Pride and Prejudice – adaptations

As part of our celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice, one of our Triborough Stock Librarian, Elin Jones has written about the various adaptations of this wonderful book.

The Pride and Prejudice BBC TV adaptation in 1995 has gone a long way in marketing the 1813 wonderfully romantic Jane Austen novel.

Here are a few facts around the series.

1.The Dialogue for Pride and Prejudice

Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennett
Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennett

On learning the script for the TV series, Jennifer Ehle who played the part of Elizabeth Bennet said:

It’s the hardest dialogue I’ve ever had to learn. Shakespeare is a doddle compared to Jane Austen. I think this is essentially because the sense of the line comes at the end of it and also the lines are much longer. When I get to the end of a sentence I usually say, “Oh, I see!” and then I have to go back and read it again. Sometimes the thoughts are quite convoluted – you do all these hairpin bends – so it takes some getting used to. But it’s like anything – by the end I found it much easier to learn. It’s like learning another language.

 (There’s more information on the Jennifer Ehle blog.)

2. Production

Pride and Prejudice was a  six-hour, one million pounds per episode production: an estimated 40 million Brits watched as the book was brought to life in 1995.

3. The Hero

Colin Firth as Mr Darcy
Colin Firth as Mr Darcy

The perfect Regency hero, Colin Firth, shot to fame in his role as Mr Darcy. You need go no further than the lake scene to realise his suitability for the role! The Guardian called it ‘one of the most unforgettable moments in British TV history’

Colin Firth felt he was the last person who should play the part. He thought he just wasn’t sexy enough, and had major doubts about his ability to bring the character to life. He said:

You really can’t walk into a room and start acting your socks off, and doing all sorts of ambitious things, because Darcy wouldn’t do that. But not doing anything is one of the most difficult things about acting.

It was the scripts that made Colin change his mind. There’s more information about this on the BBC website.

Other actors who have played the role include Lawrence Olivier, Matthew McFayden, Peter Cushing, Patrick Macnee (!) and David Rintoul, whilst Greer Garson and Keira Knightley have embraced the role of Elizabeth Bennett.

In the second annual Regency Awards, held by the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, Colin Firth’s 1995 portrayal of Mr Darcy received more than half of all votes cast.

What modern day Darcy would you like to see in the role? Let us know in the comments section below!

4. The Adaptation

Andrew Davis adapted the book for TV, and went on to do Vanity Fair and Sense and Sensibility as well as writing the screenplay for Middlemarch and collaborating on the screenplay for both Bridget Jones films.

5. The Music

Carl Davis wrote the music score for the series and used Beethoven’s septet in E Flat Major, Opus 20 as the inspiration for his music. The Barley Mow was used as dance music.

6.The Setting

Lyme Park in Cheshire was used for the filming of Pride and Prejudice.

7. Further Films and Books

As well as the Bridget Jones offshoots where Colin Firth ‘reprised’ the role of Darcy, there are other films and books that have emerged or have connections to the original novel.

Lost in Austen
Lost in Austen

Lost in Austen, a mini TV series about Amanda Price (Jemima Rooper), a devoted Jane Austen fan, unsatisfied with her life and relationship in modern day London. Her very ordinary existence is changed forever when she discovers Elizabeth Bennet (Gemma Arterton) in her bathroom and ends up replacing her in the ‘real’ fictional world of Pride and Prejudice.

Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James
Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James

Death comes to Pemberley,  a P.D. James murder mystery set six years after the marriage of Darcy and Elizabeth.

The Pemberley Chronicles by Rebecca Ann Collins
The Pemberley Chronicles by Rebecca Ann Collins

The Pemberley Chronicles by Rebecca Ann Collins – a sequel to Pride and Prejudice.

My So-Called Life by Joanna Nadin
My So-Called Life by Joanna Nadin

And Pride and Prejudice even stretches to My So-Called Life: the Diary of Rachel Riley by Joanna Nadin – the main character’s adopted dog eats her Pride and Prejudice boxed collection!

All of these adaptations, sequels etc are available to borrow from our libraries – have a look on our catalogue. We also have as well a great many other Austen classics and BBC TV classics.

If you want to go the extra mile – there is a copy of The Making of Pride and Prejudice by Susie Conklin and Sue Birtwistle in Westminster Reference Library.

Elin Jones
Elin Jones

Elin Jones

Triborough Stock Librarian


The elusive Miss Austen

A selection of Jane Austen biographies
A selection of Jane Austen biographies

Kensington and Chelsea libraries holds a nationally renowned biography collection at Kensington Central Library (we’ve blogged about it before).  There are over 80,000 printed works with over 1000 new titles added each year.

As part of our celebration of the 200 year anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Lindsay Robertson, Senior Customers Services Assistant  has looked into how Jane Austen features in our biography collection.

Revisiting Pride and Prejudice is a bit like meeting up with old friends. Characters like the scoundrel Mr Wickham, silly old Mrs Bennett and her sarcastic husband and, of course, our heroes Elizabeth and Darcy have been cherished by readers for two centuries. But how well do we know the lady behind the book?

Jane Austen presents biographers with a challenge, as very little is actually known about her. Despite being a successful novelist in her own lifetime she enjoyed her privacy, which her family dutifully kept even after her death in 1817. This hasn’t stopped our curiosity as Kensington Central Library’s biography collection holds over sixty titles dedicated to the author.

Dear Aunt Jane

Though she never married, Austen was a devoted family woman. The biography collection owns a memoir by her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh composed from various family recollections. The second edition contained Jane’s previously unpublished material, including Lady Susan, a cancelled chapter of Persuasion and extracts from her unfinished works Sanditon and The Watsons. We also own several titles on the Austen family including Maggie Lane’s Jane Austen’s Family through Five Generations and J C & E C Hubback’s Jane Austen’s Sailor Brothers.

 “Which of all my important nothings shall I tell you first?”

Jane Austen's letters
Jane Austen’s letters

The biography collection has books of Jane’s collected letters, with some reproduced in her own handwriting. The majority were written to Cassandra Austen, Jane’s only sister and closest friend, though many more letters were burned after Jane died. Those left tell few secrets yet they capture Jane’s delightful turn of phrase, even when describing the dullest everyday activities. Cassandra once summed up her relationship with Jane in the words ”I had not a thought concealed from her”, so we can only imagine what her famous sister might have written in return.

 The whole story?

Reproduction of Jane Austen's handwriting
Reproduction of Jane Austen’s handwriting

The family accounts have been criticised for censoring details of Jane’s life. We can’t help but wonder what she truly felt about her writing career or her real life love affairs. There was a ”youthful flirtation” with Tom Lefroy (later Chief Justice of Ireland) and she once accepted a marriage proposal from a friend’s brother only to withdraw it the next day. According to Cassandra, Jane fell in love on her travels, however the gentleman in question was never named and apparently died before he and Jane could meet again. Much as we regret losing the chance to know her better, we can appreciate the Austen family’s wishes to keep Jane’s personal life private.

 A novel life

More Jane Austen biographies
More Jane Austen biographies

Readers discover the real Jane Austen through her books. Judging by our collection, it seems that several biographers have done likewise. There’s Jane Austen and her Art by Mary Laschelles, Jane Austen: Real and Imagined Worlds by Oliver MacDonald and Introductions to Jane Austen by John Bailey, which focuses on each novel in turn. She also appears in a book by Francis Warre Cornish in the series “English Men of Letters” – I’m sure the irony would not have been lost on her!

We see the author’s rational and romantic sides in the Dashwood sisters of Sense and Sensibility, the loving aunt in Emma and the older Jane in Persuasion’s complex and composed Anne Elliot. Most of all, we find her in Elizabeth Bennet of Pride and Prejudice. Like her heroine, Jane was independent, strong-willed and didn’t suffer fools gladly unless she found humour in them. In Lizzy’s words “Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies do divert me, I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can”.

Perhaps this is why Elizabeth is one of the most beloved heroines in literature – her creator’s wit and vivacity can’t help but shine through.

Lindsay Robertson
Lindsay Robertson, Senior Customer Services Assistant

Lindsay Robertson, Senior Customers Services Assistant

Kensington Central Library

Leisure and fashion in the Regency period


Regency Dress from ‘Jane Austen In Style’ by Susan Watkins

To celebrate the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Triborough Reference Librarian, Debby Wale has found some Austen connections with Chelsea as well as some amazing Regency fashion images.

Jane Austen was born on 16 December 1775 at Steventon, Hampshire. Her father was the Rector of Steventon and Deane. At the age of thirty-six she emerged from relatively sequestered existence to becoming a published novelist. In 1801 the family moved to Bath. In 1809 the Austen sisters and their mother settled in Chawton and Jane Austen’s career as a published author began.

In Chelsea Past, Barbara Denny describes Jane Austen’s association with Chelsea as transitory, but letters to her sister Cassandra describes a musical evening. She lived with her brother Henry and his wife at 654 Sloane Street from Spring 1811 for two years. Between 1813 – 1815 she visited him when he moved to 23 Hans Place.

Chelsea by Thea Holme describes from Jane’s letters a party at Sloane Street with 66 guests and musicians arriving in two Hackney coaches.

Regency fashion was governed by a strict social etiquette. For women, there were outfits for every activity. Ladies might change several times a day to suit the hour or the occasion. Magazines such as Belle Assemble (La Belle Assemblée or, Bell’s Court and Fashionable Magazine Addressed Particularly to the Ladies) had fashion plates which were a guide to suitable attire for every circumstance.

Jane Austen was a prolific letter-writer and these letters give an interesting insight into her life. One activity suitable for a lady was walking. More promenade than serious hiking, there is a reference in one of her letters.

Your lilacs are in leaf, ours are in bloom. The horse-chestnuts are quite out, and the elms almost. I had a pleasant walk in Kensington Gardens on Sunday with Henry, Mr. Smith, and Mr.Tilson; everything was fresh and beautiful.

Jane Austen to Cassandra 25 April, 1811

These pictures from Chelsea Library’s costume collection give an idea of the style Jane or her characters, might have worn, or aspired to wear. They are from the magazine La Belle Assembléwhich Chelsea Library has more or less a complete archive.

Kensington Gardens Fashionable Promenade Dress, July 1811
Kensington Gardens Fashionable Promenade Dress, July 1811

Kensington Garden Fashionable Promenade Dress, July 1811
A round robe of jacconot muslin, with a bodice of violet sarsnet, trimmed with rich silk Brandeburgs of Austrian green, a half pelisse of fine transparent muslin, with Bishop’s sleeves, fancifully tied with green riband. A Hyman hat of purple brocaded ribband and lace, ornamented with a green military plume; a Chinese parasol of purple sarsnet, shot with green; gloves and shoes of York tan.

Walking Dress, 1811
Walking Dress, 1811

Walking Dress,  June 1811
A pelisse of pink sarsnet, lined with white, and ornamented with rich silk Brandenburg trimmings of correspondent pink, or pale brown; a high standing ruff round the throat,; a Persian mantle of pale blue, or white, thrown over the dress. A basket hat of straw, ornamented with a demi-wreath of half blown roses. Shoes of blue kid; gloves of York tan.

Promenade or Carriage Walking Costume, November 1811
Promenade or Carriage Walking Costume, November 1811

Promenade, or Carriage Walking Costume, November 1811
A fawn colour of amber velvet three quarters pelisse; faced and ornamented around the bottom and sleeves with Regency purple velvet and faced down the waist, shoulders and half way down the side of the skirt, with rich cordons of purple, terminating with a tassel; a purple velvet collar stands up, is rounded behind, and comes down to a point below the throat; the cuffs are of purple velvet, trimmed with fine blue lace. Over the sleeve is a demi-sleeve divided; between which division small purple ornaments, in the form of  aiguillettes, but without tags, are sometimes introduce when this dress is made of twilled sarsnet instead of velvet.

Promenade Dress, August 1811
Promenade Dress, August 1811

Promenade Dress, August 1811
A round robe of India jaconot, trimmed around the bottom with ribband; a mantle of fine India muslin, or white crape, with ficher front, ornamented with drawn ribband and tassel, and confined to the waist on the same side. A village hat of white chip, with a crown of blended crape and sarsnet, bound and tied under the chin with ribband, over a lace cawl, and raised form the face by a short wreath of French roses. Parasol and ridicule of purple and green shot silk; gloves of York tan; Roman boots of white morocco.

Regency Walking Dress, February 1811
Regency Walking Dress, February 1811

Regency Walking Dress, February 1811
A pelisse of scarlet Merino cloth, buttoned down the front and up the arm with small gold buttons; the collar and cuffs of purple velvet; but during the mourning, of black, striped with scarlet; an ermine tippet pointed in the back, and muffet of the same. A bonnet of scarlet cloth, turned up with velvet, and formed to come over the face; the veil passed through the front and brought round the neck. Boots of scarlet cloth trimmed with velvet.

Debby Wale
Debby Wale

Debby Wale, Triborough Reference Librarian

Chelsea Reference Library


Additional information

Resources held in Chelsea Reference library:

  • Jane Austen In Style by Susan Watkins
  • Chelsea by Thea Holme
  • Chelsea Past by Barbara Denny
  • La Belle Assemblee magazine archive

Online resources:
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography – for more information about Jane Austen (you’ll need a library membership to access this database outside of the library) 

Glossary – fabrics

  • Jaconot: light weight cotton fabric
  • Sarsnet: noun a soft thin silk used for dresses, veilings, or trimmings.