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Monday, May 14, 2012

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen
p. 1813
Public Domain Books 1998
Read on an Amazon Kindle, and Kindle For Ipad

  This book is number one in the Amazon category of "FICTION CLASSICS/FREE."
Pride and Prejudice was her next book after Sense and Sensibility.  Sense and Sensibility was the artistic equivalent of "LP1" and Pride and Prejudice was "LP2."   Since this is essentially the most popular classic in the world, I thought I would take the opportunity to make some general comments about the manner in which I read this book, which has been "in print" and  read continuously since being originally published in a 3 volume set in 1813.

   I "purchased" this item on my work computer for my Amazon Kindle on April 12th, 2012.  Between April 12th and May 2nd, Pride and Prejudice was sitting on my Kindle.   On May 1st, I finished reading  Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility.  On May 2nd, I began to read Pride and Prejudice on my Kindle at home but found it "too much" and dropped it after 20 pages.  On May 3rd, I was waiting to make a court appearance and read Pride and Prejudice on my Kindle in the Court Room, I read about 50 pages or so. Later on in the day on May 3rd, I downloaded the App for Kindle on my wife's IPAD and read Pride and Prejudice while A&E Reality television was being displayed on our television.  And then on May 4th I read Pride and Prejudice on my Kindle twice, and once on my wife's IPAD. 

  On May 4th, I watched most of episode 1/5 of the 1980 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice and thought about it.  I also finished reading Mode of Production of Victorian Novels by N.N. Feltes.  Although Feltes is discussing a later time period (1830s vs. 1810s) he discusses trends that were relevant to the publication of both Sense and Sensibility AND Pride and Prejudice.

  Novels published in the early 19th century were often published as an expensive 3 volume set.  The primary consumers were not direct purchasers, but rather circulating libraries, which would then make money by lending out and eventually re-selling the 3 volume set.  Sense and Sensibility was published in a 3 volume set. (HISTORY TODAY)  Pride and Prejudice was ALSO published as a three volume set, so it seems accurate to assert that her Audience was the Audience described by Feltes, lending libraries and their patrons, wealthier readers and then probably some kind of bootleg audience based on unauthorized editions. 

  I would argue that the early 20th century lending library was the functional equivalent of the 20th century juke box, or vice-versa, helping to disseminate works of Art in an Audience that "can't afford" to purchase a full work of art.   It would seem that it would bring a social aspect to the Act of reading a novel, a community aspect if you will.  Jane Austen herself was probably part of a community of that sort. 

  When you consider an early 19th century Lending Library audience, it's interesting that in Pride and Prejudice, the depicted class is not that of Lords and Ladies, but rather various strands within the trade and land bourgeois.  The essence of Pride and Prejudice in my mind is the scene near the end between Elizabeth Bennett (heroine) and Lady Catherine de Bourgh, the Aunt of Darcy (Elizabeth Bennett's intended husband.)

  In that scene Lady Catherine de Bourgh basically says, "Well, we are "commoners" but Darcy's family and the family of this other chick that I want Darcy to marry are a higher sub-class then your family.  And Elizabeth Bennett basically wins the argument by saying, :"No, if none of us are Nobility then we are all the same so there."  And then, most importantly, she gets the guy.  That must have been an appealing message to the women who were checking out books from these early nineteenth century lending libraries. 

  The Lending Library Audience for early 19th century fiction was important but small in terms of the numbers that were to come.  A successful work might print 5 to 10,000 three volume sets.  Not until the later part of the 19th century did a truly "mass" market begin to develop for the "one volume" novel, and this was preceded by a half century of publication by magazines and journals. 

  When you are evaluating art forms from different time periods you need to take account of the publication format, and how that format influenced the Audience.  Lending Libraries were not limited to fiction, they lent sheet music and non-fiction books as well.  The Editions they bought were meant to be passed around from person to person. It just shows that books were more valuable objects in the early 18th century.

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