Jane

Some books give me such joy. Lucy Worsley’s Jane Austen at Home is one such book. It’s the detail, the minutiae of Austen’s day-to-day life that captivates. Worsley is thorough, painting a real life, a nuts-and-bolts life of a woman not the literary genius that she has now become. I love it. Truly. And it is worth going into work to engage with it. I’m currently in Bath with her, just before she is to leave. (When he was looking for a flat for me, all those years ago now, he looked at the one that the Austen family almost took in Sydney Place, for it seems that it was too expensive in the end. He thought it shabby, so we didn’t go for it. It was a gentle connection nevertheless.) Biographers’ opinions vary but it does appear that Bath wasn’t a happy place for her. I get it. I loved it but sometimes, just sometimes it brought me down – though whether that was a fault of place, I cannot say. She did write Northanger Abbey there (she initially called it Susan) though it was years till it was published, posthumously, I believe but mostly it was an unproductive time. Too topsy-turvy, the death of her father, the constant moving and being at the beck and call of wealthy relatives – I suspect. In a letter from that time she writes: ‘I do not know what is the matter with me to day but I cannot write…..fortunately I have nothing very particular to say.’