'Pride and Prejudice' is Published

Jane Austen began writing the novel which later became Pride and Prejudice in October of 1796 and finished it by August of the following year; she was then twenty-one years old.

Little is known of this early version of the story beyond its original title: First Impressions. No copy of that original is known to exist. Three months after Miss Austen completed work on the book, her father offered it to a publisher in the hope that it would make it into print. The publisher refused without ever having seen the manuscript.

Fortunately for all of her admirers, whether Austen was discouraged or not by her first rejection, she continued to write; though, it was not until the winter of 1811, fully fourteen years after finishing First Impressions, that she again picked up that manuscript and began revising it into the version we know today as Pride and Prejudice. This occurred in the wake of her first publishing success--the publication of Sense and Sensibility on 30 October 1811. Pride and Prejudice was far more fortunate than its earlier incarnation; it was accepted for publication and was presented to the world on 28 January 1813.

Pride and Prejudice has always been, since its publication in 1813, Austen's most popular novel. The story of a sparkling, irrepressible heroine, Elizabeth Bennet, the behavior of whose family leaves much to be desired, and Mr. Darcy, a very rich and seemingly rude young man who initially finds Elizabeth "tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me," is, in the words of the Penguin Classics edition editor Tony Tanner, a novel about how a man changes his manners and a woman changes her mind. Through the ages, its chief delights for readers have been its flawed but charming heroine ("I think [Elizabeth] as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print," Austen herself wrote to her sister, Cassandra); its humorous treatment of a serious subject; brilliant and witty dialogue laced with irony; a cast of humorous minor characters; and Austen's nearly magical development of a complex but believable love relationship between two complex people.