"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."
Next to the exhortation at the beginning of Moby-Dick, "Call me Ishmael," the first sentence of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice must be among the most quoted in literature. And certainly what Melville did for whaling Austen does for marriage--tracing the intricacies (not to mention the economics) of 19th-century British mating rituals with a sure hand and an unblinking eye. As usual, Austen trains her sights on a country village and a few families--in this case, the Bennets, the Philips, and the Lucases. Into their midst comes Mr. Bingley, a single man of good fortune, and his friend, Mr. Darcy, who is even richer. Mrs. Bennet, who married above her station, sees their arrival as an opportunity to marry off at least one of her five daughters. Bingley is complaisant and easily charmed by the eldest Bennet girl, Jane; Darcy, however, is harder to please. Put off by Mrs. Bennet's vulgarity and the untoward behavior of the three younger daughters, he is unable to see the true worth of the older girls, Jane and Elizabeth. His excessive pride offends Lizzy, who is more than willing to believe the worst that other people have to say of him; when George Wickham, a soldier stationed in the village, does indeed have a discreditable tale to tell, his words fall on fertile ground.
Having set up the central misunderstanding of the novel, Austen then brings in her cast of fascinating secondary characters: Mr. Collins, the sycophantic clergyman who aspires to Lizzy's hand but settles for her best friend, Charlotte, instead; Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Mr. Darcy's insufferably snobbish aunt; and the Gardiners, Jane and Elizabeth's low-born but noble-hearted aunt and uncle. Some of Austen's best comedy comes from mixing and matching these representatives of different classes and economic strata, demonstrating the hypocrisy at the heart of so many social interactions. And though the novel is rife with romantic misunderstandings, rejected proposals, disastrous elopements, and a requisite happy ending for those who deserve one, Austen never gets so carried away with the romance that she loses sight of the hard economic realities of 19th-century matrimonial maneuvering. Good marriages for penniless girls such as the Bennets are hard to come by, and even Lizzy, who comes to sincerely value Mr. Darcy, remarks when asked when she first began to love him: "It has been coming on so gradually, that I hardly know when it began. But I believe I must date it from my first seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley." She may be joking, but there's more than a little truth to her sentiment, as well. Jane Austen considered Elizabeth Bennet "as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print". Readers of Pride and Prejudice would be hard-pressed to disagree. --Alix Wilber
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Drawing on extensive knowledge, wisdom, and original insights, Professor Spacks is a monumentally intelligent guide to Pride and Prejudice
. Reading Austen's masterpiece with her commentaries at hand is like reading it with a better, wiser friend: someone who is able to anticipate our questions and reactions and someone who also knows Austen and her people intimately.
--Deidre Lynch, University of Toronto
[Spacks] provides an extremely useful introduction, detailing Austen's life and noting (along with her "further reading" section) the ongoing scholarly attention. Readers will also appreciate Spacks's well-placed references to the interpretations of other scholars, such as Tony Tanner and Linda Colley...A valuable addition for any Austen student, scholar, or fan.
--Kathryn R. Bartelt (Library Journal
Reading Pride and Prejudice
with Spacks as a guide illuminates the richness of Austen's historical context, as the annotations draw attention to important material that might initially be missed...This beautifully produced and informative guide to reading Austen's brilliant and beloved novel in its historical context will be a welcome addition to the library of anyone who has read, or plans to read, Pride and Prejudice
more than once...Both specialists and fans will find it a great pleasure to read, learn from, and argue with Spacks's annotated edition of this classic novel.
--Sarah Emsley (Open Letters Monthly
So interesting and comprehensive are Spacks's notes on Austen, she could conceivably even introduce the author to a few male readers who might otherwise have veered away from all the bonnets and ruffles...Spacks is fascinating on the topic of Austen, and especially on the author's deft use of dialogue and observation to layer dense levels of meaning into her stories, the notes do open up new vistas of enjoyment and understanding, especially for those approaching the goings-on at Longbourn for the first time...Spacks's notes can be invaluable...For history buffs and period fetishists, who must surely comprise some significant part of the audience for historical romance, this annotated Pride and Prejudice
is a treasure trove...This edition should prove equally refreshing to even the most ardent of Miss Bennet's amateur readers.
--John Birmingham (The Australian
An appropriately handsome, witty, deeply smart and buoyantly informative annotated edition of Jane Austen's beloved novel, prepared with astuteness and affection by scholar Patricia Meyer Spacks. (Barnes and Noble Review
A treat for the legions of Jane Austen enthusiasts, Pride and Prejudice: The Annotated Edition
is an oversized volume packed with period illustrations and notation, illuminating the text and the life of Austen. (National Post
[A] handsomely produced annotated edition...Spacks' annotations are illuminating...The dozens of illustrations--a watercolor of Austen by her sister, for example, and images of late 18th-century drawing rooms--add a layer of visual delight and edification to the clarifying notes Spacks offers.
--Lauren Winner (Books & Culture
Austen's most famous novel needs no introduction, but it does benefit from the hundreds of loving notes--historical references, vocab tips, and more--provided by Austen scholar Patricia Meyer Spacks. (Entertainment Weekly
[A] beautiful new illustrated edition...The great benefit of Spacks's notes, set out in columns beside the text, and sometimes occupying whole facing pages, is that they make you read more slowly. Instead of letting Austen's delicious confection slip down like a syllabub, you have to think about each sentence, and that enriches and complicates everything...Pride and Prejudice
is a rarity among great books in being both a trenchant moral tale and the wispiest wish fulfillment, as unreal as Cinderella
--John Carey (Sunday Times
Delightful illustrations and perspicacious annotations deepen the pleasures of this great book, paradoxically showing how much we converge and diverge with Miss Austen's world of Regency England. Spacks anticipates our questions because she has spent countless afternoon teas in the company of an author whose ear was tuned to subtleties of dialogue and whose heart was sensitive to both the machinations of romance and the meanness of wealth.
--Christopher Benson (First Things
In this annotated edition of Pride and Prejudice
, Patricia Meyer Spacks offers a guide to the nuances of Austen's language...It is useful to have such glosses adjacent to Austen's text, along with concise explanations of points of etiquette, historical detail, parallels with other Austen novels and involving subjects such as the Bennet girls' marriage prospects.
--Michael Caines (Times Literary Supplement
A grand slam home run.
--Laurel Ann (AustenProse.com