Monday, 18 July 2011


This day 1817 Jane Austen left this world after a long illness and, curiously,  I was on her grave in the huge Winchester Cathedral only  a couple of days ago, on 16th July. I can't describe how sad I felt. Maybe it was due to the weather too. It was a grey rainy day, perfect setting for my visit to Jane's resting place. A cold, anonymous, black tombstone on the floor of the left aisle. I'm sure she would have preferred to rest next to her sister Cassandra in the small churchyard near her brother Edward's elegant house at Chawton. 
On the black marble stone, in gold, words full of sorrow for the loss and of love for the lost beloved. No mention of the great secret love of her life, writing, of her dream of becoming a professional writer, of living on her pen.

In Memory of
youngest daughter of the late
formerly Rector of Steventon in this County She departed this Life on the 18th of July1817, aged 41, after a long illness supported with the patience and hopes of a Christian.
The benevolence of her heart,
the sweetness of her temper, and
the extraordinary endowments of her mind obtained the regard of all who knew her and the warmest love of her intimate connections.
Their grief is in proportion to their affection they know their loss to be irreparable, but in their deepest affliction they are consoled by a firm though humble hope that her charity, devotion, faith and purity have rendered her soul acceptable in the sight of her 

I'm sure Jane Austen lived a happy life , full of love , though  brief . There was a breath of joy, calm and serenity at Chawton, in that little house she lived in with her mother and sister . I was  there,  at Chawton cottage,  on 14th July and it was   the first time in my life. After reading so much about and by Jane, I was really there looking around her drawing room. The piano was open, a score waiting to be played. In the parlour the little precious corner near the window. Shivering, I approached  the small writing table  which I had seen so many times in pictures on line. There it was,  caressed by the sunbeams, with a feather and an inkwell ready to be used. I couldn't take my eyes off  that space. I could figure out Jane sitting there,  fully immersed in her thoughts, in her words, in the world she was creating. Busy, smiling, satisfied. Well, also suspiciously looking at the door from time to time, knowing it would creak and warn her if someone got there to disturb her work.
I longed to take my own picture of it but didn't dare ask. One of my friends did it for me, she asked and was answered : YES! So I took my picture of Jane's writing table and one of an incredulous smiling me was taken by my friend. Unforgettable moments.


Mary Simonsen said...

How wonderful that you got to go to Chawton. I'm envious. You look absolutely thrilled.

Maria Grazia said...

I really was, Mary!

Debra Brown said...

I'm sure! The eulogy on the grave is so touching. Her family is long gone, but their deep feelings live on there.

Adriana Sales Zardini said...

Oh my God! That's lovely! :)

Claudia said...

So touching, Maria! You almost made me cry. There's a kind of magic shining through the pictures.

maribea said...

How I wish I went to Chawton, too! But I will wait for the summer to finish because I need the wonderful sunny summer we have in Italy!!! I'm planning a trip to Bath as soon as possible. Maybe next spring. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and pictures with us, Maria Grazia. You're so lovely. By the way, who was the driver? My friend and I used to alternate when driving in Ireland and in the end I got accostumed to it and even offered to drive all the time!!

Nancy Kelley said...

Oh my! I never even thought of getting that close to her table--though I did take several pictures of it. My regret is not taking the chance to play on the pianoforte. I was invited, but too shy of being heard.

JaneGS said...

Lovely post--and that's a great picture of you at THE writing desk :)

V poignant to be at Austen's grave on the anniversary of her death. Not sure when I'll finally get to make the pilgrimage myself, but you have reinsured me to get there!