Today* is a momentous anniversary: 200 years since the publication of Pride and Prejudice. As my friend Deb cleverly remarked, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that some literature is timeless.”

Until a few years ago, I had only read Pride and Prejudice and Emma, so I recently read all the rest of Austen, with that mix of pleasure and dread that one gets from reading a wonderful writer who produced tragically few books.

Pride and Prejudice is packed with passages that strike one as extremely quotable as one is reading, but aren’t really, because the context is essential. This is hilarious, but only if you know the characters (Jane and Elizabeth):

“Will you tell me how long you have loved him?”

“It has been coming on so gradually, that I hardly know when it began. But I believe I must date it from my first seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley.”

Yeah. If you’re shocked by the venality, it’s time you read the book. But here’s a quote that will do even if you’ve never read it:

“For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?”

I would have loved to know Jane Austen, but I would have hated to get on the wrong side of her.

*Yesterday! Darn! I would’ve mentioned it in the Sunday service!

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