Pride and Prejudice Revisited: Because We All Need a Little Darcy In Our Lives

My favorite book of all time is the classic Pride and Prejudice by the incomparable Jane Austen.  I swooned over Darcy before Colin Firth dove into that stream fully clothed, igniting Darcy fever all over the world.  The first time I ever read it, I let out a sigh at the last page as Darcy and Elizabeth joined the ranks of unforgettable characters like Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe.  I know Darcy and Elizabeth technically came first, but I grew up with Anne (with an “E”) before I learned to give Fitzwilliam Darcy the proper respect he deserves.

Marvel Published Pride & Prejudice Graphic Novel

Unlike Jane Austen with Darcy and Elizabeth, L.M. Montgomery gave us quite a bit of Anne’s story.  We grew up with Anne, became bosom friends and kindred spirits with Diana, wept copiously when Matthew died, rejoiced as Anne finally and truly understood that Marilla did indeed love her with all her heart, went to college, fell in love at last with Gilbert Blythe, worked for a time as a school principal in a small village ruled by a family with so much pride they made Darcy look positively humble, got married, lived in our house of dreams next door to the charming Captain Jim and the marvelously blunt Cornelia Bryant, played matchmaker for Leslie and Owen, had one baby, hired the most marvelous nanny/maid ever introduced into literature, moved to a much bigger house and then had a zillion more babies.  We even got the scoop on Anne’s kids-we loved them all, but Walter and Rilla are so totally the race that knows Joseph! 

But Jane Austen didn’t tell the whole story, just the part where Darcy and Elizabeth overcome their pride and prejudice, and the societal mores of marrying betwixt the classes, and come together just as we knew they would from the moment Darcy claimed Elizabeth to be merely “tolerable.”  Austen’s ending is classically romantic, but the insatiable disciples of Austen want more, hence an influx of Pride and Prejudice prequels and sequels.

The Austen fandom tends to be of three minds about these forays into the Darcy’s world.  One group holds the belief that there can never be too much Darcy and Elizabeth, particularly naked, sexy Darcy and Elizabeth.  The second group is okay with the concept as long as the story is tasteful and in the spirit of Jane Austen-graphic Victorian porn is most decidedly not acceptable.  The third group considers the entire concept sacrilege.  I fall squarely into group two.  I have at least read, if not added to my library, every single permutation I have been able to find. 

Most are harmless enough and include quite a bit of Austen’s original scenarios and language while expanding on supporting characters and adding new and frequently lively exchanges between our hero and heroine.  Characters such as poor, sickly Anne and shy, modest Georgiana frequently take a much more active role, as they emulate, and sometimes surpass, Elizabeth’s independent nature.  Other outings are downright plaigarism – if Jane Austen weren’t in the public domain, I’d recommend she sue.  My favorite is a three-part series by Pamela Aiden which remains fairly true to the world, while having some fun in book two with the popular gothic novels of the time, giving details regarding Darcy’s adventures between the botched marriage proposal and their surprise romantic reunion on the grounds of Pemberly.  She also introduces a brand new character who manages to fit right in, and acts to goad Darcy into action while humanizing him even further.  Some of Aiden’s fans even prefer this new character to Darcy himself. (Heresy!!) My most despised of the prequels and sequels, by Linda Berdoll, consists of the aforementioned Victorian porn and features Wickham as an even more villainous character than Austen even imagined.  And almost all of the different versions have jarring moments that knock me out of the story altogether.  Either a character will use modern slang to express themselves or, as in the case of the most recent knock-off I’ve read, Darcy obliquely references his growing attraction for Elizabeth by debating whether he should wear breeches or trousers.  He ultimately settles on trousers since his attraction will be less obvious. 

I have enjoyed many of the different versions I’ve read, but even the best is proof positive that nothing beats the original and authentic Austen.  I was once asked if I felt that way why I continue to read them?  The answer?  I always need more Darcy in my life.

So in all this musing, I have two questions for you:

  • Are there any fictional characters who came to life so fully for you that you were truly disappointed when the story was over and there was nothing left to read?
  • How do you feel about these published prequels/sequels for books in the public domain?  How about for fan-fiction in general?

About izzybella

Just trying to figure it all out.
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22 Responses to Pride and Prejudice Revisited: Because We All Need a Little Darcy In Our Lives

  1. jehara says:

    I don’t read fanfiction. And I haven’t read the source material for these prequels/sequels so I’m not sure what I think about those.
    You know I have never read Jane Austen. I have picked up her books in the past but never quite cracked them open. I am going to suggest to Autumn that our next book be an Austen one. It’s my turn to pick. (We have a two person book club thing going on.) What would you recommend we start with?

  2. Bumbles says:

    Well there are tons of characters that live in my heart. But I prefer to write their back stories or subsequent adventures in my head. I don’t like people messing with the originals. Although I will say, that taking a satellite character, doing some good research, and making them the focal point of a new story can be done well. An example of this would be the book March, by Geraldine Brooks. She took the father from Little Women who was essentially absent much of the time and told the story of what was going on with him while those Little Women were doing their thing. I thought it was pretty cool.

    • izzybella says:

      See, and that’s what I’ve liked most about the sequels. I specifically mentioned Georgianna and poor Anne-they come off really well on a lot of the sequels. You never really get a picture of them in P&P so it’s easier to play. I think those are my favorites. It’s too easy to destroy an established character when you get into playing with principals like D&E.

    • jehara says:

      I don’t mind these kinds of retellings. This reminds me of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.

  3. kaye says:

    I have to say I’m pretty loyal to Jane Austen and can’t bring myself to read any of these spin-offs. I chuckled at the “if Jane Austen weren’t in the public domain, I’d recommend she sue.” I agree whole heartedly. I’ve read all of her novels and love them all.

    • izzybella says:

      Seriously, Kaye!! So many of them basically lifted her dialogue word for word, changed the title, and put “Written by: their name.” Those entrys just make me mad!!!!

  4. Margot says:

    I haven’t read any of the prequels or sequels but I think I belong in group #2 as well. I find myself offended at the idea of making Pride and Prejudice into a zombie book. You mentioned you’ve added nearly all of the good ones to your library. I’d love to have a list. You mentioned the Pamela Aiden’s three books. Is that where you would suggest starting?

    You know, of course, this is going to make me reread Pride and Prejudice all over again. Aren’t you proud of yourself?

    • izzybella says:

      Why yes, Margot. I’m quite proud of myself! 😀

      Pamela Aiden would be a good place to start, just bearing in mind that she’s spoofing “Mysteries of Udolpho” type of gothic novels in Book 2. It’s less Pride & Prejudicey if that makes any sense. There are as many people out there who didn’t like book 2 at all, as there are people who loved it madly. I found it amusing enough, though I didn’t really take it very seriously. But of all the ones out there, she’s the best at capturing that particular slice of history and style of writing without depending overmuch on Jane Austen’s superior dialogue.

      I’ll write up a list when I get home and email it to you. 🙂

  5. Pride and Prejudice is one of the few romances that I treasure, along with Emma and Jane Eyre. So you know I love it (along with Colin Firth as Darcy. Colin Firth will ALWAYS be my Darcy).

    To answer your questions, I always want to know “what happens next” in books that I love. For example, Trixie Belden. You and I read those books from cover to cover when we were younger, but they never seemed to age. They were perpetually young teenagers. And there is plenty of fan fiction out there, most of it truly dreadful. While I very seldom go so far as to read or write fan fiction, I do enjoy imagining to myself what happened. Of course, you already know this because I believe that you and I got together and decided the fate of Trixie, Honey, Jim, Brian, Mart, Diana, Dan, and Bobby.

    And to answer your second question, there is a book by Jean Rhys called Wide Sargasso Sea, that is sort of a prequel and a regular “quel” to the book that tells the story of Bertha, Rochester’s first wife. I love it. It’s beautifully written and makes me care about Bertha, and fills out part of the story that Bronte didn’t get to tell. I like that. I like it when authors take a less prominent character and tell us that person’s story. I don’t like it when authors take prominent characters and write stories that either go against canon or get absurd beyond belief.

    • izzybella says:

      Oh, I’ll have to read that!! I didn’t know that was out there; though with this trend of literary prequels/sequels it makes perfect sense that it would be. Jane Eyre has a great deal of my affection; Elizabeth has my heart.

      Yes, I distinctly recall our overlong fan-obsessive discussion regarding the fate of Trixie Belden and the Bobwhites. It was fun! 🙂

      Chauceriangirl already knows this, but I will admit to reading fan-fiction when I’m bored. My 100 page rule, however is reduced to one paragraph. You can tell right away if something’s going to be stupid and/or poorly written and/or perverted and/or completely off-canon in the most horrendous possible way. And even the really good ones get me cranky sometimes because I wonder why on earth they aren’t off writing their own stuff since they’re that talented a story-teller.

  6. ds says:

    Not a fan of fan-fiction. Have yet to read March though I do enjoy Geraldine Brooks’ work. Loved The Wide Sargasso Sea. It’s become a bit of a classic in its own right.
    Now I have to track down my copy of P&P. Bother.

  7. Lisa says:

    I guess I’m somewhere between groups 2 and 3. I’m okay with the idea of spin-offs but I’m really picky about them. I liked the graphic novels but I don’t like the ones that really borrow dialogue heavy from Austen. How much effort does it take to cannibalize the original? I think the ones I have the easiest time with are the ones that delve into characters that Austen introduced but never really spent much time exploring.

    • izzybella says:

      Hi, Lisa. I’m with you. I have really enjoyed the various different takes on Georgiana and Anne. I especially like those that portray Anne as deferent to her mother on the outside, but quietly rebellious on the inside. Those scenarios where she stands up to Lady Catherine are beautiful-particularly when she out Catherine’s her. It’s not just her being rebellious, but her having learned a certain type of assertiveness from Lady Catherine, but tempering it with humilty and modesty. It makes for a pretty fun character.

      Another one I’ve read has Anne as a kind of Jane Austen. She retreats in her books and writes/publishes quite popular stories about free-spirited heroines in the vein of Emma and Elizabeth.

      And I completely agree with your comment about “cannibalizing the original.” With that kind of effort, it would be even better to create something new. 🙂

  8. I loved Jane Eyre and hated that it came to an end. I need to re-read Pride and Prejudice, but I liked it very much as well. I’ve been curious about the new prequels, sequels, and re-tellings, but have yet to get one on my shelf (soon, though, soon!)

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