Hello dear readers,
Today one of the most wonderful weeks that I have ever lived comes to an end. As you know we have celebrated Jane Austen’s live and work throughout this past week due to the 200th anniversary of her death on the 18th of July, and as most events were taking place in England, that’s where I chose to be this last week.
I’ve been in England many times and I had visited several places related to Jane Austen, but this was the first big road trip completely dedicated to Jane Austen that I have done. I’ve met lots of amazing people, reconnected with old acquaintances and participated in some ceremonies that inspired me to write a few posts Austen related (bear with me for a while, I’ll be posting more than reviews in the upcoming weeks).
My trip started in Milton, er…sorry, Manchester.I would have loved to visit Elizabeth Gaskell’s home there, but as it is only open a few days a week, I didn’t have that chance. I was sad about it, but it means I have another reason to return to the area, so I have to look at the bright side of it. From Manchester I took the train to Stockport to meet for the first time author Lory Lilian, Andreea Catana and Ellen Pickels. These lovely ladies were my travel companions for several days and with them I visited Lyme Park, Chatsworth House and traveled south across the country to attend the religious ceremony in Winchester on the 18th of July. I’ll tell you all about our adventures in the North, but for now, I would like to share with you how it was to be in Winchester on such a memorable date.
We got to Winchester on the 17th, but the 18th was the big day! After breakfast we headed straight into the garden in front of Winchester Cathedral, took some pictures and were even interviewed by BBC radio, but the real fun started when our dear friends Joana Starnes and Mira Magdo from Obsessed with Mr. Darcy joined us for the day. With them we attended a recital in the Cathedral, and travelled the streets of Winchester to find the house where Jane Austen spent the last weeks of her life, and where she eventually died on the 18th of July.
The house is on 8 College Street but it is now a private house and can not be visited. It bears an oval plaque over the front door, placed there in 1956 and designed and executed by Esmond Burton.It is nowadays the only sign that tells us this is a very special house. In front of it lies a small garden with an Austen quote, and even if some people may miss it, we surely didn’t.
Jane Austen wrote to her nephew, James Edward Austen, “our Lodgings are very comfortable. We have a neat little Drawing room with a Bow-window overlooking D’ Gabell’s garden”, and even if this is not what people may see from the bow-window nowadays, I like to imagine Jane looking over this window.
After this walk, we headed back to the Winchester Cathedral where I met Cassandra Grafton author of A Fair Prospect trilogy and the recently released A Quest for Mr. Darcy. Together we attended to the unveil of the 10£ bank note with the presence of the 120th Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney.
Mr. Carney demonstrated a true knowledge of Austen’s life and work, making a charming and captivating speech, but he also shared some interesting aspects about the new 10 £ note. For example, on the front of the £10 polymer note there are two clusters of raised dots in the top left hand corner, this tactile feature will help blind and partially sighted people identify the value of the note. I also learned about a few details the new note will have, such as a finely detailed metallic image of Winchester Cathedral positioned over a see-through window, and a book-shaped copper foil patch which contains the letters JA. But the most controversial detail on the note is the quote “ I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!”.
I have nothing against it, I know it was pronounced by Miss Bingley and that it was said in an ironic tone, but it remains a true statement nonetheless, and I find it appropriate for a note with the picture of a writer. What do you think? I know many people do not agree with this quote on the note, is that your case?
The bank note will only enter circulation in September, so I couldn’t come home with one, but thanks to Sophie Andrews, I did come home with a 2 £ coin :)) Do you have it already?
The coin was launched in locations that have a close connection to Jane Austen’s life but the design will only be released into wider circulation later this year. The coin is already being sold on Amazon, but the prices are excessive and the coin can be found at reduced prices in any Jane Austen related place, so if you visit places such as the Jane Austen House in Chawton, don’t miss the opportunity to have one of the first coins out there.
With this ceremony over it was time to eat something, get some rest and be prepared for the religious ceremony that took most of us there.
It was a beautiful ceremony fully dedicated to one of the greatest authors in England and I feel particularly honored to have been there to pay my tribute.
The entire day was wonderful with a beautiful weather, but once the ceremony was over, as if crying for Austen, the sky started pouring rain and we had to leave Winchester.
We ended up eating pizza, drinking god knows what and teaching eachother how to speak our native languages. I don’t think the day could have ended in a better way and I want to thank all these lovely ladies for putting up with me and my photos the entire day! Being in Winchester for Jane was absolutely unforgettable but it wouldn’t have been as special if I hadn’t shared all these moments with people who, just like me, were touched by Jane in so many ways 🙂
I know that not everybody got a chance to go to Winchester to Jane Austen’s life, so I bring some tokens of the 200th anniversary to offer to one of my readers. As Persuasion was released in 1817, I thought it would be fitting to offer it along with a keyring, rubber and pencil commemorative of the date. I’ve also added an I love Jane pin, and a bag of lavender I made at Jane Austen’s House in Chawton.
The giveaway is international, and all you have to do to be eligible for it is to leave your share your thoughts with us by commenting on this post. It will run until the 4th of August and the winner will be announced shortly after.
Good Luck everyone!