Emma was published in 1815, a year that falls between two eras of music; Classical and Romantic.
Classical is known for the era that established the “norms” of composition and style of music that we know today. It established sets of rules and types that we still mostly follow. Any deviations from these were frowned upon and the period is one of the longest lasting periods (in influence) although the playing styles have faded. The style of playing was incredibly light, mostly at the tip, and were used mostly while entertaining and was almost exclusively for the elite.
This is so much like the society of Highbury don’t you think? These norms for what people were supposed to act like were strict and are still evident in society today, although sometimes disguised by other labels. The people of Highbury were light and topical, never trying to go deeper. Also, most pleasure were reserved for the elite.
Romantic music was when melodies came along, there would be one melody, usually violins, that would dominate the song (can you tell im bitter? im a violist). Instruments were then ranked by importance and their numbers per section reflected this. That is why there are a million violinsts, and only a few violists, basists, ect. Music became more emotional and expressive. Music started to brach off with more exciting melodies including dissonance, chromatics, and so much more fun tonally. It also marked a shift from classes when it spread to the middle classes as well. Plus Mahler, Rimsky-Korsokov, and Dvorak were introduced some of the greatest composers of all time.
We see this with Emma, she is the melody, not just by being the antagonist of the book, but how she is such a powerful presence in her community. We hear more out of the wealthy and elite in the book than the poor or middle class, who we could say are harmonies, that are only used as props for the upper class (melody). We see in Emma some uncharacteristically emotional acts, Mr. Elton, and new introductions to society, the Coles.
This just shows, music rules the world.