jane austen, i love you

Here is the post that almost never existed. But because of my mad love for JA I decided to try this one more time. (Don’t fail me now WordPress!) Mainly I just thought everyone should know how much I adore Jane Austen and therefore couldn’t forgo a post all about her. Curiously enough, Susan Branch (for the vast majority of you who don’t know, Branch makes calendars and other cute little things and my mom is basically obsessed with her) went on a very long vacation in England recently and visited my heroine’s home in Chawton. Branch was kind enough to share the pictures she took of Austen’s home on her blog and I, being the decent person that I am, decided to share them with you all! This might be considered stealing content, but to set the record straight I am in no way, shape, or form taking credit for these pics or Branch’s comments. I can only praise her for taking the pictures and sharing them with her followers.

Now about my “mad love for JA.” Well it all started in 8th grade when I read Pride & Prejudice. Maybe a little precocious for an 8th grader but I loved to read. It was nice to switch up my reading material from the ever popular Clique series that was so popular at the time. (True story: I was obsessed with The Clique. So much so that I sent in an audition video for the 2008 movie. It was terrible – both the movie and my video.) It goes without saying that P&P was a breath of fresh air from Young Adult Literature. Even at the tender age of 13 I could appreciate Austen’s wit and over-my-head language. Lizzie Bennet was absolutely delightful and soon became my favorite fictional character. I found myself intrigued about Austen’s other novels. Throughout high school I read Emma, Sense and Sensibility and Pride & Prejudice (again.) This summer I read the remaining 3 novels: Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion. P&P is still my favorite but Emma is a close second – same goes for the movie renditions with Keira Knightley and Gwyneth Paltrow, respectively, playing the heroines.

To this day, Austen remains my favorite author and P&P my favorite novel. No one can match Austen’s wit, intelligence, charm, and master of the language.  Austen is my idol (along with Audrey.) I aim to be the type of woman Austen was with all the traits I previously mentioned. So without further ado (sorry, I know this is already an incredibly long post) here are the pictures I promised about 2 paragraphs ago. Thanks Susan!

The following was taken directly from Susan Branch’s blog – her comments and all. My comments are in parentheses, not italicized. As I said before, I take no credit for the pictures or italicized words.

Our last day in England we went to visit Jane Austen’s house in a little country town called Chawton. I can’t really say we saved the best for last, because there was just too much best on this trip!  But add this to the pile, because it was best too.  The house is in Hampshire, very near Southampton where the ship sailed from . . . that’s the lowest, middle part of England on the map.  I’m watercoloring a map of England for my English Diary, so you’ll finally get to see where we’ve been (hiding in those suitcases you missed way too much!  We’re going to make up for that!).  So here goes, get ready, it’s a little bit long…

First off, you have to know how this quiet neighborhood sounded this day!  The only thing missing is “my-toe-hurts-bet-tee” the nature national anthem of England, but trust me, the wood pigeons were out in full force!

There’s the house! That’s Jane Austen’s House!  How beautiful!  Let’s go find a parking space! On our way to the house, we walk through the neighborhood . . .  the neighborhoods were almost always as wonderful as the houses we were going to visit!

Many of the homes in Chawton have thatched roofs . . .

There are many rose-covered cottages . . .

This is the pub across the street from the house . . . in case you’d like a bite when you get done, or a peah ci-da. In case?  Don’t you love the flower boxes?

On the corner, directly across from the house, you can stop for tea in this wonderful tea room called “Cassandra’s” — which is the name of both Jane’s beloved sister, and her mother. (I’m dying! Cassandra’s is adorable! Take me to Chawton now.)

So here we go, are you ready?  I was so excited!  Hope I don’t accidentally run anyone down!! (Umm I probably would have run someone down.)

We had to go into the gift shop to get our tickets.  My first question:  ”Can I take pictures inside the house?”  (Not every house we visited allows photography, I really didn’t expect them to say yes;  but I was hoping and praying.)  And then, Yes You Can!  I can?  Oh Boy.  Let’s go!!!

“There is no charm equal to tenderness of heart.” –  Jane Austen

Jane was born in 1775; she started writing Pride and Prejudice when she was 21, but it was in Chawton House at this table that she finished it; it’s here she wrote and revised her greatest stories.

At this very table.  Her books came right out of her brain, through her hand, onto the paper, one letter at a time. (I’m geeking out over this!!)

We were invited to try writing the way Jane did … with a feather quill pen and ink!  I couldn’t wait to get my little fingers around that! If you look close, I think you can tell that I tried it!  I loved it!!!  I bought a feather and ink in the gift shop; I’m going to write with it in the English Diary so you can see it in action!  How she did this I will never know, there could not have been much “rewriting” on her books; no word processor or even a typewriter to make it easier (or even a ball point pen for that matter)!  Because you have to dip the quill pen in the ink about every 2 or 3 letters or it runs dry!  You have to blot it too, or your arm will drag through and smear it!  It’s a slow process, but it’s what she knew; and that’s how it is with book writing, no matter how you do it, you just keep going every day, until it’s done, and then, viola, you have a book! (I really can’t imagine writing this way. Just another way Jane is awesome.)

Before I show you details in the house, let me show you just how charming this chock-full-of-history cottage is.  This is the bedroom that Jane shared with her sister Cassandra.

This is a canopy tent bed of the period. Where they didn’t have the exact furniture owned by the Austen family, they used period pieces so we could know what things would have looked like.  Love this bed!  I would like to be twelve years old and have this bed!!! (This bed is everything.)

 There are bouquets of cut flowers from the garden all over the house; on mantles and window ledges . . . you feel like someone really lives here . . . (OK this house looks like something people would want today. By people I mean me. It’s exactly my style.)

Here you can look across the street to Cassandra’s Tea Room, how convenient!

There are fireplaces in every room, some of them very tiny like this one.  Isn’t it cute?  Wouldn’t you like to warm your feet by this fire?  (Well, maybe not today . . .)

They’ve put little cards on or next to everything, so you can know what you’re looking at . . .

It’s a house to go slow in, you can feel the reverence and the joy of the people who are there.  One girl came bounding in to the room I was in, we looked at each other with huge eyes, just shaking heads at how happy we were to be there! They have made it so nice for us; it’s all here for the savoring . . . (This only makes me more jealous that I’ve never been…)

There are lots of glass cases with personal things belonging to Jane and to her family.

Gorgeous 200+ year old bracelet owned by Jane . . . I would love to have this bracelet!  Look at the detail. ♥ (AGREED!)

Another adorable fireplace . . . and lovely period dress . . .

This is not the piano belonging to Jane, but it could have been, and so gorgeous, handpainted.

All the wallpaper you see is Laura Ashley which is very appropriate as many of Laura Ashley’s designs were inspired by antique papers and fabric she saw in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.  Something else that adds warmth and charm to this house.

And there are fragments of wallpaper they found in the house, like this one . . . very pretty too, light and clean like the ones they’ve chosen for the rooms.

This quilt was made by Jane, Cassandra and their mother.  Jane Austen‘s  stories capture the essence of her time; in the last two centuries, her books have rarely been out of print! She died very young, at age 41, in her sister Cassandra’s arms. ;-(

The house has lots of homemade touches such as these embroideries…

In every case, Jane said it like she saw it. (Me: If this doesn’t make you fall in love with Austen, I don’t know what will.)

Here’s the bakehouse … and next to it is their little donkey carriage . . .

The kitchen!  I could feel very at home in here!  If someone would teach me how to work that stove, it would be Hot Milk Cake for everyone! (Oh, how I would love to have this kitchen. It’s in such good shape!)

Little details like this jar of cut herbs from the garden make it feel homey, like you could move right in! (Can I move in?)

And the garden!  With benches and lawns to sit and stay in.  Jane and her family grew everything they needed in their cottage garden, vegetables, herbs, and flowers; Cassandra kept bees so they made their own honey. (I would love this! Especially since I kind of want a garden now…)

Their favorite flowers were “Sweet Williams, columbines, peonies, pinks and laburnums” … they also grew “gooseberries, raspberries and currants” … they made their own jams and jellies and summer wines, kept a pig and chickens and had two donkeys to pull them in their carriage.

The garden smelled like perfume and sounded wonderful too; see the blackbird on the garden wall?  He was singing his heart out . . . we took the equivalent of a whole “roll of film” just on him!!!  What a perfect last day it was . . .

Then it was back to the gift shop again, of course . . . I had to get my quill pen and ink!  And some postcards and some books …. and this ….

. . . my irresistible Chawton House dishtowel, which is hanging now on my stove, because we are HOME!

 As you know, we all got a bit drenched and waterlogged in England!  Personally, I didn’t mind at all; it was moody and wonderful having fires and wearing sweaters, watching the black clouds roll in across the dales, getting to use my new William Morris umbrella, and the gardens were green and lush and so beautiful . . . so we didn’t know we missed the sun . . . but this was the view out on our walk this morning!  Oh yeah, it feels very good to be home!

OK girls, I guess I better get going . . . I hope this post was long enough for you!!    But I just couldn’t let you miss anything!!!  Hope you enjoyed it!  I will try to make the next one shorter!!!  How are you all doing?  I’m worried about the heat, the fires and the loss of electricity for so many!  I hope you’re all holding on!  Stay cool Girlfriends, watch out for neighbors and pets and see you soon!!! xoxo (My sentiments exactly.)


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