I have more than a few copies of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, when people discover you are a fan of Jane Austen, copies arrive as gifts on occasion. I have a couple of particularly lovely copies, one very special edition and a delightful little pocket sized hardcover. Don’t get me wrong I love each and every one, they connect me to the people that love me and are willing to listen to me endlessly dissect her novels and sequels of her novels and other literature that I love…
Well I have found the best Pride and Prejudice so far,
The Annotated Pride and Prejudice,
Annotated and edited by David M. Shapard
It is amazing how much the mind skips over or assumes more modern values when reading books of this vintage. It opened my eyes about somethings and confirmed some others. The novel really focuses on the individuals position in society, and their income and how that effects the selection of a marriage partner. The question arises, what are differences in modern terms of the incomes of the various characters mentioned in the novel. For instance owning a horse and carriage at that time, why is it such a big deal? I was surprised that this was somewhat equivalent to someone owning a Helicopter today. Mr. Bennet, refers to calling the horse back from the farm work to take Jane to Netherfield Park to see Mr. Bingley’s sisters. The point being that his income was above average however his horses had to do double duty both farm work and pulling the family carriage.
There is also a very interesting note on the courses offered for meals. The day was also divided differently, morning, afternoon and evening were lengthened and consequently meals were arranged accordingly.
I really enjoyed the little insights into Jane Austens views on aspects of society. David M. Shapard has referred to comments that the author made in her letters, that add another perspective on her personal life and how it coloured her writings. She was a firm advocate for love and compatibility in marriage. She felt that a couple should be of similar values, understanding and interests, as well as love each other. This was rather unusual at the time as most marriages had more to do with connections and property. It is also rather obvious from her correspondence that some of her characters were drawn from real life.
Conclusion: Highly recommend this book. However If you haven’t read Pride and Prejudice at least once, I wouldn’t start here. If you are rereading it and want to understand more about the world of the novel this is an excellent, very approachable academic examination of the novel. Very well laid out with text on left page and notes, drawings, and diagrams on right page.
(see also her other novels which have received this Annotated treatment)
Other Annotated reviews: