Pride and Prejudice has delighted generations of readers with its unforgettable cast of characters, carefully choreographed plot, and a hugely entertaining view of the world and its absurdities. With the arrival of eligible young men in their neighbourhood, the lives of Mr and Mrs Bennet and their five daughters are turned inside out and upside down.
Pride encounters prejudice, upward-mobility confronts social disdain, and quick-wittedness challenges sagacity, as misconceptions and hasty judgements lead to heartache and scandal, but eventually to true understanding, self-knowledge, and love.
In this supremely satisfying story, Jane Austen balances comedy with seriousness, and witty observation with profound insight. If Elizabeth Bennet returns again and again to her letter from Mr Darcy, readers of the novel are drawn even more irresistibly by its captivating wisdom.
Below, you can listen to Fiona Stafford of Somerville College, Oxford, talk about the novel’s history in a series of podcasts recorded by George Miller of Podularity.
“She grew up in a house dominated by boys, which suprises people.”
“Lopped and cropped”: the first version of the novel was turned down by the publisher Jane’s father sent it to in the 1790s. But the success of Sense and Sensibility encouraged her to get the earlier draft out again and begin revising it.
Epistolary origins: an Austen family tradition had it that Pride and Prejudice began life as a novel in letters.
How Jane Austen’s reading influenced her and how her writing innovation influenced the novel.
Pride and Prejudice was a success from its first publication.
What aspects of Austen are stimulating critical debate now?
Finally, what advice would Fiona Stafford give to someone about to reread Pride and Prejudice?
Fiona Stafford is Fellow and Professor in English Language and Literature at Somerville College, Oxford. Her research interests include late eighteenth century and early nineteenth-century poetry and prose, Scottish and Irish literature, and contemporary poetry. She is one of the editors of the Oxford World’s Classics edition of Pride and Prejudice.