Gentle Reader, Keith Mallett wrote to me to say that he visited his homeland of England for the first time in 35 years after moving to Australia. One of his fondest memories of the trip is of a visit to Chawton. When he was a teenager living in England he used to almost drive past the house on the way to and from boarding school each term, but “I have to admit Jane Austen was not high on my teenage reading list.”
We can sympathize, Keith. Not many teenage boys relate to Jane. Not many men do, either, so it is my pleasure to share your insights with my blog’s readers. I also thank you for giving me permission to publish your photograph. How apropos that is was raining that day, for I have often imagined Jane finding excuses to stay inside and write. Keith wrote in his journal about Jane:
It can be taken for granted that I am a fan of Jane Austen’s writing – I find the acute social commentary woven into the fabric of the romances and intrigues of those Regency days quite fascinating, and wonder how much the novels reflect Jane’s own personality and desires. She would have been a fascinating person to meet. But sadly I was too late by 191 years. I could only tread the bare floorboards of the house, peer into the rooms that contained her life all those years ago and take a few photographs. But she was suddenly present as I looked out from the window of the bedroom she shared with her sister, Cassandra. She must have looked out through the rain-spattered panes many a time, perhaps pondering on the chances of walking on that day, or absently plotting the life of one of her creations. They were dedicated walkers, and I suspect even the dirty weather of my day there would not have deterred that walking. The bedroom window looks out over the back yard to the out-buildings: where the day-to-day domestic tasks would have been done: the baking, the washing, and drawing cool water from the depths of the well.
More About Chawton House (where Jane’s brother Edward lived) and Chawton Cottage (where Jane lived with her mother and sister):