“There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.”
— Jane Austen | Emma
Chawton, Alton, U.K. a quaint little house that inspired noted 18th century English novelist Jane Austen. The house Austen finally finished publishing her first three pre-written novels while the inspiration struck to continue creating. When I learned that the actual house was converted into a museum open to the public, it became the number one place I wanted to visit in England. And earlier this summer, I was given the opportunity to do so, which resulted in an unforgettable experience.
As a writer myself, my mind longs for detail, and what more could I want than to visit my favorite female author’s place of inspiration? I don’t want to say too much because I went into the house with zero expectations, and it made my experience that much more remarkable, but the moment you gaze out of one of the windows, it’s cathartic, beautifully evident why Austen found herself most inspired in the house given to her by her brother after the family moved back from Bath.
The possibilities are endless when flowers bloom and birds sing in the countryside. As a city girl who was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, I have never in my life felt more inspired than during the summers I spent in my grandmother’s farm in the small village of Astkhashen, Artsakh, Armenia. There’s something about nature, simplicity, and the countryside that’s unmatched in its deliverance. And to have been able to walk through the very halls Austen walked through 200 years ago was hauntingly beautiful — an absolute, unimaginable dream. As a self-proclaimed old soul born in wrong era, England managed to transport me into a land of enchantment. Do I often pretend I am Emma Woodhouse and Elizabeth Bennet? You bet. They are the real queens of literature, and we are so fortunate to have read their stories — to have been a part of their lives, thanks to Austen’s unparalleled language and storytelling. And the view above? It felt like home. It was just like stepping into the world of my favorite heroines in Austen’s novels — sure there are countrysides all over the world, but the history here deserves to be taken in, explored, and treasured.
On another note, because I was fortunate to visit during the 200th anniversary, the museum had decided to release 41 Objects that aren’t on display year-round allowing us to see artifacts and read letters that are often concealed. And as a note on the museum’s official website, the 41 Objects will be staggered on display until the 15th of December. If you are in England, or are planning a visit, I highly encourage visiting within the next few months.
To be perfectly honest, without spoiling too much for readers who are planning to visit, the last thing I wanted to mention was the cathartic experience of attempting to write with a quill. It is hard work, friends. Oh my lavender, I’ve never felt more challenged, but of course, surely practice would have made it better. And in this particular photograph we could see my rigorous attempt to keep my handwriting as neat as it generally is when writing with a pen. (Sometimes it gets sloppy. It is far from perfection.) But the sole fact that I was able to write with a quill in Jane Austen’s home is an experience I’ll never forget. I fell in love with writing at the ripe age of 10-years-old when I’d write book reports for fun because my late father was a poet, but I knew I needed to major in English when my 12th grade English Literature teacher introduced Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Austen’s Pride and Prejudice to us. It was from that moment where I was able to understand that writing isn’t merely a hobby but something far more indescribable. While I chose to leave the messy letter behind, I had written a thank you note to Austen for never shying away from writing real, flawed, impeccably strong women. A thank you note for inspiring me to pursue writing.
And the best part? I got to experience all of this with my very best friend, soul sister who sat next to me as we read Pride and Prejudice for the first time then had to recreate the lifestyle in the form of letters and our own stories. That class was more than just a class — it changed us all so much. Life works in amazing ways doesn’t it?
Never in a million did I imagine that I’d be able to step foot in Ms. Austen’s home let alone write in it. I was and still am, profoundly honored and inspired by this split moment, which has moved me beyond words.
Today, I received an email from the museum stating that the new £10 note featuring Jane Austen had been released encouraging fans of the writer to donate to the museum. It also gives those living outside of England the opportunity to donate via text/sms. As someone who’s experienced the wonderful aura and serenity in this place, I’m writing this post to encourage those who are fans of Ms. Austen to do so as well. It takes great work and passion to preserve things for a decade let alone 100s and more. The Austen family’s Chawton home would have been sold if the Jane Austen society hadn’t fought for it. According to the museum’s official website, “After an appeal in The Times by the Jane Austen Society, the cottage was bought by Mr. T.E. Carpenter who turned it into a Museum dedicated to the life and works of Jane Austen. Mr. Carpenter presented the house to the nation in 1949, in memory of his son Lieutenant Philip John Carpenter who fell in the battle in Lake Trasimene in June 1944.” And now as fans, it is our job to continue fighting for the preservation of this remarkable home. Because years from now, anyone who finds themselves inspired by a Jane Austen novel could potentially find themselves wanting to know more, and the house tells her story in an extraordinary manner. With it’s impeccably kind staff, Austen’s house museum is number one on my list for a reason.
Additionally, right next to the house are two quaint little places called Cassandra’s Cup and The Greyfrair’s Pub. — unfortunately because we had arrived a bit later, both places were already closed by the time we’d wrapped our visit in the museum. There’s always next time though, right? This is definitely a place I plan to visit again when I’m back in England.
Text JANE 41 £10 to 70070 to donate £10 to the Jane Austen Museum House fund in order for all necessary repairs to be made to keep the house standing and far from deterioration. It is a place worth visiting for years to come, and it is now our job to help pay back Ms. Austen for the incredible stories she’s brought into our lives.