Jane Austen probably started writing The Watsons when she was 27 years old. It seems she intended to write a full novel but in fact she abandoned it when she was 29. Maybe the sudden death of her father had upset her too much for her to continue. She had completed only five chapters, less than 18,000 words.
The theme of The Watsons is familiar - the plight of genteel ladies with no inheritance. Their only salvation is marriage, or work in some branch of teaching. There was no better destiny than marriage to a man whom (if they were lucky) they loved.
Four paragraphs later the novel breaks off. Emma has retreated to her father's sick-room, preferring to read there or converse with him when he feels well enough. So her best companion is an elderly, dying man. It is depressing. Perhaps Jane conceded that when you are in a hole it is best to stop digging. It is reasonable to speculate that the death in 1805 of Jane Austen's father, who had given her so much encouragement, just at the time when she was to describe the death of Emma Watson's father, left her with no heart to continue. Jane, her mother and Cassandra, living in Bath, which Jane never greatly cared for, were now impoverished and bereaved. Her decision was made.
Emma, beautiful, lively, kind and intelligent, has been brought up (like Jane Austen's brother Edward) by wealthy relatives. But at nineteen, she is forced to return to her relatively poor family. Her widower father is an invalid. Like her three sisters, she will need a husband. If the novel had been completed, she would surely have secured one: she quickly attracts three eligible men. At the ball, she stirs the hearts of local charmer Tom Musgrave, the aloof Lord Osborne, and the clergyman Mr. Howard.
In the Edwards, Jane Austen depicts the kind of couple she was to develop so exuberantly in the Palmers and the Bennets. They have petty disputes on unvarying topics with 'sturdy pleasantry'. They both know where to draw the line: they are 'so wise as never to pass that point'.