The Guardian reports that David Lassen, the director of the Jane Austen Festival in Bath, decided to see if Madama Austen could get out of the slush pile. Under a fake name, Sieur Lassen submitted the first paragraphs of her most famous novels to a whole slew of British publishers. Though he did change the titles and the character names, the text remained the same.
He was rejected by all 19 UK publishers and only one of them noticed the startling similarities between the submission and Pride and Prejudice. This may only say something about the speed-reading qualities of the average slush pile reader, or that tastes change, but it certainly can be disheartening. If Madama Austen can't get interest today, what hope do the rest of us today have?
This reminds of me of a few years ago, when someone (it might have been the ACLU, I don't remember) retyped the Bill of Rights into a petition and stood on a street-corner, trying to get people to sign it. Most would not, saying that it was far too radical and revolutionary. No one actually recognized it.