Is 210 years (as opposed to 200 or 250) an especially significant literary anniversary? When it comes to the work of Jane Austen in general and this novel in particular, the answer always seems to be ‘yes’. While Emma (1816), with its moral complexity and brilliant plotting, is often said by literary critics to be the richest and most challenging of the six complete novels, Pride and Prejudice (1813) is to the general public what eldest daughter Jane is to the inimitable Mrs Bennet: ‘beyond competition [the] favourite child’.
According to the Jane Austen House Museum, Austen’s publisher Thomas Egerton paid £110 (roughly £10,000 today) for the copyright of this, her second novel. Published as part of his ‘Military Library’ series in January 1813, Egerton’s marketing strategy was clear: the title page advertises it as ‘By the Author of Sense & Sensibility’. After the first edition quickly sold out, two more appeared before Austen’s death in 1817. It has never been out of print since.
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