Jane Austen lives on

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February 1, 2013 by dontbringlulubook

Two hundred years since Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” first appeared on the literary circuit and in a novel twist to honour a writer, who despite penning only six novels in her lifetime has become one of the twenty first century’s most studied authors, six modern day writers are working on new readings of Austen’s work to be published in the autumn. Each one will retain the original characters and story setting but rather than taking place two hundred years ago, the same situations, feelings and experiences will be firmly rooted in today’s society.

“Pride and Prejudice” was first published in 1813 and was Jane Austen’s second novel – one she described as her “own darling child”. Despite being out of copyright and available for free to all the thousands of e-readers, it is estimated that the book sells up to 50,000 copies each year in the UK.

Although the book didn’t catch on as quickly as expected, Professor Janet Todd, the general editor of the nine-volume Cambridge edition of the works of Jane Austen talks of how “it is the only one of Austen’s novels that really captures that popular romance story of a girl catching an upper-class male with money and an arrogant man is brought down by love.” She refers to the book being at the same time both simple and complex and how the one key to Austen’s work is that “she didn’t write for people who can’t think.” She says “I don’t think she wanted to write a book that is simply borrowed from the library and taken back or a paperback that’s thrown away. She wanted to write books that people valued, kept and read”.

Just how autobiographical were Jane Austen’s novels? Did she incorporate elements of her own life into certain characters and situations? Although all six were works of fiction, not an autobiographical account of the difficulties faced by real people in real situations, such as is the case for Ron, Doris and Sarah Onions book “Don’t Bring Lulu”, there is speculation that parts of Austen’s character or life experiences were subtly reflected in specific individuals and occurrences.

One of the greatest mysteries is how a sheltered young middle class woman such as Austen who lived for her writing and whose life was remarkably uneventful, produced six novels that made her one of the greatest novelists in Western literature, being able to portray so accurately wit, irony, the honest portrayal of human nature and the power and destruction brought about by humankind’s selfish greed.

Despite being a shy spinster all her life, her debated romance with Tom Lefroy who went on to become Lord Chief Justice of Ireland and admitted later in his life that he had indeed loved Jane Austen, was romance novel material in itself with the possibility being discussed that the characters of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy were based on Jane herself and Mr. Lefroy – although which was based on which remains a question in point.

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