It is a truth universally acknowledged that Pride and Prejudice is Jane Austen’s most loved novel. With more than 20 million copies sold worldwide, this book has never been out of print since it was first published on January 28, 1813. Movies, mini-series, books and even a Broadway musical have been created based on the story. So, there is no denying that most people have read, seen or at least know the basic storyline of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, but here are a few interesting facts that you may not know about this classic piece of literature
1.) The original title of Pride and Prejudice was First Impressions. Pride and Prejudice, the title the novel was eventually published under, was in common usage during Austen’s day, being found in two important works of the late-1700s, Thomas Paine’s Common Sense and Edward Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. More than likely, however Austen took the title from Fanny Burney’s novel Cecilia, in which that phrase is used three times in succession and in all caps.
2.) The first publisher presented with the novel First Impressions rejected it without even reading it. Austen’s father had sent Jane’s work to the publisher Thomas Cadell, comparing it to the novels of Fanny Burney and asking about publication. Cadell, who was a friend of Samuel Johnson and published Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, wrote “Declined by Return of Post” on the outside of the package and sent it back to the poor cleric without even opening it, a choice I’m sure he later regretted.
3.) Pride and Prejudice was written in nine months when Austen was 20 years old, which is exactly the age of Elizabeth Bennet in the novel. She wrote the story after meeting and falling in love with the young Irishman Tom Lefroy (also 20). Unfortunately, Austen’s story didn’t end as happily as Miss Bennet’s, as Lefroy, who was expected to be a barrister and marry into a wealthy family, was sent away before things could become serious. (Perhaps, Mr. Lefroy was also the inspiration behind John Willoughby from Austen’s novel Sense and Sensibility, which was the next novel she wrote and her first novel to be published.)
4.) In Pride and Prejudice, everyone makes a big deal about how rich Mr. Darcy is, living off of £10,000 a year. In today’s currency that would be almost 1 million dollars. For comparison, Mr. Bingley is said to have £5,000 a year, which would be almost half a million and Mr. Bennet’s annual income of £2,000 would be approximately $160,000. Needless to say, the Bennet girls did well.
All this talk about Pride and Prejudice makes me want to pull out my copy of the book and read it all over again or at least read or watch one of the hundreds of adaptations that have been based on book or the characters. My favorite adaptations include: Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife, by Linda Berdoll, and its sequel Darcy & Elizabeth ; the BBC miniseries Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy; the P.D. James mystery novel Death Comes to Pemberley, which also has a BBC miniseries to its name, the Helen Fielding novel Bridget Jones’s Diary and the movie of the same name starring Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, and finally the Bollywood-style adaptation, directed by Gurinder Chadha, Bride and Prejudice, which does not star Colin Firth, but instead features Naveen Andrews from Lost as Balraj, Mr. Bingley’s equivalent.
Of course, I could just head over to Half Price Books and pick up a copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (the book and the movie) and experience the story in a whole new way. I may even read the book by the light of my Pride and Prejudice candle while sipping a cup of tea out of my Pride and Prejudice mug (both of which I found at my local HPB, by the way.
So, how will you celebrate the anniversary of Jane Austen’s most beloved novel?