I think the reason Jane Austen's novels have remained popular--and have even undergone something of a resurgence in the past decade--is that they are eminently readable. Pride and Prejudice, published almost exactly 200 years ago, is not full of dull, turgid prose like so many novels of that era (and, arguably, our own). I first read the story of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy years ago, and quite enjoyed it again recently in the Worth Press edition. Austen's characters, both major and supporting, are given distinct, memorable personalities, and one certainly gets a sense of life in a particular time and place (not that Austen can be fairly construed as overly concerned with realism). It also provides a fascinating insight into an aspect of the evolution of the institution of marriage, where finding a suitable, moderately wealthy husband was the only avenue of financial security open to women of a certain class.
The Worth Press edition comes with four essays. John Wiltshire discusses various adaptations of the book into film and stage productions alongside an interesting overview of modern evaluations of the novel by literary essayists. Maggie Lane's essay on day-to-day life of the time period as portrayed in the novel offers a nice background into the important of music and dance for women of Elizabeth Bennett's class. Caroline Sanderson discusses the geographical settings of the book and theorizes what real-life places may have inspired the fictional ones in the novel; as I have the scantiest knowledge of English geography, this didn't do much for me. Finally, Josephine Ross briefly touches on a variety of subjects as portrayed in the novel: fashion, marriage, the background of the Napoleonic Wars, and more.
Next Time: Sense and Sensibility (the last Worth Press literary classic I'm aware of and haven't yet read).