In conversation with Alexis Lampley, creator of the new Pride and Prejudice cover for Recovering The Classics
Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, first published in 1813, placed second on BBC’s ‘best-loved books’ is a hugely popular classic. Multiple mainstream cinema, theater and literature adaptations of the book have been made in its 200 year old long history. As a part of recovering the classics project, today I’m happy to share the behind the scene story from artist Alexis Lampley who has recently created a brand new cover design for this much-loved classic.
Why Pride & Prejudice?
“Pride and Prejudice is my favorite book. I read it every December and collect different covers of it. I own twenty six copies, including my own design, and am always on the hunt for more”, shared Alexis.
Indeed the passion with which Pride and Prejudice has been loved by readers globally isn’t lost on Alexis. The book has been considered to be a humorous take on a complex plot. The character are etched out in great detail. The clash of love, the insolvent pride and prejudices create the makings of a great love story with a happy, satisfying end. It’s a story you know and still want to get back to. No wonder, our artist reads it to create a sense of warmth, every December. It’s a book that even in talking about English social lives and women in the 19th century, yields a sense of charm to our present day modern lives.
Proud as a peacock…
The first illustrations and the many visual adaptations of Jane Austen’s classic romance have featured beautifully dressed English girls in scenic settings, and a very handsome Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. I asked Alexis about the imagery that stayed with her, when she first read the book.
“When I think of this book, I think of delectable rooms filled with beautifully dressed and coiffed people who are all very aware of their rank and status and what they can do to change it. I think of the vast English landscapes and intricate gardens that Elizabeth’s best moments seem to happen in. It’s a blur of lace and ringlets and nature. The imagery that stuck with me early on was the posturing because of all the social rules that guide these characters, and the incredible scenery.”
The social rules governing characters and lives in the 19th century formed a common theme in almost all of Jane Austen’s novels. Pride and Prejudice is considered to be a “novel of manners”- talking about customs, ways of thinking and values according to a social class. The novel’s characters are conflicted with their internal feelings that are often in contradiction with their social realities and what is expected of them, bringing in elements of relatability, no matter which century you read it in.
“‘Proud as a Peacock’ — an apt saying for my favorite book. The posturing, strutting, and regal-ness of the bird reflects the feel of settings and the characters’ interactions. The bird’s beauty reflects the overall feeling of the romance’s conclusion”, narrates Alexis.
The social conflict, and these feelings of pride had a strong influence on the design that she finally put to paper.
The hand-lettered inspiration
The center of the novel, as often seen by the readers lies in Mr Darcy’s hand-lettered note to Elizabeth. It starts with controlled passion and in the end lends itself into feelings inspired by love.
As a hand-lettering expert, Alexis talked about her own central inspiration of drawing out a large and colorful peacock as a cover.
“I gather inspiration from everywhere, but this came mainly from my love of hand lettering. I had actually drawn the “bones” of the bird with the intention of pulling shapes from it for some peacock-inspired lettering, and it just clicked that the peacock would be perfect for the Pride and Prejudice cover. So I fleshed him out in the same style that I started with in the original sketch. I wanted it to feel proud and romantic at the same time. Bold, shifting colors, and the implied shape of feathers felt like it did the job.”
Much like the Elizabeth Bennet, Alexis has in fact moved away from the usual expectations for the design of this oft-read classic. I wondered if she’d questioned her choice of departing from the more commonly seen Victorian design themes.
“Each time I find a copy of the book that features peacocks in any way, I feel validated in my choice. I had worried maybe my love of birds had clouded my reasoning for doing the cover with a giant bird on it, but now I feel confident that I made a cover that makes sense, despite there never being a mention of any peacocks in the text itself!”, confided Alexis.
As writer Arundhati Roy says, “the secret of good stories is that there is they have no secret. The Great stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again.” I’d argue inspired design works in similar ways. From an artist who has internalized the storytelling and lent her own perspective to a novel loved by so many of us, I’m left with no choice but to re-read it again.
How did this new design inspire you?
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Alexis Lampley is a hand-lettering artist, mom to a toddler, and on her way to read 70 books in 2015 alone. She’s also writing her own book — The Onyx Vial, which promises to be very interesting. She proudly owns 26 copies of Pride and Prejudice.
Upasna Kakroo is a storytelling fellow for CAN’s ‘recovering the classics’ project. She’s also the co-founder of a business storytelling & branding firm, Brandanew, and in the process of writing a book on storytelling.