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Last Updated: Tue, 29.01.13 16:39

'Pride and Prejudice' celebrates 200 years

While Britain may be a big player on the world movie scene, it remains proudest of its literary history. Last year, they celebrated Charles Dickens’s 200th birthday, and now another bicentennial has arrived - the anniversary of Jane Austen’s "Pride and Prejudice". The author surely would have never guessed that two centuries after it was first published, the novel has soared in popularity.

Today, it has an established place in popular culture, with fans around the world, and numerous cinematic adaptations to its name.

On January the 28th, 1813, the public got their first read of Jane Austen’s classic novel "Pride and Prejudice". And its popularity still endures. Even today, it is many people’s favorite novel.

The house that Jane Austen lived in between 1809 and 1817 is now a museum. Its collection includes a first edition print of "Pride and Prejudice", Austen’s writing table and her hand-written letters.

Louise West, curator of Jane Austen House Museum, said, "I don’t think you’d say it was even her greatest novel, but it is certainly her most popular one. And it encompasses all that’s great about the other novels in the groundbreaking work that Jane Austen was doing in transforming the novel of the eighteenth century into a novel, very much like the ones we read today.”

Helen Conford, publisher of Penguin Books, said, "She sells incredibly well. If you look at her inside Penguin Classics with George Orwell, Shakespeare, F. Scott-Fitzgerald, Charles Dickens, she’s really number one."

Austen’s works are now out of copyright, meaning anyone can publish her books. It’s nearly impossible to track sales and digital downloads, but the Publishers Association estimates that about 132,000 copies of Austen’s novels were sold in 2012 within the UK.

Richard Mollet, CEO of Publishers Association, said, "She writes engagingly about characters which I think the modern audience can enjoy as much as the audience in her time. And I suppose her work has, like all great writers, just a resonance and we can see in characters like the Bennets and like the Dashwoods, we can imagine their equivalents in the modern day and that’s what makes them so engaging."

The first Hollywood adaptation of "Pride and Prejudice" was in 1940, but the most popular edition is the 1995 BBC drama starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. The most recent version saw Kiera Knightly and Matthew Macfadyen in the lead roles... Spin-off movies, such as Anne Hathaway’s "Becoming Jane", have received critical acclaim as well. Even Bollywood fell in love with the tale, and produced a colorful adaptation in 2004 called "Bride and Prejudice".

And so, two centuries after it was first published, "Pride and Prejudice" continues to inspire new generations to put their own stamp on the timeless classic.