1. Mr Darcy didn’t look like Colin Firth!
A group of Austen experts recently set us straight on the original heart-throb in this excellent new portrait based on Georgian physical preferences.
2. It took Jane Austen 17 years to finish Pride & Prejudice.
Jane actually started writing P&P (initially called First Impressions) in 1796 and finished the first draft a year later. Her father tried to get it published in London but no dice. So Jane went back and edited the manuscript between 1811 and 1812, at which point she and her brother, Henry, offered it to publisher Thomas Egerton (who had also published Sense and Sensibility). Egerton did publish Pride and Prejudice, and the book came out in January 1813 – 17 years after Jane initially started writing it!
3. Jane Austen made only £110 from Pride and Prejudice.
P&P might have been Jane’s most successful novel, but it didn’t bring in the bucks. In my first post, I mentioned that Jane Austen sold the copyright for Pride and Prejudice to Thomas Egerton for only £110 – that’s about £7,000/$8,750 to us in 2017.
The first edition came out on 28 January 1813 in a fashionable 3-volume set. Egerton printed about 1500 copies, which was a big print run for the period. It sold out by July. So he printed more in October of 1813. It sold out again. In 1817, Egerton printed a third edition.
But because she sold the copyright, Jane only ever made the £110.
These first three Egerton editions were the only ones to be published during Jane Austen’s lifetime and are worth some serious cash now. The first edition sold for 18 shillings when it first came out. Now they can fetch up to £70,000/$87,000 for a really special copy in its original binding. You can see the title page of the coveted first edition above.
4. Jane always travelled to London to publish her books.
The London book trade has a long and fascinating history. It was a serious powerhouse in the early 19th century, publishing almost 90% of all new British books. So it isn’t surprising that Jane used to visit her banker brother Henry to strategize before approaching wily booksellers.
5. White soup wouldn’t have been served at Netherfield until midnight.
The Georgians partied into the wee hours and ate a lot of food very late into the night. The Netherfield Ball would have started around 8 or 9pm, and dinner wouldn’t have been served until a few hours after guests had arrived and had a chance to start dancing. This means the first courses would have been eaten around 11pm to midnight! And there were a lot of dishes served during each course. Here are some sample menus and table placements from Jane’s time: