Pride and Prejudice 200th Anniversary

Title page from the first edition of the first volume of Pride and Prejudice 1813

Today is the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and to mark the occasion the Jane Austen Centre in Bath is hosting a 12 hour readathon (click this link to go to the readathon site) of the book. It’s taking place at the Centre in Gay Street and will be filmed and broadcast around the world live on the internet.

From 11am this morning Pride and Prejudice will be read in short 10 minute segments by up to 140 celebrities, authors, politicians, musicians, Olympians, school children, competition winners and personalities.

March Prompt – A Classics Challenge

The focus this month in the Classics Challenge is on Setting.

I’ve just finished re-reading (for the umpteenth time) Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Each time I read it I still enjoy it immensely. I think knowing what happens next adds to the pleasure. I read it this time looking out for information about the settings – something I haven’t done before, although Pemberley always stands out!

There are many locations, but for this post I’ve chosen Longbourn.

Pride and Prejudice is a novel based on character, plot and is a study of society in the late 18th/early 19th centuries, but above all it is a love story. The settings provide an essential backdrop but in most cases leave a lot to the reader’s imagination; dialogue takes precedence over description – place is really unimportant.

The book begins with no indication of its setting, or time of day, with a conversation between two characters – Mr and Mrs Bennet. And it is only in the third chapter that the location is revealed and then all we learn is that that the family lives in the village of Longbourn, where they are the principal inhabitants. More information about Longbourn is scattered throughout the book. It’s one mile from the village of Meryton, in Hertfordshire, where the militia are quartered for a while, and twenty four miles from London.

Longbourn House is the family home of the Bennets. There is little description of the house. It must be quite large, it has land – an estate, including a farm. The family have the use of a carriage and horses, when they are not needed for farm work. There are servants – a butler, housekeeper, cook and maids, a drawing room, dining-parlour, and dressing rooms as well as bedrooms. There are gardens, with gravel walks, a shrubbery, a hermitage, and what Lady Catherine de Burgh called  ‘a prettyish kind of little wilderness on one side of your lawn.’

Reading the book I haven’t formed a definite picture in my mind what Longbourn House looks like, although I like this one from the 1995 TV series.

Luckington Court the 1995 TV location of Longbourn House © Copyright Paul Ashwin and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence


Looking forward to …

… P D James’s new book – Death Comes to Pemberley, which is due out on 3 November.

I don’t usually like sequels to books written by a different author, but I think I’ll have to make an exception for this one. It’s set six years after the events of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s tale of romance and social advancement and sees Darcy and Elizabeth’s marriage thrown into disarray when Lydia Wickham arrives unannounced and declares her husband has been murdered.

For more information see this BBC page after P D James’s talk on Radio 4 the other day, although she declined to give any further details saying, “It’s rather secret at the moment, because it’s something entirely new.”

Weekly Geeks – What Makes an Author Last?

This week’s discussion topic is inspired by the fact that on September 15 the world celebrates the 120th anniversary of the birth of Agatha Christie.

Have you read Christie’s books? Recently? What do you think it is about them that has given them such lasting value?
Or perhaps you have another favourite author whose works have outlasted those of their contemporaries? Maybe you’re a fan of Charles Dickens whose work is still widely known and studied while those of his contemporary, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, languish in relative obscurity.
What do you think it is that gives your favourite long-lasting author an edge? Is longevity all to do with quality? Quantity? Style perhaps? Or luck?
Agatha Christie is a great favourite of mine. I read a great many of her books as a teenager when I first came across her books and I’ve been taking part in the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge – my contribution to the current blog tour will be 22 September.

I’ve already written quite a lot about Agatha Christie’s books so for this post I thought I’d I’d write about another favourite author – Jane Austen. I first read Pride and Prejudice even before I knew anything about Agatha Christie. I can’t compare the two because they are so different – Jane only wrote six novels, Agatha over 80, Jane’s are romantic fiction, whereas Agatha wrote crime fiction, and so on.

Jane Austen’s lasting appeal is certainly down to the quality of her writing. Her characters are timeless. She portrays flirts, bores, snobs, the self-centred and foolish people as well as high-principled characters such as Jane Bennet (in Pride and Prejudice), who is determined to see good in everyone.  Her characters are amusing and well drawn, with great depth so that we are convinced of their reality. But her books aren’t sentimental and they are full of wit and humour. She writes about serious subjects treating them with humour and irony. In fact she delighted in a sense of the ridiculous, with such characters as Lady Catherine de Burgh and Mr Collins (Pride and Prejudice). And then there is Mr Darcy, handsome and aloof, a man who has won the heart of many women readers and also TV viewers with Colin Firth’s portrayal in the 1995 TV production.

Jane Austen’s England was at war with both America and France and the French Revolution was being fought across the Channel, but little of this is seen in her novels, just as it didn’t directly affect much of the nation. England was then largely a rural, agricultural society and Jane’s characters live in that world – a world of social inequality, one in which the role of women was very different from that of today. And for me this too is part of her appeal. She takes me into that world as I read her books. And yet because she was more interested in relationships, courtship, love and marriage than in national or international affairs her work has a timeless quality.

Her popularity is widespread from the academic to the popular. Her books are studied in schools and universities and they have been dramatised for the stage, TV and radio, and made into films and musicals. The first stage production was the 1906 play of Pride and Prejudice. In 1940 it was made into a film starring Laurence Olivier as Mr Darcy and Greer Garson as Elizabeth. Later two musicals of Pride and Prejudice were produced called First Impressions, Jane Austen’s first title for the book. Since then numerous TV productions of all her books have been made, and sequels, prequels and adaptations galore. More recently Pride and Prejudice has entered the zombie world with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, (a book I cannot bear the thought of reading!) and also Bollywood with Bride and Prejudice.

There are numerous biographies, Jane Austen clubs and societies, in the United Kingdom, Australia and North America. The Jane Austen Centre in Bath, the Cobb at Lyme Regis and the house she lived in at Chawton are places of pilgrimage for her fans. And there are several blog sites dedicated to celebrating Jane Austen’s work, including:

Writing this has made me want to re-read her books and read for the first time The Watsons, Lady Susan and Sanditon. I also have Jane Austen’s Letters to read.

Winchester, Jane Austen and Books

This is God Begot House in Winchester where D and I had coffee. The front is a modern restoration but the rest of the house, now a restaurant and coffee shop, is 16th century – a wonderful ceiling in the restaurant upstairs. There is so much to see in Winchester, spanning several centuries. Opposite God Begot House is the Old Guildhall(now a bank) largely rebuilt in 1713 and further down the High Street is the 15th century Buttercross.
We went in the City Museum on Minster Street, which is free entry and tells the history of Winchester from the Roman times onwards. As we wanted to spend much of our day in the Cathedral we didn’t do the Museum justice and would like to go back to look at it properly some time.
From the Musuem it’s just a short walk to the Cathedral and we were ages in there looking round. One of the guides was just starting a tour which we joined and I’m sure we got so much more information from him than if we had just gone round on our own using the Cathedral brochure. It’s so difficult trying to read and look at the same time.

For more information go to

Jane Austen is buried in the Cathedral and we walked round to see the house where she lived for the last six weeks of her life and where she died on 18 July 1817. I have read most of her books and Pride and Prejudice has been my favourite since I was about 12 after seeing a BBC production then and reading my mother’s copy of the book.

There is an excellent bookshop just down the road from Jane Austen’s house and I just had to go in and browse.
I was really pleased to find copies of Jane Austen’s Lady Susan, Margaret Forster’s Daphne Du Maurier, both of which I’ve been wanting to read for a while now. As I said I’ve read most of Jane Austen and this was one I didn’t know about until I read of it on A Work in Progress and both Margaret Forster and Du Maurier are also favourite authors. D found Tolkien’s The Children of Hurin which we’ll both read. I first read Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings years ago when I was at Library School in Manchester when it was the book to read. The films just haven’t lived up to my expectations, apart from Gandalf that is, but I think films are always a let down if I’ve read the book first.