Today I was in Chawton for the Jane Austen Society Annual General Meeting. (More on that in the next post). The highlight of the visit was touring the Jane Austen House Museum, also known as Chawton Cottage. This is Chawton Cottage from the back. from the road it looks like a large square building but I had always wondered what the back was like. Here you can see it is more ‘L’ shaped. The upstairs window on the far left is Jane’s room.
I can’t tell you how it feels to take a curve in the road and suddenly be looking at a place that I have longed to see for years. Chawton Cottage is where Jane wrote or revised all of her novels.
The quilt on display was made by Jane, Cassandra, and their mother, from clothing pieces. This was Jane’s bedroom up until the last few weeks of her life when they stayed in Winchester to seek better medical help for her.
The surrounding countryside is beautiful. The land here is more heavily wooded than I supposed, with meadows and farmland. The area around her home is a lovely low walled garden, serene and beautiful. It is not hard to imagine what it would have looked like then.
200 years ago Jane would have been composing the ending chapters of Mansfield Park, my favorite of her six novels. Was she already feeling weary from the illness that would claim her? As tragic as her destiny was, I can see that she must have found peace in the lovely garden and the ever changing verdure of the countryside she loved.
In some respects this was a pilgrimage for me. After reading her novels, juvenalia, letters, and several biographies, the people in them begin to seem like friends and neighbors. I know they say everyone who loves Jane Austen thinks they know Jane Austen. I feel I know her more closely now after visiting this place that was so important to her.
It was a lovely day.
P.S. I must say something about my dear husband today. As some of you know he is deployed oversees. Today was his birthday and he didn’t have the best day. And here I am having the time of my life traveling etc. I just want him to know I was thinking of him often…….. Jon, I love you with all my heart and I can’t wait until we are together again. So many times I wish you would have been with me to smile, make me laugh, give me a little hug, or just share in the moment.
Love always, Lynnae