As my intention is to show the impact on Elizabeth of her emerging from the hermetically sealed life she enjoyed in Meryton and interacting with the more powerful, influential and famous members of Darcy’s class, it was important to define when the action was set.
This is actually quite tricky. All the dates used in “Pride and Prejudice’ come without years so we are left with no alternative but to surmise. According to the sources I have referenced Jane Austen began writing ‘Pride and Prejudice’ – then entitled ‘First Impressions’ ‒ sometime around 1797 and when it had been rejected by publishers – just shows what they know! – held it in a drawer, gathering dust until 1811-12 when she remodeled it, re-titled it and re-submitted it. The ‘Pride and Prejudice’ we know was published on the 27th January 1813. So the book’s genesis took fifteen years … fifteen very momentous years which saw the end of the French Revolution, rebellion in Ireland, Napoleon’s rise to power, Trevithick’s ‘Puffing Eagle’ taking to the rails, Nelson triumphant at Trafalgar, the abolition of slave trade, war with the United States, the assassination of Spencer Percival and much, much more.
In terms of specific dates other writers have been at odds: ‘Longbourn’ by Jo Baker has the events of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ taking place in 1810-1811 whilst in ‘Death Comes to Pemberley’ P.D. James sets them in 1796-1797.
For my dating I have taken the only two historical clues I can find in ‘Pride and Prejudice’: the reference to the ‘restoration of peace’ which I have taken to mean the signing of the Treaty of Amiens in 1802 (hence the events of P&P must be before that date, otherwise Jane Austen would have been not only a gifted writer but a remarkable prescient); and Wickham’s tour in the Militia, the Militia being most active during the ‘Invasion Scares’ of 1798-1802.
Therefore I have plumped for Bingley arriving at Netherfield on 29th September 1800 (Michaelmas) and Elizabeth and Darcy marrying on 17th October, 1801. With the Treaty of Amiens signed on the 25th May 1802 and peace restored between England and France, the newly married Elizabeth and Darcy would be free to enjoy their Grand Tour …