Monday, 28 January 2013

200th Anniversary of Pride and Prejudice

Not for nothing is Pride and Prejudice often cited as Britain’s favourite novel, or the one that I do without. In writing this book Jane Austen created two characters who have delighted audiences since its publication 200 years ago. Until Lawrence Olivier, and more recently Colin Firth, set female hearts swooning as Mr Darcy, the focus was on the novel’s heroine, Elizabeth Bennet.

Although these handsome and charismatic actors have caused a distraction it is perhaps Elizabeth who is the finer and more original creation. Sweet but forthright, pretty but not beautiful, brave but not bold, intelligent but not boring, she is, for many women, the perfect role model.

Was Elizabeth a self portrait? This seems to be highly unlikely, but she is most probably the woman Jane Austen wanted to be. As she says: “I do think her the most delightful creature ever to appear in print”, and who can argue with her?

By the time the novel was published Jane Austen was no longer the giddy girl who first created this delightful creature. Described by one observer as a “husband hunting butterfly” while still in her teens, she had become the mature, worldly-wise spinster by her early thirties. By then she had seen boyfriends come and go, brothers marry and be widowed, had been uprooted several times and witnessed her country at war. She probably no longer believed in happy ever after in quite the same way as she had when she planned the book, but still wanted to share the delightful optimism and spirit of her heroine.

Written initially as First Impression while living at Steventon at her father’s rectory, it became Pride and Prejudice sometime after, and received its final revision at Chawton Cottage, now known as Jane Austen’s House Museum. This is the home from which this most famous novel was published and from where she wrote to her sister Cassandra the now immortal line: “I want to tell you that I have got my own darling child from London” on receiving her first copy of the book.

In this bicentenary year I invite everyone to share in the excitement. Read the book, watch the adaptations, visit the place where it all began.

Pride and Prejudice is my second favourite novel.  I love how Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy have all these misunderstandings and then finally get married and live happily ever after! xx


  1. Yes! Long live Austen.
    I find the points you made about how the Austen who went and revised "First Impressions" would have been much less starry-eyed very interesting. I never really thought about it that way. And "husband hunting butterfly"! That sounds far more like Lydia than Lizzy :P I must read the letters and journals associated with her to get a better view of her actual character.

    Although I do think that you can see Lizzy's wit sprinkled throughout the novel in the observations that the narrative makes on the characters themselves.

    Her own darling child :') Oh Jane, if you could see how your darling's grown now.

    1. I agree with everything you said. I love Pride and Prejudice! Thank you, Jane Austen for a wonderful novel!