A week later I was off to the BarnettHill Hotel near Guildford for the annual UK Jane Austen Conference. In beautiful surroundings we enjoyed excellent talks and excellent company. The chairman Patrick Stokes gave me a very warm welcome and introduced my game ‘Jane Austen’s Sweethearts’ to the attendees. Everyone was so welcoming and friendly. It seems every second person has a relative in Australia and has a story to tell.
On Friday the group were off to Box Hill followed by Polesdon Lacey. Unfortunately I could not be part of the day as I could not arrive until Friday night. However I do know the area as in 2011 my daughter and I had visited Box Hill. On the Saturday we visited St Nicholas’ Church in Great Bookham, where Jane Austen’s godfather Rev. Sam Cooke was the vicar from 1769 to 1820. Jane visited here in 1799 and 1814 and relatives took Jane to nearby Croydon, Farnham, Guildford and Cobham. Jane wrote large parts of Emma at Great Bookham, and in the book she used identifiable locations, notably Box Hill and several others.
In the afternoon we visited Juniper Hall where Fanny Burney met her future husband General Alexandre d’Arblay and Sir Brian Unwin entertained us with many details about Fanny’s life. After an enjoyable dinner Maggie Lane and Angela Barlow gave us excellent readings from Emma to those who lasted the distance.
On the Sunday morning we had two more great talks by Professor Bill Hutchings and Alan Thwaite followed by a panel with more selected readings from Emma to finish the conference. Again I felt so lucky that my friend Gillian Dooley had told me about the conference and that I was in the UK at the right time of the year. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the weekend.