Pride and Prejudice

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Pride and Prejudice, probably the most popular of Austen's finished novels, was also, in a sense, the first to be composed. The original version, First Impressions, was completed by 1797, but was rejected for publication—no copy of the original has survived. The work was rewritten around 1812 and published in 1813 as Pride and Prejudice. The final form must have been a thorough rewriting of the original effort, for it is representative of the mature Austen. Moreover, the story clearly takes place in the early nineteenth century rather than in the late eighteenth century.

Austen's works, including Pride and Prejudice, were barely noticed by critics during her lifetime. Pride and Prejudice sold fairly well—the first edition sold out at about 1,500 copies. Critics who eventually reviewed it in the early part of the nineteenth century praised Austen's characterizations and portrayal of everyday life. After Austen's death in 1817, the book continued to be published and read with little attention from critics for the next fifty years. The few critical comments made during that time continued to focus on her skill at creating characters, as well as on her technical mastery. In 1870, probably the most significant nineteenth-century critical article on Austen was published by Richard Simpson; in the article, Simpson discussed the complexity of Austen's work, including her use of irony.

Modern Austen scholarship began in 1939 with the publication of Jane Austen and Her Art, by Mary Lascelle. The scope and vision of that book prompted other scholars to take a closer look at Austen's works. Pride and Prejudice began getting serious attention in the 1940s and has continued to be studied heavily since that time. Modern critics take a variety of approaches to the novel, including historical, economical, feminist, and linguistic.

Various critics have consistently noted that the plot development of Pride and Prejudice is determined by character—coincidence exerts a major...
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