A British author is rewriting Pride and Prejudice from the servants’ point of view. Sounds like my two favorite things (Pride and Prejudice and Downton Abbey) are getting together.
Pride and Prejudice was published two hundred years ago. But what were the popular novels of the time? Who was Jane Austen reading, and who influenced her writing?
Austen month' is a good time to ditch the wilful misogynist misreadings of the revolutionary novelist's life and work
As Paula Byrne’s new book, The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things, elaborates, we have erroneously exaggerated Walter Scott’s view of Austen as “close to common incidents, and to such characters as occupy the ordinary walks of life”. Indeed, our Austen stereotype is now rather closer to Ralph Waldo Emerson, who – like many Victorians – was rather more insulting, complaining that she depicted a “pinched and narrow” existence in “sterile”, overly conventional novels.
Accordingly, there is a pervasive misogynist fiction that Miss Austen was a retiring, domestically cloistered, prudish, apolitical, conservative type, amateurishly concerned only with the machinations of the “3 or 4 families in a country village” that she recommended to her novel-penning niece while composing Emma (1815), which atypically maintains such a focus.
In fact, as Byrne suggestively contends, Austen was spirited, cultured, courageous, worldly, well-travelled, globally politically aware, anti-slavery, au fait with hardship, mental illness and sexual scandal, fond of London and the theatre, proto-feminist in her attitudes to marriage, children and career, diligent, professional, actively interested in both fame and earnings, and entirely capable of coquetry, hangovers, and even sodomy gags (see Mary Crawford’s knowing reference to naval “Rears, and Vices” in Mansfield Park, 1814).
Was ‘Scents and Sensibility’ not enough for you, lifetime!?
Think Pride and Prejudice and Zombies started a crazy trend of revamping classic works of fiction? Think again.
As any hardcore Janeite can tell you, the trend of authors writing sequels, alternate viewpoints, or even totally new renditions of Jane Austen’s six novels is nothing new. It’s been going on for a century—ever since a romance writer named Sybil Brinton published Old Friends and New Fancies, a 1913 crossover uniting characters from three Austen novels at once.
Although Jane Austen is now the second-most popular author taught at universities (after Shakespeare), her works have historically been considered lowbrow. “Universities didn’t pay much attention to her,” Sheryl Craig of The Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) told the Daily Dot. “She was considered popular culture, like Dickens.”
Today, sequels to Jane Austen’s novels are so popular that entire publishing presses have been formed around them. The Republic of Pemberley lists reviews for hundreds of such novels, and that list is by no means complete. There’s even a musical.
A ring that once belonged to Jane Austen was sold at auction for an astonishing $236,557 on Tuesday.
Sotheby’s London auction house had predicted that the ring would sell for as much as $45,000, but auctioneers were surprised by the final figure the closely-held family heirloom brought in.
“The price achieved today is a remarkable testament to Jane Austen’s enduring appeal and her place at the heart of our literary and cultural heritage,” Dr. Gabriel Heaton, a specialist in Sotheby’s book and manuscript department, stated in a press release after the auction.
The natural turquoise ring set in gold originally belonged to the “Pride and Prejudice” author who bequeathed it to her sister, Cassandra, after her death in 1817. Cassandra then gave it as a gift to their future sister in-law, Eleanor.
Eight international bidders competed for the ring, which is enclosed in a box contemporary to the time. Bought by an anonymous collector, it was accompanied by a note written in November, 1863 by Eleanor Austen to her niece Caroline Austen, reading: “My dear Caroline. The enclosed ring once belonged to your Aunt Jane. It was given to me by your Aunt Cassandra as soon as she knew that I was engaged to your uncle. I bequeath it to you. God bless you!”
The piece was unknown to Austen scholars and fans until the family stepped forward to sell it, making it all the more exciting.
“That this ring only surfaced recently makes me wonder what else of hers is out there that we don’t know about,” Austen expert and author of “Jane Austen and the Theatre,” Paula Byrne told TODAY.com. “She comes from a large family, and things were often given as gifts to other family members. There could still be quite a lot of Austen’s dispersed treasures that we haven’t yet laid eyes on.”