Pride and Prejudice
|Working title||First Impressions|
|Genre||Classic Regency novel |
|Set in||Hertfordshire and Derbyshire, c. 1812|
|Publisher||T. Egerton, Whitehall|
|28 January 1813|
|Media type||Print (hardback, 3 volumes), digitalized|
|LC Class||PR4034 .P7|
|Preceded by||Sense and Sensibility|
|Followed by||Mansfield Park|
|Text||Pride and Prejudice at Wikisource|
Pride and Prejudice is an 1813 novel of manners written by Jane Austen. Though it is mostly called a romantic novel, it is also a satire. The novel follows the character development of Elizabeth Bennet, the dynamic protagonist of the book who learns about the repercussions of hasty judgments and comes to appreciate the difference between superficial goodness and actual goodness.
Mr. Bennet of Longbourn estate has five daughters, but his property is entailed and can only be passed to a male heir. His wife also lacks an inheritance, so his family will be destitute upon his death. Thus, it is imperative that at least one of the girls marry well to support the others, which is a motivation that drives the plot. The novel revolves around the importance of marrying for love rather than money or social prestige, despite the communal pressure to make a wealthy match.
Pride and Prejudice has consistently appeared near the top of lists of "most-loved books" among literary scholars and the reading public. It has become one of the most popular novels in English literature, with over 20 million copies sold, and has inspired many derivatives in modern literature. For more than a century, dramatic adaptations, reprints, unofficial sequels, films, and TV versions of Pride and Prejudice have portrayed the memorable characters and themes of the novel, reaching mass audiences.
In rural England in the early 19th century, Mrs. Bennet attempts to persuade Mr. Bennet to visit Mr. Bingley, a rich bachelor recently arrived in the neighbourhood. After some verbal sparring with her husband, Mrs. Bennet believes he will not call on Mr. Bingley. Shortly afterwards, he visits Netherfield, Mr. Bingley's rented residence, much to Mrs. Bennet's delight. The visit is followed by an invitation to a ball at the local assembly rooms that the entire neighbourhood will attend.
At the ball, the neighbourhood is introduced to the whole Netherfield party, which consists of Mr. Bingley, his two sisters, the husband of one of his sisters, and Mr. Darcy, his dearest friend. Mr. Bingley's friendly and cheerful manner earns him popularity among the guests. He appears attracted to Jane Bennet (the Bennet's eldest daughter), with whom he dances twice. Mr. Darcy, reputed to be twice as wealthy, is haughty and aloof, causing a decided dislike of him. He declines to dance with Elizabeth (the Bennet's second-eldest daughter), stating that she is not attractive enough to tempt him. Elizabeth finds this amusing and jokes about it with her friends.
Mr. Bingley's sisters, Caroline and Louisa, later invite Jane to Netherfield for dinner. On her way there, Jane is caught in a rain shower and develops a bad cold, forcing her to stay at Netherfield to recuperate, much to Mrs. Bennet's delight. When Elizabeth goes to see Jane, Mr. Darcy finds himself getting attracted to Elizabeth (stating she has "fine eyes"), while Miss Bingley grows jealous, as she herself has designs on Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth herself is indifferent and unaware of his developing interest in her.
Mr. Collins, Mr. Bennet's cousin and the heir to the Longbourn estate, visits the Bennet family. He is a pompous, obsequious clergyman who intends to marry one of the Bennet girls. After learning that Jane may soon be engaged, he quickly decides on Elizabeth, the next daughter in both age and beauty.
Elizabeth and her family meet the dashing and charming army officer, George Wickham, who singles out Elizabeth. He says he is connected to the Darcy family and claims Mr. Darcy deprived him of a "living" (a permanent position as a clergyman in a prosperous parish with good revenue) promised to him by Mr. Darcy's late father. Elizabeth's dislike of Mr. Darcy is confirmed.
At the ball at Netherfield, Mr. Darcy asks Elizabeth to dance, and, despite her vow never to dance with him, she accepts. Excluding Jane and Elizabeth, Elizabeth's mother and younger sisters display a distinct lack of decorum. Mrs. Bennet hints loudly that she fully expects Jane and Bingley to become engaged, and the younger Bennet sisters expose the family to ridicule by their silliness.
Mr. Collins proposes to Elizabeth. She rejects Collins, to her mother's fury and her father's relief. After Elizabeth's rejection, Mr. Collins proposes to Charlotte Lucas, a sensible young woman and Elizabeth's friend. Charlotte is grateful for a proposal that guarantees her a comfortable home and a secure future. Elizabeth is aghast at such pragmatism in matters of love. Shortly afterward, the Bingleys suddenly depart for London with no plans to return, and it appears that Mr. Bingley has no intention of resuming their acquaintance. A heartbroken Jane visits her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner in London to raise her spirits.
In the spring, Elizabeth visits Charlotte and Mr. Collins in Kent. Elizabeth and her hosts are invited to Rosings Park, the imposing home of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, imperious patroness of Mr. Collins and Mr. Darcy's wealthy aunt. Lady Catherine expects Mr. Darcy to marry her daughter, as planned in his childhood by his aunt and mother. Mr. Darcy and his cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, are also visiting at Rosings Park. Fitzwilliam tells Elizabeth how Mr. Darcy recently saved a friend, presumably Bingley, from an undesirable match. Elizabeth realises that the prevented engagement was to Jane and is horrified that Mr. Darcy interfered. Later, Mr. Darcy proposes to Elizabeth, declaring his love for her despite her low social connections. She rejects him angrily, firmly stating that he is the last person she would ever marry and saying she could never love a man who caused her sister such unhappiness; she further accuses him of treating Wickham unjustly. Mr. Darcy brags about his success in separating Bingley and Jane and suggests that he had been kinder to Bingley than to himself. He dismisses the accusation regarding Wickham sarcastically but does not address it.
Later, Mr. Darcy gives Elizabeth a letter, explaining that Wickham, the son of his late father's steward, had refused the living his father had arranged for him and was instead given money for it. Wickham quickly squandered the money and when impoverished, asked for the living again. After being refused, he tried to elope with Darcy's 15-year-old sister, Georgiana, for her considerable dowry. Mr. Darcy also writes that he separated Jane and Bingley due to Jane's reserved behaviour, sincerely believing her indifferent to Bingley, and also because of the lack of propriety displayed by some members of her family. Elizabeth is ashamed by her family's behaviour and her own lack of better judgement that resulted in blinded prejudice against Mr. Darcy.
Some months later, Elizabeth accompanies the Gardiners on a tour of Derbyshire. They visit Pemberley, the Darcy estate, after Elizabeth ascertains Mr. Darcy's absence. The housekeeper there describes Mr. Darcy as kind and generous, recounting several examples of these characteristics. When Mr. Darcy returns unexpectedly, he is exceedingly gracious and later invites Elizabeth and the Gardiners to meet Georgiana and Mr. Gardiner to go fishing. Elizabeth is surprised and delighted by their treatment. Upon meeting, Elizabeth and Georgiana connect well, to his delight. She then receives news that her sister Lydia has run off with Wickham. She tells Mr. Darcy immediately, then departs in haste, believing she will never see him again as Lydia has ruined the family's good name.
After an immensely agonizing interim, Wickham has agreed to marry Lydia. With some veneer of decency restored, Lydia visits the family and tells Elizabeth that Mr. Darcy was at her and Wickham's wedding. Though Mr. Darcy had sworn everyone involved to secrecy, Mrs. Gardiner now feels obliged to inform Elizabeth that he secured the match, at great expense and trouble to himself. She hints that he may have had "another motive" for having done so, implying that she believes Darcy to be in love with Elizabeth.
Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy return to Netherfield. Bingley proposes to Jane, who accepts. Lady Catherine, having heard rumours that Elizabeth intends to marry Mr. Darcy, visits Elizabeth and demands she promise never to accept Mr. Darcy's proposal. Elizabeth refuses and the outraged Lady Catherine withdraws after Elizabeth demands she leave for making insulting comments about her family. Darcy, heartened by his aunt's indignant relaying of Elizabeth's response, again proposes to her and is accepted. Elizabeth has difficulty in convincing her father that she is marrying for love, not position and wealth, but Mr. Bennet is finally convinced. Mrs. Bennet is exceedingly happy to learn of her daughter's match to Mr. Darcy and quickly changes her opinion of him. The novel concludes with an overview of the marriages of the three daughters and the great satisfaction of both parents at the fine, happy matches made by Jane and Elizabeth.
- Elizabeth Bennet – the second-eldest of the Bennet daughters, she is attractive, witty and intelligent – but with a tendency to form tenacious and prejudicial first impressions. 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 – Mr Bingley's friend and the wealthy owner of the family estate of Pemberley in Derbyshire, rumoured to be worth at least £10,000 a year (equivalent to £660,000 in 2019). While he is handsome, tall, and intelligent, Darcy lacks ease and social graces, and so others frequently mistake his initially haughty reserve and rectitude as proof of excessive pride (which, in part, it is). A new visitor to the village, he is ultimately Elizabeth Bennet's love interest. Though he appears to be proud and is largely disliked by people for this reason, his servants vouch for his kindness and decency.
- Mr Bennet – A logical and reasonable late-middle-aged landed gentleman of a modest income of £2000 per annum, and the dryly sarcastic patriarch of the now-dwindling Bennet family (a family of Hertfordshire landed gentry), with five unmarried daughters. His estate, Longbourn, is entailed to the male line. His affection for his wife wore off early in their marriage and is now reduced to mere toleration. He is often described as 'indolent' in the novel.
- Mrs Bennet (née Gardiner) – the middle-aged wife of her social superior, Mr Bennet, and the mother of their five daughters (Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Catherine and Lydia). Mrs Bennet is a hypochondriac who imagines herself susceptible to attacks of tremors and palpitations (her "poor nerves") whenever things are not going her way. Her main ambition in life is to marry her daughters off to wealthy men. Whether or not any such matches will give her daughters happiness is of little concern to her. She was settled a dowry of £4,000 from her father, Mr Gardiner Sr., most likely invested at 4 percent, allowing her to receive £160 per annum; it was indicated by Mr Collins during his proposal to Elizabeth ["to fortune I am perfectly indifferent, and shall make no demands of that nature on your father since I am well aware that it could not be complied with; and that one thousand pounds in the 4 per cents. which will not be yours till after your mother's decease, is all that you may ever be entitled to"] that it is probable that her settlement had increased to £5,000 over the years, but remains invested at 4 percent.
- Jane Bennet – the eldest Bennet sister. She is considered the most beautiful young lady in the neighbourhood and is inclined to see only the good in others (but can be persuaded otherwise on sufficient evidence). She falls in love with Charles Bingley, a rich young gentleman recently moved to Hertfordshire and a close friend of Mr Darcy.
- Mary Bennet – the middle Bennet sister, and the plainest of her siblings. Mary has a serious disposition and mostly reads and plays music, although she is often impatient to display her accomplishments and is rather vain about them. She frequently moralises to her family. According to James Edward Austen-Leigh's A Memoir of Jane Austen, Mary ended up marrying one of her Uncle Philips' law clerks and moving into Meryton with him.
- Catherine "Kitty" Bennet – the fourth Bennet daughter. Though older than Lydia, she is her shadow and follows her in her pursuit of the officers of the militia. She is often portrayed as envious of Lydia and is described as a "silly" young woman. However, it is said that she improved when removed from Lydia's influence. According to James Edward Austen-Leigh's A Memoir of Jane Austen, Kitty later married a clergyman who lived near Pemberley.
- Lydia Bennet – the youngest Bennet sister. She is frivolous and headstrong. Her main activity in life is socializing, especially flirting with the officers of the militia. This leads to her running off with George Wickham, although he has no intention of marrying her. Lydia shows no regard for the moral code of her society; as Ashley Tauchert says, she "feels without reasoning".
- Charles Bingley – a handsome, amiable, wealthy young gentleman (a Nouveau riche) from the north of England (possibly Yorkshire, as Scarborough is mentioned, and there is, in fact, a real-life town called Bingley in West Yorkshire), who leases Netherfield Park, an estate three miles from Longbourn, with the hopes of purchasing it. He is contrasted with Mr Darcy for having more generally pleasing manners, although he is reliant on his more experienced friend for advice. An example of this is the prevention of Bingley and Jane's romance because of Bingley's undeniable dependence on Darcy's opinion. He lacks resolve and is easily influenced by others; his two sisters, Miss Caroline Bingley and Mrs Louisa Hurst, both disapprove of Bingley's growing affection for Miss Jane Bennet. He inherited a fortune of £100,000, which could be either invested at 4 per cents or 5 per cents for a sum of £4,000 or £5,000 per annum.
- Caroline Bingley – the vainglorious, snobbish sister of Charles Bingley, with a fortune of £20,000 (giving her an allowance/pin money of £800 or £1,000 per annum, depending on the percentage of the investment). Miss Bingley harbours designs upon 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 and criticising Elizabeth's comportment. Miss Bingley also disapproves of her brother's esteem for Jane Bennet, and is disdainful of society in Meryton. Her wealth (which she overspends) and her expensive education seem to be the two greatest sources of Miss Bingley's vanity and conceit; likewise, she is very insecure about the fact that her and her family's money all comes from trade, and is eager both for her brother to purchase an estate, ascending the Bingleys to the ranks of the gentry, and for herself to marry a landed gentleman (i.e. Mr Darcy). The dynamic between Miss Bingley and her sister, Louisa Hurst, seems to echo that of Lydia and Kitty Bennet's, and Mrs Bennet and Mrs Phillips'; that one is no more than a follower of the other, with Caroline in the same position as Lydia and Mrs Bennet, and Louisa in Kitty's and Mrs Phillips' (though, in Louisa's case, as she's already married, she's not under the same desperation as Caroline). Louisa is married to Mr Hurst, who has a house in Grosvenor Square, London.
- George Wickham – Wickham has been acquainted with Mr Darcy since infancy, 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 later runs off with Lydia with no intention of marriage, which would have resulted in her and her family's complete disgrace, but for Darcy's intervention to bribe Wickham to marry her by paying off his immediate debts.
- Mr William Collins – Mr Collins is Mr Bennet's distant second cousin, a clergyman, and the current heir presumptive to his estate of Longbourn House. He is an obsequious and pompous man, prone to making long and tedious speeches, who is excessively devoted to his patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh.
- Lady Catherine de Bourgh – the overbearing aunt of Mr Darcy. Lady Catherine is the wealthy owner of Rosings Park, where she resides with her daughter Anne and is fawned upon by her rector, Mr Collins. She is haughty, pompous, domineering, and condescending, and has long planned to marry off her sickly daughter to Darcy, to 'unite their two great estates', claiming it to be the dearest wish of both her and her late sister, Lady Anne Darcy (née Fitzwilliam).
- Mr Edward Gardiner and Mrs Gardiner – Edward Gardiner is Mrs Bennet's brother and a successful tradesman of sensible and gentlemanly character. Aunt Gardiner is genteel and elegant and is close to her nieces Jane and Elizabeth. The Gardiners are instrumental in bringing about the marriage between Darcy and Elizabeth.
- Georgiana Darcy – Georgiana is Mr Darcy's quiet, amiable (and shy) younger sister, with a dowry of £30,000 (giving her an allowance/pin money of £1,200 or £1,500 per annum), and is aged barely 16 when the story begins. When still 15, Miss Darcy almost eloped with Mr Wickham, but was saved by her brother, whom she idolises. Thanks to years of tutorage under masters, she is accomplished at the piano, singing, playing the harp, and drawing, and modern languages, and is therefore described as Caroline Bingley's idea of an "accomplished woman."
- Charlotte Lucas – Charlotte is Elizabeth's friend who, at 27 years old (and thus very much beyond what was then considered prime marriageable age), fears becoming a burden to her family and therefore agrees to marry Mr Collins to gain financial security. Though the novel stresses the importance of love and understanding in marriage, Austen never seems to condemn Charlotte's decision to marry for money. She uses Charlotte to convey how women of her time would adhere to society's expectation for women to marry even if it is not out of love, but convenience. Charlotte is the daughter of Sir William Lucas and Lady Lucas, neighbours of the Bennet family.
- Colonel Fitzwilliam – Colonel Fitzwilliam is the younger son of an earl and the nephew of Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Lady Anne Darcy; this makes him the cousin of Anne de Bourgh and the Darcy siblings, Fitzwilliam and Georgiana. He is about 30 years old at the beginning of the novel. He is the co-guardian of Miss Georgiana Darcy, along with his cousin, Mr Darcy. According to Colonel Fitzwilliam, as a younger son, he cannot marry without thought to his prospective bride's dowry; Elizabeth Bennet joked that, as the son of an Earl, Colonel Fitzwilliam wouldn't be able to settle for a bride with a dowry lower than £50,000 (which suggests that Colonel Fitzwilliam's living allowance is about £2,000 to £2,500 per-year).
Many critics take the title as the start when analysing the themes of Pride and Prejudice but Robert Fox cautions against reading too much into the title (which was first entitled: First Impressions), 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. 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 phrase "pride and prejudice" had been used over the preceding two centuries by Joseph Hall, Jeremy Taylor, Joseph Addison and Samuel Johnson. Austen probably took her title from a passage in Fanny Burney's Cecilia (1782), a popular novel she is known to have admired:
'The whole of this unfortunate business, said Dr Lyster, has been the result of PRIDE and PREJUDICE. […] 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.' (capitalisation as in the original)
A theme in much of Austen's work is the importance of environment and upbringing in developing 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 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. The American novelist Anna Quindlen observed in an introduction to an edition of Austen's novel in 1995:
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 famously 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 marriage as a motif and a problem in the novel. Readers are poised to question whether or not these single men need a wife, or if the need is dictated by the "neighbourhood" families and their daughters who require a "good fortune".
Marriage is a complex social activity that takes political economy and economy generally, into account. In the case of Charlotte Lucas, the seeming success of her marriage lies in the comfortable financial circumstances of their household, while the relationship between Mr and Mrs Bennet serves to illustrate bad marriages based on an initial attraction and surface over substance (economic and psychological). The Bennets' marriage is an example that the youngest Bennet, Lydia, re-enacts with Wickham and the results are far from felicitous. Although the central characters, Elizabeth and Darcy, begin the novel as hostile acquaintances and unlikely friends, they eventually work toward a better understanding of themselves and each other, which frees them to truly fall in love. This does not eliminate the challenges of the real differences in their technically-equivalent social status as gentry and their female relations. It does however provide them with a better understanding of each other's point of view from the different ends of the rather wide scale of differences within that category.
When Elizabeth rejects Darcy's first proposal, the argument of marrying for love is introduced. Elizabeth only accepts Darcy's proposal when she is certain she loves him and her feelings are reciprocated. Austen's complex sketching of different marriages ultimately allows readers to question what forms of alliance are desirable especially when it comes to privileging economic, sexual, companionate attraction.
Money plays a fundamental role in the marriage market, for the young ladies seeking a well-off husband and for men who wish to marry a woman of means. George Wickham tried to elope with Georgiana Darcy, and Colonel Fitzwilliam stated that he will marry someone with wealth. 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. Mrs Bennet is frequently seen encouraging her daughters to marry a wealthy man of high social class. In chapter 1, when Mr Bingley arrives, she declares "I am thinking of his marrying one of them".
Inheritance was by descent but could be further restricted by entailment, which would restrict inheritance to male heirs only. In the case of the Bennet family, Mr Collins was to inherit the family estate upon Mr Bennet's death and his proposal to Elizabeth would have ensured her security but she refuses his offer. Inheritance laws benefited males because most women did not have independent legal rights until the second half of the 19th century and women's financial security 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 the children she was to have. The irony of the opening line is that generally within this society it would be a woman who would be looking for a wealthy husband to have a prosperous life.
Austen might be known now for her "romances" but the marriages in her novels engage with economics and class distinction. Pride and Prejudice is hardly the exception. When Darcy proposes to Elizabeth, he cites their economic and social differences as an obstacle his excessive love has had to overcome, though he still anxiously harps on the problems it poses for him within his social circle. His aunt, Lady Catherine, later characterises these differences in particularly harsh terms when she conveys what Elizabeth's marriage to Darcy will become, "Will the shades of Pemberley be thus polluted?" Although Elizabeth responds to Lady Catherine's accusations that hers is a potentially contaminating economic and social position (Elizabeth even insists she and Darcy, as gentleman's daughter and gentleman, are "equals"), Lady Catherine refuses to accept the possibility of Darcy's marriage to Elizabeth. However, as the novel closes, "…through curiosity to see how his wife conducted herself", Lady Catherine condescends to visit them at Pemberley.
The Bingleys present a particular problem for navigating class. Though Caroline Bingley and Mrs Hurst behave and speak of others as if they have always belonged in the upper echelons of society, Austen makes a point to explain that the Bingleys are trade rather than inheritors and rentiers. The fact that Bingley rents Netherfield Hall – it is, after all, "to let" – distinguishes him significantly from Darcy, whose estate belonged to his father's family and through his mother, is the grandson and nephew of an earl. Bingley, unlike Darcy, does not own his property but has portable and growing wealth that makes him a good catch on the marriage market for poorer daughters of the gentry, like Jane Bennet, ambitious cits (merchant class), etc. Class plays a central role in the evolution of the characters and Jane Austen's radical approach to class is seen as the plot unfolds.
An undercurrent of the old Anglo-Norman upper class is hinted at in the story, as suggested by the names of Fitzwilliam Darcy and his aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh; Fitzwilliam, D'Arcy, de Bourgh (Burke), and even Bennet, are traditional Norman surnames.
Through their interactions and their critiques of each other, Darcy and Elizabeth come to recognise 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."
Other characters rarely exhibit this depth of understanding or at least are not given the space within the novel for this sort of development. Tanner writes that Mrs Bennet in particular, "has a very limited view of the requirements of that performance; lacking any introspective tendencies she is incapable of appreciating the feelings of others and is only aware of material objects". Mrs Bennet's behaviour reflects the society in which she lives, as she knows that her daughters will not succeed if they don't get married. "The business of her life was to get her daughters married: its solace was visiting and news." This shows that Mrs Bennet is only aware of "material objects" and not of her feelings and emotions.
Pride and Prejudice, like most of Austen's 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". Austen creates her characters with fully developed personalities and unique voices. Though Darcy and Elizabeth are very alike, they are also considerably different. 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." The few times the reader is allowed to gain further knowledge of another character's feelings, is through the letters exchanged in this novel. Darcy's first letter to Elizabeth is an example of this as through his letter, the reader and Elizabeth are both given knowledge of Wickham's true character. Austen is known to use irony throughout the novel especially from viewpoint of the character of Elizabeth Bennet. She conveys the "oppressive rules of femininity that actually dominate her life and work, and are covered by her beautifully carved trojan horse of ironic distance." Beginning with a historical investigation of the development of a particular literary form and then transitioning into empirical verifications, it reveals free indirect discourse as a tool that emerged over time as practical means for addressing the physical distinctness of minds. Seen in this way, free indirect discourse is a distinctly literary response to an environmental concern, providing a scientific justification that does not reduce literature to a mechanical extension of biology, but takes its value to be its own original form.
Development of the novel
Austen began writing the novel after staying at Goodnestone Park in Kent with her brother Edward and his wife in 1796. It was originally titled First Impressions, 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 post. The militia were mobilised after the French declaration of war on Britain in February 1793, and there was initially a lack of barracks for all the militia regiments, requiring the militia to set up huge camps in the countryside, which the novel refers to several times. The Brighton camp for which the militia regiment leaves in May after spending the winter in Meryton was opened in August 1793, and the barracks for all the regiments of the militia were completed by 1796, placing the events of the novel between 1793 and 1795.
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 around 1811/1812, when she sold the rights to publish the manuscript to Thomas Egerton for £110 (equivalent to £7,400 in 2019). 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 from the Military Library, 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 28 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 October 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 on which many modern published versions of the novel are based.
The novel was originally published anonymously, as were all of Austen's novels. However, whereas her first published novel, Sense and Sensibility was presented as being written "by a Lady," Pride and Prejudice was attributed to "the Author of Sense and Sensibility". This began to consolidate a conception of Austen as an author, albeit anonymously. Her subsequent novels were similarly attributed to the anonymous author of all her then-published works.
At first publication
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".
Austen for her part thought the "playfulness and epigrammaticism" of Pride and Prejudice was excessive, complaining in a letter to her sister Cassandra in 1813 that the novel lacked "shade" and should have had a chapter "of solemn specious nonsense, about something unconnected with the story; an essay on writing, a critique on Walter Scott or the history of Buonaparté".
The American scholar Claudia Johnson defended the novel from the criticism that it has an unrealistic fairy-tale quality. One critic, Mary Poovey, wrote that the "romantic conclusion" of Pride and Prejudice is an attempt to hedge the conflict between the "individualistic perspective inherent in the bourgeois value system and the authoritarian hierarchy retained from traditional, paternalistic society". Johnson wrote that Austen's view of a power structure capable of reformation was not an "escape" from conflict. Johnson wrote the "outrageous unconventionality" of Elizabeth Bennet was in Austen's own time very daring, especially given the strict censorship that was imposed in Britain by the Prime Minister, William Pitt, in the 1790s when Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice.
- In 2003 the BBC conducted a 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.
- Pride and Prejudice is one of Five Books most recommended books with philosophers, literary scholars, authors and journalists citing it as an influential text.
Film, television and theatre
Pride and Prejudice has engendered numerous adaptations. Some of the notable film versions include the 1940 Academy Award-winning film, 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: a 1980 version starring Elizabeth Garvie and David Rintoul and the popular 1995 version, starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. This also includes Bride and Prejudice and Trishna (1985 Hindi TV Series).
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 Swedish composer Daniel Nelson based his 2011 opera Stolthet och fördom on Pride and Prejudice.
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries - which premiered on a dedicated YouTube channel on April 9, 2012, and concluded on March 28, 2013 - is an Emmy award-winning web-series which recounts the story via vlogs recorded primarily by the Bennet sisters. It was created by Hank Green and Bernie Su.
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
- 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
- Searching for Pemberley by Mary Simonsen
- Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife and its sequel Darcy & Elizabeth: Nights and Days at Pemberley 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 seven 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.
Bella Breen is the author of nine variations on Pride and Prejudice. Pride and Prejudice and Poison, Four Months to Wed, Forced to Marry and The Rescue of Elizabeth Bennet.
Helen Fielding's 1996 novel Bridget Jones's Diary is also based on Pride and Prejudice; the feature film of Fielding's work, released in 2001, stars Colin Firth, who had played Mr Darcy in the successful 1990s TV adaptation.
In March 2009, Seth Grahame-Smith's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies takes Austen's work and mashes it up with zombie hordes, cannibalism, ninja and ultraviolent mayhem. In March 2010, Quirk Books published a prequel by Steve Hockensmith that deals with Elizabeth Bennet's early days as a zombie hunter, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls. The 2016 film of Grahame-Smith's adaptation was released starring Lily James, Sam Riley and Matt Smith.
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 bestselling 2013 novel Longbourn imagines the lives of the servants of Pride and Prejudice. A cinematic adaptation of Longbourn was due to start filming in late 2018, directed by Sharon Maguire, who also directed Bridget Jones's Diary and Bridget Jones's Baby, screenplay by Jessica Swale, produced by Random House Films and StudioCanal. The novel was also adapted for radio, appearing on BBC Radio 4's Book at Bedtime, abridged by Sara Davies and read by Sophie Thompson. It was first broadcast in May 2014; and again on Radio 4 Extra in September 2018.
In the novel Eligible, Curtis Sittenfeld sets the characters of Pride and Prejudice in modern-day Cincinnati, where the Bennet parents, erstwhile Cincinnati social climbers, have fallen on hard times. Elizabeth, a successful and independent New York journalist, and her single older sister Jane must intervene to salvage the family's financial situation and get their unemployed adult sisters to move out of the house and onward in life. In the process they encounter Chip Bingley, a young doctor and reluctant reality TV celebrity, and his medical school classmate, Fitzwilliam Darcy, a cynical neurosurgeon.
Pride and Prejudice has also inspired works of scientific writing. In 2010, scientists named a pheromone identified in male mouse urine darcin, after Mr Darcy, because it strongly attracted females. In 2016, a scientific paper published in the Journal of Inherited Metabolic Disease speculated that Mrs Bennet may have been a carrier of a rare genetic disease, explaining why the Bennets didn't have any sons, and why some of the Bennet sisters are so silly.
In summer 2014, Udon Entertainment's Manga Classics line published a manga adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.
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- Digital resources relating to Jane Austen from the British Library's Discovering Literature website
- Why Is Pride and Prejudice Still So Popular? at BookWritten
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