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Jane Austen at Chawton


Chawton House welcomed Jane.

Two hundred years ago, in 1809, after four years living with relatives and moving from one rental to another, Jane Austen came to Chawton House, which was owned by her brother, Edward. She settled into a cottage with her mother and sister in Chawton Village. She had written several novels, but had been unable to find a publisher.

In Chawton, Jane Austen first became a published writer, correcting proofs of Sense and Sensibility, which appeared in 1811. In the winter of 1811, she began revising Pride and Prejudice. In 1813, she finished Mansfield House, and in 1814 she began Emma. Chawton was a good place to write.

Jane finished Emma in 1815 and began Persuasion a few months later. I hope you, too, share happy memories of these books. In Persuasion I can think of early scenes that must have been inspired by all the comings and goings between the house and the cottage, though in Persuasion the children live in the cottage. (A little joke by Jane?)

On Saturday, July 18th, Sarah Waters announced the winner of the Jane Austen Short Story Competition at Chawton House Library. The winner is Victoria Owens of the United Kingdom. Her story will be published by Honno.

The Library has a collection of women's literature, including a manuscript by Jane Austen, and offers a sanctuary to writers, which Chawton must have been for Jane.

She had brothers in the Royal Navy at a time when the Napoleonic Wars were bleeding Britain, but aside from paying several heart-felt tributes to Navy men in Persuasion, Jane stayed focused on her stories.

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