I am not too proud to say I was prejudiced against reading Jane Austen. Oops, sorry. My mistake. I apologise. Let’s start again.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that any post about Pride and Prejudice must begin with a lame reference to some truth that is universally acknowledged, because it is universally acknowledged that the first line is pretty much the best line in the book.
(I prefer Mr Bennet’s “From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do.”)
There, that’s out of the way.
Although, you must allow me to say how ardently I admire and love this book. Okay, enough.
It had been, in part, a matter of pride that prevented me from reading Pride and Prejudice. For one thing, it is pretty girly. It had also been partly a matter of prejudice. For a second thing, I had seen the BBC TV series that launched Colin Firth’s career more than twice, so what did I need to read the book (beyond the first sentence) for?
Well, as it turns out, I really didn’t. Quite a bit of the book was arguably better as the dialogue it became in the six-part, award-winning series. And most of the time I was reading the book in the same way one looks at a famous paintings when they see them in the flesh. Although, it is one thing to know what a Dali looks like and another thing to see the actual paint.
Austen had mad skills. This fact can be inferred from watching adaptations, but nothing proves it so conclusively as skipping through her pages. Her works fell out of fashion for a while, they were considered too lightweight and obsessed with money and finery and frivolous subject such as rich people marrying. Pompous and absurd though her subjects seem all these years later, the evidence of the mad skills survives.
It is beautiful, it is decadent, it is over-written prose about women of no importance from centuries gone by. But there’s not much more to it than that.