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.

4 thoughts on “Happy birthday Pride and Prejudice!

  1. Robyn 28 January 2013 / 11:13 am

    Happy birthday Pride and Prejudice, for being the only bright spot in Form Three English (Form Three really dates me – I hope it’s still a bright spot for Year Nines), for being a familiar friend in Stage One English (dated again), for being a book that repays re-reading many times, for introducing me to Jane Austen and two books that I consider to be superior to you – Emma and Persuasion.
    Colin Firth’s Mr Darcy – yesterday, today and tomorrow.

  2. karenbccl 28 January 2013 / 11:35 am

    Have read the book many times and really enjoyed the 1980 BBC/ABC version when it was first shown. Happy Birthday to a 200 year old Classic.

  3. Helen Lowe 28 January 2013 / 5:47 pm

    The Fay Weldon screenplay version (Elizabeth Garvie/ David Rintoul) is handsdown my favourite production with Elizabeth Garvie as my favourite Elizabeth–but for Darcy, well, like Robyn, I have to vote for Colin Firth :)

  4. Donna 29 January 2013 / 11:51 am

    Belated Pride & Prej info: Sexy 70s Darcy actor David Rintoul now does voices on Peppa Pig, namely Granddad Dog & Mr Bull & the Doctor. I can’t decide between David and Colin for the best Darcy – perhaps a wet shirted battle is required.

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