28 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:
- Who is your favourite character amongst Jane’s galaxy? Elizabeth Bennett, Mr Darcy, Captain Wentworth…
- Who is the best Elizabeth Bennett portrayal? What is the best screen version of Pride and Prejudice, … or best Mr Darcy. Some online help is here.
I always fancied David Rintoul and Elizabeth Garvie in 1980 BBC/ABC version
- Did you know there is a Pride and Prejudice board game?
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 seeAn English spinster of the middle classDescribe the amorous effects of ‘brass’,Reveal so frankly and with such sobriety,The economic basis of society.