I have been a devoted follower of Jane Austen for many years. My story was like so many others. I was a teenager that felt like no one really "got" me. Then I watched Pride and Prejudice. (You know the one. Five hours? Colin Firth? Yeah.) How could this woman, who died centuries ago, speak to my soul like that? From that point on, I was a true believer. You may say my baptism was when Mr. Darcy jumped into that lake.
Being a Janeite has changed the course of my life. Because of Jane Austen, I became an English major and, more importantly, a writer in college. This decision led to my study abroad in London, where I fell in love with the city and vowed to return. You could say, if it wasn't for Jane, I probably wouldn't be on this adventure today.
So in order to pay my respects to my patron saint, my friend Megan and I headed out on a pilgrimage to Chawton. Jane's house in Chawton is where she spent the last eight years of her life and did some of her most important writing. As with any great pilgrimage, there were some challenges thrown into our path--confusing train schedules, lame bus routes, lousy map schematics. But eventually we overcame them and arrived here...
We toured the small house, where we were able to see Jane's bedroom, some family heirlooms, and read all about her life in Chawton. We even saw the small writing table where she did some of her greatest writing. It was a lovely experience.
After the house, we headed out back and ate a picnic lunch in a "prettyish kind of wilderness." The gardens were lovely. A perfect place to meditate and absorb the spirit of Jane. I could picture her taking a turn about the garden to work through a bout of writer's block.
The last stop on our pilgrimage was St. Nicolas Church in Chawton. This beautiful old church is where you can find the graves of Jane's mother and sister, Cassandra. (Jane was buried in Winchester where she died.)
You know what? I think that the spirit of Jane Austen will live forever. I mean, just look at the shrines people are building in her honor.
Jane Austen said, "If adventures will not befall a young lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad." Amen, Jane, Amen.