Photography: Alamy; Getty
Above left: Bath will host a series of Pride And Prejudice bicentenary celebrations this September. Above right: the novelist is buried inside Winchester Cathedral
“That young lady had a talent for describing the involvement and feelings of characters of ordinary life which is to me the most wonderful I ever met with. What a pity such a gifted creature died so young.” Sir Walter Scott, 1826 Chawton. Here, settled back in her beloved countryside, she was able to put the finishing touches to Mansfield Park and Emma, as well as work on Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. Jane’s books live on as some of our most-cherished literary works and are regularly adapted and dramatised for film and television. On screen, the beautiful houses that have stood in for Mr Darcy’s Pemberley estate, include the 1,300 acre Lyme Park in Cheshire, and Renishaw Hall and Chatsworth House, both in Derbyshire. The county of Lincolnshire has featured heavily in adaptations, with the elegant market town of Stamford standing in as Meryton, while Belton House and Burghley House were each portrayed as Rosings, the scene of Darcy’s first, rejected proposal to Elizabeth.
Steventon today is the same quiet village Jane would have known, and though the rectory is no longer there, in the field where it used to be stands the lime tree planted by her brother James. The church of St Nicholas, where Jane’s father was rector, is open to visitors. Manydown Park was demolished in 1965, but there remains a picture of it etched on a window in the church of Wootten St Lawrence, which also houses a memorial to would-be Mr Austen Harris Bigg-Wither. The Vyne, the impressive Tudor house where Jane attended balls, is open to visitors throughout the year. To get up close to the variety of period costumes used in the various adaptations of Pride And Prejudice, visit Jane’s former home in Chawton, now a museum. Then follow in Jane’s footsteps on a circular walk from here to nearby Farringdon,
taking in the nearby market town of Alton where Jane and her sister Cassandra would go shopping. Fittingly, Jane is buried in Winchester Cathedral, and next to her grave is a permanent exhibition outlining the author’s life and death in Hampshire. And while a flavour of the novelist’s life and her books can certainly be gained from visiting the places that inspired her work, nothing beats reading her immaculate prose, which remains a pleasure 200 years on. • Words: Hilary Scott
Contacts www.bathboxoffice.org.uk www.janeausten.co.uk www.jane-austens-house-museum.org.uk