Monday, August 15, 2016

Fortnightly Book, August 14

(Due to the end of term, I am running on a bit of a delayed schedule here, so this is a day late.)

I have been going back and forth about what to do for the next Fortnightly Book. I'll have a fair amount of time, but I'm also coming off a grueling end of summer term, so it makes sense to do either a re-read or something relatively easy. After some thought, I've decided to do Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, which I haven't read for a bit.

P&P was Austen's second published novel, after Sense and Sensibility, and was originally published not under Austen's own name, but under the byline, "by the Author of Sense and Sensibility." The working title seems to have been First Impressions, and, if so, it failed to get a publisher in the late 1790s. Austen went back to it in 1811 to revise it, and this is usually thought to have involved changing it from an epistolary novel to its current form, but we don't know exactly what was involved in the revisions, since we lack the original. The reason for the title which became famous was probably just to have a distinctive parallel to the title of Sense and Sensibility, but could also be due to a passage in the last chapter of Fanny Burney's Cecilia, with which Austen was certainly well acquainted:

“The whole of this unfortunate business,” said Dr Lyster, “has been the result of PRIDE and PREJUDICE....Yet this, however, remember; if to PRIDE and PREJUDICE you owe your miseries, so wonderfully is good and evil balanced, that to PRIDE and PREJUDICE you will also owe their termination....

...Thus the same passions, taking but different directions, do mischief and cure it alternately...."

Austen, who wasn't expecting a resounding success, sold the copyright outright to avoid taking on any risk (in publishing Sense and Sensibility she had indemnified the publisher from any loss); her total payment for what would become the greatest novel in the English language was £110. (The publisher made at least four times that on the first two editions alone.)

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