Discovering Jane Austen
Some Year 11 and Year 12 English Literature students enjoyed an excursion to see Chawton, the village in which Jane Austen lived the last eight years of her life.
First they visited Chawton Cottage, now called the Jane Austen House Museum, which was given to Jane and her mother by Edward Austen Knight, her wealthy brother. When she arrived here in 1809, Jane Austen was unknown, but she was a celebrated, published author by the time she died in 1817. This means that her most famous novels were either composed or revised on the little twelve-sided walnut table on which a servant said he “often saw Jane Austen writing”. Students played the short Clementi piano, made lavender pouches and reclined in the garden in the Spring sunshine.
Next students went to Chawton House, where Edward Austen Knight lived. Dr Darren Bevin, the librarian, showed our students the reading rooms, including original copies of many of Austen’s works and that of other female authors. They looked around the house, which Austen would have visited frequently, and enjoyed tea in the tea rooms and a walk in the gardens.
This delightful experience was designed to allow the students to gain greater knowledge of the context which is so vital for their exam answers on Austen novels. The piano, the lavender, the books and that crucial tiny table will have provided that for them.