Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Jane Austen and Pride & Prejudice
My love of the Regency period stems from reading Georgette Heyer's books when I was very young and then in my early teens reading all of Jane Austen's books. Writing in the Regency period means you can include everything from high society to the horrors of the Napoleonic Wars.
All my published books have been set in this time, the heroines are gentry the heroes sometimes aristocrats but all, apart from one, ex-soldiers. It was Bernard Cornwell's wonderful Sharpe books that inspired me to include military gentlemen in my tales. When the books were turned into television films and the gorgeous Sean Bean played Richard Sharpe I had a template for all my heroes.
However I've always wanted to know more about Jane Bennet and Charles Bingley and this year decided to write what I thought might have happened to them during the difficult year they were apart. The book, Miss Bennet & Mr Bingley, is now available on Lulu.com and will be on general release in a few weeks.
Flicking through my ancient copy of Pride and Prejudice I came across some fascinating information about the publication of this book. It was first offered to the publisher Cadell on November the first 1797, as "a manuscript novel comprising three volumes, about the length of Miss Burney's Evelina ... I shall be much obliged ... if you would inform me whether you choose to be concerned in it, what would be the expense of publishing it at the author's risk, what you will venture to advance for the property of it, if on perusal it is approved of.'
Cadell didn't take it and the book was shortened and revised and eventually went to Thomas Egerton of the Military Library in Whitehall for £110 ( it seems that Jane asked for £150). The first printing was around 1500 copies and sold at 18 shillings in boards and appeared in January 1813; it sold out. The second edition appeared in November. The third edition was published by John Murray in 1817. Jane Austen had to wait 16 years before her book was published - imagine if it hadn't been taken? A world without Darcy doesn't bear thinking about!!
On another loop we have been discussing how long it takes nowadays for a new writer to find a publisher. Some of us took only a year others 10 years, but as far as I recall none of the authors waited as long as Jane did to see their book in print.