Pride and Prejudice
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|Publisher||T. Egerton, Whitehall|
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|Media type||Print (Hardback, 3 volumes)|
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|Preceded by||Sense and Sensibility|
|Followed by||Mansfield Park|
|Text||Pride and Prejudice at Wikisource|
Pride and Prejudice is a novel of manners by Jane Austen, first published in 1813. The story follows the main character, Elizabeth Bennet, as she deals with issues of manners, upbringing, morality, education, and marriage in the society of the landed gentry of the British Regency. Elizabeth is the second of five daughters of a country gentleman, Mr. Bennet living in Longbourn. File:Letter from Jane Austen to her sister Cassandra, 1799 June 11. Page 2 (NLA).tiff
Set in England in the early 19th century, Pride and Prejudice tells the story of Mr and Mrs Bennet's five unmarried daughters after the rich and eligible Mr Bingley and his status-conscious friend, Mr Darcy, have moved into their neighbourhood. While Bingley takes an immediate liking to the eldest Bennet daughter, Jane, Darcy has difficulty adapting to local society and repeatedly clashes with the second-eldest Bennet daughter, Elizabeth.
Pride and Prejudice retains a fascination for modern readers, continuing near the top of lists of "most loved books." It has become one of the most popular novels in English literature, selling over 20 million copies, and receives considerable attention from literary scholars. Modern interest in the book has resulted in a number of dramatic adaptations and an abundance of novels and stories imitating Austen's memorable characters or themes.
- 1 Plot summary
- 2 Main characters
- 2.1 Elizabeth Bennet
- 2.2 Mr Darcy
- 2.3 Mr Bennet
- 2.4 Mrs Bennet
- 2.5 Jane Bennet
- 2.6 Mary Bennet
- 2.7 Catherine Bennet
- 2.8 Lydia Bennet
- 2.9 Charles Bingley
- 2.10 Caroline Bingley
- 2.11 George Wickham
- 2.12 William Collins
- 2.13 Lady Catherine de Bourgh
- 2.14 Aunt and Uncle Gardiner
- 2.15 Georgiana Darcy
- 2.16 Charlotte Lucas
- 2.17 Louisa Hurst
- 2.18 Interrelationships
- 2.19 Family trees
- 3 Major themes
- 4 Style
- 5 Publication history
- 6 Reception
- 7 Adaptations
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
The novel centres on Elizabeth Bennet, the second of the five daughters of a landed country gentleman. Elizabeth's father, Mr Bennet, is a bookish man and somewhat neglectful of his responsibilities. In contrast Elizabeth's mother, Mrs Bennet, a woman who lacks social graces, is primarily concerned with finding suitable husbands for her five daughters. Jane Bennet, the eldest daughter, is distinguished by her kindness and beauty; Elizabeth Bennet shares her father's keen wit and occasionally sarcastic outlook; Mary is not pretty but is studious, devout and musical albeit lacking in taste; Catherine, sometimes called Kitty, the fourth sister, follows where her younger sister leads while Lydia is flirtatious and lacks maturity.
The narrative opens with news in the Bennet family that Mr Bingley, a wealthy, charismatic and sociable young bachelor, is moving into Netherfield Park in the neighbourhood. Mr Bingley is soon well received while his friend Mr Darcy makes a less favourable impression by appearing proud and condescending at a ball that they attend (he detests dancing and is not one for light conversation). Mr Bingley singles out Jane for particular attention, and it soon becomes apparent that they have formed an attachment to each other. While Jane does not alter her conduct for him, she confesses her great happiness only to Lizzie. By contrast, Darcy slights Elizabeth, who overhears and jokes about it despite feeling a budding resentment.
On paying a visit to Mr Bingley's sister, Caroline, Jane is caught in a heavy downpour, catching cold, and is forced to stay at Netherfield for several days. Elizabeth arrives to nurse her sister and is thrown into frequent company with Mr Darcy, who begins to act less coldly towards her.
Mr Collins, a clergyman and heir to Longbourn, the Bennet estate, pays a visit to the Bennets. Mr Bennet and Elizabeth are much amused by his obsequious veneration of his employer, the noble Lady Catherine de Bourgh, as well as by his self-important and pedantic nature. It soon becomes apparent that Mr Collins has come to Longbourn to choose a wife from among the Bennet sisters (his cousins), and Jane is initially singled out, but because of Jane's budding romance with Mr Bingley, Mrs Bennet directs him toward Elizabeth. After refusing his advances, much to the consternation of her mother, Elizabeth instead forms an acquaintance with Mr Wickham, a militia officer who relates having been very seriously mistreated by Mr Darcy despite having been a godson and favourite of Darcy's father. The accusation and her attraction to Mr Wickham both increase Elizabeth's dislike of Mr Darcy.
At a ball given by Mr Bingley at Netherfield, Mr Darcy becomes aware of a general expectation that Mr Bingley and Jane will marry, and the Bennet family, with the exception of Jane and Elizabeth, make a public display of poor manners and decorum. The following morning, Mr Collins proposes marriage to Elizabeth, who refuses him, much to her mother's distress. Mr Collins recovers and promptly becomes engaged to Elizabeth's close friend Charlotte Lucas, a homely woman with few prospects. Mr Bingley abruptly quits Netherfield and returns to London, which devastates Jane, and Elizabeth becomes convinced that Mr Darcy and Caroline Bingley have conspired to separate him from Jane.
Jane is persuaded by letters from Caroline Bingley that Mr Bingley is not in love with her but goes on an extended visit to Aunt and Uncle Gardiner in London in the hope of maintaining her relationship with Caroline, if not with Charles Bingley. There, she visits Caroline and, eventually, her visit is returned. She does not see Mr Bingley and is forced to realise that Caroline does not care for her.
In the spring, Elizabeth visits Charlotte and Mr Collins in Kent. Elizabeth and her hosts are frequently invited to Rosings Park, the home of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Darcy's aunt; coincidentally, Darcy also arrives to visit. Elizabeth meets Darcy's cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, who vouches for Darcy's loyalty by using as an example how Darcy had recently stepped in on behalf of a friend, who had formed an attachment to a woman against whom "there were some very strong objection". Elizabeth rightly assumes that the said friend is none other than Mr Bingley, and her dislike of Darcy deepens. Thus, she is no mood to accept when Darcy arrives and, quite unexpectedly, confesses love for her and begs her hand in marriage. His proposal is flattering, as he is a very distinguished man, but it is delivered in a manner that is ill suited. He talks of love but also of revulsion at her inferior position and family. Despite assertions to the contrary, he assumes she will accept him.
Elizabeth rebukes him, and a heated discussion follows; she charges him with destroying the happiness of both her sister and Bingley, with treating Mr Wickham disgracefully and with having conducted himself towards her in an arrogant, ungentleman-like manner. Mr Darcy, shocked, ultimately responds with a letter giving a good account of his actions: Wickham had exchanged his legacies for a cash payment, only to return after frittering away the money to reclaim the forfeited inheritance; Wickham then attempted to elope with Darcy's young sister, Georgiana, which would have secured her fortune for himself. Regarding Jane and Bingley, Darcy claims he had observed no reciprocal interest in Jane for Bingley and had assumed that she was not in love with him. In addition to this, he cites the "want of propriety" in the behaviour of Mr and Mrs Bennet and her three younger daughters. Elizabeth, who had previously despaired over this very behavior, is forced to admit the truth of Mr Darcy's observations, and begins to see that she has misjudged him. She, quite rightly, attributes her prejudice to his coldness towards herself at the beginning of their acquaintance.
Some months later, Elizabeth and her aunt and uncle Gardiner visit Pemberley, Darcy's estate, believing he will be absent for the day. He returns unexpectedly and is surprised but gracious and welcoming, quite unlike his usual self. He treats the Gardiners very civilly, surprising Elizabeth, who assumes he will "decamp immediately" on learning who they are. Darcy introduces Elizabeth to his sister, which Elizabeth knows is the highest compliment he can bestow. Elizabeth begins to acknowledge her own attraction to him. Their reacquaintance is cut short, however, by the news that Lydia has eloped with Mr Wickham. Elizabeth and the Gardiners return to Longbourn (the Bennet family home), where Elizabeth grieves that her renewed acquaintance with Mr Darcy will end as a result of her sister's disgrace.
Lydia and Wickham are soon found and are persuaded to marry, which enables the Bennet family to preserve some appearance of decorum. Jane, Elizabeth and Mr Bennet conclude that Uncle Gardiner must have bribed Wickham to marry Lydia, and they are ashamed of their indebtedness and inability to repay him.
Mrs Bennet, quite typically, has no such scruples; being ecstatic to have a daughter married, she never stops to consider the want of propriety and honesty throughout the affair. Mr and Mrs Wickham visit Longbourn, where Lydia lets slip that Mr Darcy attended their wedding but that it was to have been a secret. From a letter, Elizabeth discovers from Aunt Gardiner that in fact, Mr Darcy was responsible for finding the couple and negotiating their marriage at great personal and monetary expense for him. Elizabeth is shocked and flattered as "her heart did whisper that he had done it for her" but is unable to dwell further on the topic because of Mr Bingley's return and subsequent proposal to Jane, who immediately accepts.
Lady Catherine de Bourgh pays an unexpected visit to Longbourn. She has heard a rumour that Elizabeth will marry Mr Darcy and attempts to persuade Elizabeth to agree not to marry. Lady Catherine wants Mr Darcy to marry her daughter (his cousin) Anne De Bourgh and thinks that Elizabeth is beneath him. Elizabeth refuses her demands. Disgusted, Lady Catherine leaves, promising that the marriage can never take place. Elizabeth assumes she will apply to Darcy and is worried that he may be persuaded.
Darcy returns to Longbourn. Chance allows Elizabeth and Darcy a rare moment alone. She immediately thanks him for intervening in the case of Lydia and Wickham. He renews his proposal of marriage and is promptly accepted. Elizabeth soon learns that his hopes were revived by his aunt's report of Elizabeth's refusal to promise not to marry him.
The novel closes with a 'happily-ever-after' chapter including a summary of the remaining lives of the main characters. None of the characters changes very much in this summary, but Kitty has grown slightly more sensible from association with Jane and Elizabeth and distance from Lydia, and Lady Catherine eventually condescends to visit the Darcy family.
Elizabeth Bennet The reader sees the unfolding plot and the other characters mostly from her viewpoint. The second of the Bennet daughters, she is twenty years old and is intelligent, lively, playful, attractive, and witty—but with a tendency to judge on first impression (the "prejudice" of the title) and perhaps to be a little selective of the evidence on which she bases her judgments. As the plot begins, her closest relationships are with her father, her sister Jane, her aunt (Mrs Gardiner), and her best friend Charlotte Lucas. As the story progresses, so does her relationship with Mr Darcy. The course of Elizabeth and Darcy's relationship is ultimately decided when Darcy overcomes his pride, and Elizabeth overcomes her prejudice, leading them both to surrender to their love for each other.
Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy is the male protagonist of the novel and is twenty eight years old. He is the wealthy owner of the renowned family estate of Pemberley in Derbyshire, and is rumoured to be worth at least £10,000 a year. This is equivalent to anywhere from around £200,000 a year to around £10 million a year in 2014, depending on the method of calculation, but such an income would have put him among the 400 wealthiest families in the country at the time. Handsome, tall, and intelligent, Darcy lacks the social ease that comes so naturally to his friend Bingley. Others frequently mistake his aloof decorum and rectitude as further proof of excessive pride (he is the "pride" of the title). While he makes a poor impression on strangers, such as the landed gentry of Meryton, Darcy is greatly valued by those who know him well.
As the novel progresses, Darcy and Elizabeth are repeatedly forced into each other's company, resulting in each altering their feelings for the other through better acquaintance and changes in environment. At the end of the work, both overcome their differences and first impressions to fall in love with each other.
Mr Bennet is the patriarch of the Bennet family, a gentleman of modest income with five unmarried daughters. Mr Bennet has an ironic, cynical sense of humour that irritates his wife. Though he loves his daughters (Elizabeth in particular), he often fails as a parent, preferring to withdraw from the never-ending marriage concerns of the women around him rather than offer help. In fact, he often enjoys laughing at the sillier members of his family, partially the reason many have fatal faults, as he has not taken pains to amend them. Although he possesses inherited property, it is entailed—that is, it can only pass to male heirs—so his daughters will be on their own upon his death.
Mrs Bennet is the wife of her socially superior Mr Bennet and mother of Elizabeth and her sisters. She is frivolous, excitable, and narrow-minded, and she imagines herself susceptible to attacks of tremors and palpitations when she is displeased. Her public manners and social climbing are embarrassing to Jane and Elizabeth. Her favourite daughter is the youngest, Lydia, who reminds her of herself when younger, though she values the beauty of the eldest, Jane. Her main ambition in life is to marry her daughters to wealthy men; whether or not any such matches will give her daughters happiness is of little concern to her.
Jane Bennet is the eldest Bennet sister. Twenty-two years old when the novel begins, she is considered the most beautiful young lady in the neighbourhood. Her character is contrasted with Elizabeth's as sweeter, shyer, and equally sensible, but not as clever; her most notable trait is a desire to see only the good in others. As Anna Quindlen wrote, Jane is "sugar to Elizabeth's lemonade." Jane is closest to Elizabeth, and her character is often contrasted with that of Elizabeth. She is favoured by her mother because of her beauty.
She falls in love with Mr Bingley, a rich man who has recently moved to Hertfordshire, and a close friend of Mr Darcy. Their love is initially thwarted by Mr Darcy and Caroline Bingley, who are concerned by Jane's low connections and have other plans for Bingley. Mr Darcy, aided by Elizabeth, eventually sees the error in his ways and is instrumental in bringing Jane and Bingley back together.
Mary Bennet is the only plain Bennet sister, and rather than join in some of the family activities, she mostly reads and plays music, although she is often impatient to display her accomplishments and is rather vain about them. She works hard for knowledge and accomplishment, but has neither genius nor taste. Like her two younger sisters, Kitty and Lydia, she is seen as being silly by Mr Bennet. Mary is not very intelligent but thinks of herself as being wise. When Mr Collins is refused by Elizabeth, Mrs Bennet hopes Mary may be prevailed upon to accept him and we are led to believe that Mary has some hopes in this direction, but neither of them know that he is already engaged to Charlotte Lucas by this time. Mary does not appear often in the novel.
Catherine, or Kitty, Bennet is the fourth daughter at 17 years old. She is the shadow of Lydia, although older than she, she follows in her pursuits of the 'Officers' of the regiment. She appears but little, although she is often portrayed as envious of Lydia and also a 'silly' young woman. However, it is said that she has improved by the end of the novel.
Lydia Bennet is the youngest Bennet sister, aged 15 when the novel begins. She is frivolous and headstrong. Her main activity in life is socializing, especially flirting with the officers of the militia. This leads to her elopement with George Wickham, although he has no intention of marrying her. She dominates her older sister Kitty and is supported in the family by her mother. Lydia shows no regard for the moral code of her society, and no remorse for the disgrace she causes her family.
Charles Bingley is a handsome, good-natured, and wealthy young gentleman of 23, who rents Netherfield Park near Longbourn. He is contrasted with his friend Mr Darcy as being more kind and more charming and having more generally pleasing manners, although not quite so clever. He lacks resolve and is easily influenced by others. His two sisters, Caroline Bingley and Louisa Hurst, both disapprove of Bingley's growing affection for Jane Bennet.
Caroline Bingley is the snobbish sister of Charles Bingley, with a dowry of twenty thousand pounds. Miss Bingley harbours romantic intentions for Mr Darcy and therefore is jealous of his growing attachment to Elizabeth. She attempts to dissuade Mr Darcy from liking Elizabeth by ridiculing the Bennet family in Darcy's presence, as she realises that this is the main aspect of Elizabeth with which she can find fault. She also attempts to convey her own superiority over Elizabeth, by being notably more polite and complimentary towards Darcy throughout. She often compliments his younger sister, Georgiana - suspecting that he will agree with what she says about her. Miss Bingley also disapproves of her brother's esteem for Jane Bennet, and it is acknowledged later that she, with Darcy, attempts to separate the couple. She sends Jane letters describing her brother's growing love for Georgiana Darcy, in attempt to convince Jane of Bingley's indifference towards her. When Jane goes to London she ignores her for a period of four weeks, despite Jane's frequent invitations for her to call upon her. When she eventually does, she is rude and cold, and is unapologetic for her failure to respond to Jane's letters. Jane, who is always determined not to find fault with anybody, is forced to admit that she had been deceived in thinking she had a genuine friendship with Caroline Bingley, the realisation of which she relays to Elizabeth in a letter.
fr has been acquainted with Mr Darcy since childhood, being the son of Mr Darcy's father's steward. An officer in the militia, he is superficially charming and rapidly forms an attachment with Elizabeth Bennet. He spreads tales about the wrongs Mr Darcy has done him, adding to the local society's prejudice, but eventually he is found to have been the wrongdoer himself. He elopes with Lydia, with no intention of marrying her, which would have resulted in her complete disgrace, but for Darcy's intervention to bribe Wickham to marry her.
William Collins, aged 25, is Mr Bennet's clergyman cousin and heir to his estate. He is "not a sensible man, and the deficiency of nature had been but little assisted by education or society". Mr Collins is obsequious, and lacking in common sense. Elizabeth's rejection of Mr Collins's marriage proposal is welcomed by her father, regardless of the financial benefit to the family of such a match. Mr Collins then marries Elizabeth's friend, Charlotte Lucas.
Lady Catherine de Bourgh
Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who possesses wealth and social standing, is haughty, pompous, domineering, and condescending, although her manner is seen by some as entirely proper and even admirable. Mr Collins, for example, is shown to admire these characteristics by deferring to her opinions and desires. Elizabeth, by contrast, is duly respectful but not intimidated. Lady Catherine's nephew, Mr Darcy, is offended by her lack of manners, especially towards Elizabeth, and he later courts her disapproval by marrying Elizabeth in spite of her numerous objections.
Aunt and Uncle Gardiner
Aunt and Uncle Gardiner: Edward Gardiner is Mrs Bennet's brother and a successful businessman of sensible and gentlemanly character. Aunt Gardiner is close to her nieces Jane and Elizabeth. Jane stays with the Gardiners in London for a period, and Elizabeth travels with them to Derbyshire, where she again meets Mr Darcy. The Gardiners are quick in their perception of an attachment between Elizabeth and Mr Darcy, and judge him without prejudice. They are both actively involved in helping Mr Darcy arrange the marriage between Lydia and Mr Wickham.
Georgiana Darcy is Mr Darcy's quiet, amiable, and shy younger sister, aged 16 when the story begins. When 15, Miss Darcy almost eloped with Mr Wickham, who sought her thirty thousand pound dowry. Miss Darcy is introduced to Elizabeth at Pemberley and is later delighted at the prospect of becoming her sister-in-law. Georgiana is extremely timid and gets embarrassed fairly easily. She idolises her brother Mr Darcy (Fitzwilliam Darcy), and the two share an extremely close sibling bond, much like Jane and Elizabeth. She is extremely talented at the piano, singing, playing the harp, and drawing. She is also very modest.
Charlotte Lucas is Elizabeth's friend who, at 27 years old, fears becoming a burden to her family and therefore agrees to marry Mr Collins, whom she does not love, to gain financial security. Though the novel stresses the importance of love and understanding in marriage (as seen in the anticipated success of Elizabeth–Darcy relationship), Austen never seems to condemn Charlotte's decision to marry for money. Austen uses Lucas as the common voice of early 19th Century society's views on relationships and marriage. She is the daughter of Sir William Lucas and Lady Lucas, friends of Mrs. Bennet.
Louisa Hurst is the older sister to Caroline Bingley and Charles Bingley, and wife of Mr Hurst. She is the nicer of the two sisters, but like Caroline, she doesn't encourage her brother's admiration toward Jane Bennet because of her connections.
Many critics take the novel's title as a starting point when analysing the major themes of Pride and Prejudice; however, Robert Fox cautions against reading too much into the title because commercial factors may have played a role in its selection. "After the success of Sense and Sensibility, nothing would have seemed more natural than to bring out another novel of the same author using again the formula of antithesis and alliteration for the title. It should be pointed out that the qualities of the title are not exclusively assigned to one or the other of the protagonists; both Elizabeth and Darcy display pride and prejudice." The title is very likely taken from a passage in Fanny Burney's popular 1782 novel Cecilia, a novel Austen is known to have admired:
"The whole of this unfortunate business," said Dr. Lyster, "has been the result of PRIDE and PREJUDICE. ... Yet this, however, remember: if to PRIDE and PREJUDICE you owe your miseries, so wonderfully is good and evil balanced, that to PRIDE and PREJUDICE you will also owe their termination ..." (Capitalization as in the original.)
A major theme in much of Austen's work is the importance of environment and upbringing on the development of young people's character and morality. Social standing and wealth are not necessarily advantages in her world, and a further theme common to Austen's work is ineffectual parents. In Pride and Prejudice, the failure of Mr and Mrs Bennet as parents is blamed for Lydia's lack of moral judgment; Darcy, on the other hand, has been taught to be principled and scrupulously honourable, but he is also proud and overbearing. Kitty, rescued from Lydia's bad influence and spending more time with her older sisters after they marry, is said to improve greatly in their superior society.
Pride and Prejudice is also about that thing that all great novels consider, the search for self. And it is the first great novel that teaches us this search is as surely undertaken in the drawing room making small talk as in the pursuit of a great white whale or the public punishment of adultery.
The opening line of the novel announces: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." This sets the marriage motif of the novel. It turns out that rather than the man being in want of a wife, the woman is in want of a husband who is "in possession of good fortune". Charlotte Lucas, Lydia Bennet, Jane Bennet and Elizabeth Bennet get married to men who are sufficiently appropriate for each of them. Marriage becomes an economic rather than social activity. In the case of Charlotte, the seeming success of the marriage lies in the comfortable economy of their household. The relationship of Mr and Mrs Bennet serves to illustrate all that a marriage relationship should not be. Elizabeth and Darcy marry each other on equal terms after breaking each other's 'pride' and 'prejudice' and Austen clearly leaves the reader with the impression that the two will be the happiest.
Money plays a key role in the marriage market, not only for the young ladies seeking a well-off husband, but also for men who wish to marry a woman of means. Two examples are George Wickham, who tried to elope with Georgiana Darcy, and Colonel Fitzwilliam. Marrying a woman of a rich family also ensured a linkage to a high family as is visible in the desires of Bingley's sisters to have their brother married to Georgiana Darcy.
Inheritance was governed by laws of entailment. When there was no heir to the estate, the family had to entail its fortune to a distant cousin. In the case of the Bennet family, Mr Collins was to inherit and his proposal to Elizabeth would have allowed her to have a share. Nevertheless, she refused his offer. Inheritance laws benefited males because most women did not have independent legal rights until the second half of the 19th century. As a consequence, women's financial security at the time the novel is set depended on men. For the upper middle and aristocratic classes, marriage to a man with a reliable income was almost the only route to security for the woman and her future children.
Much of the pride and prejudice in the novel exists because of class divisions. Darcy's first impressions on Elizabeth are coloured by his snobbery. He cannot bring himself to love Elizabeth or at least acknowledge his love for her even in his own heart because of his pride. His first proposal clearly reflects this attitude: "In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you."  Also, Elizabeth quickly believes Wickham's account of Darcy because of her prejudice against him. Lady Catherine and the Bingley sisters belong to the snobbish category. Mr Bingley shows complete disregard to class. Because Mr Bingley's fortune comes from trade, it would actually be a benefit socially to marry a gentleman's daughter, such as Jane.
Elizabeth and Darcy were not born a great match. It is through their interactions and their critiques of each other that they recognize their faults and work to correct them. Elizabeth meditates on her own mistakes thoroughly in chapter 36: "How despicably have I acted!" she cried; "I, who have prided myself on my discernment! I, who have valued myself on my abilities! who have often disdained the generous candour of my sister, and gratified my vanity in useless or blameable distrust. How humiliating is this discovery! yet, how just a humiliation! Had I been in love, I could not have been more wretchedly blind. But vanity, not love, has been my folly. Pleased with the preference of one, and offended by the neglect of the other, on the very beginning of our acquaintance, I have courted prepossession and ignorance, and driven reason away, where either were concerned. Till this moment I never knew myself."
Pride and Prejudice, like most of Austen's other works, employs the narrative technique of free indirect speech, which has been defined as 'the free representation of a character's speech, by which one means, not words actually spoken by a character, but the words that typify the character's thoughts, or the way the character would think or speak, if she thought or spoke'. By using narrative that adopts the tone and vocabulary of a particular character (in this case, Elizabeth), Austen invites the reader to follow events from Elizabeth's viewpoint, sharing her prejudices and misapprehensions. 'The learning curve, while undergone by both protagonists, is disclosed to us solely through Elizabeth's point of view and her free indirect speech is essential ... for it is through it that we remain caught, if not stuck, within Elizabeth's misprisions'.
Austen began writing the novel after staying at Goodnestone Park in Kent with her brother Edward and his wife in 1796. The novel was originally titled First Impressions by Jane Austen, and was written between October 1796 and August 1797. On 1 November 1797 Austen's father sent a letter to London bookseller Thomas Cadell to ask if he had any interest in seeing the manuscript, but the offer was declined by return of post.
Austen made significant revisions to the manuscript for First Impressions between 1811 and 1812. As nothing remains of the original manuscript, we are reduced to conjecture. From the large number of letters in the final novel, it is assumed that First Impressions was an epistolary novel. She later renamed the story Pride and Prejudice. In renaming the novel, Austen probably had in mind the "sufferings and oppositions" summarised in the final chapter of Fanny Burney's Cecilia, called "Pride and Prejudice", where the phrase appears three times in block capitals. It is possible that the novel's original title was altered to avoid confusion with other works. In the years between the completion of First Impressions and its revision into Pride and Prejudice, two other works had been published under that name: a novel by Margaret Holford and a comedy by Horace Smith.
Austen sold the copyright for the novel to Thomas Egerton of Whitehall in exchange for £110 (Austen had asked for £150). This proved a costly decision. Austen had published Sense and Sensibility on a commission basis, whereby she indemnified the publisher against any losses and received any profits, less costs and the publisher's commission. Unaware that Sense and Sensibility would sell out its edition, making her £140, she passed the copyright to Egerton for a one-off payment, meaning that all the risk (and all the profits) would be his. Jan Fergus has calculated that Egerton subsequently made around £450 from just the first two editions of the book.
Egerton published the first edition of Pride and Prejudice in three hardcover volumes on 27 January 1813. It was advertised in the Morning Chronicle, priced at 18s. Favourable reviews saw this edition sold out, with a second edition published in November that year. A third edition was published in 1817.
Foreign language translations first appeared in 1813 in French; subsequent translations were published in German, Danish, and Swedish. Pride and Prejudice was first published in the United States in August 1832 as Elizabeth Bennet or, Pride and Prejudice. The novel was also included in Richard Bentley's Standard Novel series in 1833. R. W. Chapman's scholarly edition of Pride and Prejudice, first published in 1923, has become the standard edition from which many modern publications of the novel are based.
The novel was well received, with three favourable reviews in the first months following publication. Anne Isabella Milbanke, later to be the wife of Lord Byron, called it "the fashionable novel". Noted critic and reviewer George Henry Lewes declared that he "would rather have written Pride and Prejudice, or Tom Jones, than any of the Waverley Novels".
Charlotte Brontë, however, in a letter to Lewes, wrote that Pride and Prejudice was a disappointment, "a carefully fenced, highly cultivated garden, with neat borders and delicate flowers; but ... no open country, no fresh air, no blue hill, no bonny beck."
- In 2003 the BBC conducted the largest ever poll for the "UK's Best-Loved Book" in which Pride and Prejudice came second, behind The Lord of the Rings.
- In a 2008 survey of more than 15,000 Australian readers, Pride and Prejudice came first in a list of the 101 best books ever written.
- The 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice on 28 January 2013 was celebrated around the globe by media networks such as The Huffington Post, The New York Times, and The Daily Telegraph, among others.
Film, television and theatre
Pride and Prejudice has engendered numerous adaptations. Some of the notable film versions include that of 1940 starring Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier (based in part on Helen Jerome's 1936 stage adaptation) and that of 2005 starring Keira Knightley (an Oscar-nominated performance) and Matthew Macfadyen. Notable television versions include two by the BBC: the popular 1995 version, starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth, and a 1980 version starring Elizabeth Garvie and David Rintoul. A 1936 stage version was created by Helen Jerome played at the St. James's Theatre in London, starring Celia Johnson and Hugh Williams. First Impressions was a 1959 Broadway musical version starring Polly Bergen, Farley Granger, and Hermione Gingold. In 1995, a musical concept album was written by Bernard J. Taylor, with Claire Moore in the role of Elizabeth Bennet and Peter Karrie in the role of Mr Darcy. A new stage production, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, The New Musical, was presented in concert on 21 October 2008 in Rochester, New York, with Colin Donnell as Darcy.
The novel has inspired a number of other works that are not direct adaptations. Books inspired by Pride and Prejudice include the following: Mr. Darcy's Daughters and The Exploits and Adventures of Miss Alethea Darcy by Elizabeth Aston; Darcy's Story (a best seller) and Dialogue with Darcy by Janet Aylmer; Pemberley: Or Pride and Prejudice Continued and An Unequal Marriage: Or Pride and Prejudice Twenty Years Later by Emma Tennant; The Book of Ruth by Helen Baker (author); Jane Austen Ruined My Life and Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart by Beth Pattillo; Precipitation – A Continuation of Miss Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice by Helen Baker (author); Searching for Pemberley by Mary Simonsen and Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife and its sequel Darcy & Elizabeth: Nights and Days at Pemberly by Linda Berdoll.
In Gwyn Cready's comedic romance novel, Seducing Mr. Darcy, the heroine lands in Pride and Prejudice by way of magic massage, has a fling with Darcy and unknowingly changes the rest of the story.
Abigail Reynolds is the author of 7 Regency-set variations on Pride and Prejudice. Her Pemberley Variations series includes Mr. Darcy's Obsession, To Conquer Mr. Darcy, What Would Mr. Darcy Do and Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World. Her modern adaptation, The Man Who Loved Pride and Prejudice, is set on Cape Cod.
Helen Fielding's 1996 novel Bridget Jones's Diary is also based on Pride and Prejudice and spawned a feature film of the same name, released in 2001.
In March 2009, Quirk Books released Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which takes Austen's actual, original work and mashes it up with zombie hordes, cannibalism, ninja and ultraviolent mayhem. In March 2010, Quirk Books published a prequel that deals with Elizabeth Bennet's early days as a zombie hunter, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls.
In 2011, author Mitzi Szereto expanded on the novel in Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts, a historical sex parody that parallels the original plot and writing style of Jane Austen.
Marvel has also published their take on this classic by releasing a short comic series of five issues that stays true to the original storyline. The first issue was published on 1 April 2009 and was written by Nancy Hajeski. It was published as a graphic novel in 2010 with artwork by Hugo Petrus.
Pamela Aidan is the author of a trilogy of books telling the story of Pride and Prejudice from Mr Darcy's point of view: Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman. The books are An Assembly Such as This, Duty and Desire and These Three Remain.
Sandra Lerner's sequel to Pride and Prejudice, Second Impressions, develops the story and imagined what might have happened to the original novel's characters. It is written in the style of Austen after extensive research into the period and language and published in 2011 under the pen name of Ava Farmer.
Jo Baker's 2013 novel Longbourn imagines the lives of the servants of Pride and Prejudice.
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