Jane Austen Was Here

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One year ago today, I was in Chawton. In honor of that, I’m reposting the post I did about my day there.

To a certain extent, all authors work in the shadow of the literary greats. How will our books compare when stacked up against classics like Les Misérables, Don Quixote, or Wuthering Heights? For the Austen sequel writer, the pressure is infinitely greater. We are not just working in the same profession as those masters; we are actually taking the characters and settings of Jane Austen’s stories and adding to them in some way.

Three weeks ago, I stepped directly into Austen’s shadow when I visited Chawton. This house, now home to the Jane Austen’s House Museum, is where she lived when she wrote and edited the majority of her novels. If you remember, I planned to spend some time writing on the grounds, and there was some debate over how intimidating that might be.

Honestly, I didn’t think it would intimidate me–until I saw her writing desk. This is actually the little table she sat and wrote at. I imagined I could hear the squeak in the door which warned her when people approached. Then I was intimidated!

Look at that chair, at the angle of the chair to the table. This was not an ergonomic work station, friends. Granted, the chair is low enough and the table high enough that she wouldn’t have to hunch over her paper, but beyond that… Can you imagine the dedication that would drive you to spend hours a day, cramped into one position, writing away?
Yes, I thought, I can imagine it. While my situation at home is far more comfortable, I still have a chiropractor and massage therapist constantly telling me I should take better care of myself. I ignore them, because sitting for hours a day is the only way to get the book done, and the book demands to be finished.
After touring the museum, I walked a ways up the road to the main house–Chawton Great House. This is a fine Elizabethan manor and I learned quite a bit about the Austen connection to the Knight family. Among the group, there was that electric realization that Jane Austen actually visited this house–ate in this dining room–walked on these stairs.
So did I do any writing? Yes, I did. Intimidated or not, I could not let this opportunity pass me by. Jane Austen was here, and now, so was I.
I edited part of Chapter 11, the chapter of the Netherfield Ball, while in Chawton. Here is the opening of that chapter:

Darcy glanced at his watch one last time. Guests had begun arriving over half an hour ago, and he had purposely delayed his own entrance in order to avoid the Bennet family. For Mrs. Bennet surely saw to it they were among the first to arrive.

He walked through the open doors, and all his good intentions were lost. Elizabeth Bennet stood not ten feet away. Her back was to him, and though Darcy told himself to turn away, to pretend he had not seen her, he could not.

She took his breath away. The delicate fabric of her ball gown revealed more of the lithe lines of her figure than he had previously seen, and the candlelight caught and reflected off the jewels in her hair.

Darcy approached her slowly, gauging his own reaction. Only when he was certain he could maintain his usual reserve did he speak. “Miss Elizabeth?”

She turned, and he wondered if perhaps he had overestimated his own control. Up close, he could see the smooth texture of her creamy skin, and he clenched a fist to keep himself from taking her hand to see if it felt as satiny as it looked.

“Yes, Mr. Darcy?”

He flushed at the question in her voice; how long had he stood without saying a word? “I trust the weather has not dampened your spirits this evening?”

He thought her smile was a little forced, but as he himself struggled to find enjoyment in balls, he did not wonder at it. “You will find, sir, that I rarely allow anything to interfere with my enjoyment.”

He bowed and walked away to hide the emotions those words stirred in him. “You will find…” Could this be a hint that she would welcome further attentions from me? Darcy had thought himself immune to her charms, inured against them by the knowledge of her family connections. However, the idea that she would encourage his suit enthralled him.

 

7 thoughts on “Jane Austen Was Here

  1. Monica P says:

    Wow, I’d love to go to England someday and how great is it that you got to work on your book at Chawton?! That tiny table does look really uncomfortable.

    “He bowed and walked away to hide the emotions those words stirred in him. “You
    will find…” Could this be a hint that she
    would welcome further attentions from me?
    Darcy had thought himself immune to her
    charms, inured against them by the
    knowledge of her family connections.
    However, the idea that she would encourage
    his suit enthralled him.” Aww.

  2. great re posted memories!
    could not imagine being confined to such a tiny writing desk :) but what great inspiration to actually be there.. i love england & always anticipate another trip…

  3. Liz says:

    Wow! I can’t believe it’s been a year since England! Thanks again for the fun times and putting up with my sore foot! Can wait to do some trekking around in Germany! And congrats on the 5,000 copies! (I couldn’t get the comments on that post to work for some reason.)

  4. Krista says:

    Congrats on the 5,000 copies that would be so cool, I have been overseas but not to England so I have to put going here on my bucket list! Thanks

  5. Marie says:

    Congrats on your book.. And how inspiring to be able to visit Jane Austen’s stomping grounds.
    How stunning to be able to say Jane Austen was here, and now, so was I.

  6. Cindy Westerhaus says:

    I would love to go to England and do all that you did plus more. It seems like you’d have to take months to see even a fraction of what there is. Glad you were able to see some of Jane Austen through your eyes.

  7. Jessica says:

    The size of Jane’s writing desk kills me every time I see a picture. If she could write in such a small space I suppose I should stop complaining that the temperature at Starbucks is too hot or cold…

    Sigh.

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