Today, I am celebrating an event that most writers can only dream of achieving — the 200th Anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s masterpiece, Pride and Prejudice.
I hope somewhere up in literary heaven our dear Miss Austen knows how much her work has meant to so many people.
Who amongst us would not love our work to be labeled any of those superlatives?
Yet, most people do not begin writing their novels thinking that this is “the one,” the breakout book sure to define their careers. Indeed, the thoughts that usually travel through my head when starting a novel are more along the lines of “What were you thinking?” or “Oh my God, I hope this doesn’t suck.”
Still, there is that slight bit of magic when I have typed the working title followed by my name underneath that gives me butterflies, in a good way, of course. I wonder if Miss Austen felt it too as she dipped her quill in ink and moved it over the paper, careful not to drip?
|A first edition of Pride and Prejudice, printed for T. Egerton, 1813.|
Regular readers of this blog are very familiar with my love of Miss Austen and her novels. I have written about her frequently: a piece with fun facts about her life and work for Women’s History Month, birthday posts each December, and my essay about my pilgrimage to Chawton to visit her home and Winchester to put flowers on her grave.
Her work has inspired me like no one else’s. In all sincerity, Pride and Prejudice changed my life when I first read it all those years ago as a sophomore in high school. It sparked my interest in English literature and sent me on my life’s journey.
From those first sentences…
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.
To mocking the buffoonery of Mr. Collins…
Mr. Collins was not a sensible man, and the deficiency of nature had been
but little assisted by education or society.
To Mr. Darcy’s apology and second declaration of love…
I have been a selfish being all my life, in practice, though not in principle. As a child I was taught what was right, but I was not taught to correct my temper. I was given good principles, but left to follow them in pride and conceit. Unfortunately an only son (for many years an only child), I was spoilt by my parents, who, though good themselves (my father, particularly, all that was benevolent and amiable), allowed, encouraged, almost taught me to be selfish and overbearing; to care for none beyond my own family circle; to think meanly of all the rest of the world; to wish at least to think meanly of their sense and worth compared with my own. Such I was, from eight to eight and twenty; and such I might still have been but for you, dearest, loveliest Elizabeth! What do I not owe you! You taught me a lesson, hard indeed at first, but most advantageous. By you, I was properly humbled. I came to you without a doubt of my reception. You showed me how insufficient were all my pretensions
to please a woman worthy of being pleased.
…Miss Austen hooked me and millions of others into her supreme novel of courtship and country life through the magic of literature. May it continue to inspire many more in the generations to come.