Magic of Austen continues, 200 years on
Susannah Helman from the NLA with a 19th century C version of the Jane Austen classic, Pride and Prejudice, which turns 200 this year. Photo: Colleen Petch
Elizabeth Bennett may not have been a gold digger but fast forward 200 years and if Jane Austen were alive today she would want to be in possession of a good fortune.
"If Jane Austen were alive today she would have her hand out for some of the money generated in her name," Jane Austen Appreciation Society Australian president Susannah Fullerton said.
"These days 'Jane Austen' is a very big brand name, masses of money are made in her name but she doesn't benefit from any of that at all. So I think she would have loved the money, and for advertising her novel she would have probably had a Facebook page and a website, because obviously putting all that effort into writing her books, she wanted people to buy them."
On January 27, 1813, 38-year-old Austen received the first volumes of Pride and Prejudice delivered to her from her publisher and from there female-friendly literature and Colin Firth's career was born.
"She was the mother of 'chick lit', Ms Fullerton said ''Pride and Prejudice has had such an amazing 200 years and continues to inspire such incredible versions of pre-requels, sequels, films, zombie remarks and pornographic versions."
Ms Fullerton, author of Happily Ever After: Celebrating Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, said Austen received only about $1000 in profits from her entire body of literary work.
Last year the creator and star of Girls, 26-year-old Lena Dunham, received a $3.5 million advance for her collection of essays which will be published this year.
The assistant curator at the National Library of Australia, Susannah Helman, shares the same sentiments as the Jane Austen Appreciation Society. "She wanted success and fame which is why she published her stories in the first place," Dr Helman said.
"It wouldn't be right to see her as ultra-conservative even in a modern context. Her biting wit, use of irony, depth of perception and the beautiful way she used the English language is why her work has been adopted by other writers as a model to base other stories on such as Bridget Jones's Diary. She's the ultimate stylist."
This year will see the resurgence of chick lit as some of Pride and Prejudice's biggest fans are putting pen to paper once again. The third instalment of the Bridget Jones story, by Helen Fielding, will be released and Sex and the City creator Candace Bushnell is reportedly writing a new chapter for her heroine, Carrie.
Ms Fullerton will approach each with a critical eye. "The majority of them will be enjoyed but forgotten in a decade. Pride and Prejudice has stood the test of time,'' said the die-hard fan.