Today's celebrations for the bicentenary of the publication of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice centre on Chawton (From Basingstoke Gazette)
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Today's celebrations for the bicentenary of the publication of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice centre on Chawton
THE Hampshire home of Jane Austen was the focus of international attention this week as the world celebrated the bicentenary of her most famous work.
Authors, scholars and fans gathered in the house in the village of Chawton in Alton – now known as the Jane Austen House Museum - where she prepared the novel Pride and Prejudice, originally titled First Impressions, for publication. The first copy was delivered to Jane Austen at the house on January 27, 1813, one day in advance of the first advertisements appearing announcing the book’s publication. Thomas Egerton of Whitehall published its first edition of Pride and Prejudice in three hardcover volumes and it was advertised in the Morning Chronicle priced 18s.
The story of the courtship of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, Pride and Prejudice has since become one of the most enduringly popular works in literary history. It has been adapted for film and television many times, including a hugely popular 1995 BBC version in which Colin Firth, who was born in Grayshott and attended school in Winchester, played Darcy.
Leading Austen expert, and a trustee of the museum, Kathryn Sutherland, said: “It’s worth saying that it was a roaring success from the beginning. She started collecting people’s opinions of her novels and the comments are full of people saying ‘I like Pride and Prejudice best’. From the start it was recognised as the favourite.
“It’s about the relationship between money and love, really, and it’s the beginning of a genre that we are all familiar with – the courtship novel. This house is particularly interesting as it’s almost a blueprint for the novel; a domestic space in which you can imagine women just finding some space for themselves.”
Celebrations marking this literary milestone are taking place through the year. The museum is exhibiting letters from Jane Austen to her sister Cassandra including the one in which she describes the book as “my own darling child” and describes its heroine Elizabeth Bennet as “delightful a creature as ever appeared in print.”
Bestselling author Joanna Trollope and star of 2008's Lost in Austen, actress Jemima Rooper, were in attendance and spent time looking around the house, admiring, in particular, a special book cake for the occasion.
Joanna said: “Pride and Prejudice is an incredibly important novel which has never quite been done justice by its adaptations. It is much more serious, and much darker.
"I am involved with The Austen Project, which has set six well-known modern novelists the task of writing modern versions of Austen’s novels, adhering to exactly the same plot and characters. I’m doing Sense and Sensibility and my Willoughby has an Aston Martin instead of a horse. Writing it, my respect for her grew and grew.”
Although the house was closed to tourists for the day, a few were in the vicinity of the house to experience the atmosphere of the event.
Wendie Autie from Hook, visiting with her friend Antoinette Flanagan from Odiham, said: “We love Jane Austen and we knew it was the anniversary so we thought we would come here. It’s one of my favourite books, so human, and it adapts to the times. I love Austen’s humour.”