"There had been
London, Bath, or
another house in
"She has nothing, in short, to recommend her, but being an excellent walker. I shall never forget her appearance this morning. She really looked almost wild."
Pride and Prejudice
Jane was born December 16, 1775 at Steventon, Hampshire.
However, George did not begin his duties at St. Nicholas church until after his marriage to Cassandra Leigh in 1763.
Jane’s father, George Austen was the first of four Austen men to serve as Rector of Steventon. The living, presented to him by his second cousin, Thomas Knight upon Austen receiving, in 1761, a bachelor of divinity from Oxford.
The narrow winding roads, lush green meadows with woods and forests aplenty made Hampshire, England Jane Austen’s home and her favorite place. Like Elizabeth Bennett of P&P, Jane was an excellent walker and the Hampshire countryside afforded every opportunity to walk in the fresh country air.
Jane would have happily stayed in the country the whole of her life, however fate was not so kind. In 1801 her parents determined to retire and move to Bath. As a single woman, she had no option but to go with them. While no letters survive from the time immediately after the disclosure from her mother and father, we can take Anne’s thoughts and wishes in Persuasion as echoes of Jane’s own displeasure with the plan.
Having resigned herself to living in Bath after her father’s retirement, Jane, like Elizabeth Bennett saw little reason to dwell on something about which she could do nothing. The letter written after arriving in Bath shows Jane’s acceptance of the situation with a cheerful description of their journey.
All Anne's wishes had been for the latter…She disliked Bath,and did not think it agreed with her; and Bath was to be her home."
"I am excessively fond of a cottage; there is
always so much comfort, so much elegance
about them… “
Sense and Sensibility
“Our journey here was perfectly free from accident or event; we changed horses at the end of every stage, and paid at almost every turn-pike. We had charming weather, hardly any dust, and were exceedingly agreeable, as we did not speak above once in three miles.”
Letter to Cassandra, 5 May 1801
The generosity of her brothers brought Jane back to Hampshire but her joy in returning to her girlhood home was diminished by the absence of her father. George Austen died in January 1805.
Frank, Jane’s youngest, older brother and his new wife invited the three Austen women to live with them in Southampton. While the port city made travel to Steventon much easier Jane was elated a few years later when Edward, master of the Steventon and Chawton estates as well as his own Kent home, Godmersham, offered his mother and two unmarried sisters the use of Chawton Cottage.
Jane would spend the last eight years of her own short life in Chawton and surrounds, all the while perfecting and writing the books that stand as her legacy.
"The slender, dark haired woman walked alone on the same woodland path they once had walked together. Was it really three years ago? Then the slightly warm spring weather had brought forth the first blooming of the wild flowers. Today her muslin dress clung to her body in the moist summer air and flowers no longer coloured the meadow.
Atop a wooden stile she imagined him holding his arms out to her, his hands strong at her waist as he lifted her gently off her feet and set her on the ground next to him. Her heart beat rapidly; she breathed deeply to calm it."
Yours affectionately, Jane Austen