Few writers equal Austen in her ability to sum up a character in a pithy sentence or two. Below are some of her most devastating assessments.
10. John Dashwood, Sense and Sensibility
“He was not an ill-disposed young man, unless to be rather cold-hearted and rather selfish is to be ill-disposed.”
9. Lady Bertram, Mansfield Park
“She was a woman who spent her days in sitting nicely dressed on a sofa, doing some long piece of needlework, of little use and no beauty, thinking more of her pug than her children, but very indulgent to the latter when it did not put herself to inconvenience.”
8. Sir John and Lady Middleton, Sense and Sensibility
“However dissimilar in temper and outward behavior, they strongly resembled each other in that total want of talent and taste.”
7. Mr. Bingley’s sisters, Pride and Prejudice
“Not deficient in good humor when they pleased, nor in the power of being agreeable where they chose it; but proud and conceited. They were rather handsome, had been educated in one of the first private seminaries in town, had a fortune of twenty thousand pounds, were in the habit of spending more than they ought, and of associating with people of rank; and were therefore in every respect entitled to think well of themselves and meanly of others.”
6. Lady Catherine DeBourgh, Pride and Prejudice
“She was a most active magistrate in her own parish, the minutest concerns were carried to her … and whenever the cottagers were disposed to be quarrelsome, discontented or too poor, she sallied forth into the village to settle their differences, silence their complaints, and scold them into harmony and plenty.”
5. Margaret Dashwood, Sense and Sensibility
“Margaret, the other sister, was a well-disposed girl; but as she had already imbibed a good deal of Marianne’s romance, without having much of her sense, she did not at thirteen bid fair to equal her sisters at a more advanced period of life.”
4. Mrs. Elton, Emma
“Self-important, presuming, familiar, ignorant and ill-bred. She had a little beauty and a little accomplishment, but so little judgment that she thought herself coming with superior knowledge of the world, to enliven and improve a country neighborhood.”
3. Emma Woodhouse, Emma
“Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence. … The real evils of Emma’s situation were the power of having rather too much her own way, and a disposition to think a little too well of herself.”
2. Mr. Collins, Pride and Prejudice
“Mr. Collins was not a sensible man, and the deficiency of nature had been but little assisted by education or society. … The subjection in which his father had brought him up had given him originally great humility of manner, but it was now a good deal counteracted by the self-conceit of a weak head.”
1. Mrs. Bennet, Pride and Prejudice
“She was a woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper. When she was discontented, she fancied herself nervous. The business of her life was to get her daughters married; its solace was visiting and news.”
200 Years of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice - Book Covers
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
January 28, 1813: Pride and Prejudice is published.
Jane Austen’s most famous work, a satire of society and manners, was published 200 years ago today. Like all of her works, Pride and Prejudice was published anonymously - Austen was identified on the title page only as “the author of Sense and Sensibility”. Austen completed the original version in 1797. at which point it was entitled First Impressions, but this version was rejected for publication. By 1812 she had apparently revised the manuscript significantly, and it was this version that was eventually published, though under the (equally appropriate) title Pride and Prejudice, so named as to avoid confusion with other novels.
For historical context - Pride and Prejudice was written during the late Georgian era and is typically associated (along with Austen herself) with the Regency era, during which the future king George IV ruled as Prince Regent in his father’s stead. Although this was a time of great political and social change, both at home and abroad, Pride and Prejudice touches sparingly on these issues and instead focuses on the lives of the landed gentry and the not-quite-aristocrats. In addition, the novel cannot be neatly classified into one or the other of the major literary movements of the time; although Austen wrote during the Romantic period, her writing had little in common with the movement. In fact, Charlotte Brontë was a notable critic of the book, citing a lack of passion and emotion as her main complaint:
I had not seen “Pride and Prejudice,” till I read that sentence of yours, and then I got the book. And what did I find? An accurate daguerreotyped portrait of a common-place face; a carefully fenced, highly cultivated garden, with neat borders and delicate flowers; but no glance of a bright, vivid physiognomy, no open country, no fresh air, no blue hill, no bonny beck. I should hardly like to live with her ladies and gentlemen, in their elegant but confined houses.
Perhaps the main difference between the two was that Austen saw the world as a comedy rather than a tragedy (“For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?”).
P&P 200: Are you sitting comfortably? Then, Mr. Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen) himself will read you the First Proposal scene from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice novel! :-)
P.S. Watch scenes from Pride & Prejudice movie as you listen to MM reading P&P. ;-)
Charles Bingley (Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen)
Mr. Bingley was good-looking and gentlemanlike; he had a pleasant countenance, and easy, unaffected manners. […] Bingley had never met with more pleasant people or prettier girls in his life; everybody had been most kind and attentive to him; there had been no formality, no stiffness; he had soon felt acquainted with all the room; and, as to Miss Bennet, he could not conceive an angel more beautiful.
Mr. Boddington’s Penguin Classics (via Anthropologie)
Got handed down this set of Jane Austen books, they’re the 1948 Chawton Edition.
Though Northanger Abbey and The Watsons was missing, so I did a quick online search and managed to find one, which I am oh so very happy about.
Aren’t they lovely?