Pride and Prejudice: The Wild and Wanton Edition by Annabella Bloom (and Jane Austen)

An interesting idea: Bloom gives us the text of P & P in regular font and adds “the new stuff” in bold. Before I complain about the presentation, let me state unequivocally that I enjoy modern “additions” particularly when they provide more detail behind the passion we all know is there in the central relationship of the novel. Do not mistake my upcoming criticism with a general disapproval of “the new stuff.”

In this rendition, however, some of the additions are unnecessary, and including them seems to suggest that Austen’s original was insufficient in more than just the absence of lurid sex scenes.  In the scene during which Mr. Bennet teases Mrs. Bennet that any woman who should stop thinking of her own beauty “has not often much beauty to think of,” Bloom inserts a line I found intrusive: “Mrs. Bennet’s attempt to hide her pleasure at his compliment failed” (12). Similarly, pretending to preserve the original but actually inserting her own little changes without the bold font feels dishonest. Bloom does that for example with Austen’s line: “‘My dear Mr. Bennet,’ his excited lady said to him one day” (11 emphasis mine, but it should have been Bloom’s). I’m also willing to accept an inappropriate hands cupping a face scene at the Netherfield Ball, but what unbelievable gall Bloom had to alter the first proposal dialogue! (249). Perhaps she assumes we are unfamiliar with the original, but anyone who is familiar with Austen’s will, no doubt, be similarly appalled by the changes Bloom makes—or by the fact that she makes changes to it at all. The scene in which Mrs. Reynolds shows Elizabeth and the Gardiners around Pemberley is already perfect, but Bloom’s over-the-top additions nearly ruined it for me. She describes Elizabeth’s first meeting with Darcy as having “caused her world to spin and her body to float” (315). Even the Brontes wouldn’t do this to us.

Errors in interpretation detract from the book’s merits as well. In the scene during which Miss Bingley teases Mr. Darcy about admiring Elizabeth, Bloom inserts “She was hard pressed to hide her amusement” before the “I am all astonishment” line (48). Here, I think Bloom misinterprets what Miss Bingley is feeling—not amusement but concern that she might lose him. To her credit, Bloom does later say that Darcy is so composed, Miss Bingley assumes “all was safe.” Perhaps that explains it. When Mr. Darcy contemplates Elizabeth’s potential marriage to Mr. Collins or Mr. Wickham, “the lack of her family connections made it impossible for him to wish for much else beyond taking her as a lover” (156). In the original P & P, however, Darcy’s letter explicitly states that her family’s status is not the major obstacle for him.

Despite its flaws, however, in many ways Bloom’s strategy of inserting her ideas into Austen’s grew on me.  Elizabeth tries, but cannot quite reconcile the “heat within [Darcy’s] gaze” with his cold, arrogant behavior, so she isn’t completely oblivious to his potential merits in this version (97). Bloom’s description of how Charlotte seduces Mr. Collins so quickly also helped explain his eager interest in a woman neither especially young nor attractive (178). Later, Elizabeth realizes that she has faulted Darcy for not recognizing Jane’s true feelings for Bingley while she, herself, failed to recognize his feelings for her (273). It’s a nice, relevant connection, one that I hadn’t made before.  

Lydia Bennet, meanwhile, is almost immediately portrayed as far naughtier than we thought—manipulating a married guy to have sex with her outside a ball and then dumping him for not bringing her a present—and her scenes get increasingly raunchy and immoral as the story continues. In one moment, a man drops coins for her after an illicit liason, and she picks them up gleefully, excited by the possibility of new ribbons rather than insulted that she has just entered the oldest profession.

In short, if you don’t mind occasional gratuitous help (such as adding to Mr. Bennet’s already lucid line in which he defies “even Sir William Lucas himself to produce a more valuable son-in-law [than Wickham] when it comes to absurdities”—not bold-faced in this text, though that phrase isn’t Austen’s, 388), and you want a sexed-up version of your favorite story, this may be the book for you!

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Published in: on March 22, 2011 at 8:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

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