“I want to tell you that I have got my own darling child from London.”
These are the words Jane Austen wrote to her sister Cassandra 200 years ago, on January 29th, 1813. And the “darling child” she spoke of? None other than her firstborn novel, of course–Pride & Prejudice.
The novel was published just a day before, after many years of submissions to and rejections by various London publishers. Austen had completed the manuscript with its original title of “First Impressions” in 1797. From there, so many prospective publishers declined to even see the work that P&P underwent 14 years of heavy editing to become what it is today. At last, the editor Thomas Egerton bought the book for a meager £110, the equivalent of just $172 today.
Thankfully, as it is a truth universally acknowledged, Pride & Prejudice went on to become not only the “fashionable novel” of its time, but one of the most beloved (and borrowed) stories of English literature. 200 years on, it inspires everything from its explicit spin-offs (Death at Pemberley, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, etc), to the more subtly taken chick-lit and movie plots of today. And now, in the week of this milestone anniversary, a slew of articles dedicated to all things Austenesque. So feast your eyes on these literary nibbles, Darcy lovers:
Here’s another interesting couple of tidbits I came across today… Ever wondered what Austen’s contemporaries and fellow authors thought of her self-confessed “light, and bright, and sparkling” novel? It seems that Charlotte Brontë was none too impressed, though surprisingly it was on account of the novel’s lack of a characteristic landscape more than anything else:
Charlotte Brontë, in a letter to [the critic] Lewes, wrote that Pride and Prejudice was a disappointment, “a carefully fenced, highly cultivated garden, with neat borders and delicate flowers; but … no open country, no fresh air, no blue hill, no bonny beck.”
Meanwhile, in 1937 the poet W.H. Auden cheekily mused that Austen was far too experienced for a gentlewoman of her time and social standing:
You could not shock her more than she shocks me,
Beside her Joyce seems innocent as grass.
It makes me most uncomfortable to see
An English spinster of the middle class
Describe the amorous effects of ‘brass’,
Reveal so frankly and with such sobriety
The economic basis of society.
So there you have it, a few juicy details surrounding by far the greatest romance plot in British literature. But if you’d like to learn more, there are plenty of eNotes study guides for, you know, all that important academic stuff:
and much more on enotes.com!
Be on the lookout for ways to celebrate the anniversary in your area. With this many Austenites around the globe, there has got to be a Meryton ball somewhere nearby.
How will you celebrate 200 years of P&P?