My travels took me to the Shetlands, where I stood at the northernmost point of the UK, then to the Lizard in Cornwall, the most southerly point of the UK.
In between I visited four important exhibitions commemorating the death of Jane Austen two hundred years ago. The first was ‘Fighting, Flirting and Fortune’ in Gosport, looking at the danger and drama of the British Navy, as well as the entertaining and social life aboard ship, through her novels, her letters and contemporary accounts. The volunteer guide quickly explained and apologised for the three glaring errors in the text, a source of great embarrassment for all involved.
The second day I went to the small but beautiful Allen Gallery in Alton to see ‘Jane and her Alton Apothecary’. In the early stages of her illness Jane had been treated by William Curtis, a qualified Apothecary in Alton. His story offers a fascinating insight into the role played by members of this ancient profession within their local communities.
Then I was off to the Jane Austen House Museum at Chawton to visit the house for the seventh time! The new wallpapers are lovely and my favourite was upstairs in the Navy room. After lunch with Jeremy and Carole Knight in the Chawton House Library kitchen, we went through the ‘Fickle Fortunes’ exhibition there, an exhibition on Jane Austen, Germaine de Stael and the waxing and waning of literary reputations. The gardens were looking particularly beautiful.
The next day I was off to the Bodleian in Oxford for ‘Which Jane Austen?’- an excellent exhibition questioning the public perception of our favourite author. Through a wide-ranging display of materials they presented Jane Austen as an ambitious and risk-taking author, and a wartime writer, influenced by family and relations.
My final Jane Austen linked treat was last Friday night when my daughter and I went to an open-air performance of‘Pride and Prejudice’ put on by the Chapterhouse Theatre Company in the grounds ofWollaton Park in Nottingham. There were eight talented actors each playing several roles. The novel was adapted by Laura Turner who made us very happy by including all the final conversations between Elizabeth and Darcy, as I have still not forgiven Andrew Davies for leaving them out of the 1995 production!