Saturday, July 19, 2008

Jane Austen Magic

After a fantastic weekend at the RNA Conference in Chichester we stayed down in Hampshire for a week in a cottage. Faced with a Monday of pouring rain we realised how close we were to Chawton, Jane Austen’s home from 1809 until a few days before her death in 1817 – it seemed the obvious destination.
As we arrived in the village the rain stopped, the sun came out and the garden was filled with the scent of roses – magic.

And it got better. Surprised to see the admission prices had been covered by a notice saying ‘Free’, we discovered that we had arrived on the 199th anniversary of Jane’s arrival at the house with her mother and sister Cassandra on 7th June.

The interior is fascinating and evocative, laid out in a way that displays family relics yet preserves the feel of the house at the time the Austen’s lived there. Particularly moving is Jane and Cassandra’s bedroom with their niece Caroline’s description of the last time she saw Jane, sitting by the fireside in that room, just before she died.

More cheerful is Jane’s little donkey carriage, the patchwork coverlet the Austen ladies made and the pretty Gothic window that her brother had put into the drawing room so the ladies could sit and look out onto the garden.
And, of course, irresistible to an author, is Jane’s tiny writing table in the dining parlour. I stood there hoping some of the genius would rub off!

Also in the dining parlour is part of the dinner service that Jane, her brother Edward and her niece Fanny went to buy for Edward at the Wedgwood showrooms in London – exactly as she describes it in a letter to Cassandra.

It was a slightly eerie feeling, exploring the house exactly to the day that Jane would have come here for the first time, looking at it with unfamiliar eyes. I’m looking forward to visiting in June 2009 when major celebrations are promised!

Louise Allen


Jane Odiwe said...

It really is magic! I never tire of going to look round Jane Austen's house-the lovely staff are so welcoming too!

Jan Jones said...

Good grief, JA must have been a lot tidier than me if she managed to write on that tiny table.

Come to think of it, most people are tidier than me.

Rita Gerlach said...

How wonderful. It must have been a fantastic experience. If I ever get to England, Jane's house is one place I'd love to visit. I noticed the photo of the room with the fireplace and the closet beside it with the china. My sister in law lives in an old Federal home and her sitting room has the same thing. We always wondered about the 'closet' having shelves.

Anonymous said...

I love Chawton - the house is wonderful and the village so peaceful! I too marvel that Jane could manage on such a small writing desk - I seem to have papers strewn everywhere when I am writing!