On April 1, 1816, Jane Austen responds to a letter from the Prince Regent suggesting she write a historic romance, saying, “I could not sit down to write a serious romance under any other motive than to save my life.”
by Victoria Hinshaw
As a lover of Jane Austen, I regret I could not attend the Morgan Library’s exhibition that just closed in New York City. I know several people who saw it and all of them were mesmerized by the display of letters and a manuscript in Jane’s hand.
But in this age of the internet, we are fortunate to have wonderful resources right on our computer screens. So I encourage you to go to the Morgan site and feast your eyes on the films and exhibits available there. You won’t be disappointed.
Below you see Jane’s Chawton Cottage in Hampshire as it appeared in May 2009, with its scaffolding. Substantial renovations were finished last year, 200 years since Jane Austen, Cassandra and their mother moved to the house. Jane Austen lived here for the last years of her life. Scholars seem to agree that she did her finest work here, both writing full novels and refining previous versions for publication. Visit Chawton Cottage here. One of the additions since I last visited a year ago is the reopened kitchen in which Jane helped to prepare breakfast. Now I have to go back.
One of my favorite “pictures” of Jane is below, where she is portrayed as going Hollywood. It is probably apocryphal, but a story has circulated of the Hollywood studio CEO, who, upon reading a script based on Austen, said, “What else will she write for us?”