Classic novels Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights and Tess of the d'Urbervilles given dramatic modern-day makeovers

Wuthering Heights - Drama

Texting Tess, Digital Darcy and Hashtagging Heathcliff; would classic romance survive in a digital age?

Thursday 18th February

  • Reworkings of classic love stories by Jane Austen, Emily Brontë and Thomas Hardy illustrate how digital communication could have ruined romance
  • Literature experts have updated the books which now feature internet dating, Tinder swipes, selfies, instant messaging addiction and dodgy Wi-Fi
  • Distraction by digital devices is revealed as one of the biggest romance killers for modern Brits
  • One in five plan to say 'I love you' via text, instant message or email this Valentine's Day
  • TV channel Drama commissions updated classic romance novels ahead of its Romantic Sundays season every Sunday from 11th February
  • The modernised classics, which include rewritten passages and new cover illustrations, are free to download from

Three of the nation's favourite love stories have been given a dramatic 'digital makeover' to show the devastating effect that digital devices could be having on modern romance.

Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen), Wuthering Heights (Emily Brontë) and Tess of the d'Urbervilles (Thomas Hardy) have all been meticulously reworked to incorporate modern digital memes such as internet dating, social media addiction and Wi-Fi issues. The revised novels provide a stark warning for modern love as new research reveals that overuse of digital devices is one of the biggest passion killers for Brits.

Academic Professor John Sutherland (Lord Northcliffe Professor Emeritus of Literature, University College London) worked closely with a team of writers from TV channel Drama to reimagine key passages from each of the books. The project was commissioned to celebrate the channel's 'Romantic Sundays' season including classic love stories such as Pride and Prejudice, Emma and North & South (Sundays from 11th February, 12pm on Drama).

The updated books feature new and rewritten passages to show how these famous romances could have played out in a world of Tinder swipes, WhatsApp distraction and social media addiction and suggest that a 'Digital Darcy' and 'Hashtagging Heathcliff' may have been a turn off.

Examples of the modern additions to the reimagined classics include:

Pride and Prejudice

The reimagining explores how Darcy's narcissistic personality is accentuated by his popularity on Tinder, as well as how Elizabeth's courtship of him is affected by WhatsApp distraction and the perils of 'accidental tagging'.

Example passage - Elizabeth accidentally causes a Twitter storm of epic proportions by inadvertently tagging Mr. Darcy in a photo she takes of him swimming in the lake:

"She immediately reached for her phone to take a photo of Mr. Darcy emerging, white shirt clinging to his chest, water falling from his thick dark hair, rendering him absolutely the most exquisite sample of male perfection she - and later Twitter - would ever see."

Indeed, out of pure habit, she immediately posted the image on Twitter with the caption: 'OMG'. Neither was she conscious of the fact she had also tagged Mr. Darcy himself!

"It was only when they were within twenty yards of each other, that he seemed to notice her and what she was doing. Their eyes instantly met, and the cheeks of both were overspread with the deepest blush. He absolutely started, and for a moment seemed immovable from surprise; but shortly recovering himself, advanced towards the party, and spoke to Elizabeth, if not in terms of perfect composure, at least of perfect civility managing to ignore the phone in her hand that had just incited - unbeknownst to either - a Twitter storm of epic proportions."

Wuthering Heights

Heathcliff's stubborn pride drives him to leave discourteous comments on Nelly's Twitter poll: 'Who should Catherine choose?'. The novel is reimagined as a series of blog entries posted by Mr Lockwood - which amass both welcome and unwanted attention in the 'Comments section'.

Example passage - Nelly cannot believe that Cathy has fallen for Edgar Linton after he displays such bad manners on social media:

Worst of all. And now, say how you love him? You can't have happened to miss the fact that he never comments on any of your Facebook photos, doesn't watch your Instagram stories and scarcely replied to your WhatsApps even though he knows you can see the blue ticks?

Tess of the d'Urbervilles

Angel ignores matching with Tess on Tinder, setting in motion a chain of unhappy events which could have easily been averted. Readers are left questioning the depth of Angel's love for Tess after seeing his preoccupation with Instagram and Pinterest.

Example passage - A dead phone battery leads Angel Clare to miss a chance of a dance with Tess at the May Ball:

His phone, now in his pocket, retired from his secret filming, did vibrate, causing him to rummage for it and look upon the screen mournfully. He had meant to turn off his Tinder notifications, but alas had forgot. "Somebody 'Super Liked' you!" the screen read. "Find out who." Angel swiped and once swiped his strange melancholy intensified. It was the girl he had grossly neglected in the dance. The pretty maiden who watched him still from afar. However, before he could respond, his phone battery died. It could not be helped, and turning, and bending himself to a rapid walk, he dismissed the subject from his mind.

The 'new' novels also include bespoke cover artwork featuring the romantic heroes and heroines interacting as they may have done using digital devices. The eBooks are available to download for free at

Professor John Sutherland says: "Even though we're certainly a nation that uses modern technology to communicate, by inserting these devices and methods of communication into a series of classic romances - themselves believed to be some of the most romantic novels according to the nation - highlights just how much they can interrupt a romantic mood. A Mr Darcy obsessed with digital media and a Heathcliff that spent his time hashtagging or checking his emails certainly wouldn't be identified as the romantic heroes we still think of today."_

Emma Ayech, channel director for Drama, says:

These new modern adaptations show how immeasurably romance has changed as a result of digital technology taking over our lives. The way we communicate with our partners is very different, so it is no surprise that Brits dream of a little more romance. Taking the lead from TV channel Drama's romantic heroes and switching off our phones this Valentine's Day could be the way to let romance blossom.

The project was inspired by new research that looks at romance in today's world. The Modern Romance study commissioned by TV channel Drama, reveals that 20% of Brits plan to say 'I love you' via text, instant message or email this Valentine's Day. And nearly a third (31%) said 'I love you' for the first time via instant messaging rather than in person. Well over half of people (54%) admit people are less romantic now than in the days of Austen and Brontë, according to a survey of 2,000 British adults commissioned by TV channel Drama.

Distraction by digital devices (34%) was ranked in the top three biggest romance killers for Brits, alongside bad personal hygiene (47%) and bad manners (38%). Seventy-nine per cent admit they would get better quality time with their partner if both had their phones switched off, with 68% willing to switch-off their mobile completely during 'date-time' to improve their relationship.

The Modern Romance Study found the biggest tech turn-offs for romance to be:

  1. Checking your phone every few minutes during a date/when spending time together (56%)
  2. Giving more attention to phone than your partner in bed (54%)
  3. Sending instant messages when trying to have a conversation (53%)
  4. Social media addiction (52%)
  5. Having your phone on the table during a meal together (44%)
  6. Liking an ex-partner's picture on social media (32%)
  7. 'Over-sharing' on social media (32%)
  8. Answering a phone call during a meal (31%)
  9. Publicly posting embarrassing pictures (27%)
  10. Drunk texting (26%)

Over a third (36%) say that they regularly have arguments with their partner caused by digital devices, including a misunderstood message or sending a text to the wrong person. Twenty-two per cent of Brits even cite spending excessive time on social media, constantly checking a phone, a misunderstanding caused by a text or instant message and posting embarrassing pictures online as a reason they have broken up with someone.

While 27% of Brits have been on a date with someone arranged via a dating app or website, 17% have also been put off someone before meeting them or even cancelled a date after they had researched their prospective partner online.

The study also suggested that Brits yearn for more 'classic romance' in their lives. Gestures the nation think are most romantic include a simple 'kiss and a cuddle' (51%), receiving a hand-written love letter (33%) and giving or receiving flowers (27%). However, the younger generations are much more likely to believe that classic romance is in danger of dying out completely - with 67% of both 18 - 24-year-olds and 25 - 34-year-olds saying as such, compared to just 40% of those over 65.

The 'classic' romances still top the list of the most romantic novels according to Brits. Taking the top spots are Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights and Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, above the likes of E L James' Fifty Shades of Grey and Bridget Jones' Diary by Helen Fielding.

To celebrate classic romance, TV channel Drama's Romantic Sundays season will feature literary adaptations every Sunday from 11th February at 12pm. The season includes Pride and Prejudice, alongside Lorna Doone, Mansfield Park, Emma and Sense and Sensibility.

Romantic Sundays season every Sunday from 11 February, 12pm on Drama

Modern cover illustrations to view/download:
Drama's modern adaptations free to download from:


For further information, please contact Alice Trost at Taylor Herring: / 020 8206 5151

Notes to editors

The Modern Romance Study included a survey of 2,000 British adults, which was commissioned by TV channel Drama in January 2018.

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