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Archive for the ‘Chawton’ Category

I had such a busy week last week packed full of exciting things. I have to tell you my life is usually a very ordinary one spent writing and looking after my family. But last week was full of magical days and even a larger than life evening or two. It started off when I met Monica Fairview and Victoria Connelly in London before we went off to a dinner given by our wonderful publisher Dominique Raccah of Sourcebooks.
I met Monica and Victoria in St. James’s in the afternoon so we could have a wander round, soak up some Regency history, and look at the shops. You can see a photo of Monica and I standing with a statue of Beau Brummel in Jermyn Street at the end of the Piccadilly arcade. Further along is the wonderful Floris perfume shop which is celebrating its 280 year anniversary this year. There were some gorgeous examples of old perfume bottles and packaging displayed in the shop, and the very kind assistant told us that some of the popular perfumes of the day were Jasmine, Stephanotis and Lime, even spraying particular scents so we could get an idea. We wandered down St James’s Street next – home to Colonel Brandon in London, if you remember. This part of London was typically the haunt of gentlemen, housing the famous clubs of White’s, Boodles and Brooks’s (still in existence today) and Jane Austen definitely would not have been seen wandering around here by herself.

Then it was time to go to our Sourcebooks dinner where I must admit I was very starry-eyed to be sitting in such august company as Barbara Erskine, Elizabeth Chadwick, Jill Mansell, Erica James, Freya North and Wendy Holden to name but a few of the authors, as well as lovely friends Monica, Victoria and Amanda Grange . It was a splendid meal in a gorgeous room of the Reform Club in Pall Mall. We did wonder what all the portraits on the walls would say if they could talk as they looked down on a room full of chattering female authors – every portrait was male, and some of them appeared to be highly displeased! In the photo Thackeray looks down on Amanda Grange and I!

The following day I met up with Amanda Grange at Jane Austen’s House Museum at Chawton. I haven’t been for a while, but I always feel as if I’m visiting old friends, and the feeling that Jane might just walk into the room is always there. The house has a homely feel, and although it has changed in small details over the years it still retains the sense of being a well-loved home. The new shop is gorgeous. Amanda took the opportunity to do some book signings in the shop before we explored the house. I spent far too much money on books, and if you’d like to see what they have on offer you can visit their online shop. The following photos show Amanda and I standing outside the house, then two of Jane’s bedroom where there is a lovely example of a tent bed and this gorgeous dress on display. I didn’t like to take too many photos inside because flash photography is not a good idea where old artefacts might be damaged, but I’ll be posting a few more at a later date. What I love about Jane Austen’s House is the fact that they have personal items that belonged to Jane and her family. You can see Jane’s bead bracelet and the topaz crosses that Jane’s brother Charles bought for his sisters, the red riding coat that belonged to Mrs Austen, and a patchwork quilt made by Jane, Cassandra, and their mother. In glass display cases there are mother of pearl ‘fish’ such as Lydia Bennet won in Pride and Prejudice, little Regency dolls, ivory letters spelling out the words BLUNDER, and DIXON as in Jane’s novel, Emma, and there is even the little needlecase that Jane made for her niece. Christening caps, a bonnet, a lace shawl and replica costumes really give the flavour of the fashion of the time helping to give a sense of the people who lived in the house.
We finished up in the kitchen which has been newly restored – wonder why I felt so at home!








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Last night Monica Fairview (The Other Mr Darcy) and I went to the book launch of Dancing with Mr Darcy. If you haven’t heard about this book before it’s a selection of short stories inspired by Chawton and connections to Jane Austen. What is really worthwhile, I think, is that the proceeds of the book go back into Chawton House, which I’m sure you know was rescued, restored and turned into a library, which collects women’s literature from 1600 – 1830 by the fabulous lady Sandy Lerner.
The book started as a competition where anyone who felt inspired could submit their short story with a chance of being published. I’ve bought the book, and very good it is too – it was lovely to meet some of the authors – I now have a signed copy! We thought you’d enjoy seeing the pictures as so many of you who visit my blog live so far away. I’m always fascinated by the number of different countries that visitors to my blog come from – UK, America, Sweden, Italy, France, Brazil, Spain, Germany, Australia, Phillipines, Russia, Denmark, Canada, India, Africa – to name but a few. I know you would all have loved to have been there last night, so I hope this gives a flavour of the evening.
The wonderful author Sarah Waters introduced the book to us all, and then the winner, Victoria Owens treated us to a splendid reading of her story.
It was lovely to see Tom Carpenter from Jane Austen’s House again as I haven’t seen him for a while – there’s another lovely place to visit. A few of the stories have the house as their inspiration. If you’ve ever been lucky enough to go and visit Jane’s house you’ll know what an inspiring place it is to visit. A thoroughly enjoyable evening was had by all – my congratulations to all involved – I wish you every success with the book and your future careers!

Photos:
The authors
Monica Fairview
Tom Carpenter and Jane Odiwe
Sarah Waters and Jane Odiwe

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Here is another painting of Jane Austen which I’d forgotten about and came across whilst looking for something else, inspired, as ever, by Cassandra’s sketch. The little painting that Cassandra produced is very delicate when seen close to and I have attempted a similar effect. However, Cassandra’s brushwork was so fine that I found I could not produce anything like the sort of detail she managed in her lovely watercolour, but as I’m sure those of you who visit my blog regularly know, that does not stop me trying to improve!

Jane Austen lived at Chawton from 1809 until just before she died in 1817. I thought you might like to see this unusual view (at the bottom of the page) of the house from the garden. There are several outbuildings; two barns in the courtyard have been converted into a lecture room which houses a changing exhibition. The garden in Jane’s day was much larger than it is now. There was an orchard, a shrubbery, a vegetable garden and a field where the donkeys were kept. Jane’s donkey carriage can still be seen in the Bakehouse.
The garden is still kept beautifully today and has many of the plants, trees and shrubs which Jane mentioned in her letters – columbines, mignonette, syringa, lilac, laburnum, pinks and sweet williams, as well as old roses. I think Jane enjoyed being in the garden, perhaps sitting to read a book or taking a walk, but I think the real gardeners in the family were Mrs Austen and Cassandra. Jane did write to Cassandra about her plantings when she was away. In one letter (May1811) she writes, “The chicken are all alive and fit for the table, but we save them for something grand. Some of the flower seeds are coming up very well, but your mignonette makes a wretched appearance. Miss Benn has been equally unlucky as to hers. She has seed from four different people, and none of it comes up. Our young piony at the foot of the fir-tree has just blown and looks very handsome, and the whole of the shrubbery border will soon be very gay with pinks and sweet-williams, in addition to the columbines already in bloom.
The syringas, too, are coming out. We are likely to have a great crop of Orleans plumbs, but not many greengages – on the standard scarcely any, three or four dozen, perhaps, against the wall. I believe I told you differently when I first came home, but I can now judge better than I could then.’

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What excitement! When a large parcel arrived from Sourcebooks in America, I could scarcely contain myself. Seeing an image of my book is nothing to actually having the pleasure of seeing it and holding it in my hands at last. I am absolutely thrilled and I can’t thank enough all the people who have worked on Lydia Bennet’s Story to make my dreams come true. Thank you to the design department – I love the size of the book and the cover – the illustration and text have a gloss finish, which set against the rhubarb and custard matt finish of the rest looks really yummy! Inside, the decorations are very pretty on the chapter headings, and the whole book smells wonderful. I know that might seem a bit of a strange thing to say, but I love the smell of books, especially new ones. Thank you to everyone who worked on it, but especially to Deb Werksman for believing in me.

I thought this morning we’d see if Jane is in at her home in Chawton. Let’s pass by the front door and peep in the window at the side. What a beautiful gothic window! Is she in? I can’t see her there, but I expect she’s sitting in the dining parlour, writing at her little table with a piece of paper ready to cover her work if she thinks anyone might come in. If the door squeaks she will be alert and no doubt pretend that she is doing something else entirely.

To celebrate the upcoming publication of my new book I shall be publishing a new online diary of Lydia’s, including new illustrations and pictures, which I hope you will enjoy. At this time of the year I always read Pride and Prejudice and I thought it would be fun to see what Lydia is thinking about all the goings on at Longbourn. Lydia’s diary will start just before Mr Bingley arrives and terminate where Lydia Bennet’s Story starts. Join me tomorrow with my naughty Lydia!

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What excitement! When a large parcel arrived from Sourcebooks in America, I could scarcely contain myself. Seeing an image of my book is nothing to actually having the pleasure of seeing it and holding it in my hands at last. I am absolutely thrilled and I can’t thank enough all the people who have worked on Lydia Bennet’s Story to make my dreams come true. Thank you to the design department – I love the size of the book and the cover – the illustration and text have a gloss finish, which set against the rhubarb and custard matt finish of the rest looks really yummy! Inside, the decorations are very pretty on the chapter headings, and the whole book smells wonderful. I know that might seem a bit of a strange thing to say, but I love the smell of books, especially new ones. Thank you to everyone who worked on it, but especially to Deb Werksman for believing in me.

I thought this morning we’d see if Jane is in at her home in Chawton. Let’s pass by the front door and peep in the window at the side. What a beautiful gothic window! Is she in? I can’t see her there, but I expect she’s sitting in the dining parlour, writing at her little table with a piece of paper ready to cover her work if she thinks anyone might come in. If the door squeaks she will be alert and no doubt pretend that she is doing something else entirely.

To celebrate the upcoming publication of my new book I shall be publishing a new online diary of Lydia’s, including new illustrations and pictures, which I hope you will enjoy. At this time of the year I always read Pride and Prejudice and I thought it would be fun to see what Lydia is thinking about all the goings on at Longbourn. Lydia’s diary will start just before Mr Bingley arrives and terminate where Lydia Bennet’s Story starts. Join me tomorrow with my naughty Lydia!

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Jane Austen revised her early novels at Chawton cottage in Hampshire after moving there in 1809. My painting shows the sisters coming out of the cottage to go on a walk. Jane is wearing a Tam with a red feather cockade. At a conference in Lyme Regis, Diana Shervington, a descendant of Jane Austen’s brother Edward, showed this wonderful adornment for her hat and I decided to include it in my painting.
Jane was very fond of walking, a pursuit she enjoyed as well as her heroines.

The following is an extract from Pride and Prejudice. Miss Bingley comments on the fact that Miss Elizabeth Bennet has walked from her house at Longbourn to Netherfield.

“She has nothing, in short, to recommend her, but being an excellent walker. I shall never forget her appearance this morning. She really looked almost wild.”

“She did indeed, Louisa. I could hardly keep my countenance. Very nonsensical to come at all! Why must she be scampering about the country, because her sister had a cold? Her hair, so untidy, so blowsy!”

“Yes, and her petticoat; I hope you saw her petticoat, six inches deep in mud, I am absolutely certain; and the gown which had been let down to hide it, not doing its office.”

“Your picture may be very exact, Louisa,” said Bingley; “but this was all lost upon me. I thought Miss Elizabeth Bennet looked remarkably well when she came into the room this morning. Her dirty petticoat quite escaped my notice.”

“You observed it, Mr. Darcy, I am sure,” said Miss Bingley; “and I am inclined to think that you would not wish to see your sister make such an exhibition.”

“Certainly not.”

“To walk three miles, or four miles, or five miles, or whatever it is, above her ancles in dirt, and alone, quite alone! what could she mean by it? It seems to me to shew an abominable sort of conceited independence, a most country-town indifference to decorum.”

“It shews an affection for her sister that is very pleasing,” said Bingley.

“I am afraid, Mr. Darcy,” observed Miss Bingley, in a half-whisper, “that this adventure has rather affected your admiration of her fine eyes.”

“Not at all,” he replied; “they were brightened by the exercise.

Ooh, those Bingley sisters are so horrid!

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Jane Austen revised her early novels at Chawton cottage in Hampshire after moving there in 1809. My painting shows the sisters coming out of the cottage to go on a walk. Jane is wearing a Tam with a red feather cockade. At a conference in Lyme Regis, Diana Shervington, a descendant of Jane Austen’s brother Edward, showed this wonderful adornment for her hat and I decided to include it in my painting.
Jane was very fond of walking, a pursuit she enjoyed as well as her heroines.

The following is an extract from Pride and Prejudice. Miss Bingley comments on the fact that Miss Elizabeth Bennet has walked from her house at Longbourn to Netherfield.

“She has nothing, in short, to recommend her, but being an excellent walker. I shall never forget her appearance this morning. She really looked almost wild.”

“She did indeed, Louisa. I could hardly keep my countenance. Very nonsensical to come at all! Why must she be scampering about the country, because her sister had a cold? Her hair, so untidy, so blowsy!”

“Yes, and her petticoat; I hope you saw her petticoat, six inches deep in mud, I am absolutely certain; and the gown which had been let down to hide it, not doing its office.”

“Your picture may be very exact, Louisa,” said Bingley; “but this was all lost upon me. I thought Miss Elizabeth Bennet looked remarkably well when she came into the room this morning. Her dirty petticoat quite escaped my notice.”

“You observed it, Mr. Darcy, I am sure,” said Miss Bingley; “and I am inclined to think that you would not wish to see your sister make such an exhibition.”

“Certainly not.”

“To walk three miles, or four miles, or five miles, or whatever it is, above her ancles in dirt, and alone, quite alone! what could she mean by it? It seems to me to shew an abominable sort of conceited independence, a most country-town indifference to decorum.”

“It shews an affection for her sister that is very pleasing,” said Bingley.

“I am afraid, Mr. Darcy,” observed Miss Bingley, in a half-whisper, “that this adventure has rather affected your admiration of her fine eyes.”

“Not at all,” he replied; “they were brightened by the exercise.

Ooh, those Bingley sisters are so horrid!

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