Few readers have failed to be charmed by the witty and independent spirit of Elizabeth Bennet. Her early determination to dislike Mr. Darcy - who is quite the most handsome and eligible bachelor in the whole of English literature - is a misjudgement only matched in folly by Darcy's arrogant pride. Their first impressions give way to truer feelings in a comedy profoundly concerned with happiness and how it might be achieved. Vivien Jones, in her new introduction to this Penguin Classics edition, shows how their romance is inseparable from the important social and political debates of Austen's time, and describes Pride and Prejudice as 'One of the most perfect, most pleasurable and most subtle - and therefore, perhaps, most dangerously persuasive - of romantic love stories.'
Mr and Mrs Bennet live with their five daughters. Jane, the eldest daughter, falls in love with Charles Bingley, a rich batchelor who takes a house nearby with his two sisters and friend, Fitzwilliam Darcy. Darcy is attracted to the second daugher, Elizabeth, but a bad account of him is given to Elizabeth. He and Bingley's effect the separation of Bingley and Jane. William Collins, cousin to the sisters and as only male, heir to the Bennet estate, proposes to Elizabeth but is rejected. Darcy proposes to Elizabeth but she refuses. When Elizabeth travels north she is invited with friends to Darcy's place in Berbyshire, and thinking Darcy is absent she goes. However, he is there and she is surprised by his much-improved manners. She hears news that her sister Lydia has eloped with Wickham, an unprincipled adventurer. With Darcy's help the fugitives are found. The attachment between Bingley and Jane is renewed and leads to an engagement. In spite of the insolent intervention of Lady Catherine, Darcy and Elizabeth become engaged.
Jane Austen (1775-1817) was modest about her own genius but is one of English literature's greatest and most admired writers. She is the author of Sense & Sensibility, Pride & Prejudice, Emma, Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion.
"The wit of Jane Austen has for partner the perfection of her taste."
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