“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man
in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Jane Austen is one of Britain’s best known and best loved female authors. Born in December 1775 in a large family, she started writing when she was very young. Her stories were often parodies which made fun of social manners and values of the time. From 1811 to 1816 she published her most famous novels including Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. Like most female writers of the time, Jane Austen published her novels anonymously and signed them ‘By a Lady’. Her fame and reputation as a great writer came only after her death.
Although on the surface Jane Austen’s stories were romantic, they also explored the social and economic problems faced by women at the beginning of the 19th century, especially the important task of finding a husband. Pride and Prejudice for example is the story of the five Bennet sisters and their mother’s attempts to find them all husbands. When two very rich, single men move into the neighbourhood, Mrs Bennet tries to organise meetings between her two eldest daughters Jane and Elizabeth and the two men, Bingley and Darcy. While Jane and Bingley fall in love almost immediately, the relationship between Elizabeth and Darcy is complicated by the pride and prejudice they both feel.
Illustration by Anna & Elena Balbusso, taken from Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen, Reading & Training, Step Four (CEFR B2.1).