HER HOMES & HER FRIENDS
ILLUSTRATIONS BY ELLEN G. HILL
JANE AUSTENlived here from 1809 to 1817
and hence all her works
were sent into the world.
Her admirers in this country
and in America have united
to erect this Tablet.
. . .
"Such art as hers can never grow old."
Happy were those of us who were able to be present at the unveiling of the Tablet! Several members of the Austen family were there, including the present owner of Chawton House, a descendant of Jane's brother Edward, who took the name of Knight.
We found the little parlour on the right-hand side of the entrance door gay with country flowers in honour of the day. There in that room were written "Mansfield Park," "Emma," and "Persuasion," so that we, her grateful readers from far and near, were standing on the very spot where Jane sat at her little mahogany desk and brought into being the gentle Fanny Price, the spirited Emma, and the sweet Anne Elliot. The speeches were from the heart, and warm in [Page vii] appreciation of one who had bestowed upon us a "perennial joy."
The subscriptions for the Memorial were so numerous and generous that after the expenses of the Tablet were defrayed there remained a goodly sum in our hands with which to benefit the village of Steventon, Miss Austen's birthplace. Accordingly an excellent "Young People's Library," bearing her name, was presented to that place, to which several publishers kindly contributed books.
I should like to close this short Preface with some words of Dr. Johnson's, peculiarly applicable to Jane Austen:
"To be able to furnish pleasure that is harmless pleasure, pure and unalloyed, is as great a power as man can possess."
GROVE COTTAGE, FROGNAL, HAMPSTEAD.
IT has been remarked that "in works of genius there is always something intangible - something that can be felt but that cannot be clearly defined - something that eludes us when we attempt to put it into words." This "intangible something" - this undefinable charm - is felt by all Jane Austen's admirers. It has exercised a sway of ever-increasing power over the writer and illustrator of these pages; constraining them to follow the author to all the places where she dwelt and inspiring them with a determination to find out all that could be known of her life and its surroundings.
Such a pilgrimage in the footprints of a favourite writer would, alas! in many cases lead to a sad disenchantment, but no such pain awaits those who follow Miss Austen's gentle steps. The more intimate their knowledge of her character becomes the more must they admire and love her rare spirit [Page ix] and the more thorough must be their enjoyment in her racy humour - a humour which makes everything she touches delightful, but which never degenerates into caricature nor into "jestings which are not convenient." Elizabeth Bennet is speaking in the author's own person when she says to Darcy: "I hope I never ridicule what is wise or good. Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies do divert me, I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can." We read in a short memoir of Miss Austen written by her brother Henry, "Though the frailties, foibles and follies of others could not escape her immediate detection, yet even on their vices did she never trust herself to comment with unkindness . . . . She always sought in the faults of others something to excuse, to forgive or forget."
"Her own family were so much and the rest of the world so little to Jane Austen" that it is in the centre of that family that we can best study her character and learn to recognise the influences which affected her as a writer. For she was not amongst those authors who have unveiled in their letters their innermost thoughts and feelings. "With all the playful frankness of her manner," writes a niece, "her sweet sunny temper and enthusiastic nature, Jane Austen was a woman most reticent as to her own deepest and holiest feelings." And it is, therefore, by seeing her [Page x] nature reflected, as it were, in those around her, and by finding out gradually the place she held in their midst, that we learn to know her better. We are thus enabled, too, to trace the connection between the author's individual experience and that of the personages in her novels - personages who are so real to her readers that their characters and actions are debated by admirers and non-admirers alike as those of beings who have actually walked this earth. "Is there any other writer," asks a critic, "in whom men and women can take an equal interest and discuss on equal terms?" But her charm, as we have said, is too impalpable to be argued about and so, as another critic remarks, "the only homage her vassals can pay her in the face of the enemy is to lose their tempers."
Through the kindness of members of various branches of the Austen family we have had access to interesting manuscripts recording the home life at Steventon, at Chawton and elsewhere, and giving a picture also of the happy intercourse between "Aunt Jane" and the many young nephews and nieces with whom she was always "the centre of attraction." In addition to this we have had the loan of family portraits and pictures, as well as of contemporary sketches representing places associated with her which either no longer exist or are greatly altered. With this help it has been [Page xi] possible to reconstruct much which at first sight seemed to be irrecoverably lost.
We would now request our readers, in imagination, to put back the finger of Time for more than a hundred years and to step with us into Miss Austen's presence. "No one," writes her brother, "could be often in her company without feeling a strong desire of obtaining her friendship, and cherishing a hope of having obtained it." That friendship seems to be extended to all who, whether through her works, her biographies or her letters, can "hold communion sweet" with the mind and with the heart of Jane Austen.
GROVE COTTAGE, FROGNAL, HAMPSTEAD.
|I.||AN ARRIVAL IN AUSTEN-LAND||1|
|IV.||THE ABBEY SCHOOL||33|
|V.||STEVENTON AND THE OUTER WORLD||40|
|VI.||THE COUNTY BALL-ROOM||51|
|VII.||FRIENDS AND NEIGHBOURS||62|
|VIII.||SCENES OF EARLY WRITINGS||79|
|XVI.||SETTLING AT CHAWTON||169|
|XXI.||AN EPISODE IN JANE AUSTEN'S LIFE||232|
|XXII.||LAST YEAR AT CHAWTON||241|
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
|Portrait of Jane Austen (From a water-colour drawing in the possession of the late W. Austen Leigh, Esq.)||Frontispiece|
|The Deane Gate||6|
|Site of the old Parsonage, Steventon||9|
|Steventon Parsonage (Front view) (After a contemporary sketch)||11|
|Entrance to Steventon Church||13|
|The Squire's Pew||15|
|The old Manor House||19|
|Steventon Parsonage (Back view) (After a contemporary sketch)||29|
|A Holiday Feast||34|
|The Abbey Gateway and Abbey School||36|
|Action between the Unicorn and La Tribune (From a Painting in the Possession of Captain Willan, R.N., and Mrs. Willan)||To face 42|
|Rev. George Austen presenting his son Edward to Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Knight (From a contemporary silhouette in the possession of the late Montagu Knight, Esq.)||To face 48|
|The County Ball-room at Basingstoke||54|
|Manydown Park||To face 60|
|Stair-rails in Manydown House||61|
|The Panelled Room in Deane House||68|
|Ashe Rectory (From a sketch by the Rev. Ben. Lefroy)||71|
|Doorway in Kempshott House||78|
|Portraits of Madame de Feuillade and of the Rev. James Austen (From miniatures in the possession of the late Mrs Bellas)||To face 82|
|Edward Austen (afterwards Knight) (From a portrait in the possession of the late Montagu Knight, Esq.)||To face 86|
|The Pump Room, Bath||99|
|Archway opposite Union Passage||103|
|The "Minerva Helmet"||107|
|The Musicians' Gallery in the Upper Rooms, Bath||110|
|The Lower Rooms, Bath (From an old print in the possession of Mr.J. F. Meehan of Bath)||115|
|The old Theatre, Bath||117|
|The "high feathers of the ladies"||121|
|A Corner of the Drawing-room at 4 Sydney Place, Bath||123|
|Vestibule at 4 Sydney Place||127|
|Canal Bridge in the Sydney Gardens||132|
|House at Lyme Regis in which Miss Austen lodged||136|
|"Captain Harville's house"||138|
|The Assembly Ball-room||143|
|The old Steps on the Cobb||147|
|Old City Wall, Southampton||152|
|Lamp on Walcot Church, Bath||160|
|Old Gate-house, Stoneleigh Abbey||168|
|Chawton Cottage||To face 170|
|Parlour in Chawton Cottage, with Jane Austen's Desk||173|
|Portrait of Mrs. Austen (From a silhouette in the possession of the late Mrs. Bellas)||179|
|Turf Walk and Sundial in Grounds of Chawton House||182|
|Facsimile of Title-page of first edition of "Sense and Sensibility"||185|
|Chawton House||To face 190|
|View from Chawton Cottage||To face 194|
|Hall in Godmersham House||To face 198|
|"A Young Girl of Spirit"||To face 200|
|Portrait of Mr. Thomas Knight (From a painting by George Romney in the possession of the late Montagu Knight, Esq.)||To face 202|
|Portrait of Mrs. Thomas Knight (From a painting by George Romney in the possession of the late Montagu Knight, Esq.)||To face 204|
|Bartlett's Buildings, Holborn||209|
|Houses in Hans Place (From an old print)||213|
|The Oak-room in Chawton House||To face 228|
|Facsimile of Autograph Letter of Jane Austen||To face 230|
|Ivory Cup-and-Ball used by Jane Austen||231|
|"Wyards" (From a sketch by the Rev. Ben. Lefroy)||243|
|The "Shrubbery Walk," Chawton Cottage||252|
|The House in College Street, Winchester||255|
|The Parlour in College Street||259|
|Jane Austen's Grave in Winchester Cathedral||263|
This book has been put on-line as part of the
BUILD-A-BOOK Initiative at the
Celebration of Women Writers.
Initial text entry, html layout, and proof-reading of this book were the work of volunteer
The master proof-readers of this book were volunteers
Kathy Morgan, Kelly Hurt, and Mary Mark Ockerbloom.
The start of each page of the print edition has been indicated in the on-line edition by the notation [Page x]. Where it is possible to see a larger scanned image of an illustration, a link to the [Full Image] of the illustration follows the in-line image. Links from the page numbers in the List of Illustrations go to the page anchor for the page, in the relevant chapter, where the relevant in-line image is displayed. Links from the illustration descriptions in the List of Illustrations go to the file for the full image, if there is one, or else the in-line image. Footnote markers from the original text (e.g. *) have been replaced by superscripted footnote numbers within square brackets. At the end of each chapter, a link to the [Next] chapter is given. Any other notations within square brackets are part of the original text.