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Inquiring Minds

What questions are on our "most complex and sophisticated minds"?

Sites of the Year

A look back at our favorite sites of 1997.

Video Gets Real

Streaming video that goes beyond entertainment.

Speaking in Tongues

AltaVista gets serious about global communication.

Weird News Is Good News

How our eccentricities can bring us together.

Entertainment Asylum

Though this be madness, yet there is method in 't.

Terminal Care

Grave sites aren't what they used to be.

Making the eSCENE

Must fiction be print to be hip?

The Living and the Dead

An in-depth look at death in America reveals how stories become the salves of the living.

For more, see the complete Web Citations Index.
January 15, 1998

The Republic of Pemberley "A hundred years after 'Janeite' entered the language, Jane Austen is everywhere," writes Lee Siegel in this month's Atlantic. "It's a good bet that the ... film versions of her novels are more popular than the novels themselves. But there's no doubt that more people are reading her since the craze began." There's no doubt, too, that the Austen craze has invaded the Web.

The main Internet gathering place of the Austen-obsessed seems to be the Republic of Pemberley, where, according to the newcomer's guide, "the more obsessed you are, the greater your enjoyment will be." (Pemberley, for Austen neophytes, is the name of Mr. Darcy's estate in Pride and Prejudice.)

The site started as a single bulletin board where "addicts" of the BBC/A&E adaptation of Pride and Prejudice met to discuss such things as how many times in one Jane Austen Silhouetteweek they had watched the six-hour miniseries (the record was six), or which of their officemates they would cast as Elizabeth Bennet or Darcy, and it has grown into a kind of Jane Austen theme park. The attractions include information on life in Regency England; a bookclub with very extensive (and often serious) discussions of works by Austen and others; hypertext versions of many of Austen's writings, interspersed with biographical and genealogical information; and the full text of many of Austen's letters, which demonstrate that Jane Austen was as sharp and witty in real life as she was in her fiction. The Republic of Pemberley may appeal to only a small group of people, but its members are ardent conversationalists: this past year about 16,000 messages were posted on just one of the site's fourteen message boards.

One wonders what Austen would think of the Republic of Pemberley's interactive fiction board, where each participant adds a paragraph or so to a continuation of Pride and Prejudice. (A recent tidbit: "'Oh no you don't,' said Mr. Darcy with a belligerent look. He raised himself to his full height, but he could not compare with the Stud Muffin's admirable frame.") Nevertheless, it's obvious that the Internet is a natural home for the "Janeites," and that Jane Austen would have held her own on the lively Pemberley message boards.

Copyright © 1998 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
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