Dec. 16, 1775
Jane Austen is born Dec. 16, 1775, to George and Cassandra Austen, the seventh of eight children.
(Getty Images / Universal Images Group)
Jan. 1, 1797
London publisher Thomas Cadell writes "declined by return of post" on an inquiry as to whether he'll consider publishing a manuscript titled "First Impression." The rejected letter was sent by Rev. George Austen on behalf of his daughter, Jane; the manuscript would later be revised and retitled "Pride and Prejudice."
Jan. 28, 1813
Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" is published with the now-famous opening line, "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." It's her second book — "Sense and Sensibility" came first — and both are published anonymously, attributed to "A Lady." The three-volume "Pride and Prejudice" set costs 18 shillings and sells out its original print run of 1,500 copies that same year, going into a second printing in October.
July 18, 1817
About a year after the onset of a mysterious illness, Jane Austen dies at age 41. The cause may have been Addison's disease, cancer, lupus, or — less likely — tuberculosis from local cows, or arsenic poisoning from a then-popular arthritis medication. Another puzzlement is her grave. Though relatively unheralded at the time of her death, Austen was buried in Winchester Cathedral alongside bishops and kings. No one can say exactly why. On her gravestone, there was no mention of her books.
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Dec. 16, 1869
Austen's books were fading into obscurity when her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh published the biography "A Memoir of Jane Austen." The book was based on interviews with relatives and Austen's surviving correspondence, and created a portrait of "dear Aunt Jane" that captured the public's imagination. Austen's works were propelled back into the hands and hearts of readers, and have never left.
(Oxford University Press)
Jan. 1, 1894
"Pride and Prejudice" was popular with Victorian readers. In 1894, George Allan and Co. of London published a lavish edition with more than 100 illustrations by Hugh Thompson. It's now known colloquially as the "peacock edition" for its cover — this copy can be yours for $1,000.
(Primus Estate Books)
Jan. 1, 1898
Not all Victorians were smitten with "Pride and Prejudice." Famously not a fan, Mark Twain wrote in a letter to a friend: "I haven't any right to criticise books, and I don't do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticise Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can't conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Everytime I read 'Pride and Prejudice' I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone."
(Mark Twain House and Museum)
Jan. 1, 1935
Australian Helen Jerome's stage version of "Pride and Prejudice" played on Broadway from November 1935 to May 1936 with a British cast. According to legend, Harpo Marx saw a preview of the show and telegraphed Irving Thalberg, who bought it for MGM. If Thalberg had the film made his way (he died before it could be produced), we would have gotten to see Clark Gable as Mr. Darcy.
(Los Angeles Times)
Aug. 1, 1940
Laurence Olivier was a hot new star from the London stage when he appeared as the charming Mr. Darcy in MGM's "Pride and Prejudice." Two things mattered to the L.A. Times critic: the stars, and that it was scripted by Aldous Huxley. "The combination, in 1940, of Miss Austen with Aldous Huxley, British satirist and sociologist, has resulted in the all-talking picture which is now at the Four Star Theater," he wrote. "As it turns out, there is nothing incongruous about the collaboration. For the literary-conscious, the film will have real flavor, real charm. And for the starry-minded there is the fascination of seeing Laurence Olivier, Greer Garson, Maureen O'Sullivan ... and many another in close though punctilious proximity to each other."
March 1, 1959
"First Impressions" opens on Broadway. This version of "Pride and Prejudice" took its name from Jane Austen's original manuscript, preferring it to "Pride and Prejudice: The Musical." A musical it was, but not one for the ages: It was one of the shortest-lived shows of the season. Film star Farley Granger was not welcomed on Broadway. One critic wrote, "As Darcy, Hollywood's Farley Granger is the stuff telephone poles are made of."
Jan. 1, 1988
Academics turned to the works of Jane Austen, developing a number of critical takes on her work. One of these is the major feminist critique "Jane Austen: Women, Politics and the Novel" by Claudia L. Johnson, published in 1988.
(University of Chicago Press)
Jan. 1, 1995
The BBC's 1995 miniseries "Pride and Prejudice" was one of most popular programs ever to appear on A&E when it came to American TV screens. VHS sales — and later, DVDs — were considered phenomenal. Let's chalk that up to the most swoonworthy Darcy of a generation, Colin Firth.
(J. Barratt / ABC)
June 1, 1996
Helen Fielding tops bestseller lists in England and the U.S. with "Bridget Jones's Diary," her updated version of "Pride and Prejudice." Although dismissed by some as "chick lit," the book becomes part of Penguin's Classic series, and is given special cover treatment by artist Tara McPherson in 2010.
Jan. 1, 2001
Poor Colin Firth. So indelible was he as Darcy that he winds up playing the 20th century version of him in the film version of "Bridget Jones's Diary." Thankfully, the film, which also stars Renee Zellweger and Hugh Grant, is pretty good. In this scene, Bridget Jones and Mark Darcy show off their ugly Christmas sweaters.
Jan. 1, 2004
Jane Austen goes to Bollywood in "Bride and Prejudice".
(Pathé Pictures International)
Jan. 1, 2005
With high production values and Keira Knightley's sharp performance, this British film version of "Pride and Prejudice" satisfied most Austen fans — those who had worn out their videocassettes of the six-hour BBC version, anyway.
(Alex Bailey / Focus Features)
Jan. 1, 2008
A cottage industry of accessible books derived from Jane Austen's works and life bubbles fruitfully through publishing. A typical example is the novel "Austenland" by Shannon Hale, in which a New Yorker with an Austen (and Firth) fetish finds herself at an Austen-themed vacation resort. A film adaptation screened at this year's Sundance.
Jan. 1, 2009
Surprising almost everyone, "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" chomped its way straight to the top of bestseller lists. Author Seth Grahame-Smith took Austen's public-domain original, added zombies and, for good measure, gave the Bennett sisters some ninja skills. "Subconsciously, Austen was writing a horror novel and didn't know it," Grahame-Smith told The Times. "People taking these strolls, riding their carriages to and fro .... There are so many opportunities there — for zombie attacks."
Jan. 1, 2013
The 200th anniversary of "Pride and Prejudice" is celebrated widely: The Jane Austen Center in Bath, England, webcasts a 12-hour live reading of the book, the British Royal Mail releases Jane Austen stamps, L.A. Theatre Works takes a stage version on the road in the U.S., and Winchester Cathedral hosts an Austen tour and tea. There are too many parties, screenings and readings to count.
(Getty Images / The Bridgeman Art Library)