Literature

Occasional Quote of the Day: By ‘A Lady’

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

Thus begins the best-known work by one of English literature’s best-known authors who was born 244 years ago, on December 16, 1775. Pride and Prejudice was Jane Austen’s second published novel, one of only three that were published during her short life, which ended prematurely at the age of 41 from what was probably Hodgkin’s lymphoma combined with long-term Addison’s disease.

As with Sense and Sensibility, and Emma, the novels were published only with the byline “By A Lady,” and Jane’s identity was not known until her brother published Persuasion and Northanger Abbey after her death. A sixth novel, Sanditon, was unfinished at the time of her death in 1817. It was published in its fragmentary form in 1925 and has been the basis of numerous continuations, completions, and adaptations, perhaps most interestingly in The Price of Butcher’s Meat, a detective novel in the ‘Dalziel and Pascoe’ series by Reginald Hill.

The opening lines of Pride and Prejudice are, without a doubt some of the most famous in the entire literary canon. But there are others just as famous, or just as beloved, even if only to ourselves.

Do you have a favorite opening line or paragraph from a work of fiction? What, and (if you care to share), why?

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