Saturday, 3 December 2016

Jane Austen's 'Pride and Prejudice': Years in the Making

In 1796, when she was 20, Jane Austen's clergyman father stopped taking boarding-pupils. The parsonage at Steventon became more peaceful.

Probably that helped Jane write First Impressions (the first draft of Pride and Prejudice).

It is astonishing that Jane Austen drafted one of the greatest novels in the English Language before she was quite twenty-one. Her father was so impressed that he offered it to the publisher Cadell. But Cadell could not be bothered to read it.

Fourteen years later at Chawton, having achieved some fame with Sense and Sensibility, Jane re-worked First Impressions, pruning it and making it fit the calendars of 1811-12. She sold the copyright for a mere £110. With its new title Pride and Prejudice, it was published in 1813 - just four years before Jane died. The deceitfulness of first impressions and the hypocrisy and heartlessness of mercenary people were to remain two of Jane Austen's major themes.

The Bennet family lived and moved in her imagination for over twenty years: in the last year of her life, she told her niece Anna and nephew James-Edward that after the novel ended Kitty Bennet married a clergyman near Pemberley and Mary married one of her uncle Phillips's clerks.