One of Hampshire’s best loved daughters, Jane Austen is seldom out of the headlines – but, given that one of her best-known novels is about to hit the big screens on both sides of the Atlantic, there’s every chance that the county will experience yet another surge of visitors to the numerous locations that are associated with this literary heroine.
Further news is now slowly emerging from the US of a new production of Emma, directed by Autumn de Wilde (https://imdb.to/2oPIe9l). Based on the novel of the same name by Austen, the film is set to star Anya Taylor-Joy, Callum Turner and Bill Nighy. It is scheduled to be released in the United States on February 21, 2020, and in the United Kingdom on February 28, 2020, by Focus Features.
The movie is currently being promoted via the following “Official Teaser Trailer”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qsOwj0PR5Sk.
The 200th anniversary of the publication of Emma put Jane Austen’s House Museum in the Hampshire village of Chawton under the spotlight in 2016. But it was the bicentenary of Austen’s premature death in 2017 which truly showed the following she still manages to generate worldwide.
Known for proudly reminding people that she was “a Hampshire born Austen”, Jane was finally laid to rest in Winchester Cathedral, in 1817 – at the age of just 41.
While literary pilgrims from all corners of the globe know where to come in search of “Jane Austen Country”, visitors to Hampshire these days find it very easy to follow in the footsteps of the world-famous author.
As good-a-starting-place as any must be Jane Austen’s House Museum in the quiet village of Chawton. It was here that Austen wrote and revised six of her most famous novels.
This was Austen’s last home, where she lived with her mother and her sister Cassandra from 1809 to 1817 – and where the hairs will rise on the back of your neck when you see the little table where she revised her manuscripts for Sense & Sensibility, Pride & Prejudice and Northanger Abbey, and also wrote Mansfield Park, Persuasion and…of course, Emma.
With the possible exception of Steventon, where she was born and grew up, Chawton was the place where Austen found most peace and security. Today, Jane Austen’s House Museum and gardens retain much of that same atmosphere; and it is the ideal starting point for anyone wanting to find out more about Jane Austen and her books, as well as her family and the life-and-times in which she lived.
Elsewhere in the village Chawton House Library is the manor house that once belonged to Austen’s brother, Edward – and the library, house and gardens are also open to the general public.
Steventon is another destination on a tour of ‘Jane Austen Country’. Jane herself was born on December 16, 1775 in the Old Rectory, which, sadly, no longer exists. It is where she lived for the first 25 years of her life, and where she created the first drafts of three of her published books.
Today, a giant lime tree planted by Austen’s brother, James, is all that remains in the spot where the rectory once stood. But St Nicholas Church, which Jane attended regularly with the rest of the family to listen to their father preach, is where visitors will find a bronze plaque dedicated to her memory.
Jane’s life was interrupted when the family moved to Bath following the retirement of her father. But on her return to her beloved Hampshire countryside – first to Southampton, and later to Chawton – Austen picked-up her quill pen once again. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Sadly, illness started to shape her life in her final years, but she recovered sufficiently to revise and complete Persuasion, which would be later published posthumously along with Northanger Abbey. But after starting her seventh (unfinished) novel – Sanditon – her health once again started to fail, and she agreed to being moved to Winchester under the care of Giles Lyford, a surgeon at the County Hospital.
Lodgings were arranged for her and Cassandra at 8 College Street in Winchester. Jane died on Friday 18, July 1817, and was buried in the north aisle of the Cathedral.
While the inscription on her tomb makes no reference to her literary talent, a brass tablet was added at a later date confirming that she was “known to many by her writings”.
VisitHampshire’s promotional videos for Jane Austen’s Hampshire can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLl8I0ua5jIsV0skaJG6dC9egbol78GxgL.
For further details about Jane Austen’s Hampshire, visit https://www.visit-hampshire.co.uk/things-to-do/jane-austen.
And full tourist information can always be found at http://www.visit-hampshire.co.uk.