Monday, January 7, 2013

Happy 200th Anniversary, Pride and Prejudice

Happy Anniversary, Jane Austen!  Congratulations on the 200th anniversary of "Pride and Prejudice," the book that you called your "darling child."

"Pride and Prejudice" was published two hundred years ago on January 28, 1813.  It is a truth universally acknowledged that it is one of the most beloved books ever written.  It is Austen's most popular novel and, in fact, Jane Austen herself was very happy with it.  She wrote her sister Cassandra: "I want to tell you that I have got my own darling child from London" on receiving her first copy of the book.  Since then the book has become a celebrated classic.  Its original title was "First Impressions" which refers to the book's main theme:  the problems that occur from acting on first impressions of people, without getting to know them better.        

The first line of the book is one of the most famous first lines in literature.

"Pride and Prejudice" was published in three hardcover volumes costing 18 shillings. The publisher was T. Egerton of London who paid 110 pounds for the rights.  He soon made more than four times that from the first two editions of the book, both published in 1813.

Anne Hathaway as Jane Austen in the film "Becoming Jane Austen"

All six of Jane Austen's novels have been made into multiple films and television mini-series.  In 1995 "Pride and Prejudice" was made into a five-hour British mini-series starring Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet and Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy.  This version is often sighted as the best screen adaptation of the book.  In 2005, the book was made into a sumptuous film adaptation directed by British director Joe Wright.  It starred Keira Knightley as Elizabeth and Matthew Macfadyen as Darcy.  There was even a film made about Jane Austen's life (a romanticized version with more fiction than fact) in 2007 --  "Becoming Jane," which starred Anne Hathaway as Jane Austen and James McAvoy as her romantic interest Tom Lefroy.  

The 2005 film of "Pride and Prejudice"

In "Pride and Prejudice" Austen created the unforgettable Bennet family -- five daughters anchored by the intelligent, witty and sensible Lizzie Bennet, a silly mother whose goal in life is to get her daughters married, and the long-suffering father Mr. Bennet who hides from them all in his library.

Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet

With Elizabeth Bennet, Austen created one of the most beloved heroines in literature

"I must confess that I think her as delightful a character as ever appeared in print, and how I shall be able to tolerate those who do not like her at least, I do not know."  Jane Austen in a letter to her sister Cassandra, January 29, 1813

"Mr. Darcy had at first scarcely allowed her to be pretty; he had looked at her without admiration at the ball; and when they next met, he looked at her only to criticize.  But no sooner had he made it clear to himself and his friends that she hardly had a good feature in her face, than he began to find it was rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression in her dark eyes.  To this discovery succeeded some others equally mortifying.  Though he had detected with a critical eye more than one failure of perfect symmetry in her form,he was forced to acknowledge her figure to be light and pleasing; and in spite of his asserting that her manners were not those of the fashionable world, he was caught by their easy playfulness.  Of this she was perfectly unaware; to her he was only the man who made himself agreeable nowhere, and who had not thought her handsome enough to dance with."

Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy

And with Mr. Darcy, she created one of the most romantic heroes


I have always loved the novels of Jane Austen.  With the 200th anniversary of "Pride and Prejudice" coming up, it has been interesting to think about why this book is so popular and why it has stayed eternally fresh.  Maybe it is because Austen's themes are as relevant today as they were at the time of the novel:  love, friendship, money, reputation and personal happiness.  Though she spent most of her life in a small village in the English countryside, Jane Austen understood more about human nature than most.  As the narrator, she communicates her observations about people and delivers her funny social satire in a voice that is wise, ironic and sisterly.  The comedy and wit of the book are as appealing today as they were 200 years ago.  With Elizabeth Bennet, she created a heroine with whom women can identify and most readers love.  And although customs and costumes have changed, this book (as well as her others) contains universal truths that never go out of style.   

But perhaps the theme that keeps readers coming back for more and filmmakers endlessly adapting this book into films is the romance.  In Austen's time, arranged marriages and marriages of convenience were common and yet her heroines are determined to find true love.  "Pride and Prejudice" contains one of the world's most cherished love stories, and, as in most love stories, the hero and heroine have to deal with many stumbling blocks along the way before they can find true happiness.  Like all of Austen's books, "Pride and Prejudice" ends with a marriage and the reader is swept away into the romance and the promise of life lived happily ever after.  And, if truth be told, we all love a happy ending.

We know from her letters that Jane Austen was pleased with "Pride and Prejudice" and her delightful heroine Elizabeth Bennet.  But it would have been hard for her to imagine that 200 years later her book is still being read and adored by millions of fans around the world and is considered to be one of the greatest novels of all time.

Photos one, three, and six via here,  four, eight and ten via here, seven via here, nine via here, and others via pinterest.  


  1. Reading this makes me want to snuggle on the sofa for the day reading P&P.

  2. It's ages since I read Pride and Prejudice, maybe the 200th anniversary is time for a re-read. The Bennets are a wonderful creation. I have to admit that I feel a bit sorry for Mrs Bennet - its not as though there were a wealth of opportunities open for women then, and a good marriage would offer her daughters some security. I think Mr Bennet should take take the whole situation a lot more seriously and not act as though his daughters future didn't matter to him. (I defend Mrs Bennet whenever I can - thank you for giving me the opportunity!) Joanne

  3. One of my top 3 favorite books of all time. I read it every few years, at least. My favorite film (or TV) adaptation was the Joe Wright film. The chemistry between Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy was perfection, and they both physically inhabited their roles as I had always imagined them. Although the British mini series was very well done, I never bought Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, didn't seem severe enough? As soon as I'm done with the book I'm currently reading, I'm going to re-read this in honor of your beautiful post and the 200th anniversary.

  4. You've inspired me once again. I think our book group will have to read this in honor of the 200th anniversary. We've taken to reading and rereading books that pop up in our memories or become relevant via an article or movie. It's fun to bring in our old favorites to share with one another. I'll send your post along to inspire the others. Thanks Sunday

  5. I agree with Kathy that Matthew Macfadyen's Mr. Darcy paired with Keira Knight's Elizabeth Bennett was the best! he is so dreamy when he is standing in the rain declaring, "I love you, most ardently!" I will have to watch it again on Jan 28th in celebration, and reading the book again this month would be fun.

  6. I think the best Elizabeth and Darcy were Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth, but I liked Donald Sutherland and his wife as the best parents. And the book, have read it multiple times and find insights each time. Austen remains timeless. Thanks for reminding us of her birthday.

  7. Thank you Sunday of such pleasant reminders regarding Pride and Prejudice. I know that Olivia Williams also did a film called "Miss Austen Regrets" about Jane Austen's life. It was very well done.

  8. Delightful post, Sunday! I feel like I have been to Jane's 200th anniversary bash and have met all the important P&P guests. Thank you for the reminder, the pictures, the words.

  9. Lovely post, it makes me want to watch the film or the series again, (I liked both). Very inspiring!

    kind regards,