1818 — Publication of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice
Heather, from the Marketing Department, read aloud from the first page of a recently accepted manuscript: “ ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be wary of consuming beans before a public occasion.’ ” She waved the stack of typed pages at the acquiring editor, shouting, “What is this supposed to be?”
“It’s a literary mash-up,” the Editor responded unfazed. “It’s going to be our lead title for the Spring.”
“But it’s… It’s…” Heather thumbed through the manuscript, settling on a page at random. She read through a lengthier passage, her face reddening as she continued:
“Miss Eliza Bennet, let me persuade you to follow my example, and take a turn about the room. — I assure you it is very refreshing after sitting so long in one attitude.”
Elizabeth was surprised, but agreed to it immediately. Mr. Darcy was directly invited to join their party, but he declined it, observing, that he could imagine but two motives for their chusing to walk up and down the room together, with either of which motives his joining them would interfere.
“What could he mean? Miss Bingley was dying to know what could be his meaning”—and asked Elizabeth whether she could at all understand him?
“Not at all,” was her answer; “but depend upon it, he means to be severe on us, and our surest way of disappointing him, will be to ask nothing about it.”
Miss Bingley, however, was incapable of disappointing Mr. Darcy in any thing, and persevered therefore in requiring an explanation of his two motives.
“I have not the smallest objection to explaining them,” said he. “Either you are conscious that your figures appear to the greatest advantage in walking; or, you ladies suffer from intestinal distress after our recent repast, and hope to release surreptitious gas as you traverse the room. Crop dusting, I believe it is called. Either way, I expect I can admire you much better from a distance.”
“Oh! shocking!” cried Miss Bingley. “I never heard any thing so abominable. How shall we punish him for such a speech?”
“Seven figure advance,” the Editor commented with a smug expression. “I’m sure you’ll work your usual marketing magic — though it’s hardly necessary. That book’s going to sell itself.”
Heather turned to the first page, where the title was centered in all caps: PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND FART JOKES.
It’s the end of the world of publishing, she thought.