Monday 28th January is the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in 1813. I never tire of reading it.
Re-reading Jane’s novel isn’t just a case of re-discovering an old friend; it’s a journey of discovery, a realisation there were so many delights I missed last time.
Pride and Prejudice is, first and foremost, a wonderful love story; but Jane Austen’s ‘darling child’ is much more than just a romance. Her sparkling characters, her sure touch for comedy, and the elegance of her language are just the icing on the cake.
There are so many layers of riches in her work; the exploration of an age-old human problem, some of the most dramatic scenes in English literature (Darcy’s proposal to Elizabeth is my favourite), and, I believe, a closer acquaintance with Jane herself.
I instinctively feel that Jane, a very private person, would not knowingly have created her own self-portrait for public display. However, many of Elizabeth’s speeches and her sense of fun bear an uncanny resemblance to some humorous passages in Jane’s letters.
When Elizabeth Bennett says, “I dearly love a laugh,” I can’t help thinking that this is the real Jane Austen, speaking to us in person.
Images: The frontispiece to an 1833 edition of Pride and Prejudice, reproduced in R. Brimley Johnson, Jane Austen: Her Life, Her Work, Her Family and Her Critics, J. M. Dent & Sons, 1930.
Gentlemen’s modes of 1811. French print, c.1830.
Chawton Cottage (Jane Austen’s House Museum), where Jane lived for the last eight years of her life.
© Sue Wilkes