Oxford World’s Classics: Northanger Abbey, Lady Susan, The Watsons, and Sanditon, by Jane Austen – A Review

“Catherine, at any rate, heard enough to feel that in suspecting General Tilney of either murdering or shutting up his wife, she had scarcely sinned against his character, or magnified his cruelty” The Narrator, Chapter 30 

Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey is the novel that almost wasn’t. We know from Cassandra Austen’s notes that her sister Jane wrote it during 1798-1799, prepared it for publication in 1803, and sold it to publishers Crosby & Company of London only to never see it in print. It languished on the publisher’s shelf for six years until Austen, as perplexed as any authoress who was paid for a manuscript, saw it not published, and then made an ironical inquiry,  supposing that by some “extraordinary circumstance” that it had been carelessly lost, offering a replacement. In reply, the publisher claimed no obligation to publish it and sarcastically offered it back if repaid his 10 pounds.

Seven more years pass during which Pride and Prejudice is published in 1813 to much acclaim, followed by Mansfield Park in 1814, and Emma in 1815, all anonymously ‘by a lady’. With the help of her brother Henry, Austen then buys back the manuscript from Crosby & Company for the same sum, for Crosby could not know this manuscript was written by a now successfully published and respected author and thus worth quite a bit more. Ha! Imagine the manuscript that would later be titled Northanger Abbey and published posthumously in 1818 might never have been available to us today. If its precarious publishing history suggests it lacks merit, I remind readers that ironically in the early 1800s most viewed it as “only a novel“, whose premise its author and narrator in turn heartily defend.

“And what are you reading, Miss – ?” “Oh! It is only a novel!” replies the young lady, while she lays down her book with affected indifference, or momentary shame. “It is only Cecilia, or Camilla, or Belinda”; or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language.” The Narrator, Chapter 5

If this statement seems a bit over the top, then you have discovered one of the many ironies in Northanger Abbey as Austen pokes fun at the critics who oppose novel writing by cleverly writing a novel, defending writing a novel. Phew! In its simplest form, Northanger Abbey is a parody of the Gothic fiction so popular in Austen’s day but considered lowbrow reading and shunned by the literati and critics. In a more expanded view it is so much more than I should attempt to describe in this limited space, but will reveal that it can be read on many different levels of enjoyment; — for its coming of age story, social observations, historical context, allusions to Gothic novels and literature, beautiful language and satisfying love story.

Some critics consider Northanger Abbey to be Jane Austen’s best work revealing both her comedic and intellectual talents at its best. I always enjoy reading it for the sheer joy of exuberant young heroine Catherine Morland, charmingly witty hero Henry Tilney and the comedy and social satire of the supporting characters. At times, I do find it a challenge because so much of the plot is based on allusions to other novels, and much of the story is tongue in cheek. Explanatory notes and further study have helped me understand so much more than just the surface story and I would like to recommend that all readers purchase annotated versions of the text for better appreciation.

Oxford World’s Classics has just released its new edition of Northanger Abbey which is worthy of consideration among the other editions in print that include a medium amount of supplemental material to support the text. Also included in this edition are three minor works, Lady Susan, The Watsons, and Sanditon. Updated and revised in 2003, it has an newly designed cover and contains a short biography of Jane Austen, notes on the text, explanatory notes which are numbered within the text and referenced in the back, chronology, two appendixes of Rank and Social Class and Dancing and a 28 page introduction by Claudia L. Johnson, Prof. of English Literature at Princeton University and well known Austen scholar. Of the five introductions I have read so far in the Oxford Austen series I have enjoyed this one the most as Prof. Johnson style is so entertaining and accessible. She writes with authority and an elegant casualness that does not intimidate this everyman reader. The essay is broken down into a general Introduction, Gothic or Anti-Gothic?, Jane Austen, Irony, and Gothic Style, and Northanger Abbey in Relation to Lady Susan, The Watsons, and Sanditon. Here is an excerpt that I thought fitting to support my previous mention of publishing history and tone.

Northanger Abbey is a sophisticated and densely literary novel, mimicking a great variety of print forms common in Austen’s day – conduct of books, miscellanies, sermons,  literary reviews, and, of course, novels. Its ambition is fitting, because it was to have marked Austen’s entrance into the ranks of print culture. After Austen’s earlier attempt to publish a version of Pride and Prejudice failed, Northanger Abbey (then called Susan) seemed to have succeeded, for it sold for a grand total of 10 to Crosby & Company in 1803. We have seen that Austen’s entrance into the printed world, unlike Catherine’s entrée into the wide world outside Fullerton, was energetically confident: when the narrator declares that novels ‘have only genius, wit, and taste to recommend them’ (p. 23), she is clearly referring to her own novel too. This seems an audacious claim when we consider that Austen had yet to publish a novel, and a painful one when we consider that the novel, though bought, paid for, and even advertised, never actually appeared.” Page xxv

What I found most enlightening about this edition were the explanatory notes to the text which were also written by Prof. Johnson. Not only do they call attention to words, phrases, places, allusions, and historical meanings, they explain them in context to the character or situation allowing us further inside the though process or action.

115 ponderous chest: the chest is a site of spine-tingling terror and curiosity in novels such as Ann Radcliffe’s Romance of the Forrest (1791), where it holds a skeleton (vol, I , ch. iv), and William Godwin’s Caleb Williams (1794), where it holds evidence of Falkland’s diabolical crime. p. 369.

In addition to being an amusing parody and light-hearted romance, I recommend Northanger Abbey for young adult readers who will connect with the heroine Catherine Morland whose first experiences outside her home environment place her in a position to make decisions, judge for herself who is a good or bad friend, and many other life lessons that we discover again through her eyes. Henry Tilney is considered by many to be Austen’s most witty and charming hero and is given some the best dialogue of any of her characters.

“Miss Morland, no one can think more highly of the understanding of women than I do. In my opinion, nature has given them so much that they never find it necessary to use more than half.” Henry Tilney, Chapter 14

Luckily for Henry Tilney, there was one woman who used all that nature had given her with her writing when she created him. We are so fortunate that Northanger Abbey is not languishing and forgotten on a shelf at Crosby & Company in London, and available in this valuable edition by Oxford Press.

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

Oxford World’s Classics: Northanger Abbey Lady Susan, The Watsons, and Sanditon, by Jane Austen, edited by James Kinsley & John Davie
Oxford University Press, (2008)
Trade paperback (379) pages
ISBN: 978-0199535545

Cover image courtesy of Oxford University Press © 2008; text Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose.com

Oxford World’s Classics: Emma, by Jane Austen – A Review

“I will keep my ill-humour to myself. I have a very sincere interest in Emma . . . There is an anxiety, a curiosity in what one feels for Emma. I wonder what will become of her!” Mr. Knightley, Emma, Chapter 5 

For me, reading Jane Austen’s  Emma is a delight. However, not all readers have been in agreement with me over the years including Jane Austen herself who warned her family before publication “I am going to take a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like.” She was, of course, making fun of herself in her own satirical way; – her critics, on the other hand, were quite serious. When the book was published in 1815, Austen sent a copy to her contemporary author Maria Edgeworth who gave up reading the novel after the first volume, passing it on to a friend and complaining, “There is no story in it.” Others had mixed feelings offering both praise and censure for its focus on the ordinary details of a few families in a country village. One important advocate of Emma was Sir Walter Scott, whose essay published in the Quarterly Review of 1815 represents the most important criticism of Austen’s writing during her lifetime. Even though the review was published anonymously, she must have been pleased when the reviewer heralded her Emma as a ‘new style of novel’ designed to ‘suit modern times’. Heady stuff to be sure. When it was later learned that Scott had contributed the review, it would place Jane Austen in a whole other league of writers.

Emma can be enjoyed on different levels. For pure humor and witty dialogue, it may reign as Austen’s supreme triumph. Just Google quotes from Emma and you might agree that it has the best bon mots of any of her novels. Modern critics claim it as her masterpiece, and I do not doubt it. Pride and Prejudice may be the most beloved and well know of her works, but Emma represents Austen at the height of her writing skill and power as a storyteller. Like some of Austen’s contemporaries, the modern reader might find challenges in its minutiae and supposed lack of story. Not to worry. There are several annotated available to assist in understanding Jane Austen’s subtle and often witty dialogue, her unique characterizations, and help place the novel in historical context.

One source to consider is the new 2008 edition of Emma, by Oxford World’s Classics. Recently revised in 2003, this re-issue contains the same supplemental and textual material with a newly designed cover. For a reader seeking a medium level of support to help them along in their understanding, you will be happy to find a thoughtful 23-page introduction by Associate Professor of English and Women’s Studies Adela Pinch of the University of Michigan. The essay contains a brief introduction, and segments on Shopping and Suburbia, Narrative Voices: Gossip and the Individual, The Politics of Knowledge, and Emma: Much Ado About Nothing?. Her emphasis is on understanding Austen’s choice of writing about the ordinary and extraordinary aspects of the lives of its heroine Emma Woodhouse and her circle of family and friends in Highbury, a small English village in which she sets about to match make for all of its singletons, and blundering hilariously along the way. I particularly appreciated Prof. Pinch’s positive comments throughout the essay.

“Austen makes voices stick in the mind through her use of free indirect discourse, which makes character’s voice seem indelible, capable of soaking into other beings. But she also uses the same technique for representing thought. Her cultivation of this mode of representing her heroines’ minds has made her novels crucial to the history of the English novel, markers of a movement when the novel as a literary genre perfects its inward turn, and begins to claim human psychology as its territory. Above all it creates the feeling of intimacy with her heroines that many readers prize.” Page xvii-xviii

If I may be so bold and interject as the everyman Austen reader for a moment, parts of this essay are scholarly and touch on areas beyond my immediate understanding, especially when she delves into the philosophical and psychological pedantry. For the most part, Prof. Pinch’s essay is written in accessible language and is reverent and admiring to the author and the heroine. I found this outlook refreshing since the heroine Emma, and the novel Emma has received some criticisms for their shortcomings over the centuries. The novel is about so much more than the “no story” that Maria Edgeworth hastily condemned it to be. I especially adore Emma’s little friend Harriet Smith and think her much-maligned in the recent movie adaptations, and well – can there ever be enough praise bestowed upon Mrs. Elton? She is a comedic genius and worthy of a nomination to the literary comedy hall of fame.

Professor Pinch has also supplied the helpful explanatory notes throughout the text which are numbered on the page allowing the reader to refer to the back of the book for an explanation. Honestly, I prefer the notes to be footnoted at the bottom of the page instead of riffling back and forth, but that is a quibble on convenience. The remainder of the supplemental material; Biography of Jane Austen, Note on the Text, Select Bibliography, Chronology of Jane Austen, Appendix A: Rank and Social Status, and Appendix B: Dancing are repeated throughout the other Jane Austen editions in this series and discussed in our previous reviews.

This Oxford edition is a sweet little volume at an incredible price if you are in the market for a medium amount of supplemental material from reputable sources containing an authoritative text edited for the modern reader. If you enjoy matchless wit and irony, unforgettable characters, and a unique story that turns the everyday imaginings of a young Georgian era woman into an extraordinary story filled with a comedy of manners and romance, then take note; – Miss Emma Woodhouse commands you to purchase this book immediately!

4 out of 5 Regency Stars 

Read our previous reviews of the Oxford World’s Classics – Jane Austen Collection

Oxford World’s Classics: Emma by Jane Austen, edited by James Kinsley
Oxford University Press, Rev. Ed. (2008)
Trade paperback & eBook (418) pages
ISBN-13: 9780199535521

Cover image courtesy of  Oxford University Press © 2008; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2008, Austenprose.com

Oxford World’s Classics: Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen – A Review

“Me!” cried Fanny…”Indeed you must excuse me. I could not act any thing if you were to give me the world. No, indeed, I cannot act.” Fanny Price, Chapter 15

In a popularity poll of Jane Austen’s six major novels, Mansfield Park may come close to the bottom, but what a distinction that is in comparison to the rest of classic literature! Even though many find fault with its hero and heroine, its love story (or more accurately the lack of one), its dark subtext of abuse, neglect and oppression, and its overly moralistic tone, it is still Jane Austen; with her beautiful language, witty social observations and intriguing plot lines. Given the overruling benefits, I can still place it in my top ten all-time favorite classic books.

Considering the difficulty that some readers have in understanding Mansfield Park, the added benefit of good supplemental material is an even more important consideration in purchasing the novel. Recently I evaluated several editions of the novel currently in print which you can view here. For readers seeking a medium level of supplemental material, one solid candidate is the new reissue of Oxford World’s Classics (2008) which offers a useful combination of topics to expand on the text, place it in context to when it was written, and an insightful introduction by Jane Stabler, a Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Dundee, Scotland and Lord Byron scholar.

Understanding all the important nuances and inner-meanings in Mansfield Park can be akin to ‘visiting Pemberley’, the extensive estate of the wealthy Mr. Darcy in Jane Austen’s more famous novel Pride and Prejudice. One is intrigued by its renown but hard-pressed to take it all in on short acquaintance. The greatest benefit of the Oxford World’s Classics edition to the reader who seeks clarification is Jan Stabler’s thirty-page introduction which is thoughtfully broken down into six sub-categories by theme; The Politics of Home, Actors and Audiences, The Drama of Conscience, Stagecraft and Psychology, Possession, Restoration and Rebellion, and Disorder and Dynamism. Written at a level accessible to the novice and veteran alike, I particularly appreciate this type of thematic format when I am seeking an answer or explanation on one subject and do not have the time to wade through the entire essay at that moment. Her concluding lines seemed to sum up my recent feelings on the novel.

“The brisk restoration of order at Mansfield Park and healing of the breach between parent and child is underwritten by the same doubt that lingers around the last scene of Shakespeare’s King Lear: ‘Is this the promis’d end? (v. iii 262). Recreating the urge to defy parental authority while teaching us to sit still, and pitting unruly energy against patient submission to the rule of law, Mansfield Park is an enthralling performance of the competitive forces which governed early nineteenth-century politics, society and art.”

For me, Mansfield Park is about Jane Austen teaching this unruly child to sit still and enjoy the performance! With patience, I have come to cherish Fanny Price, the most virtuous and under-rated heroine in classic literature! Re-reading the novel and supplemental material was well worth the extra effort, expanding my appreciation of Austen’s skills as a storyteller and the understanding of the social workings in rural Regency England. I am never disappointed in her delivery of great quips such as

But there certainly are not so many men of large fortune in the world as there are pretty women to deserve them.” The Narrator, Chapter 1

Also included in this edition are four appendixes; the first two on Rank and Social Status and Dancing which are included in all six of the Oxford World’s Classics Jane Austen editions and have been previously reviewed, followed by; Lovers’ Vows (the theatrical that the young people attempt to produce in the novel), and Austen and the Navy which helps the reader understand Jane Austen’s connection to the Royal Navy through her brothers James and Francis and its influence on her writing. The extensive Explanatory Notes to the text help place the novel in context for the modern reader while offering helpful and insightful nuggets of Regency information.

Mansfield Park may have the dubious distinction of being Jane Austen’s most challenging novel, but I have come to appreciate her characters and plot by a better understanding of the subtext through supplemental material and further re-readings of the novel. It is now one of my favorite Austen novels. Readers who hesitate to read Mansfield Park because of the ‘bad rap’ that it has received over the years are reminded of heroine Fanny Price’s excellent observation to the unprincipled character Henry Crawford, “We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be“. The Oxford World’s Classics Mansfield Park is certainly a fine edition to help you discover your own better inner-guide to the novel!

 4 out of 5 Regency Stars 

Read my previous reviews in the Oxford World’s Classics – Jane Austen Collection

Oxford World’s Classics: Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen, edited by James Kinsley
Oxford University Press, Rev. Ed. (2008)
Trade paperback (480) pages

ISBN: 978-0199535538

Cover image courtesy of Oxford University Press © 2008; text Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose.com

Mansfield Park: Current Editions in Print Roundup & Review

THE SCOOP

Literary classics that are out of copyright can be a gold mine for publishers. With no living authors to negotiate contracts or pester them about marketing and promotions, they are at their leisure to do as they please, and do so, as is apparent in some choices of cover artwork! The competition in the marketplace for classics is stiff and really heats up when a renowned author such as Jane Austen enters the arena. Even her lesser known works such as Northanger Abbey and Mansfield Park get equal treatment. Hurrah. We are all for equality in the book force.

There are at present over 50 editions of Mansfield Park available in printed book format on Amazon.com. Everyone has their preferred edition, but here are my selections of the best and brightest currently in print. I would love to hear about your favoured edition, so please share by leaving a comment between August 16 and the 30 to qualify for some of our free give-aways during Mansfield Park Madness.  

Books 

The Oxford Illustrated Jane Austen: Volume III: Mansfield Park

Oxford University Press, USA (1988). First published in 1923, this third edition of Oxford’s classic volume is still the definitive text and supplemental material recommended by JASNA and many veteran readers of Jane Austen novels. Editor Dr. R.W. Chapman’s emendations and revisions of the text based on a “full collation between all the published editions in the author’s lifetime” is currently under debate by scholars, but the nuances will fly past the pleasure reader. This volume contains an impressive presentation of support material including: Introductory Note, the complete play Lovers’ Vows which the characters in novel attempt to produce, Appendixes on the Chronology of Mansfield Park, Improvements, and Carriages and Travel, and Indexes to the Characters &C. The size is quite workable in spite of its extras. Probably the most used supplemental material on Mansfield Park in my personal library. Hardcover, 584 pages, ISBN 978-0192547033. 4 out of 5 Regency stars           

Mansfield Park: Penguin Classics

Penguin Classics (2003). Revised edition. The interesting slant on this edition is that the editor Kathryn Sutherland used the text of the first edition of Mansfield Park (1814), which literally reverses the emendations by Chapman in the Oxford editions, and has not attempted to make any changes; not even spelling corrections or the ones that Jane Austen made herself for the second edition! She kindly refers the reader to the extensive ‘Emendations to the Text’ section and lists the changes from the first edition of 1814 to the second edition of 1816. Pleasure readers might be puzzled by all this posturing by Austen scholars, (which is a bit deep into subtle nuances), but the rest of the supplemental material is quite extensive and helpful including; Introduction, Chronology, Further Reading, Note on Text; Appendixes: Re-instated introduction by Tony Tanner, Emendations to the Text, Textural Variants between the First and Second editions and Notes broken down by chapters. This a tight and clean editionwith its chapter notes and the re-instated introduction by Tony Tanner make it well worth the price. Trade paperback, 480 pages. $8.00, ISBN 978-0141439808. 3½ out of 5 Regency stars           

Mansfield Park: Barnes & Noble Classics

Barnes & Noble (2004). Revised edition. The best thing going for this edition is its typesetting size and price. I could not find any mention of what edition or level of emendations where used on the text, so the editors are not shooting for the scholarly types; just plan old folks who don’t give two figs about what the textural battles are about. This is a slight oversight, since they had plenty of available space on the front pages to just mention what text they used and why. Oh well. Mansfield Park is Jane Austen, largest novel in size motivating publishers to try to cut down on price by using smaller print which can be quite vexing even to young readers, so this edition’s larger typeface is a pleasant surprise. The supplemental material is medium depth and includes; From the Pages of Mansfield Park which include some choice quotes, Biography of Jane Austen, The World of Jane Austen and Mansfield Park which is basically a chronology, Introduction by Amanda Claybaugh, brief Endnotes, Inspired by Mansfield Park which includes short blurbs on the movies Metropolitan and Mansfield Park (1999), Comments and Questions, and Further Reading. I will say that most of the comparably priced MP’s do not include any supplemental material, so B&N’s clout and deep pockets give readers a slight bonus. Hardcover, 427 pages, $7.95, ISBN 978-1593083564; softcover, 427 pages, $5.95, ISBN: 978-1593081546.  out of 5 Regency stars 

Mansfield Park: Oxford World’s Classics

Oxford University Press (2008). Revised edition. Oxford Press continues to impress me with their commitment to publish classics and revise them regularly. This new edition is much the same as its predecessor the 2003 edition, (which was truly a revision with new supplemental material), however, Oxford did spiff up the cover modernizing the design! This volume still shines in my estimation of what a great medium sized edition should be presenting an array of supplemental material that is easy to access, informative and inspiring including; Biography of Jane Austen, Introduction by Jane Stabler, Notes on the Text, Chronology; Four Appendixes: Lovers’ Vows (the play that the characters attempt to produce), Rank and Social Status, Dancing, Austen and the Navy; Textural Notes and Explanatory Notes. When it comes down to the wire, this edition is the best buy for the price at $7.95. Trade paperback, 418 pages, ISBN 978-0199535538.  out of 5 Regency stars 

Mansfield Park: Broadview Literary Texts Series

Broadview Press (2001). This hefty volume may just be the most in depth presentation of supplemental material available with an affordable price tag. The eight appendixes pull together a variety of interesting and comprehensive essays to help the reader place the novel in historical and social context, the author’s world and perspective at the time of its writing, and beyond. Some of the topics covered in the appendixes are (and space permits me from listing them all, so if you really need to know, go here) The Theatricals in Mansfield Park, Religion, Ideals of Femininity, The Improvement of the Estate, The West Indian Connection, Women’s Education, Contemporary Reception of Mansfield Park and Jane Austen’s Letters and Mansfield Park. This edition also includes a full introduction by noted scholar June Sturrock of Simon Fraser University, Notes on the text, a Chronology, and the full novel text! I can imagine that this would be very useful to advanced high school students, college level, and true Janeites who really want to dig deep into understanding the novel, its impact on literature, and the social context that inspired it. Trade paperback, 528 pages, $14.95, ISBN 978-1551110981. 5 out of 5 Regency stars 

Mansfield Park: Norton Critical Edition

W.W. Norton & Co, Inc. (1998). Another authoritative presentation of in-depth supplemental material for scholars and serious students to digest, covering an incredibly impressive array of topics mentioned in, inspired by, or about the novel, all edited and introduced by Princeton University Professor, and Austen scholar Claudia L. Johnson. The major categories of the supplemental material include; a full Introduction, Map of England, Notes on the Text; Contexts including twelve essays ranging from poet William Cowper to landscape designer Humphry Repton; and Criticisms by Jan Fergus, Lionel Trilling, Alistair Duckworth, Nina Auerback, Joesph Litvack, Edward Said, Brian Southam, and Joseph Lew. I doubt that anyone could sit down and read this from cover to cover in one sitting, however, there is so much depth of subject and detail, that one could truly spend an entire lifetime using this edition as a resource. An incredible STEAL for the price. Trade paperback, 544 pages, $11.00, ISBN 978-0393967913. 5 out of 5 Regency stars 

Mansfield Park: The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Jane Austen

Cambridge University Press (2005). This mysterious edition (to me) may just be the Flying Dutchman and the Holy Grail of Jane Austen editions, for I have yet to see one in hand, nor does my local library carry it, or are any other libraries willing to let it out of there sights by inter-library loan! Conclusively, it must be a treasure, and since it costs a bloody fortune, it most certainly is locked away in a University library special reading room where only scholars with white gloves can handle it!! I wish I could enlighten you all on what it contains, but alas, after an exhaustive attempt to obtain a copy short of paying the hefty price tag, I came up empty. Oh well. There always needs to be an unattainable Austen book out there to keep us Janeites dreaming. Hardcover, 826 pages, $130.00, ISBN: 978-0521827652. ? out of 5 Regency stars 

Upcoming posts
Day 3 – Aug 17            MP 1983 movie discussion
Day 4 – Aug 18            MP Naxos (Juliet Stevenson) audio
Day 5 – Aug 19            MP novel discussion chapters 9-16
Day 6 – Aug 20            Metropolitan movie discussion

Oxford World’s Classics Pride and Prejudice: Our Diptych Review

Cover of Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, Oxford World Classics, (2008)

his perfect indifference, and your pointed dislike, make it so delightfully absurd!” Mr. Bennet, Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 57

Gentle readers, Please join us for the second in a series of six diptych reviews of the revised editions of Jane Austen’s six major novels and three minor works that were released this summer by Oxford World’s Classics. Austenprose editor Laurel Ann is honored to be joined by Austen scholar Prof. Ellen Moody, who will be adding her professional insights to complement my everyman’s view. 

 

Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

Oxford World’s Classics Revised edition, (2008) 

Laurel Ann’s Review 

Any reader of the novel Pride and Prejudice, be it novice or veteran, has certain expectations and apprehensions based on its incredible popularity and renown. The same can be said for the media, whose recent over-use of its famous opening line, ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged…’ can be found repeated in the opening of many a news, magazine or blog article announcing some creditable or dubious connection to Jane Austen’s characters or plot. Interestingly, it has become the meme of the day passed along and re-used by those who want to appear in the know, but are sadly missing the point. It is debatable if Pride and Prejudice’s profound truths can be reduced to just universally acknowledged one-liners. If the novel was that easy to figure out we would not care two figs about it, and after nearly two hundred years, it would have been lost to obscurity! What one can expect though is so much more; an engaging plot that keeps you thinking and re-evaluating characters every step along the way, witty, sharp and humorous dialogue that others wish to emulate but never quite achieve, and a love story which just might reign supreme for all eternity. With all of these expectations before us, who could not be a little intimidated?  

The Oxford World’s Classics new edition of Pride and Prejudice might just meet your need to read and explore Jane Austen’s classic novel. This edition presents the reader with a wide variety of supplementary material to help you along in your discovery of the universal truths in Pride ad Prejudice. Like many editions, it supplies us with an unabridged text that has been carefully edited by prominent scholars since it was first published in 1813. ‘Carefully’ is the operative word here, since the debate is on about what has been changed or removed from the text. I will again defer to my learned co-reviewer Prof. Moody to delve into that arena. In addition to the brief biography of Jane Austen, select bibliography, chronology of her life, and two appendixes on dancing and social status that are repeated in each of the six editions in this series, (and previously mentioned in our first review), this volume includes a twenty-six page introduction by Fiona Stafford, notes on the text including a publishing history, textural notes and explanatory notes unique to this edition filled with insights and facts neatly organized and easy to find. 

Continue reading