Jane Austen Among Family and Friends

A Happy New Year to one and all. We have chosen to launch our new blog with one of the Great Ladies of Literature, Jane Austen. 2017 is the bicentenary of Jane's death and the British Library is exhibiting Jane’s  teenage notebooks, plus family letters and memorabilia in January and February.

We thought you might enjoy some lesser known facts about Jane.

Jane and Cake Jane helped to run the Austen household and her letters allow us a peek into thrifty household management. Jane noted the cost of food items, which rose and fell as England warred with France, and she collected recipes for the servants to try. We also know that Jane liked cakes such as local Bath Buns and wrote to her sister: “You know how interesting the purchase of a sponge-cake is to me”.

Jane and Relatives It is well known that Jane spent much time in Bath and not so well known that she spent many months in Kent staying with relatives. She visited Royal Tunbridge Wells, the rival spa town to the more enduring Bath, stayed at nearby Tonbridge and Sevenoaks and frequently visited her brother, Edward at Godmersham Park. Jane attended balls during her visits to Kent and mentions 'the famous ball at Chilham Castle'. Jane was a regular guest at Goodnestone Park, the home of Edward's wife's family, Sir Brook and Lady Bridges. The beautiful gardens are now open to the public.

Sewing Jane All young ladies in Jane’s position would have been taught embroidery and the usually modest Jane was proud of her skill. In a letter to her sister Jane wrote: “We are very busy making Edward’s shirts and I am proud to say that I am the neatest worker of the party”.

Jane and the Monarchy Jane was not an admirer of Royalty, in a letter she stated that she hated the Prince Regent because of the unkind way he was said to treat his estranged wife, Princess Caroline, however the Prince Regent was a great admirer of Jane and is said to have kept a set of her novels in every one of his residences.

Jane and Dickens Jane’s fame grew until after her death. She shares a similarity with Charles Dickens in that neither of their grave stones state they were authors; Dickens out of modesty or perhaps humility, and Austen because her family did not consider it worth recording on the stone. She was buried in Winchester cathedral only because she died nearby.