Jane Austen lovers around the world have begun busting out their bonnets for a yearlong celebration of the 200th anniversary of the publication of “Pride and Prejudice,” which loosed its famous first line on the world on Jan. 28, 1813.
It’s too late to secure an invitation to the BBC’s meticulous reconstruction of the Netherfield Ball, site of a pivotal encounter between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. (It was filmed last week at Chawton House, the Hampshire manor that once belonged to Austen’s brother Edward, and will be broadcast in May.) But there are plenty of public festivities on the calendar.
On Monday, the Jane Austen Center in Bath, England, will hold a 12-hour read-a-thon, to be broadcast live online. The Free Library of Philadelphia is hosting an all-day celebration including lectures, film screenings and “pop-up” theatrical performances of scenes from the novel. Goucher College in Baltimore, home to what it calls the largest Austen collection in North America, will open “Pride and Prejudice: A 200 Year Affair,” an exhibition of rare editions and other items documenting the novel’s reception over the past two centuries.
Those who can’t make it out of the house can enter a bicentennial essay contest sponsored by the Jane Austen Society of North America. If that’s too taxing, Penguin Classics has been encouraging readers to post favorite lines from the book on Twitter. (Sample: “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?”)
Juliette Wells, an associate professor of English at Goucher and the author of the book “Everybody’s Jane: Austen in the Popular Imagination,” said in an e-mail that she did not know if the centennial of the book, on the eve of World War I, was much noted, though the bicentennial of Austen’s birth in December 1975 was celebrated with commemorative stamps in Britain and many pronouncements on both sides of the Atlantic. That year also saw the publication of one of the first scholarly studies of Austen adaptations, Andrew Wright’s article “Jane Austen Adapted,” which concluded that no modern version could come close to the original — a finding that Colin Firth fanatics, to say nothing of the zombie hordes, may ardently dispute.
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