Today is the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death – a writer who found so much more fame, and critical acclaim, after she died than during her lifetime. I wonder what it would be like to pop back and see how your legacy is holding up…
I love Jane Austen because she wrote my favourite book, Pride and Prejudice.
I stumbled across P&P when I was sixteen, in that long tedious summer between taking my GCSEs and starting my A-Levels. I was bored of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, which was being shown every day, and channel-hopping (which didn’t take long, back then, with four channels!) In fact, because there were only four channels, I ended up watching the 1940 Greer Garson/Laurence Olivier version…
Just look at that dress!
I didn’t see it from the start, but recall being aghast at the ending – where Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Lizzie argue.
In this version, Lady Catherine is arguing because she wants to make sure that Lizzie is a strong enough character for her nephew – she gives her blessing!
Argh! No. Even at sixteen, and with no prior knowledge of Jane Austen at all, I knew this was a little absurd, and went in search of the book. All, of course, was forgiven in the original’s hands, and my love of P&P was cemented.
I love the comedy, the relationship between the Bennett parents, the etiquette. I am enveloped each time I read it, snuggling into it like a favourite jumper in the winter. Whenever I’m ill – the lying down unable to move kind of illness – I’ll put on the 1995 BBC version, and drool over Colin Firth, and giggle heartily at Benjamin Whitrow’s portrayal of Mr Bennett (“No lace, Mrs Bennett, I beg you; no lace.”)
Apart from Jane Austen, I am not much of a romance novel reader. But I think Austen offers so much more – I enjoy the immersion in social history, the tedium of daily life, of chores, of endless needlework.
I tend not to read historical novels because I’m never sure which parts are true and which are fictional. It confuses me. But novels written in the period offer me a sense of reality. Austen wrote about the people she knew, keeping them within the bubble of their own lives – the only nod to the fact Britain was at war with France is the presence of the militia, which brings Wickham and his sub-plot into the mix.
But I like that. This novel is about real women, trying to find their way in a world where marriage and children was really their own option for a successful life. They would not have sat around discussing war – that would have been for the men to do – but they would have been interested in their neighbours’ lives.
Being Lizzie and Darcy at Permberley (aka Lyme Park)
My Austen pile (this is an old pic, it’s bigger now)
made asked Hubby to recreate Lizzie and Darcy’s walk to the carriage – with strategic photography to make sure the bin wasn’t in view!
Do you have a favourite Jane Austen novel?