Quote Jane


“There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.” ― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

zondag 1 november 2009

Chawton


Chawton Cottage, in Chawton village near Alton, was Jane Austen’s last home from 1808and it was here that she settled into her writing and became a published author. Jane and her mother and sister had left Bath and set up home in Southampton with brother Frank and his wife, following the death of Mr Austen senior. But by 1808 Frank had moved his family to the Isle of Wight. Now another of Jane’s brothers, Edward Knight, stepped in to help his mother and sisters. Edward, adopted at 16 by wealthy but childless Kent relatives, inherited their estates in Kent and Hampshire. He made his home at Godmersham Park, near Canterbury, but after his wife’s early death in 1808 thought he might spend more time at Chawton Great House in Hampshire, nearer his relatives. Probably with this in mind, he offered the Austen women Chawton Cottage, formerly the home of his estate manager, rent-free for the rest of their lives.
There had been some talk of them moving to Kent, but Chawton was close to friends and relations. Eldest brother James was still at Steventon, a horse-ride away, brother Henry made occasional visits to the branch of his bank in nearby Alton, and Frank when not at sea was not very far away either (he soon moved his wife and family to Alton to be even closer to his mother and sisters). Henry inspected the cottage and reported back that there were six bedrooms, which meant there would be room for their friend Martha to move in with them. The cottage had a large garden, where the women grew fruit and vegetables and took gentle exercise. It was on a busy junction of three roads, with daily coaches passing through. Today the village is bypassed and a lot quieter. Edward had a window on the road side blocked up, giving more privacy. Once settled into Chawton Jane began revising Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, which were written at Steventon. With brother Henry’s help, she succeeded in getting these novels published, in 1811 and 1813. She followed these with Mansfield Park and Emma. Henry managed to buy back Northanger Abbey from a publisher who had not printed it, and it was eventually published after Jane’s death along with Persuasion, the last complete novel.
In 1817, after starting another book, Jane became very ill and moved to Winchester for medical help. She died a few weeks later. Ten years later Jane’s mother died, and the following year Martha married Jane’s brother Frank at the ripe age of 63. Jane’s sister Cassandra continued to live in Chawton Cottage until her death in 1845 She was buried in Chawton churchyard, as was her mother.
There are monuments to both. This church, where Jane and the family worshipped, was rebuilt in 1838 by Edward, whose home Chawton Great House is next door. However, this rebuilt church burnt down and was replaced in 1871 with the present building.
Edward did not use the Great House much, but brother Frank rented it from him from 1814 - 1820, and it was also used at different times by Henry and Charles. It remains in the Knight family, but in 1993, Richard Knight sold a 125 year lease on the building. It is currently a study centre for women’s writing. There are regular tours of the house:

Jane and Cassandra frequently walked into the nearby town of Alton for shopping and entertainment. Brother Henry had a branch of his bank, Austen, Maude and Tilson, here and often visited on business from London. Later, after the bank collapsed, Henry became a clergyman at Chawton.

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Austen werd geboren in Hampshire. Haar vader was een geestelijke. Het grootste deel van haar leven bleef zij in haar geboortestreek. Austen had zes broers en een oudere zuster, Cassandra, met wie zij zeer hecht was. Het enige onbetwiste portret van Jane Austen is een gekleurde schets die door Cassandra werd gemaakt en nu in de National Portrait Gallery in Londen hangt. In 1801 verhuisde de familie naar Bath. In 1802 werd Austen ten huwelijk gevraagd door de rijke Harris Bigg-Wither en zij stemde toe; de volgende dag deelde ze echter mee dat zij haar woord niet kon houden en trok haar instemming in. De reden hiervoor is niet bekend, maar Austen is nooit getrouwd. Na de dood van haar vader in 1805 woonden Jane, haar zuster en haar moeder daar nog verscheidene jaren tot zij in 1809 naar Chawton verhuisden. Hier had haar rijke broer Edward een landgoed met een plattelandshuisje, dat hij aan zijn moeder en zusters schonk (dit huis is tegenwoordig open voor het publiek). Zelfs nadat zij naam gemaakt had als romanschrijfster bleef zij in relatieve stilte leven, maar haar gezondheid ging sterk achteruit. Er wordt nu aangenomen dat zij de ziekte van Addison had, waarvan toen de oorzaak nog onbekend was. Ze reisde naar Winchester om behandeling te zoeken, maar stierf daar en werd begraven in de kathedraal.
Tot Austens beroemdste werk behoort de roman Emma. Het boek wordt vaak aangehaald vanwege de perfectie van vorm. Moderne critici blijven ook nieuwe perspectieven ontdekken op het scherpe commentaar van Austen betreffende de klasse van jonge, ongehuwde, aristocratische Engelse vrouwen in de vroege 19e eeuw.

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