Thursday, 23 June 2011


Lucinda Brant is Australian. She studied political science, history, law and education at university and now teaches at an exclusive boarding school for young ladies when not bumping about Georgian London in her sedan chair or exchanging gossip with perfumed and patched courtiers in the gilded drawing rooms of Versailles.
She loves saying that in a previous life she died at the guillotine during the French Revolution (reason for the migraines in this life). Hence, all her novels are set in 1700’s England or France but well before 1789! 
Today she's here to tell about her experience in Jane Austen's England in the 80s and her love for Persuasion and Mr Knightley. Read, comment, ask questions and don't forget to add your e-amil address. You'll get the chance to win a signed copy of Lucinda's latest Georgian romance, SALT BRIDE, in the hardcover edition. Open worldwide, this giveaway ends on June 30th. If you love BBC Classic Drama, Georgette Heyer, Georgian England, plenty of wit and adventure then you'll love her books!
In Jane’s visiting footsteps: Great Bookham, Surrey

Persuasion is my favorite Jane Austen novel, and Anne Elliott my favorite Austen heroine. I don’t care much for Emma, but Mr. Knightley is my second favorite Austen hero. I first read Emma as a set text in high school and then Persuasion for my final year and fell in love with Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliott. Just one month after completing High School and gaining a place to study law and politics at university, I deferred my studies for a year, boarded a jumbo jet (my first ever flight) for a 23-hour journey (one stopover) from Sydney to London to take up a position as a nanny in the leafy environs of Surrey, England. It was 1980, Margaret Thatcher was Britain’s first female Prime Minister and I was eighteen years old. 

To my delight I discovered that just east of where I now resided in Little Bookham with my two young charges, Great Bookham had featured briefly in Jane Austen’s life. How did I find this out? Wherever I went, people were eager to tell me, from the greengrocer to the post office lady, about Jane’s visits to Great Bookham. The exact nature of her visits was rather sketchy, but the local librarian filled in the details for me. I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to be walking on the same ground Jane Austen had also walked, however brief her time in my home away from home.

Rev. Samuel Cooke’s memorial tablet 
Jane visited Great Bookham twice – in 1799 and then again in 1814. Her mother’s relatives lived there. The Rev. Samuel Cooke, who was Jane’s godfather, was married to Jane’s cousin Cassandra. The Rev. Cooke was rector of the local church St. Nicholas from 1769 until his death in 1820 and his memorial tablet is in the chancel of the church. I was fascinated to discover that the church of St. Nicholas is mentioned in the Domesday Book, that its interesting wooden church tower dates from the 15th century, and that over the years its congregation has included such luminaries as Lord Raglan, who lost his life at Sebastopol two decades after losing an arm at the Battle of Waterloo (the east window is a memorial to him), and the newly married Duke and Duchess of York (future King George VI and Queen Elizabeth) who had honeymooned at the nearby estate Polesden Lacey. But for me the biggest thrill was that Jane Austen had worshipped at St. Nicholas. That when I walked down the aisle, sat in a pew, I was literally following in Jane’s footsteps. When I went to church and even when I passed by on foot, with my young charges in tow, or to shop or to collect young Master Three from his twice-weekly playgroup, I was always smiling thinking of Jane and her cousins and their connection to what was for a short time my local church.

Old Rectory, Great Bookham, photo taken 1910
Studying the sketch of St. Nicholas at around the time of Jane’s visits, its situation is very rustic and the church appears almost rundown. When I lived nearby, and as it is today, it is very much in town, with Church street running parallel to the beautiful stonewall that encloses the church yard. Sadly the old rectory where Jane stayed is no more. Demolished in 1961, a cedar tree marks the spot where it once stood. The black and white photo was taken in 1910 and shows a rather substantial ivy-covered building and I can imagine Jane seated at one of the windows writing with quill, ink and parchment.

St. Nicholas Church, Great Bookham, 1810
St. Nicholas Church, as I remember it.
Jane’s Letters show that she began writing Emma while staying with her cousins at the rectory in 1814. The leafy countryside around Great Bookham provided the backdrop for Emma and the pivotal scene is said to take place at nearby Box Hill, which rises some 634 feet (193m), and affords spectacular views of the North Downs. Box trees have grown there since the 1500s, hence its name. Jane would have visited Box Hill and it is easy to imagine her picnicking with her cousins in the crisp open air and enjoying the beautiful views.

Box Hill, Surrey, sketched in the late 18th Century
Box Hill as I remember it – the vibrant greens of the English countryside
I have wonderful memories of my visits to Box Hill, where I flew kites and ate soft serve ice cream with my two young charges; unlike Emma, who did not enjoy her visit at all after insulting poor Miss Bates and being angrily berated by Mr. Knightley for her unthinking and unkind behavior. It is almost two decades since I last visited Box Hill, but one thing that struck me at the time and has stayed with me is the greenness of the English countryside. It was while standing at the summit of Box Hill on a clear summer’s day that I realised I had never really seen Nature’s green before. The greens of Australian native species are rather brown and dull olive green by comparison. Whereas the green of an English countryside is green, really green, and so many different shades of vibrant green too.

It still makes me smile whenever I think of my time in Great Bookham, sitting in St. Nicholas Church and day-dreaming of when Jane was part of the congregation, an audience to her godfather’s sermons. I wonder if Jane, like me, was only half-listening, guiltily allowing her mind to wander to ruminating over plots and characters and dreaming of Mr. Knightley, or in my case Captain Wentworth!
Lucinda Brant

Lucinda  loves to hear from her readers so  visit her official site, or visit her  at Facebook or drop her a line at

This post is part of the Jane in June event  hosted at Book Rat.
Leave your comments + e-mail address and good luck for the giveaway!


Laura said...

As I dream with my eyes wide open, I want to be in Jane Austens footsteps one day. Its so great to have such memories and so nice to share it with us.
Its pretty shocking to see the drawings opposite the real photos but still a nice journey.
Im sure Jane was half-listening and imagining plots and new adorable men. Her fictional men are beyond comparison.

Unknown said...

That was a very interesting post, and I loved the pictures. I'm glad that you got to experience some of the places Jane Austen saw. Thanks for the giveaway.

Debra Brown said...

What an interesting post, and I love the pictures! I would love to win a copy of the book. Thanks!

Giada M. said...

I wish I had a Mr. Knightley in my life...
Thank you for the interesting post! I would love to visit those places soon. *_*

And thank you for the giveaway! :D Salt Bride sounds awesome.

Giada M.

fabgiada (at) gmail (dot) com

Anonymous said...

Persuasion is my favourite book too and I love Emma and Mr Knightley. Maybe one day I'll get to visit those places.

Thanks for the giveaway.


patti-wolit at

Anonymous said...

Beautifully evocative post. Love the view from Box Hill... very Tasmanian in the spring.

Margay Leah Justice said...

I love all of Jane Austen's books, but I do have a special place in my heart for Persuasion.


Lucinda Brant said...

Thank you everyone for your comments! : - )
@mesmered - Tasmania so reminds me of the SE English counties and Eire - but I visited England well before I visited Tasmania - and thus was ignorant then of the wonderful lush greens to be found on the Apple Isle. Happily I have visited Tasmania many times since - it is a beautiful, special place I hope to call home one day!

buddyt said...

It must be very interesting to be able to visit places tied to any author and imagine how they must have been in the day. Sadly most of them are so changed from what they were that a good imagination is required.

Then one has cottages and places preserved as memorials to authors which although very well furnished and laid out are much to sterile and don't really allow one to feel the ghost of their presence.

Thanks for the post and the giveaway.

Carol T

buddytho {at} gmail DOT com

Mel Haffners Book Club said...

I loved the photos, thankyou for sharing your wonderful experience and comparing your time there with Jane Austen, someone will be comparing footsteps with Lucinda Brant in the future, I am sure of it.

Salt Bride is a brilliant read you will all enjoy.

maribea said...

I've always dreamed about a literary tour, following Jane Austen's steps or the Brontes'. Thanks for sharing Lucinda and congratulation on your success.Of course, I would be happy to receive a signed copy.

phastings said...

Persuasion is my all time favorite too! I think it is Jane Austen's most passionate love story. Anne & Frederick where deeply in love from the get-go. They never stopped loving each other.
I would love to visit England some day. That was a great opportunity for you Lucinda. I too was 18 in 1980. But I was in "New" England!
Thanks for a chance to win a copy of Salt Bride.

Lucinda Brant said...

Thanks to everyone for your kind comments!
@phastings I agree re Anne and Frederick being in love from day one - and that's what makes Persuasion such a deeply poignant novel for me. "New" England is on my bucket list! Would love to visit one day. I never made it that far north while living in the States... but one day... : - )

Unknown said...

Mr Knightly surely sounds like my knight in shining armour,, I love wit and adventure!! Thanks for the indepth post ;) and pics ,, England has always been a place Id love to visit ;) maybe when I get to read The salt bride it will take me their on that adventure. Tasmania to has that old feeling :) I went their last year and loved it to.
thanks for the great giveaway !

Julienne said...

Persuasion is my favourite Austen book, too! :) I think a preference from P&P to Persuasion usually happens as we get older..
thanks for the giveaway ^^


Literary Chanteuse said...

I found this one quite interesting! Would love read/win it! Thanks!


Claudia said...

How many beautiful places to visit! Box Hill... I wish I was there now walking in the sun :) Thanks for this post that made me travel just sitting at my desk!

katayoun said...

wonderful post and wow so many lovely places visited and you described it so beautifully, i loved the part about england's green and so know what you mean, a perfect description

Stiletto Storytime said...

Lovely post...I am having a "Georgette Heyer Gems of August" event that I would adore having you write a guest post for. I envy you your travels...perhaps someday! Thanks for the giveaway as well!

stilettostorytime at gmail dot com