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Bits & pieces from an article from BBC. To read the whole article click here.

It has one of the most famous opening lines in literature, it turned Colin Firth into a heart-throb, and it spawned a zombie spin-off. Now Pride and Prejudice has reached the venerable age of 200.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the bicentenary of Pride and Prejudice will be accompanied by a surge of Jane Austen-related events and merchandise –

Portrait of Jane Austen, from the memoir by J....

Portrait of Jane Austen, from the memoir by J. E. Austen-Leigh. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

and articles that shamelessly hijack the novel’s first sentence.

Monday’s anniversary is being marked by a “readathon” of the novel at the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, which has launched an 11th hour internet campaign to find an international star to read the first chapter.

Experts, writers and fans will read the entire novel in a 12-hour internet broadcast, which will hook up with Jane Austen societies in Australia and North America. Jane Austen societies also exist in Japan, the Netherlands and Brazil

“It’s a worldwide industry,” says Jane Austen Centre spokesman David Lassman. “There’s always been an audience, but the BBC production in 1995 was the turning point that sent Jane Austen global. At the heart is the six books, but she is a brand and there’s no getting away from that.”

The Jane Austen Centre has about 60,000 visitors per year, and an estimated 80% are women. Dressing in period costume is a key part of the annual Jane Austen Festival in Bath, where the writer lived from 1801 to 1806.

“The audience is predominantly female. We do find that boyfriends or husbands are brought along kicking and screaming – often in military uniform – but in the end they seem to enjoy it.”

‘Darling child’

First published by Thomas Egerton in 1813, Pride and Prejudice was Jane Austen’s second novel. She described it as her “own darling child”.

Although out of copyright and available for free on e-readers, it is estimated that the book – with the relationship between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy at its heart – sells up to 50,000 copies each year in the UK.

What’s the enduring appeal of Pride and Prejudice?

“It can be read on so many levels,” says Marilyn Joice, a committee member of the Jane Austen Society of the UK.

“You can read it as a romantic Cinderella story, a comedy or as a social commentary on the problems facing women of Austen’s own social strata.

“It’s expressed with some biting, often very subtle irony, so you don’t need to be an academic to get something out of it.

“Most people love a happy ending and Pride and Prejudice does seem to offer that at least for some of the characters.

“One of the things I personally like about Austen is that she doesn’t lay it out for you. She demands that you read between the lines. She’s an author who says, ‘I think my readers are intelligent.’

“I must have read Pride and Prejudice up to 10 times – every time I go back to it, I still find myself laughing because the comic characters are really well drawn. It’s fresh for me every time I read it.”

 

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