On our last day in England in the spring of 2012, simply a couple of hours prior to boarding the Queen Mary 2 for our journey home, we stopped to visit Jane Austen’s home in a little nation town called Chawton. I can’t say we conserved the best for last, due to the fact that whatever we saw was “finest.” However this house was terrific and better than I ever pictured it could be. It remains in Hampshire, centrally located in the south of England (very close to Southampton)– you can see it on the map on page 6 of my book chronicling this wonderful trip called A GREAT ROMANCE
First of all, you need to understand how this quiet area sounded this day! The only noise missing out on is “my-toe-hurts-bet-tee” the nature national anthem of England, but there were wood pigeons cooing liltingly from every branch!
This is the 17th century home where Jane Austen did some of her most important work. She lived here from 1809 to 1817, and published four novels throughout that time, Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Sense and Perceptiveness, and Mansfield Park.
I took an image of this little Jack Russell in a window of the house across the street from Jane’s and posted it here on the blog site. Later on, after we returned home, I got an e-mail from the owner of this house! She’s actually written an adorable children’s book about Basil which she sent out to me …
Many of numerous homes in Houses have thatched roofs like Roofing systems’s.
This is the pub across the street from Jane’s house … in case you ‘d like a bite when you get done, or a peah ci-da. In case? Do not you like the flower boxes?
On the corner, directly across from your home, you can stop for tea in this wonderful tea room called “Cassandra’s Cup”– named for both Jane’s precious sister and her mother (Her mom was Cassandra Leigh Austen– beautiful name). I’ve decided if I ever have a lamb in this life time, I will name it Cassandra.
Here we go, are you all set? I was so thrilled to be here, I needed to advise myself not to run someone over, be a calm, peaceful, mannerly American which was really quite simple because that’s simply how we are.
We needed to go into the present shop to get our tickets. My first question: “Can I take pictures inside your house?” (Not every house we checked out permits photography. I truly didn’t expect them to say yes; but I was hoping and hoping.) And after that, I heard the magic words, “Yes, You Can!” I can? Oh Young boy. Let’s go!
Jane was born in 1775, during the time of King George the III; she was the seventh of 8 children in a close household. Her only sister, Cassandra, was her buddy for life. She began writing Pride and Prejudice when she was twenty-one, however it remained in Chawton House at this shockingly little table that she completed it, here in the breakfast space in front of a sunny window where she wrote and revised her biggest stories.
At this really table. Her books came right out of her brain, through her hand, onto the paper, one letter at a time. There was no Encyclopedia Britannica at the time, no complete dictionary, no other way to do research study (no Google!), and extremely few other novels in existence. She composed originally, in the “practical” style and made it all up from her own creative, opinionated, amusing heart.
We were welcomed to attempt composing the method Jane did … with a feather quill pen and ink. They set everything on a table in the kitchen area … isn’t that enjoyable? And you can see everyone wanted to give it a try.
I can’t picture writing an entire book with a plume pen! How Jane did entire books this method I will never ever know. That’s how it is with book writing, no matter what you have to do, you simply keep going every day up until it’s done, and then, voila, one miracle of a day you have a book!
Prior to I provide you details of your home, let me reveal you simply how charming this chock-full-of-history cottage is. This is the bed room that Jane shared with her sibling Cassandra. I like the wallpaper, the little off-center painted fireplace, the mantle with flowers, the basic cabinets, the stunning old floorings … seeing the same view from the windows that Jane and Cassandra had seen.
Where they didn’t have the precise furnishings owned by the Austen household, they utilized period pieces so we might know what things would have looked like. Love this bed!
There are arrangements of cut flowers from the garden all over your house; on mantels and window ledges … you seem like someone actually lives here … for some reason, this stairway is the part of your house where I could most feel the existence of Jane Austen. She needs to have climbed up these stairs countless times, her skirts brushing over the wooden actions as she carried her candle up or down them, her shadow would dance on the walls.
From your house you can look across the street to Cassandra’s Tea Room, how practical to have a tea room so nearby!
There are fireplaces in every space, some of them very small like this one. Would not you like to warm your feet by this fire?
It’s a home to go sluggish in, you can feel the regard and reverence from the individuals who are there as they quietly read everything and pull it all into their hearts for the memory. One lady came bounding into the space I was in, our eyes met, our shoulders went up, we sighed and shook our heads at how happy we were.
All the wallpaper you see is Laura Ashley which is really suitable as many of Laura Ashley’s styles were inspired by antique documents and material she saw while checking out the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, maybe even originals from this home. Wallpaper, something else that includes heat and beauty to the spaces.
Here’s the bakehouse … and next to it is their little donkey carriage … imagine the smell of a crusty loaf of fresh bread coming from that oven all steamy hot. Please pass the newly churned butter. Jam? Oh yes, thank you, I would enjoy some. Let’s take it to the garden.
(BTW, a few days ago I received a phone call from Ann at the Jane Austen Present Shop. I was delighted to discover that she desires to carry my new book, A GREAT LOVE, Falling in Love with the English Countryside in their store!
Much of Jane’s real life is obscured by the truth that her letters were damaged by her household. Some state they didn’t want the world to understand the “genuine” Jane and “protected” her so that the everyone would believe she was a retiring spinster, which is difficult to picture when you read her books, however apparently much more suitable in those days when women weren’t expected to be anything at all.
One of my favorites of these is the motion picture Becoming Jane. And I loved this BBC production, The Genuine Jane Austen. There are numerous terrific movies based on her books, among my favorites is EMMA with Gwyneth Paltrow. Amusing, cute, and much more modern-day, UNAWARE, which is also based on the book Emma. And this old production of Pride and Prejudice with Greer Garson, where the gowns are beyond romantic. Here’s a list of movies based upon her books, in case you have not seen them all, ideal for any rainy day.
There are lots of sites about Jane Austen, like this one. If you’re interested, simply Google her name and the list is unending. You can even take summer season courses at Oxford to study Jane Austen.
Want More? I composed a handwritten, watercolored diary of this two-month dream-come-true called A Great Love, Falling For the English Countryside … you can find it HERE.
OK, Sweethearts, I think I need to close now, before I hear those immortal words:.