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Is Pride and Prejudice Based on Jane Austen’s Life?

July 6, 2020
4 min read

Pride and Prejudice’ tells the story of Elizabeth Bennet and her sisters who live in a society where marrying well is the only way for them to make a good life for themselves. While they are forced to find someone above their financial station, the sisters consider love to be the most important factor in a marriage. For Elizabeth, love and money find a pleasant confluence when Mr. Darcy comes around. However, they have to go through some rocky times before finally confessing their true feelings for each other.

As much as ‘Pride and Prejudice’ plays around the romantic angles, it also focuses on the class conflict that plagues the society. The reason for its immense popularity is that it rings true with the audience, despite being set in a different time period. What makes it so relatable? Is it based on a true story? Here’s the answer.

Is Pride and Prejudice based on a true story?

No, ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is not based on a true story. It is based on the book of the same name written by Jane Austen. Considered one of the best novels by the author, it is also one of the most beloved romance stories, with the dynamic of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy inspiring writers over the years to create their own versions of them. As for the original, the author channeled the things around her to create a complicated dynamic between the couple, while highlighting the social class differences and norms at the time.

For the relationship between the Bennet sisters, Austen looked towards her own bond with her sisters. Jane and Elizabeth are particularly close to each other in the story, just as Austen was with her sister, Cassandra. Despite Austen sharing her name with the elder Bennet sister, she was considered closer in character to Elizabeth herself. As for Mr. Darcy, enough romantic inspirations can be found in the author’s life.

Her romance with Tom Lefroy is perhaps the most well-known romantic relationship of her life. They had fallen in love with each other over one summer, amidst the grandeur and celebration of ball parties. However, they could not tie the knot because Austen was not rich enough to fall in the same circle as Lefroy’s family. This imbalance of financial status surely appears as an important theme in ‘Pride and Prejudice’.

Another romantic venture came for her while she was in Bath. She met a clergyman and things escalated pretty quickly between them. However, things didn’t end well here either. Some believe that the man died due to unknown reasons, while others think that he too would have had to marry someone else due to the class clash between the lovers.

Austen came close to getting married when she accepted the proposal of a man named Harris Biggs-Wither. The Austen sisters had been staying with the Biggs sisters, who were their friends, and Harris, a couple of years younger than Jane, proposed to her. She accepted his offer, but the engagement didn’t last more than one night. In the morning, she changed her mind, and hastily left the place to go back home.

While she might have borrowed some things from these experiences, none of her lovers is considered the actual inspiration for Mr. Darcy. Journalist and historian, Susan C. Law claims in her book, ‘Through the Keyhole: Sex, Scandal and the Secret Life of the Country House’, that a certain Mr. John Parker had been the real-life Mr. Darcy for Austen. He was the first Earl of Morley and knew Austen’s brother, Henry, in college. His second wife was also Austen’s friend, which is how they might have come in contact with one another.

After digging through Austen’s many letters and correspondences, Law discovered that the author had been staying at his place while working on her novel, and the descriptions of Morley are pretty close to the way Austen describes Mr. Darcy in the book. There isn’t much said about whether Morley and Austen had an affair, but Austen liked him enough to put him in her book. Despite this information, there is no concrete proof to Law’s claims. Mr Darcy might simply have come out of Austen’s imagination, which is why perhaps he seems too good to be true.

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