Culture Street

By Sophia Whitfield

Jane Austen was born on this day in 1775. More than 200 years after her birth all things Jane Austen are still in vogue. Bonnets, lakes and country manors have never been so popular.

New adaptations of Austen’s novels are constantly gracing our screens. Who hasn’t watched Colin Firth in Pride and Prejudice? The lake?

Traditional adaptations have been made and modern versions have tried to make the most of the Austen following, hoping to encourage the young as well as the old to embrace the Austen phenomenon.

Publishers have now followed suit broadening the Austen appeal by putting a contemporary twist on well-known and well-loved characters.

HarperCollins has commissioned a ‘major’ new series based on Jane Austen’s novels. Joanna Trollope will rewrite Sense and Sensibility as a ‘tribute’ to Austen. The novel will be published in Autumn 2013. HarperCollins will commission authors of ‘global literary significance’ to rewrite the other five Jane Austen novels.

Last year crime sensation PD James released Death Comes to Pemberley, a crime-novel set in the world of Jane Austen, citing a life long passion for Austen’s books.

Kim Izzo’s The Jane Austen Marriage Manual has enjoyed success, as has the recently released Finding Mr Darcy by Amanda Hooton.

What is it that continues to fascinate us about this English novelist? Mr Darcy from Pride and Prejudice has gone down in folklore. Colin Firth emulated everything a woman could want from her Mr Darcy, both in Pride and Prejudice and then in the more contemporary Bridget Jones’ Diary.

Dear Mr Darcy seems never to do wrong. His sins are few even in Pride and Prejudice and they will never be any more than those written by Jane Austen’s fair hand. He will never not take the dog for a walk or forget to put his dishes in the dishwasher. That is the beauty of fiction. It can give readers a rendition of the perfect man.

This is what Jane Austen has done for us. Next year Pride and Prejudice celebrates a mighty milestone – 200 years since its publication. I can hear the celebrations already. In the meantime Happy Birthday Jane Austen.

 

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