Today is the 200th anniversary of the publication of British author Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Generally considered Austen’s most read, most famous, and most popular of her six novels, Austen had already made a name for herself (albeit an anonymous one) with the 1811 publication of Sense and Sensibility, when she published the story of the independent-minded, impulsive, and playful Elizabeth Bennet and the aloof, wealthy, and socially-awkward Fitzwilliam Darcy in 1813.
Personally, I consider Pride and Prejudice to be one of Austen’s more lighthearted, comic* and romantic** novels. Austen herself felt it needed more seriousness:
“Upon the whole… I am well satisfied enough. The work is rather too light, and bright, and sparkling; it wants shade; it wants to be stretched out here and there with a long chapter of sense, if it could be had; if not, of solemn specious nonsense, about something unconnected with the story: an essay on writing, a critique on Walter Scott, or the history of Buonaparté, or anything that would form a contrast and bring the reader with increased delight to the playfulness and general epigrammatism of the general style”.
(Letter to her sister, Cassandra, Feb. 4, 1813)
For those who have managed to avoid Jane Austen and her works all these years, Pride and Prejudice is the story of Miss Elizabeth Bennet, a gentleman’s daughter, whose misplaced prejudice conflicts with the haughty and reserved aristocrat, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. The road to love is a mess of misunderstandings, confrontations, and, yes, pride. This novel has some of the wittiest dialogue in the history of the English novel and its first line is one of the most quoted (and quotable) ever:
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
Of course, it continues to inspire countless continuations, sequels, and spin-offs.
The library has many editions of the novel for the student, including annotated, coffee-table editions as well as books on CD, e-book and e-audiobook, Playaway, and of course, DVD. Check out our displays throughout Main library.
And, for those who still can’t get enough, Pittsburgh’s regional chapter of the Jane Austen Society of North America will hold a Jane Austen Festival in March and this year’s national JASNA*** Annual General Meeting in Minneapolis will spotlight Austen’s “own darling child” in September.
~Maria, Austen’s humble servant
*Northanger Abbey is a hilarious parody of the gothic novel & Emma’s antics make for humorous reading.
**Persuasion, about true love lost and found again is, in my opinion, even more romantic.
***The Jane Austen Society of North America.