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Bath in Winter

Bath in Winter ©Smithsonian Institute

Jacqueline Moen of the Smithsonian Insitute has asked me to give you news of a Jane Austen tour that the Smithsonian Journeys are organising this Christmas. And as someone who completed 80 % of her Christmas shopping last week, I have no shame in mentioning this Christmas tour to you in early October!

The tour, A Jane Austen Christmas, does sound very tempting and a lot of fun. The very cleverly planned itinerary is here for you to study and the tour has two beautiful bases, both closely associated with Jane Austen, the cities of Winchester and Bath. It takes place from the 20th -28th December. Here is an overview of what is on offer:

This Christmas join us for a unique holiday tour with a literary theme. Delve into Austen’s 19th-century world of English society as you explore the lovely cities of Winchester and Bath, where she lived and socialized. Travel in the company of Rosalind Hutchinson, a popular Smithsonian expert for literary and holiday tours. With Ros at your side, celebrate Christmas Day services in the sublime Winchester Cathedral, where a magnificent choir will sing sacred music accompanied by a historic organ with 5,500 pipes. Gather with new-found friends to pop a Christmas cracker, engage in conversation, and enjoy afternoon tea with Christmas mince pies and mulled wine. You’ll also follow the life and works of the English novelist, visiting Hampshire villages such as Steventon and Chawton, which shaped her life and stories, and residing in Winchester, where she spent her last years. Continuing to the World Heritage site of Bath, where Austen lived for five years, experience the epitome of Georgian society in such settings as the Royal Crescent and Assembly Rooms, which housed balls and public functions during Austen’s day. Literary fans will also learn more about the Regency period through a tour of the Fashion Museum and special meetings and events with experts from the Jane Austen Centre in Bath and The Jane Austen Society in Winchester.

Who wouldn’t be tempted by this? And to add to the attraction, the price of the tour( which does not cover the cost of travel to the starting point of Winchester in the UK, do note) is now subject to a discount of $250 per person. If you want to take advantage of this offer, DO NOT BOOK ONLINE but contact their call centre on (001 )855-330-1542 to speak with a Reservations Specialist, Monday-Friday 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (Eastern Time). The call centre will be aware of the discount they are offering.

If any of you do go, please let us know how it went!

Today is the anniversary of Jane Austen’s death. She died on the 18th July 1817 in a rented house, Number 8 College Street, Winchester, where she had gone from Chawton in order to seek better medical attention.

The house in which Jane Austen died on the 18th July, 1817

Mr Curtis, the apothecary in Alton, the small town near to Chawton, who had treated Jane Austen, had admitted he no longer knew how to deal with her illness. She therefore moved to Winchester on 24th May, and there she was attended by Mr Giles King Lyford. He was the Surgeon-in-Ordinary at the Country Hospital in the city. At first his ministrations seemed to be effecting a little improvement in her condition. She wrote to her nephew, James Edward Austen on the  27th May,1817:

Mr Lydford says he will cure me & if he fails I shall draw up a Memorial & lay it before the Dean and Chapter & have no doubt of redress from that Pious, Learned & Disinterested Body.

Sadly, Mr Lydford did not cure her, and this plaque marks the spot where she died:

The Plaque which denotes the house in which Jane Austen died in College Street, Winchester

She was -as she almost foresaw in her ironic remark to James Edward- buried in Winchester Cathedral: College Street was(and still is) just outside the  walls of the Cathedral close.

Winchester Cathedral from the South West.

She was buried in the North Aisle. But there are not one, but three memorials to her in this part of the cathedral, an extraordinary situation, and it is interesting to discover how and why these memorials proliferated.

The North Aisle in Winchester Cathedral

For years this sombre gravestone, below, was the only memorial to her, and it failed, quite spectacularly, to mention her genius or her works:

Jane Austen’s Grave in Winchester Cathedral

The words on the gravestone were composed by Jane Austen’s brother, Henry Austen.  No one knows why he failed to mention her genius here, for he certainly mentioned it in the obituary  notice of her which he is thought to have written and which appeared in the Salisbury and Winchester Journal of the 28th July 1817:

On Friday the 18th inst., died in this city, Miss Jane Austen, youngest daughter of the late Rev.George Austen, Rector of Steventon, in this county, and the Authoress of Emma, Mansfield Park, Pride and Prejudice and Sensibility. Her manners were most gentle, her affections ardent, her candour was not to be suppressed, and she lived and died as became a humble Christian.

Eventually a second memorial was erected in the cathedral to her memory. The profits from James Edward Austen-Leigh’s memoir of his aunt, published in 1870,  paid for a brass memorial tablet to be created and installed near to Jane Austen’s Grave in the north aisle:

The Memorial Brass dedicated to Jane Austen’s memory

The brass plate was designed by James Wyatt,and finally made a small mention of her writings.  But this was still not enough, it seems, to fittingly commemorate her. In 1898 a request for donations by way of public subscription, with an individual limit of 5 guineas, was made in a letter to The Times, and it was signed  by the Earl of Selborne, Lord Northbrook, W.W B Beach and Montague G. Knight of Chawton, in order that a memorial window could be erected in Jane Austen’s memory in addition to the two existing memorials.  This window  was designed by Charles Eager Kempe,  and was installed in the north wall directly above Jane Austen’s memorial tablet:

The Memorial Window Dedicated to Jane Austen in Winchester Cathedral

The imagery in the window is astounding, and I should imagine, for many visitors to the Cathedral, difficult to interpret today.  At the head of the window is a figure of St. Augustine, whose name in its abbreviated form is St Austin. It is therefore a visual pun on Jane Austen’s surname. The central figure in  the top row of the window is King David playing his harp. Directly under him is St John, who displays his Gospel, opened at the first words: “In the beginning was the Word…”  A latin inscription to Jane Austen is also included, and this can be  translated as follows:

Remember in the Lord Jane Austen who died July 18th A.D. 1817.

The figures in the four remaining  lights are the sons of Korah who each carry a scroll upon which are inscribed sentences in Latin which allude to the religious nature of Jane Austen’s character. How interesting that even in this window the references to her genius are oblique by today’s standards. And I do often wonder how many visitors to her grave notice the window, for there is only a small notice to the side of the brass tablet which explains it significance. How fascinating to see how, as her fame rose, the memorials to her got greater in size, but were not necessarily plain acknowledgments of her genius.

I suppose, however, that her true memorials are her works, and her words, for which I give daily thanks.

P and G Wells, Booksellers, in College Street, Winchester ©Austenonly

P and G Wells, Booksellers, in College Street, Winchester ©Austenonly

Keeping to the theme of Jane Austen’s Bookshop…if you click here you will be taken to a page on the Winchester Bindery site to some photographs of the shops in College Street, Winchester which is now P. and G. Wells booksellers. During Jane Austen’s life time it was owned by John Burdon, and was the bookshop where Jane and her family had an account.

There is one photograph, taken circa 1860, which shows the shopfront as I imagine it must have appeared at the time when Jane Austen and her family knew it, in the late 18th early 19th century. Fascinating  to see,  and also to compare and contrast it with the modern shop front. The black and white photographs showing the interiors are astounding.

Chawton House Library is currently staging an intriguing exhibition entitled, Jane Austen’s Bookshop.

A result of a joint research project by the University of Winchester, California State University Long Beach and Chawton House itself, the exhibition provides a detailed look at the stock of John Burdon’s bookshop in Winchester, which was open for business during Jane Austen’s life time in College Street, Winchester.  As the University of Winchester website tells us:

The exhibition provides, for the first time, a snapshot of a complete catalogue of printed material which was available at John Burdon’s bookshop in Winchester during Jane Austen’s lifetime. Burdon’s was used by the Austen family as well as other influential writers of the period and was based in College Street, now the home of Wells Bookshop.

P and G Wells is a favourite bookshop of mine. They have always stocked rare to find Jane Austen-related material, and in the dark days before the online buying of books was easily transacted, you could always reply on them to send books to you via their excellent mail order service.

P and G Wells Bookshop,College Street, Winchester ©Austenonly

One of those rare survivors, an independent bookshop, P. and G. Wells still offer a fine service to their customers, all over the world, and, of course, an additional link to Jane Austen is that their premises are situated on College Street in Winchester, a few doors away from the house where it is thought that Jane Austen died, below…

Number 8, College Street, Winchester ©Austenonly

and  they are also in the same street as Winchester College, below, where many of Jane’s nephews were educated:

Winchester College,College Street, Winchester. ©Austenonly

The big breakthrough which inspired much of  the research was made by Dr. Norbert Schürer, a visiting Leverhulme Fellow at Winchester who specialises in studying the work of women writers of the eighteenth century.  He found the bookseller’s catalogue which dates from 1807.  As he explains:

I was researching eighteenth-century print culture in Winchester.One of the first things I did was to identify Burdon’s bookshop by putting research from other critics together. Then quite by chance, I discovered that the bookshop had been sold in 1807 with a complete catalogue, giving us the name of every single book in the store.

The catalogue apparently contains details of all the books stocked by John Burdon in 1807 : they include novels, biographies, travel narratives as well as travel guides, journals and periodicals, theological literature, sermons, poetry and a wealth of other reading matter. The exhibition will explore how readers and writers in Winchester shared printed material in the early 19th century, and it focuses on publications made by scholars at Winchester College, annual reports from the County Hospital, and advertisements and reviews in local newspapers like the Hampshire Chronicle.  It is open weekdays, 10am-4pm, from Tuesday 19 June to Friday 6 July.

I am lucky enough to be in Chawton this weekend, and if I manage to get to the exhibition, I will, of course, report back to you, but I should think that many of you in the area will be making plans to visit it. It sounds totally fascinating.

Literary Winchester is  a fascinating new website, and for anyone who loves the city and is interested in its literary connections, it will prove invaluable. Written- and beautifully so- by Keiren Phelan, it is the repository for his views on the literary figures associated with Winchester and also for publishing parts of his collection of Winchester related books and articles. Eventually he hopes to write and publish a book on this subject and this would be a useful item to own, while wandering around the city.

Jane Austen, of course, receives a lot of attention. His article on her is interesting, and his comments regarding the possibility of her dying in a building other than that normally thought to be her final resting place-Number 8 College Street- are intriguing:

Number 8 College Street, Winchester.©Austenonly

Other literary figures included so far in his site include Charlotte M. Younge,

and John Keats. It will be fun to watch this site grow and grow. I look forward to it, and to the eventual book. I hope you enjoy it too.

During my holiday  a few items related to Jane Austen and Fashion have been brought to my attention, and I thought you might like to share them. Here goes…

First , Andrea Galer continues to sell some of her Austen adaptation costumes from her very stylish site, which is now linked from Austen only in the links section to the left of this page. Currently on sale ( in addition to Matthew MacFaddeyns waistcoat from the BBC adaptation of Trollope’s novel, The Way We Live Now) is this Spencer which was worn by Rosamund Stephen in ITVs adaption of Persuasion (2007). She played Henrietta Musgrove in the film.

Also for sale is this outfit worn by the marvellous Oliva Williams who portrayed Jane Austen in the BBC’s bio of Jane Austen’s last few months in Miss Austen Regrets.

The outfit consists of the dress, blouse and spencer, all which were worn in the programme. Now wearing that outfit would certainly be a talking point at the next Bath Festival Promenade, don’t you think?

Next, Winchester Fashion Week is fast approaching, and they have a new blog  to keep everyone informed of events and developments. Jane Austen had, of course, many associations with Winchester, and the blog has a new post which discusses her links with the city and  her interest in fashion.

If you go here you can read this interesting article written by Alys Key “Sense, Sensibility and Style:Fashion in the Time of Jane Austen. This post includes an interview with Louise West, the Curator of the Jane Austen House Museum. I think you will all find it a fascinating read.


A new month- a new site…..

I would like to introduce you all to a new project, one I have been working on for years- a Jane Austen Gazetteer.

The aim of the site is to allow you  to virtually visit all the places associated with Jane Austen and her family. Though we can still visit many of those places to day, they have changed irrevocably in the intervening 200 years. Looking at them via the medium of  maps, engravings and descriptions all contemporary with Jane Austen brings us closer to the places as she knew them.

At present only the main locations associated with Jane Austen have been completed, but in time I hope the site will grow to become a comprehensive guide to Jane Austen’s world as she would have known it.

Each page on the site gives details of a one particular location, and will usually  contain a contemporary description, a map and possibly an engraving. In addition external links to current websites are provided where appropriate, together with details of all Jane Austen’s references to those places, for example details of  all her letters which document that particular place,etc.

I do hope you will enjoy exploring the site, a glimpse into Jane Austen’s world .

Enjoy!

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