little skeptical about Emma fanfic? Because it's always struck me as the most shiningly finished of Jane Austen's novels - the happy endings all round are so complete. But of course life doesn't go that way, there's always more, and this story fleshes that truth out so beautifully.

I started reading it as a cheerful bit of epilogue, as a wonderful elaboration of the happy ending. And it is that too - there are so many lovely heart-catching moments between Emma and Knightley and Emma and Jane. ...

But then the way the plot developed - the storyline with Miss Bates, the Eltons' problems, Frank's fashionable physician and what he did to Jane, and the note of hopeful uncertainty on which the story ends - turned into this wonderful *answer* to Jane Austen's closed ending, not just an epilogue to it. I love it, really a lot. (solvent90)[7]
This is so brilliant that I can scarcely find words to describe it. You catch Austen's voice so well, and the characters so accurately, that I am inclined to wonder about your own psychic communications. I loved your treatment of Miss Bates, who is a particularly delightful character, and the way you handle the idea of telepathy in Austen's world - something I would never have imagined could work, but does. Superb! (Philomytha)[8]
This is wonderful - I'm so glad I chanced on it. The language and tone felt very true to Jane Austen, but what I got most strongly from this was a sense of great compassion and understanding for all the characters, even the less attractive one. I could totally see Frank Churchill behaving like this, thoughtless and selfish, but still with a kernel of good intentions. The view of the disintegration of the Eltons' marriage, the glimpse of Mr Woodhouse (whom I loathe as a monster of selfishness in the original), these are shown as totally human in their weaknesses, while Mis Bates herself is shown as so much more than a prattling old woman. Thank you! (lemon_tree_7)[8]


  1. ionescribens: My own reveal (accessed 6 July 2013)
  2. 2.0 2.1 amplificathon: "The Poignant Sting", by Ione (Jane Austen's "Emma") (accessed 6 July 2013)
  3. crack-van: Poignant Sting by Ione (PG) (accessed 5 July 2013)
  4. Espresso Recommendations: Jane Austen – Other (accessed 5 July 2013)
  5. n00blici0us: 2 Jane Austen, 1 SGA, 1 SW, 1 SPN (accessed 5 July 2013)
  6. madeleinestjust: Literary Crushes: Emma by Jane Austen (accessed 5 July 2013)
  7. Comments on the Yuletide version (accessed 6 July 2013)
  8. 8.0 8.1 Comments on the AO3 version (accessed 6 July 2013)