Hello again, and welcome to my renewed blog. As I tend to do whenever I have failed to post something for more than a month, I have changed the lay-out as well as the title of this page; hope you like it 😉 My bachelor’s thesis is now out of the way, after a bit of a struggle, explaining why I have now found the time to post something.
Finally, I’m honoring the promise I made 7 months ago to read/watch and review 12 works somehow related to Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice published 200 years ago this year (The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013) . My first selection was to reread Pride & Prejudice itself, before doing anything else. I have done this, which makes it the sixth time I have read the novel, if I remember correctly. I have almost gotten to the point of being able to recite the full work from beginning to end ;).
Nonetheless, the novel never ceases to draw me in and because of that it is my favourite book of all time. One aspect I focused on in rereading this work is the almost absolute lack of references to historical events in the novel, which I find an interesting phenomenon. Experts have trouble identifying the period in which this drama takes place, simply because Austen hardly gives any hints as to what is happening outside the families of the ladies and gentlemen discussed in the book, unlike some of the works I will be discussing on this blog later (see the full reading list at the bottom of this post). As is mentioned in an introduction on Jane Austen to the 2003 Barnes & Nobles edition of the novel: “[d]uring her brief lifetime Austen witnessed political unrest, revolution, war, and industrialization, yet these momentous events are not the central subjects of her finely focused novels. Rather, Austen wrote of her immediate experience: the microcosm of the country gentry and its class-conscious insularity”.
In an excellent introduction to this same edition, Carol Howard explains that some say this was due to Austen’s unfamiliarity with current affairs, however she disagrees with this notion and suggests Austen consciously chose not to incorporate them in her novels. After all, Austen must have been aware of them as one of her brothers was part of the Oxford militia and another two brothers were officers with the navy. This somewhat reflected in Pride & Prejudice as the militia are regarded as potential husbands by some of the Bennet sisters. Funnily enough, their reasons for being in the country are not elaborated upon; they seem to be solely there to be romantic interests to the characters of the novel.
Howard also brings forward the idea, which I find very appealing, that Austen’s works are novels of leisure: never do we see any characters do any work, even if it has clearly been stated that they have jobs. This relates closely to what I said before about the militia: we never actually encounter them in their war trainings, only at balls, or in town. Also, take for example Elizabeth’s father Mr. Bennet: we never see him do business, while we might have a hunch he oversees a farm as when Elizabeth wants to visit her ill sister, she is refused the horses, because they are ‘unavailable’.
It is important to note that we can only observe Pride & Prejudice from our modern-day perspective. Of course, when the novel was published, it was as contemporary as could possibly be, which would have made referencing to historical events less necessary in order to please readers. On the other hand, when we read it 200 years after, we feel the need to be able to place the novel in a certain historical context, which is more or less offered by the descriptions of the cultural life (mostly leisure) of the landed gentry, but lacks the detail we need to relate the story to say, the French revolution. However, it is important to realize that novels published today do not always speak of specific years in which the discussed events occur either; the reader simply understands they must be occurring in ‘our’ era. This must have been similar for readers reading Pride & Prejudice when it was published.
To all those who have never read the novel, I strongly encourage you to do so, even though I realize the style and era does not appeal to all. In any case, everybody will enjoy the 1995 BBC miniserie adaptation of the novel (at #8 in the reading list below), famous for wet-shirt Mr. Darcy played by Colin Firth.
Here are some interesting links to help you celebrate Pride & Prejudice‘s 200 year anniversary properly and in style 😉
In my next post I will be writing a little something about the book Mr. Darcy’s Daughters by Elizabeth Aston, which I have already read and am not particularly psyched about :(. You’ll see… 😉
1. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen (1813)
2. Mr. Darcy’s Daughters, by Elizabeth Aston (2003)
3. Darcy’s Story, by Janet Alymer (1996)
4. Mr Darcy’s Diary, by Amanda Grange (2006)
5. Pride and Prejudice BBC/PBS miniseries (1980)
6. Presumption: An Entertainment: A Sequel to Pride and Prejudice, by Julia Barrett (1995)
7. Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma, by Diana Birchall (2004)
8. Pride and Prejudice A&E/BBC miniseries (1995)
9. Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife, by Linda Berdoll (2004)
10. Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World, by Abigail Reynolds (2010)
11. Pride & Prejudice Universal Studios film (2005)
12. Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart, by Beth Pattillo (2010)