Virginia Claire Tharrington (center) visiting Chawton Cottage (2008)
The advenure continues as intern Virginia Claire Tharrington reports in on her experience at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath, England.
First Trip Home (trip to Chawton)
Friday I saw one of the most beautiful countryside I have ever seen. My Jane Austen class went on our study trip to Winchester and Chawton. It was amazing and one of the best days of my entire time here.
Virginia in front of Jane Austen’s last home on College Street, Winchester
We started out at the house on College Street in Winchester where Jane Austen spent her last days and died in Cassandra’s arms. Though we did not get to go inside the house because it is in private hands it was interesting to see this house that she spent her last months in. Cassandra had brought Jane to Winchester in 1817 to seek medical care but the doctors could barely help with the pain much less with the real problem (which is now believed to be Addison’s disease). The house is a simple building but it is beside the College and Jane’s bedroom is supposed to have overlooked the headmaster’s garden.
Virginia at the graveside of Jane Austen at Winchester Cathedral
After this we went to Winchester Cathedral to see her grave. I thought it was very interesting that only 4 people attended her funeral, 3 brothers and a nephew. Cassandra did not attend her beloved sister’s funeral because in that time it was not customary for women to attend. This struck me as very sad because the sisters were so close and loving. Jane Austen’s grave was very interesting as well because though it is a loving memorial it does not mention anything about her being a writer. It is not till later many years after her death that the plaque was added that says Jane Austen was a famous writer. We stopped at her grave and I was very touched by it if only because it is sort of ironic that at her death she was only known as a parson’s daughter but yet she was buried in one of the largest churches in England. But now her fame has risen to the height that she is the most visited person in the church. We later saw Mrs. Austen and Cassandra’s grave at the little Church at Chawton and thought I think she would better fit there; I think she would be amused at the fact that she is so popular now. Winchester was a lovely town but I was very excited to move on to see Chawton Cottage and Manor House.
Virginia visiting Jane’s desk at Chawton Cottage, Hampshire
Chawton Cottage was a lovely house though it was much bigger than we had expected. I was most excited to see the little table where Jane had written her letter. I did get to see this and I even touched (though you are not suppose to). It was amazing to see this little table on which she rewrote or composed some of the world’s greatest novels. I thought it was also interesting that Jane and Cassandra shared a room while they were at Chawton though there were 6 bedrooms. I would like to believe that these beloved sisters took so much enjoyment from one another that they could not be parted and I suspect that some of their best times were at night when it was just the two of them. The house is most wonderful and that I am so glad we got to see it.
Virginia in front of Chawton Manor, Hampshire
Chawton Manor was our next and last stop. Chawton Manor was owned by Jane Austen’s brother Edward and it was passed down until it fell into disrepair after WWI. We went to see the library which has been started by an America member of JASNA. It is a fantastic library of early women writers. We saw first editions of Cecilia which is where Jane Austen could have gotten the title for Pride and Prejudice. It was a wonderful resource and I hope to one day to go back and research there.
This trip has been so wonderful. It has really been a dream come true. To see where Jane wrote and loved so dearly. I can see why she was so eager to leave Bath and go back to the country. It felt almost as if I was going home, well maybe not to my home but to Jane’s which is just as good! : )
Cheers until next week.
Virginia Claire Tharrington
Intern, The Jane Austen Centre, Bath, England
Read Virginia’s previous reports in the Austen Intern archives