Adventure into Romance with Shelley Munro
News About Shelley Blog Books Extras Contact Small Font Large Font

Archive for 'Jane Austen'

Jane Austen Writes Up a Storm in Chawton #travel

Jane Austen, author of novels such as Pride and Prejudice, Emma and Mansfield Park, moved to Chawton on 7 July 1809. Her brother Edward, who was adopted by the Knights, provided the cottage for his mother and two sisters after he inherited the estate left to him by the Knights.

These days, Chawton in Hampshire, England is a delightful village with a tea shop, a pub, a community hall, a church and some pretty thatched cottages. The house where Jane Austen lived with her mother and sister is directly opposite the tea shop and is now a museum dedicated to Jane.

A short drive away is Chawton House, the estate owned by Edward Knight, Jane’s brother. Edward lived elsewhere and let this estate to tenants. The Chawton House Library is also situated here—a special library featuring works of women writers from 1600 – 1830. Unfortunately, this was closed on the day we visited but the setting is beautiful.

This is a picture of the cottage from the main street.

Jane Austen_Front House

This is a picture from within the gardens, which are surprisingly big and full of plants for healing and also for dying fabrics different colors.

Jane Austen_Side House

During our visit to England this time, I was surprised by the fact that many of the historical properties allowed photos (as long as the photographer didn’t use flash) and in many places we were allowed to touch and open cupboards. Most of the places we visited also had clothes available to try out. I couldn’t resist trying a Regency bonnet. What do you think?

England__Chawton

Jane wrote many of her most famous books while at Chawton. Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park and Emma. It amused me to see that Jane experienced publisher problems too. With me, it is the Publisher Who Shall Not Be Named, but Jane’s publisher didn’t want to publish a second edition of Mansfield Park. A new publisher called John Murray approached her, and she ended up publishing with him. While she was generally happy with her new publisher, she felt he took too long to get her books to market.

They have Jane’s writing table in the museum. It is made of walnut and has twelve sides. It is quite tiny and wouldn’t do at all for a present-day writer!

Jane Austen_Desk

Jane became ill and in May 1817, she and her sister Cassandra moved to nearby Winchester to be near a doctor. They lived in this house, which is now privately owned.

Jane Austen_Winchester House

Jane is buried in Winchester Cathedral.

Jane Austen_Winchester Cathedral

Are you a Jane Austen fan?

13 Facts Learned from Eavesdropping on Jane Austen’s England

Thursday Thirteen

I’m currently reading Eavesdropping on Jane Austen’s England, How Our Ancestors Lived Two Centuries Ago by Roy & Lesley Adkins. While the title mentions Jane Austen and there are excerpts from her correspondence, this book really deals with birth, life and death during the period of Jane’s life – 1775 to 1817. I find some non-fiction titles a bit dry, but I’m actually reading a lot of this one. A good sign!

Thirteen Interesting Facts Learned from Eavesdropping on Jane Austen’s England

1. Armed with the might of the Bastardy Act (1733) parish overseers would take unmarried mothers to the magistrate where they were forced to reveal the name of their baby’s father. The father was then offered the choice of marrying the woman or paying the parish with the costs of raising the child or a prison sentence

2. Forced marriages were commonplace – either in the case mentioned above or one arranged by parents to ensure their children were secure. Happiness was secondary to wealth.

3. Finding  a suitable husband was difficult and stressful since men were in short supply due to war injuries and fatalities.  Also those in apprenticeships weren’t allowed to marry.

4. Weddings took place in the church, and they were low key compared to our modern day weddings.

5. Weddings took place in the morning due to a canon law, which endured until 1886

6. Divorce was difficult. There was, however, a poor man’s version of divorce where a man could sell his wife. It was thought if a man tied a rope around his wife’s neck and led her to a public place then sold her this was a binding and legal transaction. Sometimes these sales were pre-arranged. Sometimes the wife was agreeable to the sale.

7. When a woman lost her husband she could be thrust into dire straits because property and wealth was generally passed to a male heir. Therefore many widows remarried fairly quickly.

8. A successful marriage was one that produced children. Women were constantly pregnant and many women died in childbirth.

9. Multiple births were rare and were to the people of the time, remarkable. The news of a multiple birth would make the paper.

10. Living conditions were crowded and privacy scarce since most of those with modest incomes housed their servants. Life was a constant round of banging doors and chatter.

11. Servants could be found at hiring fairs or by recommendations from friends or family members. In 1777 there was a tax on male servants and in 1785 those who employed female servants were also taxed.

12. Coal was the main fuel for households and a fire was the central point of each room, providing heat and light. Smoke could be a problem, filling rooms on windy days or if the chimney became blocked.

13. Unattended candles caused a lot of house fires. In larger towns there were fire brigades who mainly dealt with insured properties (those with a fire mark to prove they’d paid their insurance). 

I’ve only read a third of the book so far, and I’m sure there are many interesting facts in store for me. I really need to write a story featuring a wife sale! If you’re interested in checking out this book here is the link to Amazon – Eavesdropping on Jane Austen’s England

Southampton, Winchester and Jane Austen

During our recent visit to Great Britain, we stayed in Southampton and did a day trip to Winchester. These are both places with Jane Austen connections, and as a writer I was intrigued.

After Jane’s father died, the family had to move to Southampton for financial reasons. Jane, her sister and mother moved in with a married son. We stayed at the Dolphin hotel in Southampton, which is where Jane reportedly went dancing. Jane Austen’s 21st birthday party was held in the ballroom at this hotel. We also wandered along the city wall promenade where Jane Austen walked with her family.

Dolphin Hotel, Southampton

Jane lived in Chawton, Alton from 1809 to 1817 with her mother, her sister Cassandra and a friend Martha Lloyd. Jane became ill with a mystery disease (some sources say it was her kidneys) and Cassandra and Jane traveled to Winchester in order to receive better medical treatment. They stayed in a Castle Street house (currently a private residence) and Jane died at age 41 on 18 July 1817.

JaneAusten_CastleStreet

Jane was laid to rest at the Winchester cathedral. Her memorial stone doesn’t mention her writing and a brass plaque was added in 1872 to rectify this shortcoming.

Memorial Stone, Winchester Cathedral

Double click for larger version

JaneAusten_BrassPlaque

Brass Plaque commemorating Jane Austen’s writing.

There are lots of Jane Austen landmarks in Winchester and the surrounding Hampshire countryside. I visited only a few, given my limited time, but it was a pleasure and a privilege walking in Jane’s footsteps.

Are you a Jane Austen fan?

Lets Take Tea With Jane Austen

Thursday Thirteen

During a recent visit to the local library, I came across a copy of Tea With Jane Austen by Kim Wilson. I’m a big fan of tea, so I picked up the book and checked it out.

Thirteen Things About Jane Austen and Tea

1. Jane Austen was responsible for making the family breakfast each morning and also the morning pot of tea.

2. Tea was very expensive during Jane’s time and was kept locked away to avoid pilfering by the servants.

3. Young ladies of the time used to decorate tea caddies with filigree work (rolled strips of paper applied in decorative patterns)

4. Jane took sugar in her tea, but probably not milk. The sugar was also locked up due to its expensive nature.

5. The sugar came in large cone-shaped loaves and someone had to break it up before it could be used. Sugar cubes came much later.

6. Shopping was different in Jane’s time. For example if she wished to buy tea she could buy it from a pedlar, she could walk to the local shops or wait until she visited a larger town or city.

7. Visits to the city were rare. Whenever Jane visited the city, friends and family would give her a list of their requirements and errands. Items such as jewellery and material were common additions to Jane’s list.

8. During Jane’s time a pound of tea sold for six shillings. Better quality tea fetched even higher prices. This was double the wages received by unskilled workers.

9. The quality of the tea varied widely. Legal tea was usually a decent quality as was smuggled tea, although it sometimes smelled a little of horse. Some tea was adulterated, which could be quite dangerous.

10. Some shops, such as dressmakers and milliners, offered tea to their customers. Tea contributed to a genteel atmosphere.

11. Twinings tea warehouse on The Strand probably hasn’t changed much in appearance since Jane’s visits to purchase fresh tea.

12. Riding in a carriage was considered exercise. Sometimes it was difficult to remain in a seat due to the bone-jarring roads. Tea was often the first refreshment called for on arrival at a destination.

13.  Gentlemen and some ladies too, took to spiking their tea with spirits, especially in the morning after a hard night. If that didn’t work to fix a hangover, they’d move on to normal tea.

Are you a Jane Austen fan? Which one of her novels is your favorite?

Lost in Austen.

I’ve been watching a UK drama called Lost in Austen recently and I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s based on Jane Austen’s Pride And Prejudice. Here’s the blurb from the TV New Zealand site: Bored bank worker Amanda Price (Jemima Rooper – The Black Dahlia; As If; Hex) literally becomes lost in her favourite Austen book, after she finds a strange portal in her bathroom and swaps places with its heroine Elizabeth Bennet. As she gets to know the Bennet family and encounters the famous Mr Darcy (Elliot Cowan – The Golden Compass), how can she keep this celebrated romance on track?

In the last episode, Amanda and Darcy had a moment and Darcy told her he loved her. Of course, Amanda is worried because he’s meant to marry Elizabeth Bennet, but she does get him to go into the pond and get his shirt wet. It was a very special moment for both Amanda and me!

Here’s the trailer to watch if you’re interested:

Purchase link for DVD: Lost in Austen

I’d like to step into Robyn Carr’s Virgin River series or Eloisa James’s Desperate Duchesses series or Scarlet Woman from my Middlemarch Mates world.

If you could choose a book, a movie or a tv program to step into, which one would it be?