Pride and Prejudice

Publication history

Austen began writing the novel after staying at Goodnestone Park in Kent with her brother Edward and his wife in 1796.[17] The novel was originally titled First Impressions by Jane Austen, and was written between October 1796 and August 1797.[18] On 1 November 1797 Austen's father sent a letter to London bookseller Thomas Cadell to ask if he had any interest in seeing the manuscript, but the offer was declined by return of post.[19]

Austen made significant revisions to the manuscript for First Impressions between 1811 and 1812.[18] As nothing remains of the original manuscript, we are reduced to conjecture. From the large number of letters in the final novel, it is assumed that First Impressions was an epistolary novel.[20] She later renamed the story Pride and Prejudice. In renaming the novel, Austen probably had in mind the "sufferings and oppositions" summarised in the final chapter of Fanny Burney's Cecilia, called "Pride and Prejudice", where the phrase appears three times in block capitals.[10] It is possible that the novel's original title was altered to avoid confusion with other works. In the years between the completion of First Impressions and its revision into Pride and Prejudice, two other works had been published under that name: a novel by Margaret Holford and a comedy by Horace Smith.[19]

Austen sold the copyright for the novel to Thomas Egerton of Whitehall in exchange for £110 (Austen had asked for £150).[21] This proved a costly decision. Austen had published Sense and Sensibility on a commission basis, whereby she indemnified the publisher against any losses and received any profits, less costs and the publisher's commission. Unaware that Sense and Sensibility would sell out its edition, making her £140,[19] she passed the copyright to Egerton for a one-off payment, meaning that all the risk (and all the profits) would be his. Jan Fergus has calculated that Egerton subsequently made around £450 from just the first two editions of the book.[22]

Egerton published the first edition of Pride and Prejudice in three hardcover volumes on 27 January 1813.[23] It was advertised in the Morning Chronicle, priced at 18s.[18] Favourable reviews saw this edition sold out, with a second edition published in November that year. A third edition was published in 1817.[21]

Foreign language translations first appeared in 1813 in French; subsequent translations were published in German, Danish, and Swedish.[24] Pride and Prejudice was first published in the United States in August 1832 as Elizabeth Bennet or, Pride and Prejudice.[21] The novel was also included in Richard Bentley's Standard Novel series in 1833. R. W. Chapman's scholarly edition of Pride and Prejudice, first published in 1923, has become the standard edition from which many modern publications of the novel are based.[21]


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