Pride and Prejudice Background

Pride and Prejudice


The novel was originally titled First Impressions by Jane Austen, and was written between October 1796 and August 1797. Austen's father wrote to London bookseller Thomas Cadell on November 1, 1797, offering it for publication, but it was rejected unseen by return of post. The unpublished manuscript remained with Austen, and it was not until 1811 that the first of her novels would be published, Sense and Sensibility.

Austen revised the manuscript for First Impressions, probably between 1811-12. She renamed the story Pride and Prejudice, an "apparent cliché" of the times. In renaming the novel, Austen probably had in mind the "sufferings and oppositions" summarized in the final chapter of Fanny Burney's Cecilia, called "Pride and Prejudice", where the phrase appears three times in block capitals. It is possible that the novel's original title was altered to avoid confusion with other works. In the years between the completion of First Impressions and its revision into Pride and Prejudice, two other works had been published under that name: a novel by Margaret Holford and a comedy by Horace Smith.

Austen sold the copyright for the novel to Thomas Egerton of Whitehall in exchange for £110 (Austen had asked for £150). This proved a costly decision. Austen had published Sense and Sensibility on a commission basis, whereby she indemnified the publisher against any losses and received any profits, less costs and the publisher's commission. Unaware that Sense and Sensibility would sell out its edition, making her £140, she passed the copyright to Egerton for a one-off payment, meaning that all the risk (and all the profits) would be his. Jan Fergus has calculated that Egerton subsequently made around £450 from just the first two editions of the book

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