It is a truth universally acknowledged that the modern woman has a lot on her plate. Â This is why the two-hundredth anniversary of Pride and Prejudice came and went earlier this week with nary a mention on this blog. Â Â But, as they say, better late than never (come to think of it, the relationship between Elizabeth and Darcy is a perfect example of this maxim, is it not?). Â So grab your bonnets and pelisses and get ready for some Austen Love, RandomActsofMomness-style.
In the car on the way to and from the grocery store last night, I reflected on this anniversary, and what it means. Â I realized that without Pride and Prejudice in the world, many things would be different. Â To wit:
*We would not have a lovable heroine like Lizzy Bennett to show us that high spirits and intelligence are just as attractive to a man as a pair of fine eyes.
*We would not have Mrs. Bennett to show us how NOT to act in middle age.
*We would lack the cautionary tale afforded by Mr. Wickham, namely, “When Â a guy whom you have just met instantly starts talking trash about a third party, perhaps the alarm bells should go off.”
*There would be no Mr. Darcy. Â (I’d repeat that sentence for emphasis, but it harrows me to do so.)
*We would not have the satisfaction of seeing that catty girls finish last (Caroline Â Bingley, I’m talking about YOU.)
*Nerds like me would not have the joy of discussing, with similar nerds, the various fascinating questions raised by the many P and P adaptations. Â Do you prefer Colin Firth jumping into a pond or Matthew McFadyen strolling across a meadow at dawn? Â Do you like your Bennett girls to be dressed in soft spring pastels or Â earth tones? Â Why are Donald Sutherland’s teeth so white? Â (Seriously, in the nineteenth century?)
*We would not have pages of wonderful dialogue to teach us how to converse with economy, precision, and wit (or how to insult others with the same).
*We would not have the wonderful moral clarity of a story where authenticity and generosity trump artifice and meanness. Â I don’t know about you, but I can’t get enough of stories like that.
As my friend Jessie once memorably observed, Jane Austen is the “little black dress of literature.” Â It’s the perfect metaphor. Â For two centuries women have reached for Pride and Prejudice, felt empowered by it, recognized Â its class and elegance and timelessness. Â Here’s to two more centuries of the same.
Illustration by C.E. Brock from Mollands.