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The English Countryside According to Jane Austen

July 28, 2023
2023-07-28
If there's one author who has exquisitely written about the UK's true beauty, it's Jane Austen. Known for her heart-pumping romances and witty comedies, she's among the most beloved authors who ever lived. Austen is most famous for her charming chronicles and critiques of British high society during the Regency Era. But beyond that, her works and her life are all over the beautiful English countryside. There's Chawton, for example, where Jane herself once lived. Bath, on the other hand, is a place that has appeared in many of her novels. And if you're a true-blue Jane Austen fan, you'll want to see North Downs in person!

The English Countryside According to Jane Austen


Bath

From “Northanger Abbey” to “Persuasion,” Jane Austen has featured the spa town of Bath in many of her beloved works. This cobbled collection of Georgian houses and Roman baths is a beautiful city in Somerset County. While it's no longer the toast of British high society (at least, not to the level during Austen's time and how she depicted it in her novels), it remains one of the most enchanting destinations in the UK. Even if you're not an Austen fan, you can't help but get lost in all its Regency glamour, not to mention its soothing baths too!
The English Countryside According to Jane Austen
Source: Wikimedia Commons


Hertfordshire

'Pride & Prejudice' is arguably Jane Austen's finest work. The love story of the prideful Elizabeth Bennet and the prejudiced Mr. Darcy has charmed readers the world over ever since the novel was released back in 1813. And of course, the many film and TV series adaptations that followed only added to its indelible legacy. So much so that many fans want to travel to where the Bennets lived. But where is that, exactly? In Hertfordshire, the charming home county in South England. Though the village and grand mansions mentioned in the book don't actually exist, its countryside charms are ever-present in this beautiful destination.
The English Countryside According to Jane Austen
Source: Wikimedia Commons


Surrey

If you're a fan of Austen's witty novel, “Emma,” you're in luck! This list doesn't just have one, but two places in the English countryside where events in the novel are set. Firstly, there's the quaint town of Surrey, a charming provincial commune where the titular heroine (some would argue anti-heroine) was their social queen. Highly respected by the people who lived there, she charmed her way to people's homes with as much authority as the Queen of England herself. Unfortunately, however, Emma's, as well as her love interest Sir Kingsley's, mansion is fictional. You won't see it if you go here.
The English Countryside According to Jane Austen
Source: Geograph.uk/ High Street, Godalming, Surrey by Peter Trimming


North Downs

The second “Emma” location is North Downs, a ridge of chalk hills just right outside of Surrey County. It's here where one of the novel's pivotal moments took place. During a sunny outing to the North Downs, Emma inadvertently insults Miss Bates in front of the entire party. It's arguably her lowest point in the story, the defining moment where the reader realizes that perhaps, Emma was never the angelic protagonist they had initially thought her to be. And of course, this was also the faux pas that caused Mr. Kingley to utter his most famous line in the book: “Badly done, Emma!”
The English Countryside According to Jane Austen
Source: Wikimedia Commons


Lyme Regis

“Persuasion” by Jane Austen is one of those heartwarming (and at times, heart-wrenching) novels you'd gladly read as you sip coffee and relax in a Parisian cafe in Montmartre. You'd feel for protagonist Anne Elliot as she navigates her life and love for former beau, Captain Frederick Wentworth. In one of the book's most memorable moments, a party consisting of Elliot, Wentworth, and the Musgroves sisters Henrietta and Louisa, travel to Lyme Regis for a leisurely stroll. It's here where Louisa jumps up on a sea wall but falls and gets a concussion. And though you shouldn't follow her example, you can actually see the sea wall and the whole of Lyme Regis yourself!
The English Countryside According to Jane Austen
Source: Wikimedia Commons


Steventon

These last few destinations go beyond Jane Austen's works and are actual places where the author herself once saw and stayed in. The first is Steventon, Austen's birthplace. It was on December 16, 1775, when Jane Austen was born to Cassandra and George Austen in Steventon, Hampshire. Apart from the time she went to a boarding school in Reading, Berkshire, Austen spent most of her first 25 years in Steventon. Though they weren't particularly wealthy, the Austens were a big family. It was her eventful life here, among many others, that influenced her to become a writer.
The English Countryside According to Jane Austen
Source: Geograph.uk/ St Michael's Church and Manor Farm, Steventon by Des Blenkinsopp


Chawton

Another key place in Jane Austen's life was Chawton, a charming village in East Hampshire. In 1809, two years before she published her first novel, “Sense and Sensibility” (1811), Jane and her mother and sister moved to Chawton village. They stayed in a house owned by Edward, one of her many brothers who was adopted by a noble family and inherited a large estate in the village. And it was here where the author spent most of her life, even coming back here when illness took hold of her and she eventually passed away in 1817. Today, her former home is now the 'Jane Austen's House' museum, filled with artifacts that actually belong to the legendary writer.
The English Countryside According to Jane Austen
Source: Geograph.uk/ Jane Austen's House, Chawton, Hampshire by nick macneill.


Winchester

Finally, there's Winchester, a bigger city that's also located in Hampshire. Only 16 miles from Chawtown, it was here where Austen's sister Cassandra took her to the Winchester Hospital in May of 1817 to help treat her illness. The sisters stayed at 8, College Street (now a private residence), where the famed author would pass away on July 18, 1817. She was then laid to rest in the beautiful Winchester Cathedral, among the most noteworthy sights in Hampshire. To this day, Austen's remains continue to draw in her most devoted fans.
The English Countryside According to Jane Austen
Source: Wikimedia Commons

When you explore the English Countryside through the lens of Jane Austen and her beloved novels, you'll discover a lot of different charms along the way. Such is the magic of the legendary author and the unique vision and wit she shared through her works.






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