Tuesday, 17 September 2019

SANDITON the first four episodes. HOT STUFF

Charlotte Heywood played by Rose Williams.

Episode 1 of Andrew Davis’s Sanditon an unfinished novel by Jane Austen. How much is it Jane Austen and how much Andrew Davis? That is the question. I read Sanditon a few days before the airing of this first episode to remind myself of Jane’s plot strands and initial characterisations. This first episode began. The countryside setting wasn’t as I imagined. There was no narrow country lane impassable by the carriage the Parkers were travelling in. I suppose the main plot features were there, the carriage accident, the care provided by the Heywood family, a  blossoming friendship between the two families,   the Parkers in search of a surgeon in the area, the offer to Charlotte Heywood of a visit to  Sanditon. Much was missing. The friendly effusive Mr Parker revealed a dark side in the novel. He hated and loathed a rival resort called Brinshore. He provides a hellish description. No mention of such place in this episode. I would have thought the rivalry would have been a powerful theme to pursue. Jane Austen created a tension and contrast between the old and the new, the traditional social structures and the new fluid structures a place like Sanditon might produce. None of this contrast. Some characters are missing. One of the Parker sisters doesn’t exist. Sydney Parker has no servant to drive. Lady Denham appears to have lost one of her three families, The Hollis’s. The Breretons and the Denhams do feature. Some of the characterization is wrong. Sir Edward Denham, who was a fool and snobbish beyond belief in Jane Austens Sanditon is turned into a wicked, cunning lothario and hell bent on finding a wealthy heiress at all costs. His sister too has evil intents it appears. In this episode an overtly sexual encounter is witnessed by Charlotte Heywood between Sir Edward and Clara Brereton. Jane Austen would never have written such a thing. Many of the characters are recognizable as exaggerated examples of Austen characters from other novels. Sydney Parker is a harsher more boorish Darcy. Charlotte Heywood is an even more opinionated and more intelligent version of Elizabeth Bennet. Sir Edward and Miss Denham have become even more wicked versions of Henry and Mary Crawford in Mansfield Park.Andrew Davis is taking his characters to extremes, especially the wicked Lady Denham. Jane Austen was more subtle. Maybe Davis thinks people today are unable to understand subtlety. Who knows? And most of the male lead characters get their kit off and go swimming. All in all I was disappointed. Perhaps because I know and enjoy the way Jane Austen writes. Andrew Davis has driven a coach and horses through all that. What will happen next?

Chalotte Heywood and Sydney Parker walk on the beach.

Episode 2 of Sanditon and Andrew Davis has thrown ALL caution to the wind. 

Lady Denham thinks Charlotte is very intelligent. Mr Tom Parker looks at her quizzically and makes her his company accountant. She herself has a second career in mind of course, as the architect of Sanditon.How intelligent can you get? She announces she doesn't want to get married. She stares down Sydney and tells him where to get off with his boorish behaviour. She plays the Good Samaritan and saves poor Miss Lambe from jumping off a cliff and commiting suicide. Miss Lambe, has by this point, been treated abominably because of her colour. There are lots of racist innuendos and comments. Thats Lady Denham again. A series of sharp, verbal exchanges takes place,back and forth, up and down and all around, between Sir Edward, his sister and Clara Brereton about ,"hand jobs." Clara, knows a thing or two. There is some repartee in appreciation of a pineapple. “Don't touch my pineapple. Leave my pineapple alone," Lady Denham again. The pineapple is rotten to the heart, squirming with worms and stinking. A few characters do come to mind. And, if that wasn't enough, a completely naked Sydney Parker emerges from the sea, ( what happened to the wet shirt? Darn it. Too much trouble.) in front of Charlotte who turns her back, gamely tries to make conversation and then decides she has had enough and runs away. Cue, shaky hand held camera action running alongside Charlotte with some panting sounds and blurriness to boot. Blimey. That was exhausting. BUT, it wasn't Jane Austen.

Miss Georgiana Lambe

Episode 3 Can we now forget Jane Austen in connection with this series of Sanditon? Almost, but not quite. There are echoes of Austen still apparent.  

So, in this episode the themes Andrew Davis has set out in the previous two programmes continue and are developed. Building work continues of the new Sanditon, although it is really the Old Sanditon that appears to be being refurbished and rebuilt. Mr Stringer, is desperate for more workers and new building equipment to help him construct the town. Tom Parker is as enthusiastic about Sanditon as ever although the dark undercurrent of possible failure and bankruptcy looms making him a haunted man. Mrs Parker is evidently worried about her husband. Tom Parker asks his brother Sydney to request more funds from their bankers in London, £2000, possibly £3000. That is a lot of money in the early 1800s.

 Old Mr Stringer, the father of the younger Mr Stringer is badly injured in an accident when stones from the building work fall on his legs. Charlotte of course does her Anne Elliot bit and takes charge to the admiration of Sydney.  A German Doctor, Doctor Maximillian Fuchs, or in Mr Parkers parlance, Dr Fox, performs an operation, resetting the leg. Dr Fuchs, sorry, Dr Fox , here in England the innuendos are legion with a name like that, persuaded by Mr Parker to come to Sanditon from nearby Worthing, has invented a wonder machine, a shower and bath unit driven by a steam engine. The Industrial Revolution gets to Sanditon.

 Clara Brereton volunteers to try this shower bath in front of a skeptical Lady Denham, a cynical Sir Edward and Esther Denham and a hopeful Mr Parker and his family. Mr Parker thinks the introduction of Dr Fox to Sanditon will be a great incentive for more people to visit and stay.Hidden behind a surrounding curtain Clara performs a gruesome self harming act deliberately burning her arm on the side of the steam engine. A plot to gain Lady Denhams continued sympathy in her fight with Sir Edward and his sister Esther who are out to discredit her and remove her as a rival to Lady Denhams wealth.Esther Denham wonders how she could suffer so much pain to gain her ends and digs her claw like nails into Claras injured arm. There is an element of sadism  in this episode. Clara explains quite calmly, “This is nothing compared to what I have endured in the past.” We begin to wonder seriously about her past history. A brutal scene. 

Diana and Arthur Parker suddenly become hypochondriacs, a missing element so far, as they hurry vigorously across the cliff tops to visit the said doctor at Lady Denhams house listing their ailments loudly as they go , dry skin, the ague, canker, goiter and the list is endless. But how healthy they look. Charlotte Heywood and Sydney meet in the street and admit to each other that they have perhaps misunderstood each other in the past and both make their apologies,  humbly to each other. Echoes of Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet.There is a glint  in both their eyes. Any nudity in this episode you might ask? None at all . Actually that is not quite true. At the sight of Sydney, Charlotte has a rather erotic flashback. 

Miss Lambe, who has apparently recovered from her suicidal thoughts  is behaving as wayward as ever in fighting against the restraints put on her. She appears to have a secret lover. She wears a locket around her neck with his picture displayed.  One thing I don’t understand yet is how Sydney Parker is her guardian until she reaches the age of majority. A twenty eight year old man, the guardian of a seventeen year old girl has not been explained yet. Obviously further plot development is needed. And I am beginning to have a theory about the said Miss Lambe, a very wealthy heiress with a fortune of £100,000. But ,no more about that now. Let’s wait and see.

Dr Fucks/Fox discussing illnesses with Diana and Arthur Parker.

Episode 4 Wow! Half way through already. An episode of surprises and some shocking stuff.
Miss Georgiana Lambe receives a letter which lights up  her face and her eyes too. Soft and yearning, comes to mind. But more of that later.

The Parkers, Diana and Arthur, take  delight and are positively gleeful at their imagined sicknesses. They make a sport out of self diagnosis. Dr Fuchs or Fox, whichever you prefer, is being driven to despair.
 Old Stringer, still recovering from his leg injury tries to lecture his son, Young Stringer, about his ambitons to be an architect. Old Stringer thinks we  should all keep our place in this world and be happy with our  lot, while his son is ambitious and wants to progress and climb in the world.  Young Stringer has designed  a Chinese pagoda  to be the centre point of the new Sanditon. His father derides his ambition and, rather upsettingly,his son  burns his design on the fire. A sad moment.

Charlotte, who has been commissioned by Sydney Parker to keep watch over his ward, Miss Lambe, while he is away. Arranges a picnic for Georgiana. Miss Lambe’s governess is against such a thing. How common and demeaning.to be out in the open where passersby could see her. Is this a sneaky reference to something in the first episode? No, it couldn’t possibly be. Charlotte is persuasive and is not averse to lying, announcing that Mr and Mrs Parker will attend the picnic too. The picnic is permitted to go ahead. At first only Charlotte and Georgiana are the sole participants in the said picnic when suddenly a Mr Otis Molyneaux appears . This is Georgianas secret lover. Remember the locket in the last episode and the letter at the start of this one. Charlotte is compromised but tags a long.

Lord Babbington continues to persue Esther Denham by way of love letters even though she has aggressively spurned him. Letters are big in this episode,

Clara Brereton spies Lord Edward Denham and his sister having a moment that could be construed as having incestuous overtones as he strokes her kneck and tightens her stays tightly causing, apparently, pleasurable pain. Clara confronts Esther over this. The excuse is that they do not have the same biological parents. Brother and sister discuss their forbidden love. He seems less attached than she is. You can tell by the look on his face.Esther  is definitely  in love with her brother. You just need to look at her face. All sorts of trouble ahead can be envisaged. A very clever musical moment when Clara plays the harpsichord for the entertainment of Lady Denham. Esther is employed turning the pages of music. Clara, rather unkindly,  goads her by referring to that certain moment by referencing Italian musical terms,largemento, allegretto, mosso, allegro, crescendo. Passionate, stiring stuff, which in the end causes Esther to explode. Not literally of course. Oh Dear Me!!

 Lady Denham continues to help Lord Edward pursue wealthy brides. She has drawn up a list. It looks as though Esther, in the end, will have to plump for Lord Babbington.

Sydney returns just as Charlotte is giving a demeaning impersonation of him to Otis and Miss Lambe in the street. Rose Williams could take up a new career as an impersonator. She is very good. Sydney is far from amused at being ridiculed and totally incensed at the sight of Otis who he appears to know well has previously banned from ever seeing Georgiana. Suggestions of Sydney having connections with Antigua and mention of slavery and slaves. Reference to Otis being aslave in the past and being made a freed man by somebody, unknown as of yet. Otis is hurt by Sydney’s attitude towards him and devastated that he may never see his beloved Georgiana again. Otis and Sydney have obviously had virile encounters before. The plot thickens and we wonder What? If? When? and How? and , perhaps, Why?

Charlotte, in her feisty combative mood loses her cool with Sydney and he berates her. Quite a verbal battle in public. Dislike, revulsion, misunderstanding, are a few words that come to mind.Their relationship takes a dive beyond repair, well, maybe.

On the other hand, Young Mr Stringer and Charlotte obviously like each other and respect each other and have a friendly stroll together on the beach. If Sydney is going to triumph by the end of episode 8 this can only be a red herring, surely.

Tom Parker is in trouble. Sydney has failed to acquire extra funding for his Sanditton project. Poor Tom Parker is sinking into a deep depression and he is also compounding his problems by lieing to his wife and making out that everything is fine. There will be tears, I can assure you.

Definitely NO male nudity in this one. You can only take a,”dick joke,” so far because after a while it is bound  to wilt. The joke I mean.

Actually, and I am being truthful , this could all make a great novel. Just not a Jane Austen novel. Bring on episode 5.

Thursday, 22 August 2019

SANDITON ( an unfinished novel by Jane Austen) is coming to our screens. What might we see?

Sanditon first look: Jane Austen's last ever novel has ...
Rose Williams plays Charlotte Heywood.

Andrew Davies, the adaptor of Pride and Prejudice for television back in 1995 with Colin Firth doing his Darcy stint, has adapted Jane Austen’s final and unfinished novel, Sanditon, for ITV as an eight part production. Davies has taken the plot themes and characters introduced by Austen in her unfinshed novel and extended and ,”finished,” the story in his own inimitable way. The first episode is being shown on ITV on 25th August at 9pm here in Britain.

Here are some of the themes that Andrew Davies is presented with by the novel.

The unthinking enthusiasm of the Parkers leads  to surprising results..The story starts with an accident. Mr and Mrs Parker are overturned in their carriage along a narrow, unsuitable for carriages, country lane. They have persuaded their reluctant driver to take them off their route to vist Willingden a place Mr Parker is convinced he will meet a doctor who has advertised his services. Mr Parker is in search of a physician to be employed at his new sea side resort of Sanditon. Mr Parker,  has mistaken Willingden for Greater Willingden . The  accident leads to their meeting with the Heywood family who are a farming family located in Willingden. The Heywoods take care of the Parkers over ,"a whole fortnight," and nurse Mr Parker with his twisted ankle. The Parkers invite Charlotte Heywood, the 22 years old eldest daughter to accompany them to Sanditon. Austen appears at first to explore a certain serendipity.

There is a moment, in which Mr Parker discusses with Mr Heywood the great benefits of Sanditon as opposed to a rival resort, Brinshore. If Mr Parkers words are to go by, Brinshore, is a ,"hell on earth." His eccentric and damning attack on Brinshore makes you wonder about his judgement. An unattractive trait in a man who appears to be friendly and generous in character. Some dark undercurrent within the story perhaps?

Jane Austen was accutely aware of the world changing around her. Sanditon is a discourse to some extent about, “Civilization,” developing by shifting from the comfortable rural past, where people are born, live and die in one place, (The Heywards born and bred and residing in Willingden for 57 years) to Sanditon with bracing sea air, invigorating bathing, social fluidity,  a place that people  visit  on a seasonal basis. A world where people move and socialise in new ways.The railways were already begun by 1817. Swansea in South Wales had its first steam railway in 1807. The seaside was becoming accessible to everybody. I hope Andrew Davies agrees?


Theo James plays Sydney Parker

One central theme to the story is the rich Lady Denham’s three families, firstly the Breretons, her birth family, who supplied her with a large fortune, secondly the Hollis’s, the family of her first and property owning husband and lastly the somewhat impoverished family of her aristocratic and last husband, Sir Harry Denham from whom she takes her prized name and title. Members of these three families vie for her favours and her inheritance. She is aware of their efforts to ingratiate themselves. Jane Austen describes her as uneducated and mean and sordid, a real monster by the sounds of it. A number of story strands immediately suggest themselves about Lady Denham alone.

We can always come back to , of course,   the enthusiastic dreamer Mr Parker, the instigator of Sanditon, his ineffectual wife, his hyperchondriac family , their over energetic  and mistake imbued efforts at grandiose schemes, and in Mr  Parkers case his naive  overinflated opinion  of Sanditon. 

How do you attract people to a new resort such as Sanditon? Much comedic value can be derived from this. The Parkers appear to employ, word of mouth. Mr Parkers sisters, Susan and Diana and his brother Arthur  by talking incessantly to all and sundry attract some possible visitors but, true to the Parker family traits, Diana Parker, in her enthusiastic rush at things and lack of sober reflection is often mistaken. She doesn’t pay attention properly.She thinks she has, through contacts and personal persuasion enticed two large families to visit Sanditon but the two families turn out to be one and the same family and a much smaller group than expected of four women, a teacher and her three young boarding school pupils from Camberwell.


A walk on Sanditon beach.

The possible marriage scenarios are interesting. Sir Edward Denham, , the inheritor of the baronetcy since Sir Harry Denham died, needs to marry into wealth. Lady Denham does not intend to leave him any of her wealth and has said as much to him. There are no available wealthy spinsters to choose from  at the start. At first he  tries to seduce  the poor Clara Bereton, Lady Denhams young relation who is residing with Lady Denham at Sanditon House. Clara is all too  aware of his character and at first doesn’t want to entice him. A mystery begins when  Charlotte Heywood and \Mrs Parker on a visit to Lady Denham spies Clara and Sir Edward sitting in a field, sitting together at very close quarters. One wonders what could this mean? Who is going to inherit Lady Denhams wealth is so far a mystery to all and many maneuverings are open to speculation. A rich 17 year old, Miss Lambe from the West Indies arrives with the school from Camberwell. How will she impact on the society of Sanditon and Sir Edwards ambitions? Compared to other Austen novels where the characters are settled in one place, often from birth, Sanditon is a new more fluid society that changes almost daily with new arrivals and new departures. A society in flux.

Jane Austen was always  a firm believer in the power of reading and especially novel reading. In Sanditon, however, she has a go at the more pretentious readers of novels. I can imagine the scene. Sir Edward Denham is a ridiculous character. He makes a long winded verbose analysis of his reading habits and condones strong passions, intense feelings and human grandeur as the epitome of great writing. He goes on and on using words he doesn’t necessarily know the meaning of. Charlotte Heywood brings him down to earth after his long and florid descriptions with the simple statement, “If I understand you right- our taste in novels is not at all the same.” At this point they parted. Jane Austen is definitely in cynical mode.

'Sanditon' on PBS: How it portrays Jane Austen's first ...
Crystal Clarke plays the wealthy young West Indian heiress.

 Who might the intelligent and slightly priggish Charlotte Parker team up with? We are left at the end of the piece with the arrival of Sydney, another  brother of Mr Parker. Mr and Mrs Parker have spoken much about Sydney. He makes fun of his hypochondriac sisters and brother and by making fun of their moans a groans and about their ailments they describe in their letters Sydney often provides Mr and Mrs Parker with a guilty amusement. They, in turn, describe Sydney as , idle and saucy. But then Mr Parker's descriptions of the rest of his family has not turned out quite as he describes. His sickly siblings are anything but a lot of the time. They think themselves ill but as soon as they are distracted by some mission or task they appear to have lots of energy, vigour and health, so maybe Sydney will not be as at first suggested. If his arrival has anything to go by he has the possible makings of a Jane Austen male character worthy of  Charlotte Heywoods attentions. He  appears out of the mist driving his own  servant ,”in a very neat carriage.” which at first could be anything from a gig to a phaeton, from one horse to four. Those who know their carriages will understand the social meaning of each type. And driving his own servant too?  Another example of society turned on its head perhaps?   It was a very friendly meeting in the road as his carriage stops beside them for a moment and his sister inlaw seemed to like him. So we shall see. He announces that he is only going to stay for two or three days in Sanditon and informs them that he had come from Eastbourne. Is this a comment on Sanditon in that he would prefer Eastbourne ? And, of course what and who has he left behind in Eastbourne to where he must return?

Some of the other topics Andrew Davies might explore further, sea bathing, libraries, walks along the terrace, Charlotte Heywood's other sisters nearer to her age and all her many younger siblings featured at the start of the novel and  Mr Parker's  search for a resident physician to be employed in Sanditon. Then there is the pull from the past, Charlotte Heywood's home in Willingden, the Parkers former comfortable farm house located inland in a dip in the ground located in the old Sanditon village, the development of the old Sanditon village as opposed to the new Sanditon on the cliff tops, and so on and so forth.  Andrew Davies, save us from our ignorance.

"Trafalgar House, on the most elevated spot on the down was a light elegant building, standing in a small lawn with a very young plantation round it, about a hundred yards from the brow of steep, but not very lofty cliff..." Sanditon by Jane Austen.

The above picture is Tenby , in Pembrokeshire, South Wales, a place Jane Austen knew and which in the 18th century was a famous seaside resort. Sir William Paxton, a local  politician and merchant banker, invested heavily in the town. In 1802 he started building many fine residences in terraces along the cliff top and within the town itself. It had seawater baths for invalids, bathing machines lined the beaches, an assembly rooms and a small theatre were built in the town.  John Wesley, the great Methodist preacher preached in Tenby during the 1790s and George Elliot came to stay in 1856. A blue plaque on the outside of an elegant Georgian terraced house,overlooking Castle Beach, names, Admiral Lord Nelson, along with Lord and Lady Hamilton as residents during a  trip to Pembrokeshire visiting Lord Hamilton's Pembrokeshire estates. Charles Norris (1779-1859), the English Topographical etcher lived beside Tenby harbour in a small cottage. He is famous for creating etchings of the Pembrokeshire countryside but especially of Tenby itself. George Austen , Jane's father, had a copy of Norris's etchings among his own collection of books at Steventon Rectory. Jane would most certainly have looked at them. Mr Parker would only have been too delighted to attract those people to Sanditon. Sir William Paxton was a man instep with Mr Tom Parker, without a doubt.

Tuesday, 13 August 2019


Jane Austen’s England by Karin Quint was first published in Dutch in 2014. It was first published in English  in 2017 as a limited edition for Karin's backers crowdfunding the project to translate her book into English and now  in 2019, the paperback version in English has just come out. The text was written by Karin Quint in Dutch and translated into English by Karen Holt. Karin, took most of the photographs but there are acknowledgements to various other photographers for some of the pictures. 
The first page, after the publishing details, we are presented with a full page picture of the sign on the outer wall of Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton. A fitting start to a guide book about Jane Austen’s England. A guide book based on the theme of Jane Austen in a way portrays England itself as a museum, through its old houses, its countryside . its villages and its roads as well as its inhabitants. England as a vast museum to Jane Austen. A fitting metaphor for what is to follow in this book. The reverse side of this page is a full page picture looking along the Cob seawall at Lyme Regis in Dorset with Charmouth cliffs on the other side of the bay in the distance. This is the setting of one of the most dramatic scenes in an Austen novel. It is where Louisa Musgrove falls and suffers  concussion in the novel Persuasion and all the dramatic action that follows from that incident. Apart from the scene in Persuasion the actual portrayal of the picture, a hard stone wall depicting ruggedness, stability and protection from the elements, a calm sea, blue skies and soft thin horses tails clouds is a mixture of beauty, softness and strength. A few Austen characters and relationships come to mind. Very often in this guide book the pictures, bright and colourful, are well considered.
The contents page has 14 sections, each colour coded. Within the book itself, the pages for each section are edged by the colour of the section they are part of. A guide book is not something to be read cover to cover like a novel it’s a book to be used in sections and parts and not necessarily in order. You might want to focus on ,”London and surroundings,” or perhaps ,”Hampshire and surroundings.” The colour coding for each part helps you keep to the parts you want to focus on. This is a great way to organize the book I think. It is clear and simple to negotiate.
I like Karin’s short introduction. She tells us how she became interested in Jane Austen at first in her early twentys, finding a copy of Pride and Prejudice and falling in love with Austen ever since. So many Jane Austen blogs and Facebook sites have articles about how and why and when people got hooked on Austen. It is a  fascinating subject to explore. We all should think about why we like something, why we believe in something. Some self analysis does us good I think. In her introduction Karin goes on to explain how people who knew of her interest in Austen and knew about her Austen travels in Britain began to ask her for advice on visiting Jane Austen sites  and hence the guide book was born.
Before Karin begins to take us around Britain in search of everything Jane Austen, she provides us with two sections,” Jane Austen’s Life,” and ,”England in Austen’s Time.” Karin provides the reader with a thorough overview of Jane Austen’s life. It informs the person who knows nothing or very little but it  is enjoyable to read for the person who knows Austen’s life well. Karin’s style is personal and enjoyable to read. She gives us her opinion and writes in a style where you can imagine her talking to you. I felt at times, reading various parts of this guide book, I was answering Karin, agreeing and disagreeing inside my thoughts and head. We were having a conversation together.It is a warm and personal style.  “She had a sharp and ironic sense of humour.” “ Even worse, she was ambitious.” Karin is explaining here why she thinks Austen might have put off potential suitors. I like this emotive style.

The picture of The Cob at Lyme followed by the contents page.

The section about ,”England in Austen’s Time,” gives us the background history to what Britain was getting up to in the world while her characters flirt, converse and relate to each other. Some of it Austen alludes to within her writing. The plantations in the west Indies mentioned in Mansfield Park for instance. Other scenes are able to happen because of events in the wider world. I am thinking here of Royal Naval Captains Harville, Benwick and Wentworth ashore on leave to pursue relationships on land after the defeat of Napoleon. Karin finishes this section with a discussion of ,”The position of women.” It is impossible to say Jane Austen was a feminist but she certainly portrayed strong women with minds of their own. Karin writes about the role of,” old maids,” those who never marry, in a positive and life affirming way. Of course Austen herself was set on becoming an ,”old maid,” I f she hadn’t died at the age of 41. Karin also informs us about the first feminists such as Mary Wollstencroft. Does this make this guide book a feminist guide book?  Karin and her type of guide book rises all the time in my estimation as her voice within this guide progresses.
In the main body of the guide book, there are nine regional sections.  “Hampshire and surroundings,” which is the area Austen was born, lived most of her life and died in, “Reading,Oxford, Cheltenham and surroundings,” “London and surroundings,” “Kent, Surrey and surroundings,””Bath, Salisbury and surroundings,” “The southwest coast,””Central England,””The Peak District and Surroundings,” and “Yorkshire.” I like the way Karin uses the word ,surroundings, in many of these titles. It shows she has a broader understanding of the wider importance of an area and the  interlinking of places within an area that Jane’s experience of visiting an area must have encompassed. Using this guide book we don’t just get an understanding of a single place Jane Austen would have visited but an understanding of an area as she herself would have done. “Yorkshire,”a single word  title, made me laugh. Perhaos Karin has an understanding of the mindset of a Yorkshire person? Yorkshire men and women think they live in ,” Gods own Country,” and are different form the rest of us anyway.
Karin uses quotes from Janes letters where they are applicable to a place and when Jane describes her experinces in that place. She quotes from Janes poetry and provides memorable quotes from her novels where they reference a place, the party from Highbury on Boxhill for instance or Fanny Prices Portsmouth  or Catherine Morlands Bath. I am thinking Beechan Cliff especially. A place  that when you yourself stand at the top and look back northwards over Bath you get an overview of Bath itself. A symbol for what Karin is providing for us in this guide.

A map showing the area around Oxford that Jane Austen visited. This type of map  provides a great overview of an area and shows the relation of different places to each other.

I must admit I do like a good lively discussion. There are a few places in this guide when I want to argue with Karin and I suppose, in my head I do. One example is this: Karin does not think much of the one novel Jane began while living in Bath and abandoned, The Watsons. I feel she tries to dismiss it. However, I do not have the same opinion. The Watsons is a forensic analysis of that social phenomena, The Ball. The main part of the action takes place at a ball held at an inn in Dorking High Street, possibly The White Horse. Jane Austen goes into great detail about the local families, members of the gentry and  aristocracy that are expected to attend and do attend. Everybody from the poor Watsons, to the better off Edwards and a long list of country families are mentioned. When you think about it the situation at this ball is a microcosm of the whole of society itself. Set in Surrey all strata’s of society attend and observe each other and in many cases socialize together. This is what Bath was too, on a much larger scale of course, a temporary place for all strata’s of society to intermingle before going back to their usual existences within their own social groups. Often this brought about a loosening of morals. When you are not known in a place and everybody else is uknown to each other and only get to meet for a fleeting time, things can happen. Maybe this is why Austen both hated Bath and at the same time it provided her a place that offered  many dramatic encounters. There are balls in Pride and Prejudice, Emma and in Northangar Abbey and they have their importance to the way those novel work. They provide situations for the characters to interrelate in ways they can’t in other situations. “The Watsons,” is a little  different though. The ball in The Watsons is an extensive analysis of the social phenomena that was the ball. It is an important piece of writing. Although Jane abandoned it I think she used what she analysed in The Watsons perhaps in Emma to a certain extent. There you go, I have got that off my chest, Karin. See what I mean by Karin’s style encouraging discussion and sometimes creating a descent into an argument.   I feel better now!
Sometimes, where applicable, Karin uses quotations to start a description of a place. Take Alton for example. Karin quotes a letter Jane wrote to Cassandra, in 1813. “ I walked to Alton and dirt excepted, found it delightful.” So we have Jane telling us about Alton. Then we have Karin providing us with information and this section continues with a thorough discussion about the people and places Jane knew and visited or shopped at in Alton. I like Karin’s chatty style” A bit up the road at number 31 is The |Old House with Lenten cottage next to it.” Then again Karin writes, “ Back in the High Street at The Swan Hotel..” And so we are taken around Alton in a  friendly way with a personal tone. I like that. It makes the reader, and certainly me, feel comfortable and at home as though we are walking along with a friend. This style permeates the guide book.
Once in a while a whole page is devoted to an historical or topical background. In the section, “The South Coast,” as an example, a pink shaded page, pink being the colour code for this section, tells us about how Mapperton manor house, in Dorset, whichwas used in the 1996 film adaptaion  of  Emma and then Karin informs us about other films Mapperton has been featured in. In,” London and surroundings,” section a pale blue shaded page is devoted to discussing the controversy over several alleged portraits  made of Jane in her lifetime. These coloured sections add extra depth and detail and discussion to our experience of this guide.

A smaller local map of Winchester. I don't think this type of map provides enough detail.

There are seventeen maps interspersed throughout the guide book. These are of varying quality. The maps such as the, “Kent Surrey surroundings,” on  show a large area of the South East of England. This type of map shows many of the key locations in an area and they provide an important overview of an area. However the maps such as the Winchester map, on page 65 focusing on a small area in Winchestr where Jane sites are located is too vague. I have learned from experience in some of the great cities of the world using this type of map does not help me get around, The main streets are named but many of the smaller thoroughfares are just vague lines on the paper. When you are actually on the ground in the very location these type of maps do not help. I suppose using google maps on your phone or buying a local map in a newsagent is what you should do. However, I really do feel that a guide book of this high quality should have more detailed maps showing local areas. A fold out map would work. I can’t see myself walking around a place I don’t know with one of these style maps to help me.
Following the main body of the guide book there are three more sections, The first is named “Three Jane Austen Road Trips. “ The road trips are detailed and well presented  , two feature  the locations used in two different adaptations of Pride and Prejudice, (1995 and 2005). They describe trips for both films of five days in length. The mileage covered is worked out and the time taken on each day  spent at a given place or on a given walk is suggested.A short description of each days trip is given too. The third trip describes seven days in Hampshire visiting Jane sites. These three trips will give any visitor a more than thorough introduction and immersion into the world of Jane Austen, especially the Hampshire tour I think.
The section section at the back, named, “Film locations,” provides what it says on the label.It lists the names of places featured in ten different films covering all of Janes finished novels including adaptations of  Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Persuasion, Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey.Then of course there are the ,”spin off, “ adaptaions, “Becoming Jane ,” “Miss Austen Regrets,”” Lost in Austen,” and I could name them all but I am sure you know them  yourselves. Nobody will be disappointed. Not one is left out. However, having said that, Sanditon is on the horizon. Karin is going to have to make another visit to England and reference the locations for the new film. Ah Lady Susan is missing too but that came out before the first Dutch edition, so can’t be helped. It is difficult to keep up! The page references  next to the film locations provide page numbers directing the reader to where in the  body of the text that place is explored.  You can cross reference  the locations within the book.

One of the shaded pages providing extra detailed information on a given topic.

The third section in this final part is titled, “Further reading and information.” This is where I get embarrassed and realise the paucity of my Austen reading. Out of the six reference books I must admit I only have three of them. I do have others not mentioned. However, it is at this point I make myself promises to delve further into reading about Jane Austen.
The final pages of the book cover tourist information that include hotels and bed and breakfast in each location covered in the book. There is also a list of research resources. Yes, I must read more. I have said that already . Some short biographical notes about Janes immediate family and  about , what Karin terms her secondary family, people such as Jane’s good friend Martha Lloyd. This section could of course be extended. Two pages at the back provide us with a clearly displayed  family tree and lastly after some heartfelt acknowledgements to people who have supported Karin, a through clearly paid out index.

This is a lovely book and I will refer to it often I am sure. As with any Janite, I am on a journey, deepening my knowledge and interest in Jane Austen as the years go by. This book has helped me one more step along the way. There are places in it that I know well but probably more places are featured  that I have only heard about and now feel emboldened to make an effort and go and see them. A first timer to the world of Austen will become an expert in Jane Austen in no time reading Karin’s enjoyable guide. An old hand like myself can only be reinvigorated and reinspired. An expert or somebody who wants to delve deep is provided with a guide to just that.

Reference: JANE AUSTEN’S ENGLAND A Travel Guide by Karin Quint published by ACC Art Books (2019)

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

A REVIEW OF, ”JANE &ME, My Austen Heritage,” (pub 2017) by Caroline Jane Knight, Jane Austen’s Fifth Great-Niece

Image result for Jane &Me My Austen heritage by Caroline Jane Knight

Caroline Jane Knight, the fifth great niece of Jane Austen, descending from jane Austen’s third eldest brother Edward who was adopted by the Knight family of Chawton in Hampshire, has written an autobiography, “Jane & Me, My Austen Heritage,” relating her experiences as a descendent of the Knights.  Jane &Me provides us with an account of a personal life in turns, jolly, depressing, desperate and antique in nature and  at first it makes you wonder why anybody outside her immediate group of friends and family would ever want to read it. What makes Jane & Me unique though and is something for all to read is not merely Caroline Knights connection to Jane Austen, which is of interest, it is the underlying analysis of how the gentry can possibly survive in the 21st century, adapting to a more meritocratic society and  the creation of an equal society. This is important because the gentry and aristocratic parts of our society have been with us  for so long although their past ways of living might not be relevant now, they are still around and it is interesting to find out how they might contribute to a modern society. Most politicians pronounce bold statements about creating an equal society and often try and fail in their attempts. We all struggle with the  issues of equality, in education, opportunity and class and politicians fail to agree on methods and approaches. Maybe the old aristocratic families can be part of the solution? Our society is going through a tumultuous period. One of the major issues is patriarchy, whether in religion , government, business or family and attempts to eradicate that side of our world. This must be doubly difficult for the gentry who have always been organized on patriarchy. If they can do it so can we.

There have been many scholarly biographies written about Jane Austen over the centuries since her death including by her own ancestors and members of her family.  Jane Austen’s niece Caroline Austen wrote,”My Aunt Jane Austen,a Memoir,” in 1867, first published by the Jane Austen Society in 1952. The much quoted “A Memoir of Jane Austen,” (1870) by James Edward Austen-Leigh, was the first true biography of Jane Austen. William Austen Leigh and George Montague Knight wrote and published ,”Chawton Manor and Its Owners,” in 1911.  Mary Augusta Austen Leigh published, “Personal Aspects of Jane Austen,” in 1920.  Caroline Jane Knight is the most recent member of the Knight and Austen family,  to write  a book referencing her great Aunt Jane and the Chawton estate. There are also a multitude of academic biographies  about Jane Austen, among the most recent being ,”Jane Austen. A Life,” by Claire Tomlin.

 Caroline and myself on the Jane Austen Foundation walk for literacy in Chawton.

When I first started reading Jane &Me, it was very nice  to learn about the members of Carolines present family, her brother, Paul, her mother, Carol and her father, Jeremy , Bapops, her grandfather( Edward Knight III)  her Granny, their family traditions, their worries and concerns about the Chawton estate and learning about their family traditions and lineage. It all began to pall, however. This was all personal family anecdotes, and I began to think, why is this of interest to me? Caroline Jane Knights connection with Jane Austen was not going to sustain my interest for very long.

However, the important elements of this autobiography to me are Caroline’s   struggles with her own responses to being part of a family that is part of the  gentry. Her family has lost its financial resources and also its built heritage. These are issues many families among the gentry and indeed the aristocracy  are experiencing and having to battle with. The Knights no longer own Chawton House or any of the other properties once connected to the Knight family. Her uncle Richard, her father’s elder brother and first born, is the inheritor of the Chawton estate and retains the freehold of Chawton House although the leasehold has been sold. The Knights cannot claim full ownership again for one hundred years.  What relevance have the gentry classes nowadays? What role can they play in todays world making it a fairer and more equal society? Are they a barrier to real social progress in this country?

One of the most poignant aspects of Carolines autobiography is the description of her relationship with her grandfather. She hardly  knows him although they lived in the same house in close proximity all of Carolines formative years. They had very few conversations. In Carolines eyes he was seen as an autocratic head of the family and she felt she had a lowly status,  hardly acknowledged by her grandfather. In her youth Caroline describes a curious world that is a mixture of 18th century customs mixed with the modern world invading it and seemingly making life for Caroline an unhappy and perhaps a difficult contradictory world to negotiate. She does put a positive sheen on it all but you sense that she struggles to do so.

Jane Austen's cottage in Chawton, her final home.

The strength of this book lies in the journey Caroline goes through to make her life and her families life relevant today in the 21st century. The book is really worth reading to help us, who are not of aristocratic decent, to understand that other world, the painful struggles that are going on within a group in our society that is trying to adapt and fit into a world of  different  social norms.

The weakness in the book is brought about by Caroline being too close  to what she writes about.  This appears as an inability and even refusal  by Caroline to delve too deeply. She makes guesses and assumptions as to what happened to the family wealth and property. The sort of assumptions she would have made privately as a teenager and not been able to discuss openly. Maybe she doesn’t want to know how the Knight estate collapsed and became impoverished. She knows it has happened, she is in the midst of it but an impartial writer might have delved much deeper. There must be county council records, estate sales advertisements, documents held with the family solicitors; the  sale of property leaves a paper trail. The society that produced a grandfather who was the head of a patriarchal family should have been examined much more. She doesn’t analyse too deeply. To us she had a distant and  strange relationship with her grandfather. Maybe it would be too hard and painful for Caroline to examine that? Her parents move from Chawton Great House to a small house in the nearby town of Alton which is more of a relief to the family than a great loss. Caroline  realises that her parents feel the weight of responsibility lifted off their shoulders.There seems to be an acceptance that their past history is now too big a burden. Again this is not analysed too deeply and the consequences are not explored.

We hear about the life Caroline then begins to lead. In the late 1980s and early 1990s she is a typical young woman  enjoying parties, getting various temporary jobs and trying to have fun while she rejects and forgets her heritage. She does a good job at that, not ever letting anybody know her background, almost, one feels blocking it from her own consciousness. Eventually Caroline is strong enough, independent enough to become successful as a business woman,  moving to Australia to further her career.What she has achieved  has been achieved on merit and hard work. She has not relied on contacts, family or her position in life through birth. I get the impression, reading her book,she is proud to have achieved  success on  equal terms to anybody born into an ordinary family.

The time came when the name Jane Austen, took on a new powerful  relevance. Colin Firth became Fitzwilliam Darcy and Pride and Prejudice, the 1995 TV series,  stormed the world leading to many other Jane Austen film adaptations, festivals, spin off novels and a growth in Jane Austen societies the world over. Jane has become big business. Caroline describes how her father contacted her after talking to an Australian fan of Jane Austen visiting Chawton Cottage. He became aware of the things done in the name of Jane Austen. He informed Caroline about this and Caroline began to formulate an idea. She eventually feels she wants to reveal her ancestral identity to her best friend and work colleague Amanda Mortensen. She attends Jane Austen conferences and events in Australia.

At one point in Jane &Me, Caroline refers to a visit she made to Longleat, the home of the Marquess of Bath. Longleat has become a big business. It has a Safari Park and its grounds are used for all sorts of events. Longleat House is open to the public all the year round and guided tours reveal its important and interesting history. This is the way many large estates remain financially viable these days. The National Trust and English Heritage look after and promote many more. These old estates have become  commercial enterprises. Caroline muses that Chawton couldn’t go along the same lines. It is too small and the land is no longer her families to use how they want. Chawton Great House is open to the public, but this is on a much smaller scale  than a place such as Longleat. Chawton has now been developed as a library of early women’s writing and is a research centre allied to Southampton University.   Caroline  envisaged creating a Jane Austen Foundation with the aim of promoting reading and writing in impoverished communities around the world. She saw her connections with Jane Austen as a force to help change the world and improve peoples lot. I think something Jane Austen herself would approve of. With the aid of Amanda, the foundation was set up.
The ability to read and write opens all sorts of possibilities to people. They grow in confidence and can communicate effectively. These are powerful attributes and necessary to creating an equal society and a meritocratic society. We come back to how the gentry and aristocracy of old can contribute and be a part of the world we live in nowadays striving for an equal society. The Longleat model turns our past into a type of funfair experience. Caroline’s model of using her heritage to promote learning is really far more effective and important to society as a whole and one small step to creating that equal society.

Janites gathering in St Nicholas churchyard in Chawton at the end of the Jane Austen Foundation walk for literacy.

Caroline’s book , Jane & Me is worth reading, the good and bad, because it is unique in that somebody born into the gentry explains the pain and disruption herself and her family have gone through to  adapt to the modern world.  She demonstrates  how she can use her family and legacy to help, perhaps in a small way, develop an equal society. We should not ignore our past history. We can learn from it and use it to develop our future. I think this is what Caroline is doing and explores the process she has hit on in this book. Her literacy foundation is putting her aims into action. The Jane Austen Foundation is working with Worldreader to develop reading in Ghanaian schools and helping, through Worldreader too, to develop effective reading habits within Indian families.  The foundation also has a number of Literacy mentors, volunteers, who give positive support to children with their writing. This is done through an organization called, Pobble. Fifteen percent of the cost of Jane &Me goes to help support and finance the work of the Jane Austen Foundation. During the, Alton, Jane Austen Festival, held in June each year, the foundation also makes money through a sponsored walk, a grand dinner in the Great House, a picnic lunch and through various other events here in Britain and also in Australia.  

 “Jane & Me, My Austen Heritage,” ( published 2017) by Caroline Jane Knight, Jane Austen’s fifth great niece.

Wednesday, 26 June 2019


Caroline Jane Knight , founder of ,"The Jane Austen Literacy Foundation," and Susannah Harker waiting to lead us off on the walk.

On Sunday 23rd June, at noon, a whole crowd of Regency attired people gathered at Jane Austen’s Cottage in the village of Chawton in Hampshire a few miles north of Winchester. We waited next to the famous signpost that points its ,”fingers,” four ways, to the," CAR PARK," to the ."VILLAGE HALL," to ,"Jane Austen’s House," and finally, to "St Nicholas Church and Chawton House," paired on a single finger. A colourful, flamboyant gathering with the sole purpose, to make money.
 It was a year and a week since a smaller group had gathered in the same spot for the first Jane Austen Parade for Literacy. Then we made money to finance, teacher training, e-readers and an electronic library for Suhum School in Ghana. I remember walking along with Ruth Sorby from WORLDREADER and talking about the Suhum project. That day  was a great success.

 "Mr and Mrs Bingley," await their departure in the garden of Jane's cottage.

I met Ruth Sorby again this year. She is the manager of UK development, generating new donor engagement and fundraising.  This time the Jane Austen Foundation is supporting WORLDREADER, to provide mothers and fathers in the Delhi district  with a phone app that accesses reading materials to support their pre-school children with reading. The project sounds simple enough but reading to children at home  is a lost tradition in India and despite significant literacy level improvements, still many parents can’t read themselves.   A   campaign of advertising, education and promotion has been put in place by WORLDREADER. Much research has shown that if parents read to children at home from an early age, those children perfom better at school and are more engaged with learning earlier than children who are not read to at home. Reading and talking to your child, asking questions and answering their questions, is a vital learning process. It is also a  way that parents can build rich relationships and positive bonds with their children. A  research programme involving qualitative and quantitative research has been carried out by WORLDREADER. The quantitative research relates to the numbers of apps accessed by families and the number of families using them and how often. The qualitative research is of more value in interpreting the benefits of this project. By interviewing mothers, observing families and engaging with focus groups WORLDREADER can assess the actual impact of using the reading apps. In a pilot scheme this research shows the undoubted progress children are making. There are many motivating factors to get this project financed and put into action. The sooner the better.

Pond Cottages.
So, there we all were. Most were dressed like the characters depicted on the front of a tin of Quality Street, prepared to put our best foot forward. The numbers of us gathered this year had undoubtedly increased because of Caroline Jane Knight’s hard work, and creative instincts. Many of us bought a ,”sandwich box,” ticket   from the ,”Jane Austen Regency Week,” office in Alton and were looking forward to eating our Regency repast, designed and sourced by Caroline, on the lawns of Chawton House at the end of todays walk. The picnic was an innovation Caroline introduced this year and  helped increase our numbers and in the process fill our coffers with more needed money. Some had also gained sponsorship to  walk, like last year. In the interim twelve months Caroline has been contacting people of fame and renown. Susannah Harker, Jane Bennet in the 1995 production of Pride and Prejudice, some think the best adaptation ever made, was invited to become a Jane Austen Foundation Ambassador which she readily accepted. Susannah  graced our walk on Sunday and was introduce  by Caroline before we started off.  Caroline and Susannah lead the way beginning at Jane’s Cottage and walking to the Great House, about a ten minutes walk. It was such a pleasant day, our surroundings were  verdant. Plenty of rain and sunshine over recent weeks had ensured England , in the words of William Blake, were indeed “A green and pleasant land.”The poem this is taken from , an addition Blake made to his poem about Milton, would be an apt anthem reflecting the work of the foundation. Of course, "Jerusalem,” would be a metaphor for a society of literate people.Our surroundings were so pleasant, the sun shone and the company so amiable I think we took our time and extended the experience somewhat.

Three elegant ladies on their way to The Great House.
I was very pleased to meet people I have known for years as a blogger and frequent reader and commentator on Austen blogs and Facebook pages, people I have had lengthy conversations online. Meeting them for the first time in the flesh was quite an experience. You feel you know somebody well but all of a sudden you are meeting them for the first time. This happened to me meeting Rita Watts from Boston. Rita has been very supportive of my blog and what I write about the world of Jane Austen. Then all of a sudden Anna Bhawan introduced herself to me.It feels as though Anna and I have known each other for years but we have never met before.  It was great meeting Jacqui, the manager of the Literacy Mentors, over from Melbourne and also Emile Belinde the editor of ,”Pride and Possibilities ,” who I have messaged back and forth on a number of occasions. Odette Snell and Karin Quint both asked me my surname when they heard me called Tony. I replied, “ I am Tony Grant.” They both lit up. They knew me. Wow! How surprising is that?  Many others who were attending on the day I had met the previous year and it was great to meet everybody again.

Climbing roses in an English Country garden.

Our walk the previous year started  at Janes Cottage and followed the route Jane, her family and Chawton villagers would have taken north west to Alton , about a two mile walk. This time the route was from the cottage again  but passed south east through the village to The Great House which Jane’s brother, Edward Knight, had inherited from his adoptive family the Knights. It is a strange and thrilling experience  following the footsteps of Jane Austen. We walked through the physical space she would have passed through and trod the very ground Jane would have trod. Jane often walked to the great house to sometimes stay overnight and certainly to eat at her brother’s house. We also passed many of the cottages that people Jane knew lived in. Jane’s cottage is at a road junction. In her time one road lead to Winchester and the one passing the driveway to The Great house lead on to Gosport on the coast near Portsmouth. A modern bypass avoids the village nowadays. 

There was a pond, in Jane’s time at this junction near the cottages, beside a house called Chawton Lodge. A family called the Hintons lived here. Jane’s niece Fanny Austen, one of Edward’s daughters, mentions a Miss Hinton calling at The Great House. Just round the corner on The Winchester Road, in a rundown labourers cottage,  poor Miss Benn lived. She was the unwitting  first audience to Pride and Prejudice read to her by Jane and Cassandra. Jane worried about Miss Benn a lot and mentions her in her letters more than any other villager in Chawton.

Jeremy Knight, Caroline's father, escorting two ladies.
We walked on past Pond Cottages, where William Littleworth who was manservant to the Austens lived. We passed Park View Cottages where William Carter and Thomas Appleford, whose wife Mary gave birth to ten children, resided. There was trouble of various sorts with the inhabitatnts of these cottages. The Adams were another family living here.
On October 21st1813, Jane Wrote
““We are all very glad to hear that the Adams are gone…”
I wonder what could have gone amiss?
Orchard Cottages came next in our walk where Abraham Knight and William Carter and their respective families had lived. The next set of cottages, Malthouse Cottages, are  extremely picturesque. In front of each is a quintessential English Country Garden. Climbing roses trail and wind around the doors, and numerous tall spikes of hollyhocks, vibrant with various colours are massed in front of the cottages . 

We turned left into the long elegant driveway leading up to the Great House. I could see a long line of top hatted gentlemen and bonneted ladies stretching down the gravel drive in front of me. We arrived in the churchyard of St Nicholas Church,  and gathered round the statue of Jane positioned in front of the church door. We had plenty of time for a photoshoot. There were  quite a few visitors standing and looking at us. I asked a bearded  gentleman in a pink shirt to take some pictures with my camera, which he duly did.

Gathered beside Jane's statue outside St Nicholas Church.

From the churchyard we walked up to the lawn next to The Great House. I talked to Odette Snel and Karin Quint , both from  the Netherlands. Karen has just published a book entitled “ Jane Austen’s England, A Travel Guide.” I wondered at the amount of research Karen must have done. Jane had many aunts and uncles and cousins  and she, her sister and mother seemed forever travelling around the country visiting them all. Karen knows the family tree and locations of every Austen family member and relation. Quite some feat. I noticed Karen had her right arm in a wrist brace. She told me that she had inflamed tendons from handwriting. Astounding!

A picnic on the lawn.
When we all arrived on the lawn at the side of the Great House a queue had begun to form stretching behind the house to the kitchen area  where  the sandwich boxes were handed out. I was given a pink sticker to show I had exchanged my voucher for a sandwich box.  Anna Bhawan and I had walked along together talking and setting the world to rights. We have been commenting on each others blogs for  nine years.I  remember Anna telling me about the births of her two children.They are both at school now.The eldest is seven years old. Anna's blog is called, "Austenised." She writes excellent articles, with photographs, about her adventures visiting places that were part of Jane Austen's life.   We sat with Mira Magdo on her ample sized rug and ate our sandwiches. Caroline Jane Knight  sourced the food to represent what might have been eaten in the 18th century, perhaps at the infamous Box Hill picnic  in Jane Austen’s Emma. There was a pork and quail egg pie, a wholemeal roll with cheese and ham and a sweet custard tart on a pastry base decorated with strawberries. To help it all go down a cup of home made lemonade was provided.

While we sat and ate this repast we were entertained by ,”The Pineapple Appreciation Society.” 

Playing, "The Graces," with a form of badminton and skittles going on in the background.
Sophie Andrews introduced us to a series of 18th century sports, young ladies would have participated in such as skittles, a form of badminton and a skillful game, designed to improve a young ladies balance and grace of  movement called, “The Graces.” Afterwards another member of the society sang beautifully a few songs that had featured in various Jane Austen film adaptations. This was followed by Alison Larkin reading the opening chapter of Caroline’s Knights autobiography, “Jane Austen and Me My Austen Heritage.”

Alison Larkin reading from ,"Jane and Me."
She began, “ Christmas Eve was my favourite night of the year at Chawton House and Christmas 1986 was no exception.” Alison is a very good actress and she imbued the words with an inner sense and meaning through her expression and tone. The feelings Caroline must have experienced herself. Two very good readers each read extracts from Sophie Andrews new book, “Be More Jane. Bring out your inner Austen to meet life’s challenges.” Good advice gleaned from the characters in Jane’s novels. The illustrations, by Jane Odiwe in Sophie’s book are excellent. Susannah Harker and her sister Nelly read some of their new two person play “The Austen Sisters,” featuring Jane and Cassandra,to the great delight of the picnickers gathered.

Anna Bhawan and myself with Susannah  Harker.
The afternoon was coming to an end and it was time to say my goodbyes before returning to South London. I had had a most enjoyable day and much money had been collected to help support the five public day care centers in Delhi called Anganwadi, that encourage, teach and support parents to interact with their children. I had a final chat with Amanda Mortensen, Caroline’s friend and co-founder of the foundation. We briefly talked about how well the day had gone and I assured Amanda that I would be back next year. Personally I am looking forward to reading more children’s writing and giving them positive feedback. Having been a teacher for forty years, being a Literacy Mentor for the foundation is something I know how to do and I hope, in this way, I can make a useful contribution to the great work Caroline has begun.

“Jane and Me . My Austen Heritage,” by Caroline Jane Knight ( Jane Austen’s fifth great niece.)
“Be More Jane. Bring out your inner Austen to meet life’s challenges.” By Sophie Andrews
“Jane Austen’s England, A travel Guide.” By Karen Quint
Milton ( And did those feet in Ancient Time) by William Blake
“Jane Austen’s Letters,” Collected and edited by Deirdre Le Faye
"Jane Austen and Chawton," by Jane Hurst ( A walk around Jane Austen’s Chawton.)
"AUSTENISED" a blog written by Anna Bhawan  https://austenised.blogspot.com