Behind The Article: Jane Austen in Chawton
Jane Austen arouses feelings of the provincial life in England. The English countryside arouses feelings of home life with quiet villages and quaint cottages. It is from this connection to English home that Austen wrote her best work. Today, Jane Austen’s House Museum located in Chawton is open to the public. Book-lovers of Austen’s great works can explore her humble residence and the place where she labored over characters, plot and setting. Writer Helen Palmer has been exploring Austen’s House since 2006 as she discusses her deep connection to it in our latest Jane Austen article. But first, Palmer answers a few extra questions:
Literary Traveler: In the article, you wrote that you’ve made many visits to Austen’s home in Chawton. Was there anything that stood out during your most recent visit?
Helen Palmer: My most recent visit to the house was memorable in that the village lay under several inches of snow, and all the trees were frosted white. This past winter was a particularly long and cold one in England – visiting the house in the big freeze gave me much more of a feeling for the harshness of life in Austen’s time. I could imagine Jane and her sister Cassandra huddled around the open fire to keep warm. Obviously it’s lovely to visit the house in the spring or summer time when everything is in bloom, but I’ve enjoyed seeing it in every season.
LT: Jane Austen continues to inspire us as writers. Were you surprised to hear Austen was heavily edited?
HP: I was quite surprised – and fascinated to hear that NPR interview with Kathryn Sutherland at Oxford University. Like many people I had always had the image of Jane Austen sitting at her writing table with her quill, turning out perfectly polished prose. Learning that she had trouble with punctuation doesn’t change my appreciation of her as a writer though. The essence of her genius is unchanged.
LT: How does Austen continue to inspire you as a literary writer and travel writer?
HP: I think for me it’s her wit and lightness of touch that continue to inspire, both in writing and in life. It’s her gift for observation of people and their foibles that’s completely timeless.
Please continue reading our latest article: Jane Austen, A Beloved Friend in Chawton.