Exploring Jane Austen Country
Jane Austen country—verdant countryside interspersed with relatively unspoiled villages—still bears traces of the decorous early-19th-century life she described with wry wit in novels such as Emma, Persuasion, Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice. You can almost hear the clink of teacups raised by the likes of Elinor Dashwood and Mr. Darcy. Serious Janeites will want to retrace her life in Bath , Chawton, Winchester, and Lyme Regis.
Bath provided the elegant backdrop for the society Austen observed with such razor sharpness. Bath was Austen's home between 1801 and 1806, and although she wrote relatively little during this time, it provided the setting for Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. The Jane Austen Centre in Bath explores her relationship to the city.
About 83 miles southeast of Bath is this tiny Hampshire village, the heart of Jane Austen country. Here you will find the tastefully understated house, a former bailiff's cottage on her brother's estate, where Austen worked on three of her novels. It’s now a museum that sensitively evokes her life there.
Driving southwest from Chawton, take the A31 for about 15 miles to Winchester, where you can visit Austen's austere grave within the cathedral and view an exhibit about her life; then see the commemorative plaque on No. 8 College Street, where her battle with Addison's disease ended in her death on July 18, 1817.
Lyme Regis, 110 miles southwest of Winchester, is the 18th-century seaside resort on the Devon border where Austen spent the summers of 1804 and 1805. It's home to the Cobb, the stone jetty that juts into Lyme Bay, where poor Louisa Musgrove jumps off the steps known as Granny's Teeth—a turning point in Persuasion.
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