Wherein, gentle reader, you may find anything and everything about Jane - her writings, her life, her admirers, Austen criticism, movie adaptations, websites, blogs...
"Pictures of perfection, as you know, make me sick & wicked"
- Jane Austen
"Jane Austen is weirdly capable of keeping everybody busy. The moralists, the Eros-and-Agape people, the Marxists, the Freudians, the Jungians, the semioticians, the deconstructors - all find an adventure playground in six samey novels about middle-class provincials. And for every generation of critics, and readers, her fiction effortlessly renews itself."
While we are talking about the "true homes" of Jane Austen, please let us not forget Steventon rectory (shown here as drawn by Jane's niece Anna Austen Lefroy).
It was at Steventon that Jane was born, lived most of her life, and started on her writing career. She lived there until her father retired and the family removed to Bath, whereupon her eldest brother James succeeded to his father's position and the rectory. Jane's brother Edward Knight later considered the house too dilapidated for his own son to occupy, and it was demolished in the early 1820s, and a new rectory was built.
If there is anywhere which was Jane Austen's true home, it would have been Steventon, but probably the absence of the original house doesn't satisfy the marketing and tourism industries. Oh dear, how cynical of me.
The Telegraph reports on controversy over whether Chawton, Hampshire or the city of Bath is Jane Austen's "true home". We won't worry at all about the fact that Jane Austen hated Bath, and reported in a letter to Cassandra on 20 June 1808:
It will be two years to-morrow since we left Bath for Clifton, with what happy feelings of escape!
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Watercolour by J.S.Clarke
believed to be Jane Austen visiting Carlton House, London, 1815
W.H. Auden on Jane Austen (1937)
You could not shock her more than she shocks me; Beside her Joyce seems innocent as grass. It makes me most uncomfortable to see An English spinster of the middle class Describe the amorous effects of "brass" Reveal so frankly and with such sobriety The economic basis of society.
(A little bit of Austenesque doggerel, composed by me, 29 April, 2008)
We’re really very cross with Cassandra Austen For half her sister’s letters, she went and lost 'em Deliberately... or so we are told Presumptuous chit, how dare she be so bold!
For the remaining epistles intriguingly paint A portrait of Jane very far from a saint We’re delighted by her naughtiness and love her the more, Not having to imagine a spinsterish bore.
We love that she drank too much, had admirers and flirts, Was thought the sauciest minx ever to wear skirts, But we wish we knew more of Mr Thomas Lefroy That gentlemanlike, handsome, sexy Irish boy.
He was shipped home to Ireland & duly married money She kept polishing her stories, so desperately funny But had she married, what destiny would have unfurled? Would we have six novels that still delight the world?
They did fall in love; the letters can’t hide it you see Tho’ his lips stayed sealed 'til he was nearly ninety-three When Cassandra was long gone, having shed all her tears And Jane had been dust for more than fifty years.