Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Jane Austen's House Museum in Chawton

Before I left England I was absolutely determined to visit Jane Austen's home in Chawton, Hampshire.  I don't know how I'd been in the UK for such an extended period of time throughout the years yet had never visited this literary Mecca. 

I attribute the genesis of my Anglophilia to Jane Austen.  I devoured Pride and Prejudice as a fifteen-year-old who felt as though my eyes were being opened to a whole new world I had yet to explore.  From that point I simply couldn't get enough of all things English: literature, films, travel, culture, etc.  Sometimes I wonder where my life would have led if I never discovered Jane's magical novel, but I can't imagine it.  I owe a great debt to Jane and was therefore thrilled to pay homage to this fantastic author by visiting her home with good friends Liz and Ana. 

The back of the house
Jane Austen's donkey carriage
 Washing Copper
Ana and Liz learn about the functions of the outhouses
The kitchen
Liz is ready to go inside!
 Ana and Liz
The Unapologetic Austenites

A few memorable moments from the tour of the house:

*Jane Austen's writing desk: I nearly swooned standing so close to the spot where Jane revised her early novels and wrote her later texts.  I wanted to lay all over it, but the realistic fear of being unceremoniously kicked out refrained me.

*A book of polaroids from the filming of Sense and Sensibility (1995): The collection featured the cast in Regency garb; notes from the costume designer were in the margins.  Some pics appeared to be taken in character, in others the actors were pulling funny faces for the camera.  Hugh Laurie (e.g., House) had a surly countenance in every photo.  I really wanted to steal a polaroid -- I didn't.

*The bat in the drawing room: A tiny, furry flyer decided to camp out in Jane's drawing room.  When we purchased our tickets we were told, 'Just go out this door through the gardens and into the house by the way you aren't afraid of bats are you because there's one in the drawing room.'  All in one breath.  He spent most of his time on fixtures near the ceiling.  I wish I could have captured a photo of this unlikely Austenite. 

Street view of the house

Still to come: Jane's garden, our picnic in the village and The Tale of the Flower Thief.