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Friday, October 17, 2014

Jane Austen Cover to Cover by Margaret C. Sullivan


I was asked if I would review Margaret C. Sullivan's latest book, Jane Austen Cover to Cover, and I was only too happy to! I had heard about this upcoming book and I was very much looking forward to it and already had it on my wish list!

"In the short forty-two years of her life, Jane Austen wrote six novels that would endure long after her death in 1817. The texts are true classics, unchanged and yet still immensely popular some 200 years later, but the covers have changed with the times-from the elegant inscriptions of the famous Peacock cover, to pulpy sixties pop art, to graphic novels, Twilight-inspired copycat covers, and mystifyingly bad digital editions. With over 200 images of covers spanning as many years of Austen books, this fascinating, funny, and art-filled book is a must for Janeites, design geeks, and book lovers of every stripe."

I always knew that there were lots of different covers and editions of Jane Austen's novels - I own quite a few versions myself! - but I didn't realise how many there really were!

This book was absolutely fascinating to look through and spot ones I own, and how many I don't - and seeing how many editions I want to own! There is an unbelievable amount, many more than I ever imagined, some I recognised but others that were completely new to me! It really was amazing to see the wide range of publications and their interpretations of the books for the covers. There was everything ranging from beautifully simple to really quite funny and a little scary!

As well as all the book covers, there were well chosen quotes dispersed throughout the book which was a nice touch, and at the end of each chapter there was a short essay on something relating to Jane Austen, for example about her popularity in America, what Jane looked like or fashion in the era.

The quality, styling and visual appearance of the book is truly beautiful - it is full of brightly coloured images and photos of the book covers which makes it a lovely looking book, and it is well spaced out and while full of information, it doesn't feel crowded as you read.

The information itself is really fun and very informative, and it was interesting to learn about all the covers in their historical context and how the books changed depending on what was in demand, for example when mass-market paperbacks were produced as cheaply as possible so her work could be read by everyone. To see the different prices of the books change through the years was interesting, and as well as the publishers own description of the novel and the publication date, there was often some fun stories behind the more... peculiar and strange covers!

I was fascinated as I read through the book learning about all the covers and all the different languages her work has been translated into to, not to mention all the fan fiction which has been written. I also found it interesting to see how they would produce a new cover to link to a television adaptation which had recently come out - a clever marketing scheme!

This is a book which should grace the shelves of every Austen fan, in my opinion! It really is a very interesting and a very unique book and a fantastic way of celebrating 200 years of Austen's work.



Your affectionate friend,
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Friday, October 10, 2014

Interview with Lory Lilian - and Giveaway

Today I am pleased to welcome the lovely Lory Lilian to my blog! I recently read Rainy Days and it was brilliant (read my review here) and I am very much looking forward to reading Lory's other stories. I always like to find out more behind the authors of my favourite books, and so I jumped at the chance to interview Lory! Also, there is a very generous giveaway - details below! 



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1.Okay, a boring but very important question! Clearly, you are an avid Janeite, so how did you first come across Jane Austen and fall in love with the Regency world of dancing, carriages, and courtship?

 
This is never a boring question —quite the contrary. I first came across Jane Austen when I was 13, and the first book I read was Pride and Prejudice. Then a couple of years later I saw Pride and Prejudice-1980 and I really loved it.

 
2. Of Ms. Austen’s six major novels, need I ask which your favourite is? I assume from your novels that it is Pride and Prejudice. What appeals to you so much about Pride and Prejudice? The characters, the story, humour?


Pride and Prejudice is my favorite book in the world (and I really read a lot). I love this story so much for a million reasons, including the characters and the humor (besides Jane Austen’s genius and her awesome writing) but mostly because I feel that Darcy and Elizabeth are a unique couple, perfect in their imperfections, meant to be together, and only belonging to each other. I am in love with their story, with their interactions, with them together — as a couple. (That is why I cannot bear reading — or writing (LOL)— a story where Darcy and Elizabeth are paired with others. For me, Darcy and Elizabeth can only belong together with no other men or women interfering with them.)

 

3. How did you come across Jane Austen fan fiction?

I will never forget that moment; it was the winter of 2004, and I was searching the internet for Pride and Prejudice information. I discovered Derbyshire Writers Guild, then Firthness, and then Hyacinth Gardens. I have been obsessed with Darcy and Elizabeth for many years, imagining them in various scenes that did not belong to the original story. To be honest, I thought I was a little bit crazy (LOL). Then I suddenly discovered that there were thousands of people out there sharing the same passion and the same madness. I spent the next six months reading hundreds of stories (and, of course, sleeping very, very little) and interacting with many JAFF fans. Unfortunately, neither Firthness nor Hyacinth Gardens is alive now. I really, really miss those times. I have some wonderful cyber friends from those days whom I miss, too.

 
4.So, in your novels you take the classic story and explore a “what if”: (all very brilliant “what ifs”!) Why did you want to write these variations? Did you want to explore the world of Lizzy and Darcy a little more? I read such variations, as I cannot get enough of Lizzy and Darcy!


Sophie, I read and write JAFF for the same reason — I just cannot have enough of Darcy and Elizabeth. Jane Austen implied so much and told us so little, and I simply cannot have enough of them. I keep thinking of scenes, dialog, situations involving them, and every time I read Pride and Prejudice again or watch P&P-95 once more, these scenes came to my mind with overwhelming insistence (LOL). I could easily fill 10 books if I had enough time.

 
5.Do you think there is another one of Ms. Austen’s stories thatwould have the potential for “what if” variations, or do you think that Pride and Prejudice holds the most possibilitieswith the brilliant plot and strong characters?


I think all Ms. Austen’s books have potential for “what if” variations, and I know there are some brilliant “what if” stories that prove that. But, although I love all Jane Austen’s writing, it is my passion for Darcy and Elizabeth that inspires me and makes me want more. So for me, it is very unlikely to write other Austen-inspired stories except P&P.

 

6.What is your opinion on modern variations of Ms. Austen’s work such as Clueless, or the Bollywood Pride and Prejudice, or the recent YouTube series The Lizzy Bennet Diaries, or even paranormal variations such as Pride and Prejudice and Vampires? Would you ever think about writing a modern variation, or like me, do you prefer her stories to be kept to the era in which, I personally think, they belong?

 
Let’s clear up something: I read and watch and listen to everything related to Jane Austen and especially to Pride and Prejudice! Nothing escapes me (LOL). Now, to be absolutely honest, I enjoy The Lizzy Bennet Diaries, I enjoy the Bollywood version, but not so much the vampire versions. (Sorry to say, I am not much into vampire things — shame on me!)J I did not even like the movies and books about Dracula — who was supposed to be Romanian!(LOL) About the modern variations — such as Clueless or Bridget Jones or spin-offs like You’ve Got Mail— I love them a lot, but they really do not feel like Jane Austen at all. As for the modern JAFF — there are a few absolutely brilliant stories — some of them are already published, others pulled by the authors. (I hope some of your readers will remember the fabulous Windmills of Their Minds by Ayden — fantastic story.) As for me writing a modern variation —the chances of that happening are pretty low. I write with the P&P 95 pictures on my desktop and the original P&P book near me, so there is little room for a modern in my head. J

 
7. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your story Rainy Days, and I am very excited to read your other stories! Rainy Dayswas so well written and a very interesting route to take as this one accidental meeting had such an effect on the rest of the story! Where does your inspiration for the stories come from? Also, as there are so many fan fiction authors now, is it becoming harder to find a gap in the market and a route which hasn't been explored yet?


Thank you so much for enjoying Rainy Days and for writing such a wonderful review, Sophie.J It might sound boring, but I do not have an elaborate process of selecting the ideas; they are just jumping around in my head.(LOL) Unfortunately, I do not have time to write them down as quickly as I would like to. You nailed a very good point: it might be difficult to be original and find a gap these days. I doubt there are many plots that have not been done before in the years since JA fanfiction exploded. However, I see little reason for concern; many plot lines are repeated in lots of stories, yet those stories are not at all similar — quite the opposite. (I wrote Rainy Days in 2005, and since then I have read lots of stories that started with E and D trapped somewhere at the beginning of the story (LOL); however, the stories quickly went down another path and kept their originality the rest of the way. As for me, I try very hard to put something original and different in each of my stories — either a character, a plot twist, a small but very strong scene — something that was not done before. I have two fabulous betas: Ellen Pickels — who is also my editor and cover designer —and Margaret Fransen who is an expert in many things, including JA stories.J I always validate with them whether “that had been done before.” J. For instance: in Rainy Days, I had little Becky and E’s meeting with Lady C happening in Darcy’s house; in Remembrance of the Past, it was Lady Cassandra and her back story; in His Uncle’s Favorite, it was Lord Matlock and also a scene where a certain lady attempted to seduce Darcy in his room and ended up in amorous activities with his valet,and so on. I try to avoid boring my readers. Oh yes — and I NEVER name Colonel Fitzwilliam “Richard.” It is a name invented in fanfic, so I prefer to choose another one for him. J

 
8.Mr Darcy has to be one of the most famous heroes in all of literature, and for many the saying “searching for Mr Right” turned into “searching for Mr Darcy” after coming across Pride and Prejudice. (Well, it did for me!) In some variations I have read and in a few adaptations I have not liked how Darcy has been portrayed, but in Rainy Days I absolutely loved your portrayal of Darcy! What appeals to you about Mr Darcy? In Rainy Days we see the tender and romantic side to Darcy (but in a very masculine way!) and I loved this. Do you enjoy delving into the mind of Fitzwilliam Darcy?

 
Oh yes — I love to attempt to delve into FD’s mind, but of course, I do not dare hope I have much success. Not even the brilliant Ms. Austen did much in this respect (LOL), as P&P is written from E’s point of view. I have read P&P so many times, and I attempt to understand Darcy’s thoughts from the information we get from Elizabeth. I feel Darcy did change quite a lot throughout the original book —not in essentials but in behaviour. So, depending on the point where my stories begin, I write Darcy differently. In Rainy Days, he had come to understand and accept his true feelings and to improve Elizabeth’s opinion of him much sooner. He knows what he wants; he wants Elizabeth. He knows her opinion of him and her willingness to improve it. So, he is carefully revealing his feeling and wishes, he flirts a little, he is sort of trying to seduce her — in a very proper way, of course. (LOL) He wants her to like him, and he does everything to achieve his purpose. Although, as he did not have his “Hunsford,” he is still the “old” Darcy in some scenes, but he compensates all in all. Rainy Days’ Darcy is “hot and sexy”— as some old-time readers have said. In Remembrance— as the story starts after the first rejection — I imagined Darcy behaving with Elizabeth the way he behaved in the original story when they met at Pemberley. In His Uncle’s Favorite, in the first part of the story, Darcy is the “old” character, very much as he was in the original before the first proposal. Then he gradually changes — and yes, in the end he was hot and sexy too.(LOL) And I have to confess that I keep Colin Firth’s performance in my mind while writing all my Darcys. His gazes at Elizabeth, his silence, his body language, his small gestures, the expression on his face, the pain on his face when he was rejected, the embarrassment when he met Elizabeth at Pemberley, the happiness when he stared at Elizabeth at the pianoforte, his briefly holding her hands at the Lambton Inn and their final kiss in the end, all these are my source of inspiration. Each time I watch P&P-95 again, I discover new small gestures with new meanings, which help me create my characters.


9.There are many scenes in both your stories thatare highly romantic and had me sighing(and swooning!) in delight as I read them. There are also some more intimate scenes, ending with the wedding night. For me, this was an unusual read as I usually avoid stories containing such scenes. However I really wanted to read it because of the interesting plot line. As a matter of fact, I was pleasantly surprised as I found the intimate scenes very well handled:nothing embarrassingly graphic and they weren't included just for the sake of it. For the emotional journey Darcy and Lizzy experience, I can completely understand, and agree with in fact, why such scenes were included. Tell me, how do you go about writing such scenes? And why do you include them?


In none of my stories do Darcy and Elizabeth have premarital sexual interludes; this is one of my rules. Also, it depends a lot on the specifics of each story. There are many more sex scenes in Remembrance of the Past, and especially in His Uncle’s Favorite, than in Rainy Days because both stories continue after their marriage, and I used the sex scenes to show the development in their relationship as a married couple, to illustrate the process of knowing each other better and sharing everything, including marital happiness. To be honest, I agree I could have done the same thing without those detailed sex scenes, but I wonder whether the impact on the readers would have been equally as strong. (I really wonder, not sure at all...) All I know is that Remembrance of the Past and His Uncle’s Favorite were planned from the very beginning to include detailed, hot scenes and more angst than my first book because I felt the stories asked for it. Perhaps His Uncle has one too many hot scenes in the end, I admit. J

Rainy Days—my first book — was first posted on DWG, so it was PG general; I finished it, and I even wrote the wedding night, keeping it PG 13! Then, I started posting it on HG — which was an adult site — and some cyber friends started to “demand” Ie nhance some scenes, to explore more of Darcy’s thoughts, to write more details about their touches and kisses and passion. Taking their suggestions into consideration, I started entering deeper into Darcy and Elizabeth’s thoughts, wishes, fears, desires, and I put a stronger touch of passion into their love. And, since the readers’ reaction was very positive, it was an incentive to continue this exploration. However, in my opinion — and in some of my readers’ opinion —the hottest scene in Rainy Days is the one in the library during the Netherfield ball when Darcy took off Elizabeth’s gloves and kissed her hands. It is hot, and it is PG general, right? So — as I also told Alexa Adams a few years ago — perhaps I could write hot scenes and keep them PG-13, but I confess my guilty pleasure is writing hot mush, and I most likely will continue doing it as long as my readers join me in this guilty pleasure. I also hope that the readers who do not approve of these kinds of scenes will find it easy to simply skip them and still enjoy my stories.

 

10.I will wrap up the questions now but there is one burning question that we all want an answer to:any further ideas for another story? Any clues? I hope we have something further coming from you!

 
Thanks for asking. In fact, I do have lots of ideas.J I am working on a new story, My Husband: Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, which should have been published by now but has been delayed due to RL problems. It is a forced marriage scenario that, although it is a subject explored many times, I hope will surprise you with a few things, including the beginning, which, again, I am pretty sure has never been done before in JAFF.J  I also have two other stories in early stages, and both of them came as a surprise to me — the plot lines, I mean. As soon as I finish and publish the current WIP, I will quickly move to the next one. I will happily keep you updated with the progress, and I have great hopes that I will have more time for writing in the next months. If my available time could keep pace with my ideas, I would be a very prolific writer! JJJ

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Lory's books...
 
 
Rainy Days
 
"In Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet's first impression and hasty judgment of Mr. Darcy, and that gentleman's pride and aloofness toward her loved ones took them on a long, difficult road to happiness. In "Rainy Days", Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are caught in a rainstorm two days before the Netherfield ball, and they are forced to spend a few hours alone together where they talk, listen, and better understand each other's feelings. However, even when original pride and prejudice are overcome, new obstacles arise. The road to true love is never smooth, and surprises along the way enhance the passion of the journey. Rainy Days - an alternative journey from Pride and Prejudice to passion and love."
 
 
 
 
 
Remembrance of the Past
 
"In Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet unexpectedly met Mr. Darcy while visiting Pemberley. In this 'what if' story, Elizabeth Bennet and her relatives - Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner - are in London, ready to start their tour to the Lakes in June. During this time, Elizabeth's path crosses with Mr. Darcy's again. However, Mr. Darcy is not alone in London: besides his close family - Georgiana and Colonel Fitzwilliam - an old and dear friend has returned and claimed a well-deserved place in their lives. This is a story about hopes and desires, about losses and fears, about second chances and happiness."
 
 
His Uncle's Favourite
 
 
"“His Uncle’s Favorite”: A Pride and Prejudice tale that takes a divergent path after the Netherfield ball and its residents’ hasty departure.
Shortly after Christmas, their Aunt Gardiner persuades Jane and Elizabeth Bennet to spend time with her in London. There, the girls encounter familiar faces and intriguing new acquaintances. As fate would have it, their aunt’s Gracechurch Street home is frequented by intimate members of Mr. Darcy’s family, and Elizabeth discovers that she and Darcy’s uncle have more than one favorite in common.
This is a tale of wrong first impressions, mistaken pride and prejudice, rights and wrongs — a divergent but familiar story of the struggle for happiness of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy."
 
 
The Perfect Match
 
"“The Perfect Match” is a short story, a sequel to “Pride and Prejudice” that takes place a year after the events of Jane Austen’s novel. Her beloved characters are approaching their first wedding anniversary as the Darcys and Bingleys experience somewhat different marriages. In addition, Elizabeth Darcy has the burden of organizing her first ball while she encounters the challenges of the high circles of Regency London, not to mention a mysterious “affliction” that has Mr. Darcy in a panic . . . This novella is light and very sensual, with low angst and several scenes suggested for a mature audience. There is no explicit sexual content."
 
 
 
 
 

** GIVEAWAY - ends Sunday 19th October**

Lory has provided me with a giveaway!  Four lucky winners will receive a copy of your choice of any of her books, and in any format (paperback or ebook) and all internationally 

To enter, leave a comment below and the winners will be picked randomly.

Please leave your email address and which book and which format you would like. If you are one of the lucky winners, I will pass on your email to Lory who will be in touch.

Good luck!
 
Thank you again to Lory for this giveaway and for this fascinating interview! I wish you all the best with any future stories!

 


Your affectionate friend,
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Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Miss Bohemia's New Jane Austen Collection - with purse review and a giveaway!


Today I welcome the lovely Jen of Miss Bohemia to my blog! She has a lovely shop on Etsy which I visit often! I was so lucky as to be sent a lovely purse to review, and there is a giveaway of one of these lovely purses as well (details below!). Jen is also going to tell us about her new Jane Austen collection in her shop!

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First of all I would like to say thank you to Sophie for this blog feature and also for sharing some of my new Miss Bohemia jewellery and accessories with you today!  As this lovely blog relates to all things ‘Jane Austen’, the designs featured today are from my new Jane Austen range. 

I am an avid reader (of many genre’s) including literary classics and count Austen’s novels amongst my very favourites, and they are indeed the inspiration behind these latest designs.  This collection has a pretty pink theme with vintage styled damask designs, teamed up with elegant frames capturing quotes, Austen’s silhouette and much more!


 http://www.missbohemia.com/ourshop/prod_3498616-Jane-Austen-Pink-Damask-Literary-Purse-Wallet-Real-Comfort-Quote.html


The first designs featured are the new ‘pretty and practical’ Jane Austen purses.  They are currently available in pink or black and if you would like chance to win one of these purses be sure to check out Sophie’s review and the details at the end of this post.

 
http://www.missbohemia.com/ourshop/cat_860293-Jane-Austen-collection.html
The new range comprises of jewellery (key ring and cuff bracelet), iPad and iPhone book styled cases, cute coasters, pocket mirrors and a double-sided mug design. The quote most featured on these designs is a favourite (amongst many of my favourite Austen quotes) 'There is nothing like staying at home, for real comfort'!  Several of my other favourites including Darcy’s proposal and excerpts from Captain Wentworth’s letter can be found on other designs at www.missbohemia.com too.

Sophie has kindly agreed to review the pink version of the Jane Austen purse and host a giveaway so one of you lucky readers can own one too!  Before I go I would like to say thanks again to Sophie and also thank you readers too! I hope you enjoyed hearing about my new collection and good luck with the giveaway.

Best wishes

Jen (Miss Bohemia)

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To learn more about her collection visit her various websites...

 
Jen is very kindly, in addition to the giveaway, adding a discount code for all my readers - just enter ‘Lizzie10’ for 10% off everything at Miss Bohemia. This code is valid until a week after the giveaway ends. 

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I love this purse! The choice of quote is brilliant, and with the pattern and design it makes for a really elegant and pretty purse! The quality is top notch! It is a good purse which seems sturdy and well made, and it is a great size, with lots of pockets for the different things you need in a purse; your coins, cards, notes etc. There is a strong magnetic fastening as well which I always like to have on a purse. The pattern itself has been added to the purse extremely well and it looks like it was made that way - the texture of the pattern also feels very good, as in it doesn't feel cheap or tacky in any way. It really is a very high quality purse with a beautiful design. Perfect for any Jane Austen fan! (This purse is also available in black, as you can see in the picture above.)

 











 ** GIVEAWAY - ends Tuesday 21st October**

The lovely Jen has provided me a giveaway!  One lucky winner will receive one of these beautiful purses. This giveaway is open internationally. 

To enter, leave a comment with a link to your favourite design from Jen's website (here) and the winner will be picked randomly.

Please leave your email address and whether you would prefer the black or pink purse. If you are the lucky winner, I will pass on your email to Jen who will be in touch.




Thanks again to Jen for stopping by and telling us about her new collection! Good luck with the giveaway!


Your affectionate friend,
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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Guest Post: Jane Austen and the Regency House by Phyllis Richardson


Today I welcome Phyllis Richardson to my blog. She is currently funding House of Fiction, a book exploring the intertwining links between novels and their settings and in many cases, the connection the author shared with these locations. Settings definitely play an important part in the novels Phyllis explores, with the buildings often being seen as a character in their own right. House of Fiction celebrates these expressive and historic buildings and the integral role they play in some of the most important novels, making it the perfect book for lovers of literature and architecture alike. (I actually wrote a post about the locations in Pride and Prejudice and how important they are - read that here!)
 
Of particular interest to us Janeites will be Chapter 3, “The Golden Age of the English Stately Home”, where she explores the beautiful homes of Jane Austen’s world in great detail.
 
Phyllis is funding her book with Unbound, a crowd-funding publisher dedicated to bringing readers and authors together. Supporters can subscribe to a book, and have their name in the back of the book, a method used by Charles Dickens and other writers in the 19th century.  You can read about it here.



Invitation to a Ball

Jane Austen and the Regency House

By Phyllis Richardson
 
 
 
“And of this place,” thought she, “I might have been mistress! With these rooms I might now have been familiarly acquainted! Instead of viewing them as a stranger, I might have rejoiced in them as my own…” (P&P 236)
 
 
Lyme Park - Pemberley 1995
My interest in houses in fiction probably started with Jane Austen. Of course there’s Pemberley, and there’s the desire of many Austen heroines to marry well and have a house of her own, even though it often amounts to no more than a modest rectory cottage. I have always been fascinated by the houses Austen describes in so much detail – Mansfield Park and Sotherton, Norland Park, Netherfield, Hartfield, Northanger Abbey – I did wonder what kept her returning to the subject of families and where they live, and in what style. What I found were a couple of strands of interest that had Jane Austen, the unmarried sister and daughter, firmly entwined with issues of house and home.
 
 
Firstly, there is the circumstance of her own domestic situation. Though Jane’s father, the reverend George Austen, was not wealthy, the family were well regarded socially and regularly mixed with people above their ‘set’. Jane and her sister were no strangers to a ball in a grand house. Writing to her sister of one ball she attended, she said she must have had twenty dances in one evening. Of another such dance in1800 Jane wrote to her sister: “There was a scarcity of Men in general, & a still greater scarcity of any that were good for much – I danced nine dances out of ten … Lady Portsmouth had got a different dress on, & Lady Bolton is much improved by a wig.”
 
 
The Vyne
One of Jane and Cassandra’s dance partners was Tom Chute, who was a friend of the Austen brothers and whose father owned the grand country house called ‘the Vyne’, in Hampshire. Built during the reign of Henry VIII for his Lord Chamberlain, Lord Sandys, the Vyne was visited several times by the Tudor king. It then passed to the Chute family who owned it for 300 years. Tom Chute’s older brother, William, a wealthy young bachelor, inherited the Vyne around 1790. Some Austen scholars believe that this event, which happened so close to home, inspired Jane to write the lines ‘a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife’.
 
 
Jane also visited Oakley Hall, Hurstbourn, Kempshott House, Manydown House and Hackwood Park. In 1806 she made a particularly important visit to Stoneleigh Abbey in Warwickshire, when it was inherited by her mother’s cousin the reverend Thomas Leigh. The Leigh family were considered to be of a higher rank than the Austens and when Jane’s mother married her father, it was thought to be a step below her possibilities. Jane’s father had always kept himself and his family in a lifestyle above his means (and borrowed from his wife’s relations to do so) and there was an acute awareness of the greater wealth and standing of the Leighs.
 
 
 
Stoneleigh Abbey
Stoneleigh had been an abbey since the twelfth century and had fallen to ‘a roofless ruin’ by 1561 but was enlarged with a massive new wing by Edward, the third Lord Leigh after his return from the Grand Tour in 1711. The new West Wing was built in the Baroque style, took six years to complete (beginning in 1720) and cost the princely sum of £3,000. Jane’s mother was clearly taken with the place when she arrived with her cousin in his race to claim the title for it. In August 1806 she wrote to her daughter-in-law Mary that ‘the house is larger than I could have supposed. We cannot find our way about it - I mean the best part’. She goes on to list the number of beer casks in the cellar, ‘beyond imagination’, and the number of windows (45), the number of bed-chambers (26), and man-servants (18). And she describes the large and small sitting rooms, the gallery, the entrance and the state bed-chamber,  ‘an alarming apartment, with its high, dark crimson velvet bed, just fit for an heroine.’  It’s not hard to see where Jane got some of her excitable notions about houses.
A view toward the lake from inside Stoneleigh Abbey,
reputed to be Jane Austen’s favourite view
For a number of years after her father died, Jane, along with her mother and sister, Cassandra, moved from place to place without a real permanent residence they could call their own. Having grown up in the Rectory in Stevenage, in what seem to be happy, if somewhat modest circumstances, Jane moved to Bath with her parents and sister in 1801, after her father decided to retire and make over his position and house to his eldest son James. So, at the age of twenty-five, Jane was forced (without being consulted or considered) to vacate the home she had always known, leaving behind the rooms where she had begun her first three novels, and probably finished drafts of at least two. Jane and Cassandra (now twenty-eight) were whisked off to live with their parents in small, rented accommodation in Bath. It could hardly escape Jane’s notice that her own mother and aunt had been taken to Bath in similar circumstances–as marriageable young women who hadn’t yet managed to snag a suitable husband.
 
 
A sketch of Jane Austen’s House drawn by the author
No such men were found and after Mr Austen died, Mrs Austen and her sisters moved from place to place, being housed where family would have them, often with one of the brothers. Finally, in 1808, Jane’s brother Edward, who had been ‘adopted’ by distant and very rich relations who had no heir, offered them one of his houses to live in, the cottage on his estate at Chawton. (Edward reserved the much larger Chawton House for his own use, even though he also possessed the ample estate at Godmersham in Kent). Though very few of Jane’s letters survive, it is generally acknowledged that at Chawton, now the Jane Austen House Museum, she finally felt she had a home, and it was here that she completed or wrote all of her novels.
 
 
Jane’s story, sadly, is not unlike that of many women of the period, who could do very little without the help of a male relation. There were exceptions of course, but the tales of women needing husbands (because it might allow them a degree of independence—depending on the man’s benevolence) or of families being moved out of their homes (e.g., the Dashwoods) because the property is subject to an entailment, were based on a hard reality. Entailment was an ancient legal device that tied property to the nearest male descendent, and Walter Scott also commented, through novels like Waverley, on the harsh circumstances this could force on women who were powerless to object.
 
 
So, to my mind Jane Austen’s obsession with grand houses, while it provides great fodder for costume dramas, is also about a yearning for another life, something beyond the limits of familial control. When we look now at the parlour at Chawton Cottage and think of Jane sat at that very small writing table casting her eye toward the great house down the road, perhaps we should imagine that small sense of freedom, if only in her imagination, rejoicing in the idea at least, of a room of her own.
 
 
 Phyllis Richardson is currently crowd-funding her book House of Fiction through Unbound. You can support here book here. http://unbound.co.uk/books/the-house-of-fiction
 
 
Your affectionate friend,
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