Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is 200 Year Old

Charles Dickens had his day and now Jane Austen with the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice.

200px-Pickering_-_Greatbatch_-_Jane_Austen_-_Pride_and_Prejudice_-_This_is_not_to_be_borne,_Miss_BennetPride and Prejudice was first published in 1813 and has never been out of print since 1832  when its copyright was sold to another publisher.  Poor Jane Austen had signed away the rights for a paltry sum and never profited from one of her most successful stories.

Celebrations for followers (Janeites) and those who may have only seen the movie(s) are being held on both sides of the ocean, and one close to my old hometown.  Goucher College in Maryland owns the American archive of Jane Austen’s works that include first editions, letters, documents, pictures and drawings – even a lock of hair.  If you are in the area, stop by for some tea or champagne.

9781441145543Goucher professor and Austen scholar Juliette Wells has a new book about Jane Austen – Everybody’s Jane: Austen in the Popular Imagination.

Old Friends and New Fancies – The Imaginary Sequel to the Novels of Jane Austen

Whatever Happened To?  If you are a Janeite, you may already know about Sybil Brinton’s 1913 publication – Old Friends and New Fancies – that continues the lives of characters from Austen novels.

Mimicking Austen’s language, the story opens with…

“There is one characteristic which may be safely said to belong to nearly all happily married couples – that of desiring to see equally happy marriages among their young friends; and in some cases, where their wishes are strong and circumstances seem favourable to the exertion of their own efforts, they may even embark upon the perilous but delightful course of helping those persons whose minds are as yet not made up, to form a decision respecting this important crisis in life, and this done, to assist in clearing the way in order that this decision may forthwith be acted upon.”

Brinton creates the lives of some of Austen’s characters as they live on, adding other new “fancies” from her imagination, with the ploy of marrying off some of the minor characters from Pride and Prejudice – Georgiana Darcy, Colonel Fitzwilliam, and Elizabeth’s younger sister, Kitty.    If you are a devotee of Jane Austen, you will recognize Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy as well as Emma Woodhouse (Knightly),  Mr. Knightly, and Elinor Dashwood, among others.  They all seem to know each other in Brinton’s world, and all maintain their Austen characterizations – Lady Catherine de Bourg is as interfering and ornery as ever; Emma is still a matchmaker; Anne of Sense and Sensibility continues to gossip.

Throughout the story, Brinton maintains not only Jane Austen’s language and style, but also stays true to her tone.  The characters act as you would expect them, if they had met across novels.  The story makes sense only if you’ve read Austen’s body of work.  At times, the new characters confuse the machinations; it’s not always easy to keep everyone straight – even when you know the “old friends.”

A friend gave me this book, knowing that I am a Jane Austen fan.  Old Friends and New Fancies is not Austen, but it is clever – easy reading and a nice diversion if you are a Janeite.

Today is Jane Austen’s birthday – what better way to celebrate.

The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen

Did Jane Austen’s sister, Cassandra, really burn all of Jane’s letters?  What if some were discovered years later, revealing an intimate part of the writer’s life?

If you are longing to return to the comfort of Jane Austen, Syrie James offers an easy fictionalized biography of the beloved writer in The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen.  Staying true to Austen’s writing style as well as to most of the known facts of her life, James creates a story around the secret love life that many have speculated about – even based a movie on, with Anne Hathaway in “Becoming Jane.”  In a clever introduction, James simulates a letter from a Jane Austen researcher, and weaves the action into Austen’s writing of Sense and Sensibility to convince the reader of the truth of the tale.

Maybe it is.

At the very least, the story is a great romantic tribute to the growing fame and sustainability of Jane Austen.  If you are not an Austen fan, you might find the storyline frivolous and a little tedious, but if you are a Janeite – you will appreciate the romance, and the references to her work, especially Pride and Prejudice, and to Jane Austen’s life.

And, if you like it, you might want to move on to The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë, by the same author.