Now, I want to be careful here, not to raise Jane Austen or Pride and Prejudice to idol status or to imply that they are the most important things in my life. For me, it’s God first, family second, and everything else a distant third. But what discovering Jane Austen (and P&P in particular) did for me was to launch me on a new and interesting career that I might never have stumbled upon otherwise.
You see, I was minding my own business – raising two sons and pursuing a very sensible career as a dental hygienist – when an ordinary trip to Costco ten years ago changed everything. That was the day a copy of the ’95 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice fairly leapt off the shelf and into my oversized shopping cart. After watching the mini-series, I was hopelessly hooked on the story, Colin Firth’s Darcy, and all things Jane Austen.
One may guess what followed – compulsive reading, late-night trips to the library and video store, secret rendezvous with Mr. Darcy and Mr. Knightley. Finally, only one thing remained. My dedication (or obsession, as it arguably might be described) ultimately inspired me to begin writing my own stories a la Austen.
As a result, I now I have two published novels and a third coming out in less than a month. And no one could be more surprised about it than I am! It’s been a true blessing to have been given something new, interesting, and creatively satisfying to do at this stage in my life… and also to have been able to give up my “day job” guilt free! All this because of a book written 200 years ago!
I’ve told you some of my reactions to the subject of today’s celebration. I thought you might like to hear what Jane Austen herself had to say about Pride and Prejudice – her “first impressions” of the newly published novel. This is from a letter to her sister Cassandra, dated January 29, 1813:
I feel that I must write to you today… I want to tell you that I have got my own darling child from London. On Wednesday I received one copy sent down by Falkener… The advertisement is in our paper today for the first time… Miss B. dined with us on the very day of the book’s coming and in the evening we fairly set at it, and read half the first volume to her… She really does seem to admire Elizabeth. I must confess that I think her as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print, and how I shall be able to tolerate those who do not like her at least, I do not know.
I can relate to Jane Austen’s excitement at holding her “darling child” in her hands for the first time, her thrill at seeing a reader warm to her characters and story, and also with her horror at the thought that some might not appreciated what she had created. She need not have worried, though. How astonished Jane would have been to know that fans world-wide would continue celebrating the publication of Pride and Prejudice into the 21st century!
To read other Janeites’ thoughts on the subject, continue your blog tour here. Or add your own by comment below.