Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice

Paperback | October 10, 2000

byJane AustenIntroduction byAnna Quindlen

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Introduction by Anna Quindlen
Commentary by Margaret Oliphant, George Saintsbury, Mark Twain, A. C. Bradley, Walter A. Raleigh, and Virginia Woolf
 
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” So begins Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s witty comedy of manners—one of the most popular novels of all time—that features splendidly civilized sparring between the proud Mr. Darcy and the prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet as they play out their spirited courtship in a series of eighteenth-century drawing-room intrigues. Renowned literary critic and historian George Saintsbury in 1894 declared it the “most perfect, the most characteristic, the most eminently quintessential of its author’s works,” and Eudora Welty in the twentieth century described it as “irresistible and as nearly flawless as any fiction could be.”
 
Includes a Modern Library Reading Group Guide

Pride and Prejudice

Paperback | October 10, 2000
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From the Publisher

Introduction by Anna Quindlen Commentary by Margaret Oliphant, George Saintsbury, Mark Twain, A. C. Bradley, Walter A. Raleigh, and Virginia Woolf   “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” So begins Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s witty comedy of manners—...

From the Jacket

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." So begins "Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen's witty comedy of manners--one of the most popular novels of all time--that features splendidly civilized sparring between the proud Mr. Darcy and the prejudiced Elizabeth Be...

Anna Quindlen is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and novelist whose work has appeared on fiction, nonfiction, and self-help bestseller lists. Her work includes the essay collection Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, the inspirational book A Short Guide to a Happy Life, and six novels: Object Lessons, One True Thing, Black and Blue, B...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:320 pages, 8 × 5.1 × 0.6 inPublished:October 10, 2000Publisher:Random House Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0679783261

ISBN - 13:9780679783268

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Read from the Book

"IT IS A TRUTH universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." So begins one of the finest novels written in the English language, Pride and Prejudice. Yet it was published anonymously, its author described on the title page only as "a lady." The writing of novels was a disreputable profession in the early part of the nineteenth century; when her family composed the inscription for her tomb in Winchester Cathedral shortly after her death in 1817, Jane Austen was described as daughter, Christian, but not as writer. In a memoir of his aunt, J. E. Austen-Leigh wrote of the verger at the cathedral who asked a visitor to the grave, "Pray, Sir, can you tell me whether there was anything particular about that lady; so many people want to know where she was buried." She wrote not of war and peace, but of men, money, and marriage, the battlefield for women of her day and, surely, of our own. She set both theme and tone in that tartly aphoristic first sentence: This is a world in which personal relationships are based more often on gain than on love and respect. It is the world of the five Bennet sisters, growing up in the English countryside as the eighteenth century gives way to the nineteenth, who must find husbands if they are to make their way in the world. And it is about the dance of attraction between two brilliant, handsome human beings who teach each other, through trial and considerable error, the folly of their greatest faults. But Pride and Prejudice is also about that thing that all great novels consider, the search for self. And it is the first great novel to teach us that that search is as surely undertaken in the drawing room making small talk as in the pursuit of a great white whale or the public punishment of adultery. "And Jane Austen," Somerset Maugham once wrote, "the daughter of a rather dull and perfectly respectable father, a clergyman, and a rather silly mother. How did she come to write Pride and Prejudice? The whole thing is a mystery." Maugham misses the point. What was true of Austen is true of many other women throughout history; she was educated in human nature by her friends, family, and neighbors, and it was to that circle of polite society that she turned in her fiction. She is the standard-bearer for what we now sometimes, condescendingly, call domestic drama, a writer who believed the clash of personalities was as meaningful - perhaps more meaningful - than the clash of sabers. For those of us who suspect all the mysteries of life are contained in the microcosm of the family, that personal relationships prefigure all else, the work of Jane Austen is the Rosetta stone of literature. We can only hope that when she described her first novel as "rather too light and bright," she was being ironic rather than self-deprecating.

Bookclub Guide

1. Pride and Prejudice was originally titled First Impressions. Critic Brian Southam notes that this phrase comes from the language of the sentimental novels Austen often criticized, where it connoted the idea that one ought to trust one's immediate, intuitive response to things. It is widely believed that Austen derived the later title from the fifth book of Cecilia, a novel by Fanny Burney, where the phrase appears (according to Austen biographer Park Honan, however, the phrase dates earlier, to a 1647 book by Jeremy Taylor called Liberty of Prophesying, and also appears in Gibbon's 1776 Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire). Anna Quindlen, in her Introduction to the Modern Library edition, indicates her preference for the second title ("Austen originally named the book First Impressions; thank God for second thoughts!"). Which do you think is the more appropriate title and why?2. The famous opening line of Pride and Prejudice-"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife "-magnificently displays the irony that suffuses the novel at both local and structural levels. What is the purpose of irony in Pride and Prejudice!?3. Austen was writing during a time when novels in the form of letters - called epistolary novels-were very popular. There are nearly two dozen letters quoted in whole or in part in Pride and Prejudice, and numerous other references to letters and letter - writing. How do you think letters function in the novel? How do the letters - a narrative element-interact with the dramatic element (manifested in the dialogue)?4. A number of critics have maintained that Darcy is not a particularly well - developed or believable character, and that his transformation is a mere plot contrivance. Others have argued that this suggestion fails to take into account the fact that the reader in large part only sees Darcy through the prejudiced eyes of Elizabeth. Which side would you take in this debate, and why?5. Pride and Prejudice has often been criticized for the fact that it appears unconcerned with the politics of Austen's day. For example, in a letter (written before World War 1) to Thomas Hardy, Frederic Harrison refers to Austen as a "heartless little cynic" who composed "satirettes against her neighbors whilst the Dynasts were tearing the world to pieces and consigning millions to their graves." Is this charge fair?6. Charlotte Bronte wrote in an 1848 letter to G. H. Lewes: Why do you like Miss Austen so very much? I am puzzled on that point. What induced you to say that you would have rather written Pride and Prejudice, or Tom Jones, than any of the Waverley Novels? 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 commonplace 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. Do you agree with Bronte's claim that there is no poetry or passion in Pride and Prejudice, and her conclusion that "Miss Austen being ... without sentiment, without poetry, maybe is sensible, real (more real than true), but she cannot be great"?

Editorial Reviews

"The wit of Jane Austen has for partner the perfection of her taste."
--Virginia Woolf