Jane’ s doubts about Pride and Prejudice, on reading it immediately after its publication in January 1813, arose from her preoccupation with Mansfield Park, a novel which she later admitted was ‘not half so entertaining’ (Letters, 317), but which, nevertheless, she must have regarded at the time as more mature and important. Pride and Prejudice lacked shade; it was ‘rather too light, and bright, and sparkling’. Two or three weeks earlier, she had referred to details in chapters xxiv and xxv of Mansfield Parky, and it has generally been assumed that she had still to complete the first text of the novel. It can be argued that, though she began it very early in 1811, work on the first version of Mansfield Park had been suspended in order to revise Pride and Prejudice. On the other hand, according to the evidence of Henry Austen, Jane wrote rapidly and preferred to have ample time for revision before committing herself to publication. If Sanditon is a typical first draft, it seems more probable that Jane was busy rewriting the novel in January 1813; four of the five references to it in the few surviving letters of this period show what pains she was taking to check accuracy of detail. Moreover, the first letter to which reference is made indicates clearly that Cassandra was familiar with the story (pp. 292, 294). Cassandra was staying at Steventon with her brother James, and at the end of the month she received a second letter in which Jane wrote at length and somewhat ecstatically on ‘her darling child’, Pride and Prejudice, a copy of which she had just received.
KeywordsTheatrical Scene Private Theatrical Austen Paper Unfulfilled Expectation Bitter Disappointment
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