Study visit: Chawton and Jane Austen’s Tricks

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The novelist Jane Austen

For the second of our three summer creative writing study visits, we head to Hampshire on Saturday 29 June to visit Jane Austen’s House Museum at Chawton in Hampshire.  It was here that the novelist wrote ‘Mansfield Park’, ‘Emma’ and ‘Persuasion’, and prepared for publication her three earlier novels, ‘Pride and Prejudice’, ‘Sense and Sensibility’ and ‘Northanger Abbey’ during the last eight years of her life.

The house was a gift from her brother Edward, given to her when she was 33.  It brings to life the domestic spaces and daily chores which are so present in the novels, allowing Jane to return to the gentle landscape and routines of her earlier life in the Hampshire Village of Steventon, 12 miles away, and which had nurtured her earliest writings.  From Chawton, she travelled the 50 miles to London to stay with her brother Henry, seeing her first novels through the press.

She shared the house with her mother, sister Cassandra and long-time family friend Martha Lloyd, living out the family tradition of a country paradise after what Kathryn Sutherland, Professor of English at the University of Oxford and Patron of Jane Austen’s House Museum, describes as the ‘wilderness years’ spent in Bath and Southampton.

In the morning, beginning at 11am, we will enjoy the attractions of the house.  The tour takes about one and a half hours. Groups are able to watch a short introductory film before going round.  We are being optimistic and hoping for sunshine, so that we can have a picnic lunch in the garden.  If it rains, we shall be able to eat in the learning centre at the house.

At 2pm, we will be attending a lecture in the house entitled ‘Jane Austen’s Tricks’ by Professor John Mullan, Head of the Department of Department of Language and Literature at University College London.   Professor Mullan is the author of ‘What matters in Jane Austen? Twenty crucial puzzles solved’. The lecture is part of a programme of celebrations at the house to mark the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’.

Professor John Mullan is author of ‘How Novels Work, an examination of novels published mostly over the past 10 years set alongside classics of the past.  Based on the author’s weekly Guardian column ‘Elements of Fiction’, the book includes an analysis of the use of weather by Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy in the 19th century and Ian McEwan in the 21st.  His 2009 article in The Guardian series ‘1000 novels everyone must read’, provides a succinct canter through the different approaches to love Jane takes in the six novels for which she is best known.

There is a frequent train service between Alton and London Waterloo, with the journey taking just over an hour.  Chawton is less than two miles from Alton station, and the taxi fare is around £7.00.

Places on the study visit are free to OCA students and are strictly limited to 10, the number of tickets we have managed to secure for the lecture, which is already sold out.  To book, email  enquiries@oca-uk.com.

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