|Jane Austen's House - Chawton|
Recently, I have faced some huge challenges in my life and have had many obstacles to overcome. My experiences have made me think of the challenges Jane Austen faced and how she overcame them. Jane did not always have an easy life. An example of this is the decision by her parents in 1801 for Jane’s father, a vicar, to retire from Steventon in Hampshire and, with his wife and their two daughters, move to Bath. Neither Jane nor her elder sister Cassandra were consulted.
This was very difficult for the sisters to accept. They would be saying goodbye to the only home they had ever known, the place where they had grown up and which they dearly loved. In fact, it is said that on hearing the news Jane fainted. While this may not be true, she certainly seems to have been deeply affected by the news.
It is well known that Jane didn’t like Bath. But she seems to have tried to make the best of it, although she didn’t write much in Bath, or for some time after. However, while in Bath she did begin a novel called The Watsons, but never finished it. It is thought that this was because of the death of her beloved father the Reverend George Austen, who died after a short illness in January 1805, while the family were living in Bath. One of the characters in the unfinished novel, Mr Watson, is an ailing clergyman, so perhaps the plot was too close to reality for Jane to finish writing it.
Because of her father’s death and having to leave her much loved home at Steventon, it is likely that Jane would afterwards have associated Bath with negative feelings. After her father died, she and her mother and Cassandra were left very badly off. They rented accommodation in the city for a short while, before leaving later in 1805.
|Steventon - Hampshire|
To begin with the three women moved around, much of the time staying with Jane’s brothers. Between 1806 and 1809 they lived in Southampton with Jane’s brother Frank and his wife Mary (although Frank was often away at sea), along with the Austen ladies’ friend Martha Lloyd. It would have been crowded and would have offered Jane very little space to write. It wasn’t until 1809 that Jane, Cassandra, Mrs Austen and Martha, who they had decided would live with them, were given a permanent home, Chawton Cottage by Jane’s wealthy elder brother Edward Knight on his estate in Hampshire.
Once settled at Chawton, Jane began to busy herself in writing. She revamped some of her old manuscripts, Sense and Sensibility (previously a novel in letters called Elinor and Marianne) and Pride and Prejudice (previously called First Impression). These had been started some years earlier, before the move to Bath. Jane managed to publish both books in 1811 and 1813 respectively, and later wrote two more that were published in her lifetime, Mansfield Park (1814) and Emma (1815). Persuasion and Northanger Abbey were published posthumously in 1817.
I think what stands out to me from this period in Jane’s life is how well she persevered and all that she achieved, even in such difficult circumstances. In my opinion, she is an inspiration to us all.
Elaine lives in Bristol, South West England with her husband. But she was privileged enough to grow up in Jane Austen country, in Hampshire.
She’s always loved writing, but it’s only been in recent years that she’s been able to devote more time to it. She decided to self-publish with the help of her wonderful husband who’s very tech-savvy! In 2013 she self-published her first novel, but it was only with her fourth, her novel ‘Love Without Time’, that she felt she finally found her niche: Jane Austen Fan Fiction!
She’s always loved Jane Austen’s writing and the Regency era, so this felt like a natural thing for her to do. ‘Elizabeth and Darcy: Beginning Again’ is the first ‘Pride and Prejudice’ variation she’s written.
You can connect with Elaine online on these platforms
On X @ElaineJeremiah
On Instagram @elainejeremiahauthor