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Adam Caruso on Pride and Prejudice
11 March, 2021
‘Elizabeth, as they drove along, watched for the first appearance of Pemberley Woods with some perturbation; and when at length they turned in at the lodge, her spirits were in a high flutter.’ … So begins Volume 3 of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I am not a great reader of early nineteenth century fiction, but I am interested in the social history – especially of the country I have lived in for more than half my life. The world that Austen so aptly depicts still, unfortunately, informs much of the power behind contemporary Britain. Austen demonstrates how social custom and status is inexorably woven into the buildings and landscapes of the country. Elizabeth’s apprehension at first approaching Darcy’s country seat comes out of a suspicion that she has unfairly prejudged the man, and that the quality, balance, and moderation of the house, its gardens and interiors will reveal that he is a good and worthy soul. The pages that follow, filled with descriptions of settings and interspersed with examples of Darcy’s character, suggest that she has been unfair to him. I have used this text for teaching. It is always good to use fiction to show how an artist’s intuitive intelligence is often more incisive than more academic work. The clarity and descriptive power of the writing also sets a high example for the students’ own work, both written and designed.