Happy birthday Pride and Prejudice!

book cover28 January 2013 marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice. In those 200 years it has earned all kinds of tags – greatest novel in the English language, most loved, most popular. On my first reading of it I loved it but thought how much it had provided a template for many romance novels. You know – haughty bloke and stroppy gal go head to head before realising the error of their ways and falling into each other’s arms at the end.

This is certainly played out in the many film and television adaptations. When you read the book you can go beyond the romance novel machinations. Jane Austen actually says a lot about the condition of  women in her society – a future secured only by marriage, power only through titled status, intelligent women like Elizabeth and her friend Charlotte Lucas trapped in their situations with marriage the only way out, the risk of predatory men like George Wickham, and how easily a woman (and her sisters) can be ruined.

I think it is her humour, her portrayal of society in the country and places like London, Bath and Portsmouth, of families, of women helping women, of women undermining women and the sharp eyed detail for character make her books so attractive to us and the film makers. The quality of her writing is such that you can read her again and again and not be disappointed.

Some frivolous bits:

And finally thanks to the magic of Wikipedia, here is W.H. Auden (from his poem Letter to Lord Byron):

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.

Christchurch – this week in history (28 January – 3 February)

31 January 1921
New Zealand’s first regular airmail service begins between Christchurch, Ashburton and Timaru.

2 February 1960
Burnside High School opens. For a long time it was the biggest high school in the Southern Hemisphere.

2 February 1974
Commonwealth Games end with “the greatest middle distance race of all time”. Tanzanian Filbert Bayi wins the 1500 metres in new world record time. Second was John Walker who also broke the existing record. The national records of five countries Tanzania, Kenya, Australia, Great Britain and New Zealand – were all broken in this race.

3 February 1915
Canterbury Battalion sustains New Zealand’s first casualties of W.W.I at Suez Canal. Read the letters of Cecil Malthus who spent three years in the Canterbury Battalion.

More January and February events in our Christchurch chronology.