April 12th, 2021


Jane Austen, Lucy Worsley and me

I very much enjoyed Lucy Worsley’s Jane Austen at Home. It is exactly what the title suggests: a description of all the houses Jane Austen lived in or visited and the life she led there. Because Lucy is a proper historian, we are spared ‘possibly’, ‘probably’ and ‘we can imagine how’, which ruin so many biographies for me. It’s written in a very lively style which anyone could enjoy and has some good anecdotes. My favourite is one about Tennyson. When visiting Lyme Regis, he was invited to view some interesting spot or other and cried, ‘No! Take me to the Cobb, that I may see the steps down which Louisa Musgrove fell!’ Tennyson was also a great admirer of Charlotte M Yonge, so he had good taste. It wasn’t until I was looking at the photos in this book that I remembered a television programme Lucy did on the same subject, at one point pacing out the outlines of the long-demolished Steventon Rectory where Jane Austen lived for so long. You only have to compare that programme with the truly terrible one which Gyles Brandreth did recently to see the difference between proper, historical biography and misleading rubbish.

After finishing Jane Austen at Home my plan was to re-read all Jane Austen’s novels, one after the other, something I’d never done before. I decided to read them in backwards (for me) order, moving from the least to the most often read. This meant starting with Northanger Abbey.
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