On this day in 1813, our girl Jane introduced us to our favorite, most clever gal, Elizabeth Bennet and the brooding & incomparable Fitzwilliam Darcy. Jane started writing her first version of this classic, First Impressions, when she was just 20 years old in 1796. She would rework the manuscript in 1811-1812 and transform it into the beloved novel we know and love today.
I am currently reading The Annotated Pride and Prejudice, annotated and edited by David M. Shapard. It’s 774 pages of fangirl bliss, complete with maps, illustrations, a detailed chronology of events, literary comments and analysis, citations from Austen’s life, letters, and other writings… in a nutshell: It’s absolutely bitchin’.
To celebrate Pride & Prejudice Day, I’m starting a 3-part post with my favorite/most interesting to me annotations from each volume of the novel.
Today I’ll be sharing my top 10 annotations from Volume One:
- “What say you, Mary? For you are a young lady of deep reflection I know, and read great books, and make extracts.” (p.11)
- Make extracts means copying out passages from books. It was a popular thing to do, have an album or journal full of blank pages where you would copy down your favorite passages from books, papers, etc. Especially modern poetry. This was especially popular among women readers at the time, and the journals themselves were special, since it could take the owner years to fill it with their favorite quotes. The annotation also mentions Austen’s Emma, and how a character in that novel is passing around a book collecting verses from people.
- “The rest of the evening was spent in conjecting how soon he would return Mr. Bennet’s visit, and determining when they should ask him to dinner.” (p.13)
- This line is about Mr. Bingley returning Mr. Bennet’s initial visit. This annotation explains the ritual of social introductions. As an established man in the neighborhood, Mr. Bennet visits Mr. Bingley and it’s a super short visit, like, 15 min. Mr. Bingley is then supposed to make a short visit to Mr. Bennet. Then, Mr. Bennet is to invite Mr. Bingley to Longborn for dinner, and only on that longer visit would Mr. Bingley meet the rest of the family. This annotation mentions that according to Jane Austen’s letters, she was very adamant about depicting these social practices properly and fully in novels.
- “So, he enquired who she was, and got introduced, and asked her for the two next.” (p.22)
- This line is Bingley! I love it because he literally saw Jane, was like, “Damn!” Asked who she was to the closest man next to him, got himself introduced, and then got her on lock for dancing. I learned from this annotation that people typically had the same partner for TWO dances in a row and that each pair of dances would last for about half an hour. Most of the movie/series adaptations we see just show us one, quick but meaningful dance with our heroines and their partners, it’s crazy to think that they’d actually have half an hour of talking, flirting, or like in the case of dancing with Mr. Collins, being utterly horrified for 30 full minutes – yikes.
- “Her performance on the piano-forte is exquisite.” (p.70)
- This annotation may be a no-brainer for smarter Austenites than myself, but I didn’t know that piano-forte is the original name for the piano! It’s Italian in derivation and reflects the piano’s ability for playing notes softly or loudly. The annotation mentions that soon after this time in P&P, the abbreviated “piano” would become the norm.
- “Mr. Hurst had therefore nothing to do, but to stretch himself on one of the sophas and go to sleep.” (p.102)
- The annotation taught me that sofas had only recently become a thing at the time of this novel. It was a sign of slightly relaxed formality – laying down or slouching was only permissible to the sick, infirm, or slothful. The annotation still points out that Mr. Hurst, even though sofas were more common, it was NOT common to lay down on one and fall asleep in front of company. Oh, Mr. Hurst, you floozy.
- “—Other books were produced, and after some deliberation he chose Fordyce’s Sermons.” (p.134)
- I had always presumed that Mr. Collins of course would pick a book of sermons to read aloud which would be long and religious and I doubt a welcome read after dinner, BUT the annotation for this line taught me that the book is James Fordyce’s Sermons to Young Women. It was widely read at the time and when you realize that Mr. Collins is choosing to read THIS book to his female cousins about how women should behave on his FIRST night meeting them… ugh – he’s such a wet blanket, isn’t he?
- “…and that he was to have a lieutenant’s commission in the -–shire.” (p.144)
- Several times in the novel, when talking of the regiment of soldiers in Meryton, Austen writes: —shire. Shapard’s comment explains that each county in England had to have a certain number of troops for the militia, and they’d make up a regiment or regiments that would be named after their county. Most names of counties ended in -shire, so Jane using —shire allowed her to avoid actually naming any specific regiment. Shapard offers that perhaps Jane did this to avoid being wrong or insulting a particular regiment (since Wickham is gonna turn out to be an assbag). Also, the regiment can’t be from Hertfordshire because militia units served outside their own counties to prevent conflicts of loyalty.
- “Lydia talked incessantly of lottery tickets, of the fish she had lost and the fish she had won…” (p.164)
- Tokens/chips used in betting, which were often shaped like fish…. UM, what?! Fish shaped poker chips?! Adorable! I want a set, like, now.
- “Miss Lucas perceived him from an upper window as he walked towards the house and set out to meet him accidently in the lane.”
- Rereading this novel with Shapard’s annotations has really helped me see how calculating Charlotte Lucas actually is. I feel like most movie representations of Charlotte simply make her matter of fact and that her and Lizzie’s friendship is fine for the most part after Collins proposes and Charlotte accepts, but the novel really shows how Charlotte was actively pursuing/using her feminine wiles to get Mr. Collins on lock, and Lizzie expressed their friendship to be forever altered – Austen writes much of Lizzie’s true feelings of this match and she stays kinda inky toward Charlotte for a while – (but after some time Lizzie warms to Charlotte again.) Reading this version, I love how the annotations illuminate many facets of these characters, not just the main qualities we see abbreviated and highlighted in our movie adaptations.
- This one is actually the first annotation of Volume Two, but I’m putting it here in my top 10 for Volume One because it’s informative and felt like a good cap on this first post – It was standard practice at the time for novels to be divided and published in multiple volumes. The volume breaks in P&P are somewhat arbitrary, as nothing particularly special happens in the last chapter of the volume. No cliff hangers here folks.
There ya have it! I love rereading this novel – I can’t get more than 3-4 pages without learning some delightful little tid-bit from the annotations. I highly recommend this version for anyone wanting to deep dive into P&P.
Happy Pride & Prejudice Day to you all and remember to keep is saucy’ – it’s what Jane would do!
I also want to include this wonderful list of Top Ten Ways to Celebrate Pride & Prejudice Day 2021 from Jane Austen’s House.