Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Gift from Mom 🙂
As some of you may know, I was planning to reread Pride and Prejudice in 2013 to honor and celebrate its 200th Anniversary. Well, I sort’ve accomplished my goal – started it in 2013, but I finished it in 2014. 😉
Also, I wanted to try reading an annotated edition for the first time. I debated for awhile whether I should read the annotated edition by Patricia Meyer Spacks or the revised one by David M. Shapard. Both have their merits and came highly recommended, but since I already had the Spacks edition on my library shelf I decided to start with that one. I intend to read Shapard’s edition in the future.
Now, while I can easily devote my review to the genius of Jane Austen and spend paragraph after paragraph of this review outlining every flawless aspect of her writing, I don’t think I’d be imparting anything readers don’t already know. Jane Austen is brilliant, Pride and Prejudice is a masterpiece, ’nuff said! 😉
Instead, I thought it might be beneficial for me to discuss my experience reading P&P with annotations, and comment on the observations, interpretations, and explanations made by Patricia Meyer Spacks. Here are some of the insights and understandings I learned while reading Patricia Meyer Spacks’ annotations:
- Words with Alternate Meanings: Spacks made an interesting study of how Jane Austen would often use the same word, but imply different meanings. Some of Austen’s most commonly used words in this novel – pride, condescension, blush (or colours) can be interpreted with different and distinct meanings each time. It was quite fascinating to observe how such words can have a variety of shades and degrees of connotation.
- Words with New or Uncommon Meanings: In several cases, I learned to look at statements and words differently. An example is the word “awful” where Bingley states “I do not know a more awful object than Darcy,” I have always thought of awful as meaning dreadful or terrible and supposed that was what Bingley was saying about Darcy. But if you interpret the word awful as meaning “awe-inspiring” (as Spacks suggests) it changes the whole tenor of Bingley’s description. (page 85)
Throughout her annotations Spacks illustrates the repetitive metaphor of marriage as a business. A theme I knew was present in the novel, but I was not previously aware of how prevalent it was until now. She also points out that Mrs. Bennet isn’t the only character who thinks of it as such, Charlotte, Mr. Collins, and even Lydia support this metaphor.
Another theme that Spacks enjoyed exploring is how pride and/or prejudice can be found in nearly all the characters of Pride and Prejudice, not just the two main principles. Characters who want recognition for their abilities, achievements, and situations – such as Mary Bennet and Mr. Collins – exhibit some form of pride. And characters who draw quick conclusions based on appearances and impressions – such as Jane Bennet, the Gardiners, and Mrs. Bennet are guilty (at some point) of holding onto their prejudiced opinions.
Illuminating the Time Period: Having read my fair share of novels set in during the Regency Era, I was already aware of a lot of the practices and norms of the time period. But there was definitely some more for me to learn! One example would be on the subject of nerves. (We hear much of them from Mrs. Bennet.) I’ve always thought of them as an anxiety, a weakness, and a call for attention. What I didn’t know was that during the eighteenth century many theories and psychological studies made popular the condition of having “refined nerves.” And rather than being just considered a weakness, it implied a “highly developed emotional responsiveness.” (page 32) Mrs. Bennet doesn’t just fancy herself ill, she thinks herself superior in feeling.
Entertaining Asides: I enjoyed seeing Spacks’ sense of humor come into play as regards comments made by Austen throughout the novel. It was almost as if she was sharing a joke with her readers. One of my favorites is when Lady Catherine states that her “character has ever been celebrated for its sincerity and frankness,” Spacks remarks: “One may wonder who has celebrated it.” (page 394)
My one minor quibble for this edition would be with the images. Sometimes the image didn’t have anything to do with the text around it, like images of Jane Austen, her homes, and other people in her life. They didn’t quite seem to belong. I think more images that pertain to the text and time period would have been beneficial – i.e. articles of clothing, house interiors, and scenery.
I emphatically recommend this annotated edition of Pride and Prejudice to readers who want to gain a better and deeper understanding of Jane Austen’s beloved masterpiece!
What about you?
What has been your experience(s) with annotated editions?
Do you have a favorite?