I have long wanted to visit the house in Chawton where Jane Austen wrote and revised all her greatest books. She lived there for the last eight years of her life. It was so poignant to see the actual humble little table overlooking the village street on which she composed Mansfield Park , Emma and Persuasion, and revised Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice for publication…. and to speculate which was the creaky door that used to warn her of visitors so she could hide her wring under a piece of blotting paper .
The house has a lovely homely feel and you could imagine the family living there. I felt quite emotional seeing the simplicity of it all, from the bed she shared with her sister Cassandra, to the donkey cart she was forced to use as her illness progressed, and the garden she knew so well. There are lots of her artefacts about the house including many of the letters she and Cassandra exchanged. All the houses in the little unspoilt village are largely as she would have known them.
The house has just a few visitor ‘attractions’ such as trying to write with a quill pen…amazed how splodgy it was and how long the ink took to dry. The handful of people going round obviously loved her work and it was wonderful to overhear book conversations in surprisingly many languages. On just the morning we were there, the visitors’ book already had comments from Berlin, Mississippi, Madrid and Milan.
Afterwards we went to Winchester Cathedral to see the plaque on the wall, and her gravestone, which of course, makes no mention of her writings.