On this day in 1813, “Pride & Prejudice” was published in London—attributed only to “the author of ‘Sense & Sensibility’.” Today we know the author was Jane Austen. We also know the book was long in coming.
Jane Austen began writing the book in 1796 and titled it “First Impression.” The next year, her father contacted London bookseller Thomas Cadell to determine his interest in publishing the book. “No, thank you,” came his reply.
Jane continued to work on the book for the next 15 years, retitling it “Pride & Prejudice,” thus capitalizing on the success of her recently-published “Sense & Sensibility.” She sold the book for a one-time payment of £110 with no share of any profit. The book quickly sold-out its first printing, easily making a profit on the second printing.
Like many of Jane Austen’s stories, this one depicts the manners, customs, and idiosyncrasies of England’s upper class; indeed it is a tempered commentary on the realities of the British class system. She illustrates the unfair situation in which a woman must depend on marriage to preserve (or enhance) her financial and social standings.
Sadly, Jane Austen was not recognized during her lifetime as the author of her great—and popular—books. Though some fans, like the Prince Regent (later King George IV), knew her, the general public never did. Only after her death did her brother, Henry, publish a “eulogy” of sorts which identified the lady author.
Jane Austen became ill and died at the age of 41 of what has been variously diagnosed as Addison’s Disease, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, or Bovine Tuberculosis (from drinking unpasteurized milk). She is buried in Winchester Cathedral where her grave is visited by many. Her book, “Pride & Prejudice,” is now considered one of the most popular novels in English literature.
Pictured above: an English Oak and Pierced Brass Stationery Stand. While this one is from the Victorian period—not the Georgian, when Austen lived—the author might have had something similar atop her writing table. Click on the photo to learn more about it.
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