There can only be one topic of absolute obsession for me this week [and possibly the year] and that is the 200 year anniversary of Jane Austen’s world beloved novel – Pride and Prejudice. Two centuries ago, on a very wintry 28th of January in the year 1813, this luminous novel came into being.
There are many reasons that the novel is so well loved to this day – it is the original rom-com, the ultimate happily ever after and reminds us women of the chivalry we are missing – but for me, each time I read the book or watch an adaptation, it is like I am staring into the face of lovely Jane herself. A sparkling young girl with ambition who observed those around her with humour and heart… and who wrote this epic love story when she was only twenty-one years old.
Austen’s home life was very normal, if some-what mundane . The Austens were members of substantial gentry families and as she grew into adulthood, she continued to live at her parents’ home, carrying out those activities normal for women of her age and social standing: she practised the fortepiano, assisted her sister and mother with supervising servants, and attended female relatives during childbirth and older relatives on their deathbeds.
Austen family house, Hampshire. [image source]
On the other hand her social standing within her family was unusual for her time. Austen was one of two sisters – Cassandra was her closest friend and confidante throughout her life – neither ever married. They were two sisters in a family of very supportive men.
Of her six brothers, Austen was closest to Henry, who became a banker and, after his bank failed, an Anglican clergyman. He was also his sister’s literary agent. His large circle of friends and acquaintances in London included bankers, merchants, publishers, painters, and actors and this provided Austen with a view of social worlds not normally visible from a small parish in rural Hampshire.
Her father George Austen served as the rector of the Anglican Parishes in Steventon and Hampshire until 1796, he supplemented this income by farming and by teaching three or four boys at a time who boarded at his home [a fun and busy household!]. Austen acquired the remainder of her education by reading books, guided by her father and her brothers James and Henry.
George Austen apparently gave his daughters unfettered access to his large and varied library, and was tolerant of Austen’s sometimes risqué experiments in writing!
I get the impression that Mrs Austen may have been hovering around in the background like an exasperated Mrs Bennet not entirely pleased about the situation. I just think they sound like a normal modern family!
Austen family house, Hampshire. [image source]
I love Jane because she was the ultimate feminist. She loved being a woman, valued her family and following womanly pursuits, but she also liked having her own money and feeling independent – she just seemed a well-balanced young woman and I wish I could have been her BFF! [I bet if she was still around she would also have had a blog and watched the Kardashians!].
Why do you love Jane?
Here is a round up of some Austen related happenings to coincide with the 200th Anniversary and I’m sure there are plenty more to come!
Penguin did a roundup of Pride and Prejudice Book Jackets. Check them all out here
Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre announced it’s dates for an open air summer showing of Pride and Prejudice adapted for the stage by Simon Reade. Buy them here.
Mindbogglingly for fans the BBC is recreating the Ball at Netherfield to mark the 200th anniversary of Pride And Prejudice. In a 90-minute special, experts will re-stage the planning and rehearsals for an early 19th century ball, as well as looking back at the first-hand testimony of ball-goers of the time! I am so green with jealousy about this event that I cannot ber to elaborate anymore. Read about it here.
Finally my favourite witty observations from Miss Austen’s books, relevant today as they were in the 1800’s:
A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.
I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal.
A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of.
There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.
The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.
Author: Rohini Wahi
Rohini is a London based freelance journalist and trend forecaster for the design industries. She has worked for Elle Decoration, Living Etc, Houzz and Design Sponge amongst others.
She loves a period drama and keeps a tidy home. Launched in 2007 The Beat That My Heart Skipped focuses on home inspirations, design trends, lifestyle and food – coupled with an insight into Rohini’s work and home life – from key picks at trade shows to styled weekend soirees. To contact Rohini for queries, work for hire or just to say hi drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org