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From the archives

Martin Amis on his obsession with Pride and Prejudice

Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle in the BBC’s 1995 adaptation

I was 15 when I first read Pride and Prejudice, wrote Martin Amis in a 1998 issue of LitHub. I made it through 20 pages before I “besieged my stepmother’s study” and demanded to know whether Mr Darcy married Elizabeth. “I needed this information as badly as I had ever needed anything.” The novel “suckers you” – and goes on “suckering you” no matter how many times you read it. But why – when we know this genre promises a happy end? Because these lovers really are “made for each other” – by their creator. “Their marriage has to be.” And yet for Darcy, romantic obsession doesn’t give way to love for some time, while “she isn’t in love till much later on. These two slow-built awakenings are the heart of the book.”

🙅‍♂️💰 When it comes to Austen, WH Auden was “great but wrong”:

You could not shock her more than she shocks me;
Beside her Joyce seems innocent as grass.
It makes me most uncomfortable to see
An English spinster of the middle-class
Describe the amorous effects of “brass”,
Reveal so frankly and with such sobriety
The economic basis of society.

“Brass” – money, security – may have made Charlotte Lucas accept Mr Collins (“disgracing herself” with a prudential marriage). But it didn’t make her love him. Elizabeth not only turned down Mr Collins but Darcy too, with his ten thousand a year. Love, not money, lies beneath it all.