Friday, February 1, 2013

Happy Birthday "Pride & Prejudice": 200 Years Old This Week!

Yes, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice was first published on 28 January 1813, so Monday this week was it's 200th birthday — and still in print: outstanding huh?

I think most of us will have encountered the story in either book form or one of the very many film and television adaptations, and it can be argued that the romance between Darcy and Elizabeth forms the template for most Romance literature the rich, handsome, but initially ill-mannered hero, and spirited but impetuous heroine who must go through several misunderstandings before realizing they are right for each other...  Plus, Colin Firth as Mr Darcy, Romance with a capital "R", no question of that!

Colin Firth's Mr Darcy
My own first encounter with Pride and Prejudice was when I was given my first, hand-me-down edition at around 9-10 years old. Obviously a great deal of the subtler elements of the story, the irony and social nuances of early 19th century society, were over my head, but I certainly "got" the basic plot: the duel of manners and wit between Darcy and Elizabeth. And I can still recall laughing out loud at Mr Collins' proposal to Elizabeth—even at 9-10 I fully appreciated the ridiculousness of the situation, both the proposal itself and the subsequent roles played by each of Elizabeth's parents.

Elizabeth Garvie's Elizabeth
I have since re-read the book many times, as well as watching all of the major dramatizations that have come out, and find I always get something new out of the story with each reading. Certainly, as I grew up I picked up on the ironic observation of human nature within the story, as well as the illustration of the very narrow range of choices available to women. To me, the ability of a book to reveal something new at each reading is magical writing while all the original elements of the story: the romances of Darcy and Elizabeth, Jane and Mr Bingley, as well as the many layers of humor, continue to delight.

Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth
In terms of the dramatizations, I suspect you've already gathered that my favorite Mr Darcy is Colin Firth in the 1990's television adaptation. My favorite dramatization is the 1980 BBC/ABC production, with the story adapted for screen by Fay Weldon. (She did a great job!) I also love actress Elizabeth Garvie's interpretation of Elizabeth in that production, although Jennifer Ehle was also very good in the 1990's production.

But perhaps because I'm am author and a reader, at the end of the day I have to say it: great as all the dramatizations are, for me they still can't beat reading the book!

1 comment:

June said...

I read Pride and Prejudice at secondary school and loved it. I've seen the TV adaptations of the book, and have liked those too.

Happy Birthday Pride and Prejudice