Looking for Jane Austen

9:37 PM

She had me at “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” 

Just like millions of women, I got hooked on Jane Austen after reading her novel Pride and Prejudice. Things got worse when I saw the 2005 film by Joe Wright. Anyone who closed the book or made it to the end credits and not fell in love with Lizzie Bennet and Mr. Darcy is not human, in my opinion.

From then on, I became obsessed with Jane Austen. I read about her personal life, watched documentaries about her and her novels, and even brought together friends to create a Jane Austen Book Club. Needless to say, I promised myself that if I ever find my way to the United Kingdom, I would try to seek her out.

With a bit of luck and hard work, I did find my way to that island left of the English Channel. (Shout out to my friend Johannes who helped me! Thank you so much!) My tiny budget only allowed me to stay in the UK for ten days and most of it was indeed spent looking for Jane. The journey took me to London, Chawton, Derbyshire, and Brighton.  

         The British Library, London

When looking for a literary icon, where else to look for her but at a library? The Sir John Ritblat Collection: Treasures of the British Library features a handwritten letter of Jane Austen to her beloved sister Cassandra. In the letter, Jane writes about news about family and friends, and her upcoming novel Sense and Sensibility. Click here for the transcript of the letter.

I was crying while I was going around the room. I guess, I was just pretty much overwhelmed by the things surrounding me. The collection also features other priceless artifacts like Jane Austen’s writing desk – it is like a box she wrote on and kept pieces of paper, there’s the Magna Carta, Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook, Shakespeare’s first folio, a Beowulf manuscript, handwritten letters by royals, and handwritten lyrics by the beatles.

*Entrance to the British Library is free but no photos could be taken inside the Treasures of the British Library room.

The British Library Courtyard

Walk through these doors and into a world of history.  
It's a bright and airy place for a library. 

Follow these busts and they would lead you to the Sir John Ritblat Gallery. 

The Sir John Ritblat Gallery features artifacts of Jane Austen, the Beatles, and British Royalty and many more. 

Ordinary people can't go through that gate. 

The library has a cafe where people can enjoy a meal. 

1.       Jane Austen House Museum; Chawton, Hampshire 

The cottage in Chawton belonged to her brother Edward but was lent to house his widow mother and two spinster sisters. It is where Jane spent the last years of her life and where she she wrote three of her famous novels.  The house museum features artifacts of Jane and the Austen family. The one that really got to me is Jane’s writing table and the replica of the bed Jane and Cassandra shared.

There I met and befriended another Austen fan named Ana and her Grandma Joanne. They were both on holiday in the UK from America. Ana and I spent a good thirty minutes or probably an hour discussing about all things about Jane Austen. 

Jane Austen's House is at a corner in the town of Chawton. 

Look for the signs and you won't get lost.  
The door to the right leads to the interior of the house.

The house has quite an extensive garden. This is just a part of it.

Jane and Cassandra's bed and they shared it the entire time they lived here. 
In the presence of greatness. I am standing next to Jane Austen's writing table.
Here's the sitting room of the house. 

1.       Chatsworth, Derbyshire

Chatsworth stood for Pemberley – Mr. Darcy’s home – in the 2005 interpretation of Pride and Prejudice. And while it is said to have been the inspiration for Mr. Darcy’s home, no one can confirm such a thing since there are also theories that perhaps Pemberley was also inspired by Wentworth Woodhouse.  The Palace of the Peaks is the seat of the Duke of Devonshire and has been home of the Cavendish Family since 1549. It has housed Mary Queen of Scots while on house arrest in 1569 and Queen Victoria when she was still a princess in 1832.  She later on returned as a queen and with her husband Prince Albert to be entertained by the house’s lit fountains.

It was a rainy day when we visited Chatsworth but that didn’t dampen my mood at the very least. It was as every bit as magnificent as movie depicted it to be. Even if the weather was less than perfect, droves of people visited the house.  I even saw a public bus that stopped and dropped off passengers next to the front gate!

"Hello, I am Elizabeth Darcy. Welcome to my humble abode."
The Entrance Hall of Chatsworth. 

The Fresco at the Entrance Hall of the house.
Do you remember Elizabeth Bennet looking up the ceiling the minute she entered Pemberly?
The Palace of the Peak has its own Chapel, of course. 

The State Bedroom of Chatswroth.
Chatsworth mixes antiques and modern furniture. I am sitting on one of the latter. 

Said to have been where Mary Queen of Scots stayed when she was on house arrest in Chatsworth. 

She's one of the fine sculptures featured in Joe Wright's 'Pride and Prejudice.'  

Can't resist a photo in the house's dining room. It's so grand!

A wall of portraits of the Cavendish family. 

Recognize this hall from the 2005 film?

Chatsworth House Library

1.       Brighton, Brighton and Hove

In Pride and Prejudice, Brighton is where Lydia got entangled with Mr. Wickham. It was a place frequented by the military and was a dangerous place for young unmarried girls. In reality, it was a favorite of the Prince Regent and the royal who requested to have Pride and Prejudice dedicated to.

Being a seaside town, I think it’s easy to understand why the Prince Regent loved the place. A testament to his love of Brighton, he built Brighton Pavilion which  was done in  Indo-Saracenic style - featuring domes and minarets. 

Bright and Sunny day at Brighton.
That's Brighton Pavilion behind me!

The current design of Brighton Pavilion is the work of architect John Nash. 

The Pavilion is a licensed wedding venue and hosted one of the first same-sex marriages in the UK on 29 March 2014.

One of Brighton's famous and popular attractions is Brighton Pier.
Opened in 1899, it has been featured in numerous films, tv shows, and documentaries.
Heston Blumenthal, the famous British Chef, declared Brighton Pier as the "Spiritual Home" of fish and chips.

Here are some seats if you'd like to soak up some sun.
But it was pretty windy on the pier so I guess that explained the empty seats.
A bit of Brighton from the pier.

Something is going to go up on Brighton Beach!

The famous row of colorful beach huts along Brighton Beach
makes it seems as though it's summer all year long in this seaside town.
Some wall art in the city. 

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