Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’ turns 200

Pia Ranada
The well-loved romance between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy celebrates its 200th anniversary on January 28 (January 29 Manila time)

OLD PAGES, IMMORTAL WORDS. Jane Austen's 'Pride and Prejudice' is now 200 years old. Photo from the Jane Austen Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines – What would probably be the most popular love story of all time celebrates its 200th birthday today (January 29 Manila time).

On January 28, 1813, the world first welcomed Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” In its pages, we meet the headstrong, witty bookworm Elizabeth Bennet; her 4 sisters; her half-amusing, half-irritating mother; her laconic, philosophizing father; and, of course, the mysterious Mr. Darcy.

Classic plot

'I LOVE YOU ARDENTLY.' In the 2005 movie by Joe Wright, Keira Knightley plays Lizzie Bennet and Matthew Macfadyen plays Mr. Darcy. Photo from Pride and Prejudice Movie Facebook page

The world of “Pride and Prejudice” is 18th century rural England, in a village full of gossiping neighbors, class wars, and mothers contriving to wed their daughters off to the best men (which usually translates to the wealthiest).

One such mother is Mrs. Bennet. She is burdened with 5 daughters who, because of their gender, cannot inherit their house. When word gets out that a wealthy, handsome gentleman has moved to a nearby estate, she pulls all strings to introduce him to her daughters in hopes of securing a marriage.

The good-looking and good-natured Charles Bingley falls for the beautiful and gentle eldest, Jane. During a town party, he introduces the sisters to his friend Fitzwilliam Darcy, who is richer and grander than he. You’d think the sisters would fall head over heels for Darcy but his gloomy, grouchy manner puts them off.

Elizabeth, after overhearing him insult her, is particularly prejudiced against him. But in the midst of Jane’s blossoming romance with Bingley, Darcy slowly falls for Lizzie while Lizzie comes more and more to detest him.

Social class plays a big role in the novel (as it does in Austen’s other novels). Lizzie’s “lowly” social status prevents Darcy from being more forthright with his feelings. Lizzie’s prejudice against Darcy based on accounts she has heard about him lead her to shut Darcy out.

Will the two meet in the middle? Or will pride and prejudice doom their romance?

We all know the ending to that. If you don’t, you better get a copy now.

A love story for everyone

According to a report by Brisbanetimes.com, the first printed copies of the book amounted to 1,500. In 2012, 135,000 copies were sold in the US while another 50,000 were sold in the United Kingdom. But because the novel is out of copy right, anyone can publish it or download it and so the real number of copies circulating in the world is hard to determine.

But the novel’s popularity is not. It has been adapted and interpreted in every which way with the most recent movie starring Keira Knightley as Elizabeth (for which she won a Golden Globe for Best Actress and an Oscar nomination).

In celebration of the novel’s 200th anniversary, Facebook page Love UK posted these photos of the locations where the recent “Pride and Prejudice” movie was shot:

According to Love UK on Facebook, Bath is the 'Georgian city' that inspired Austen's work

The Temple of Apollo at Stourhead, Wiltshire, was where they shot 'Mr Darcy’s first proposal to Lizzie'

Burghley House in Stamford, Lincolnshire was ‘Rosings’ in the movie

It has been turned into a TV mini-series starring Colin Firth as Darcy and has been parodied by author Seth Grahame-Smith who wrote “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.”

The enduring romance has found its way to 21st century pages. Helen Fielding’s bestselling book, “Bridget Jones’s Diary” is a modern reinterpretation of Austen’s classic and was re-envisioned in a 2001 comedy film starring Renee Zellweger, Hugh Grant, and Colin Firth (Mark Darcy).

Its themes of love, family, marriage, class, and propriety have made it universal and applicable to many cultures and peoples. Proof of this is the 2004 Bollywood adaptation “Bride and Prejudice,” a musical film about Lalita Bakshi (played by Aishwarya Rai), a young Indian woman helping run her family’s farming business while her mother searches for suitable husbands for her and her 3 sisters.

At a friend’s wedding, Lalita meets Will Darcy (Martin Henderson), a dashing American working in his family’s hotel business.

The Austen-inspired plot does not stop Bollywood song and dance numbers from bursting into the scene.

Watch the trailer here:

Her baby

A day after “Pride and Prejudice” was published, Jane Austen wrote to her sister Cassandra, “I want to tell you that I have got my own darling child from London.”

By “my own darling child,” the author was referring to her newly-published novel.

In an article by Telegraph.co.uk, Louise West, curator of Jane Austen’s House Museum in Hampshire, England, says, “This tells you exactly what Jane thought of her books. They were her children. She had no children of her own and these were where she poured all her maternal feelings I suppose.”

The world will forever thank Austen for bringing her “child” into the world. 

“Pride and Prejudice” reassures us that 200-year-old words can still grip us by the heart and that the best love stories live forever. – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.