I’m a late convert to Jane Austen: never really read her when I was growing up, and didn’t really start to get interested in her until I noticed in his letters how enthusiastic C.S. Lewis was. I’ve since read all of her novels, some of them several times, and although I break with convention in preferring Emma, I do want to join with many others on the Internet today in paying tribute to the 200th birthday of Pride and Prejudice, published in three volumes on January 28th 1813.
In this morning’s Edmonton Journal Paula Simons noted that we have a first edition of Pride and Prejudice in the University of Alberta’s Rutherford Library. In her column, she had this to say:
Today, it’s easy to forget how truly radical this book was, both in subject matter and in its use of language. The typical Gothic romance of the day featured drooping damsels in distress, who fainted at the first sign of trouble, and who spoke in high-flown, artificial rhetoric. Lizzie Bennet, the wisecracking girl next door who shocks the neighbours by tromping three miles through the mud, who sasses the formidable Lady Catherine de Bourgh, never thinks of fainting. She is no picture of perfection, to make us sick and wicked. Instead, with her unquenchable spirit, her capacity to own her mistakes, her willingness to seize and shape her destiny, she speaks to us as a thoroughly modern character. On her bicentennial birthday, she, her sisters, their lovers and their families, are a fresh, as funny, as socially subversive as ever.
I agree. Miss Austen. you created a masterpiece, and we salute you for it today. And no matter how good the movies are (and there are several very good ones), they will never equal the brilliance of your written word.
P.S. Grandmère Mimi’s heartfelt personal tribute is well worth reading.