Quote

It is a truth universally acknowledged…

…that any book you truly love is in need of a properly annotated edition.

The Annotated Pride and PrejudiceThe Annotated Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Here is one such. Let me just start quoting:

“…A single man of large fortune; four or five thousand a year. What a fine thing for our girls!”

Mrs. Bennet on Mr. Bingley, of course, but just how worthy was Bingley of Jane’s love? Editor David Shapard annotates, not without learned caveats

By some calculations, the effects of inflation mean that a pound in Jane Austen’s time has the same value as almost forty pounds today; if so, Bingley’s income would be the equivalent of 150,000 to 200,000 a year in today’s [2007] pounds (or around $250,000-$300,000 in current U.S. money).

So, Bingley could definitely afford to rent Netherfield Park, and later to give it up just to move nearer to Darcy (and farther away from Mrs. Bennet). Shapard continues

Another way to look at the issue is to note that in Sense and Sensibility a mother is able to support herself and three daughters in reasonable comfort in a nice home she has rented, and with a staff of three servants,on five hundred a year. Jane Austen herself lived most of her life on less than that.

An historical fact that not only puts Jane’s books in present-day perspective but Georgette’s as well.

The text of Pride and Prejudice appears on the left hand page of this volume, Shapard’s annotations on the right-hand page, and there is some tidbit at least that beguiling everywhere you look. As in

Mr. Bennet was glad to take [Mr. Collins] into the drawing-room again, and when tea was over, glad to invite him to read aloud to the ladies…after some deliberation he chose Fordyce’s Sermons.

Shapard annotates

James Fordyce’s Sermons to Young Women, a widely read book of the time. Collections of sermons were often issued in book form. Such choice of material could be considered presumptuous of Mr. Collins, for he is effectively taking it upon himself to preach good conduct to his cousins, on the first evening of his acquaintance with them and in front of their father, who is supposed to be in charge of such matters.

One cannot ever consider Mr. Collins too presumptuous.

From Darcy’s letter to Elizabeth

Your sister I also watched–Her look and manners were open, cheerful and engaging as ever, but without any symptom of peculiar regard, and I remained convinced from the evening’s scrutiny, that though she received his attentions with pleasure, she did not invite them by any participation of sentiment.

Shapard annotates (can’t get enough of that word)

…Darcy’s style is very formal, with many elaborate sentences and difficult words and phrases. In these respects it bears some resemblance to Mr. Collin’s efforts. But while the latter’s formal and long-winded phrases are merely verbal padding or the repetition of empty cliches, Darcy’s complex phrases exist to convey complex thoughts, ones that display his intelligence, just as his careful wording displays the deliberation and scrupulousness that mark his character generally.

As many times as I have read Pride and Prejudice, never before have I seen so clearly the differences between the way Mr. Collins expresses himself and the way Darcy does, and what Jane meant those differences to mean.

This is the very best kind of marginalia, informative, insightful, surprising, and irresistible. Highly recommended.

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