Posted on

Worthing as Jane Austen’s Sanditon, Then and Now

Jane Austen's Sanditon inspired by Worthing?

Could Worthing have been the inspiration for Jane Austen’s Sanditon?

by Donna Fletcher Crow

Jane Austen’s connection with Worthing was completely unknown until late in the 20thcentury when Fanny Austen’s diaries came to light and Austen scholar Deidre Le Faye began studying them. Before then, all that was known were the references in Jane’s letters regarding plans to visit Worthing. There was no confirmation, however, that the trip had actually come about, rather, considerable doubt was cast on the likelihood:

24 August 1805 Jane, who was at Godmersham, wrote to Cassandra about their 10-year-old nephew Edward who was ill and not recovering well.  It looked unlikely he would be able to return to school in Winchester with his brothers when term started that autumn, “& he will be of the party to Worthing.__If sea-bathing should be recommended he will be left there with us, but this is not thought likely to happen.”

Six days later she wrote of a new complication: “The journey to London [to visit brother Henry] is a point of the first expediency and I am glad it is resolved on, though it seems likely to injure our Worthing scheme. . . It gives us great pleasure to hear of little Edward’s being better,” he was expected to be able to return to school.

She concludes by saying, “We shall not be at Worthing so soon as we have been used to talk of, shall we? This will be no evil to us, and we are sure of my mother and Martha being happy together.”

Mrs. Austen and their friend Martha Lloyd went ahead of the others to Worthing, staying in Stanford’s Cottage, the house in Warwick Street which still stands today. It was a charming dwelling, whose south-facing bow windows in those days had an uninterrupted view to the sea. Today it is a Pizza Express, but retains some recognizable features of the Austen’s time there, including the bow windows, although the view is extremely limited.

The streets on the north side of the cottage had only recently been upgraded from a farm-track. The view northwards was therefore over fields with a few scattered buildings and the Downs beyond.

Looking for links to Austen and her time there, as I was, the Pizza Express was my first stop. I approached with a certain amount of skepticism, but was given a warm welcome, a delicious lunch and encouraged to enjoy the building.

The walls are covered with collages of Austen quotations, Regency drawings and framed Penguin editions of her books.

I was told that the Jane Austen Society holds a yearly meeting in their upstairs room.

Enjoying the sight of the sun reflecting from the bay windows onto the courtyard, I thought, “They have done well with their heritage.”

Jane Austen arrived in Worthing on Wednesday 18 September 1805 with Cassandra, their brother Edward, his wife Elizabeth, oldest child Fanny and her governess Miss Sharpe. Fanny gives us a detailed record of a day at the resort. They walked on the sands, bought fish on the beach, and bathed “a most delicious dip.” That afternoon they entertained a guest (Miss Fielding, who may have been a relative), dined at 4:00, and in the evening went to the Raffle where Jane won 17 shillings.

The next day Fanny waited for Aunt Cassandra to come out of Wick’s warm baths and walked on the sands again. They went once more to the raffle as well, but apparently none of the party was enriched by the event.

On Sunday morning Fanny attended church with Aunt Jane and others. This was probably at the parish church of St Mary at nearby Broadwater, since there was as yet no church in Worthing.

The Godmersham party left Worthing the next day.

We know that Jane stayed at least 7 weeks in Worthing because on 4 November she witnessed a signature to her mother’s will. The visit may have continued until 1 January 1806 when Jane and Martha Lloyd arrived at Steventon, but there is no certain record since we are not told where they arrived from.

This positive evidence of Jane Austen’s time in Worthing, however, gives the town a considerable boost in the “Discover the Real Sanditon” stakes. In spite of the persuasive claims I presented for Bognor Regis last week, there is no documentation of Jane Austen having ever been there.

Indeed, Jane Austen not only spent considerable time in Worthing, she also seems to have become good friends with Edward Ogle, Worthing’s chief citizen and front-runner among contenders for the model of Tom Parker, Sanditon’s developer.

“Sweet Mr Ogle”, she wrote 8 years after their visit to Worthing, “I dare say he sees all the panoramas for nothing, has free admittance everywhere. He is so delightful! Now you need not see anybody else.” This, in a letter to Cassandra at Godmersham, it seems to be in reply to something Cassandra said to her in a previous letter—perhaps reporting on a letter she had received from Mr. Ogle.

Mr. Ogle’s entrepreneurship makes him a likely model, but not, perhaps his personality. In several readings of Sanditon, “sweet” was never a word I would have applied to the energetic and rather over-bearing Mr. Parker. Although, it’s always possible Jane was making a pun, since Edward Ogle and his brother James were involved in the sugar trade with the West Indies.

One writer explained the references to the panoramas Jane mentions as the splendid views of London from the river, which Ogle was able to see for nothing because he could travel up and down the Thames on his barges whenever he liked.

I take the reference more literally, though, as does Deidre Le Faye, who references Henry Aston Barker’s Panorama in Leicester Square which exhibited views of great cities, of battles, and so forth. LeFaye suggests Ogle may have been a friend of Barker and therefore given free admission. Jane, however, seems to attribute his free entry to his pleasing personality.

In 1801, four years before Jane Austen’s stay in Worthing, Edward Ogle purchased Warwick House and began to build Worthing into a thriving seaside resort. The house had been built in 1781 by the town’s first speculator-developer John Luther. Ogle laid out the gardens and made other improvements. Many believe this was the model for Mr. Parker’s Trafalgar House, although it was not on a hilltop. In the summer of 1807 seven-year-old Princess Charlotte’s stay in Warwick House brought Worthing to national prominence.

At this time Worthing had only a few terraces of lodging-houses and was not much more than a straggling overgrown village, largely reliant on farming and fishing. The only road into the town was essentially a sequence of winding lanes, which were all but impassable in severe weather. There was no drainage, no market, no church, no theatre and indeed no proper modern hotel.

Ogle’s first project was to build the Colonnade, at the corner of Warwick Street and High Street, just across the road from his house. The building consisted of three lodging-houses at the northern end, together with a library at the corner. Libraries were the main social institutions in seaside resorts of the period. As well as reading, they offered opportunities for gossip, gambling, musical entertainment, and shopping—“you can get a Parasol at Whitby’s,” Mr. Parker tells his wife.  The Colonnade Library and its rival, Stafford’s Marine Library, which had opened in 1797, would have been the main meeting-places for visitors to Worthing.

The Austen ladies could choose between the Colonnade Library practically across the street from where they were staying, and Stafford’s Library some two hundred yards away on the seafront. Mr. Parker offers just such a visit to Charlotte Heywood on her first evening in Sanditon right after dinner: “Mr. P. could not be satisfied without an early visit to the Library and the Library Subscription book;”

They had chosen a quiet time. “The Shops were deserted – the Straw Hats and pendant Lace seemed left to their fate both within the House and without, and Mrs. Whitby at the Library was sitting in her inner room, reading one of her own Novels for want of Employment. The List of Subscribers was but commonplace.”

Today’s fully modern library focuses on reading and information, but still offers meeting rooms.

Most importantly, Worthing possessed that prime requirement for a seaside resort—bathing facilities. As we saw in Fanny’s diary, Wick’s warm water baths were patronized by Cassandra, and the sea-bathing was “delicious”. This detail from a print of the time shows Wick’s on the right and bathing machines perched on the left.

Mr. Parker declares Sanditon, “the favourite – for a young and rising bathing-place – certainly the favourite.” “The finest, purest Sea Breeze on the Coast – acknowledged to be so – Excellent Bathing – fine hard Sand – Deep Water ten yards from the Shore – no Mud – no Weeds – no slimey rocks. Never was there a place more palpably designed by Nature for the resort of the Invalid – the very Spot which Thousands seemed in need of!”

Worthing today offers a beautiful seafront with art deco and Italiante buildings, their white and cream stucco gleaming in the sun.

Unlike Mr. Parker’s “fine, hard sand” Worthing has a pebble beach with crashing waves. It made me hope that Jane had a strong dipper to keep her upright in the surf.

Edwardian lampposts and fishermen lined the Victorian pleasure pier. “What do you catch?” I asked.                              “Bass and all sorts, really,” was the reply. It made me think of Fanny Austen buying fish on the beach with her grandmother.

The first theatre, which we know Jane would have enjoyed, wasn’t built in Worthing until two years after her visit. Today Worthing offers two theatres. The Connaught, built 1914, and the Pavilion, built 1926, host theatrical productions, concerts and cinema.

One of the pleasures of a visit to Worthing today is walking in the Steyne Gardens, just west of the former Stanford’s Cottage, running parallel to the footpath Jane and all the Austens would have taken to the shore.

The echoes of Jane Austen and Sanditon are strong in Worthing. Its location on the coast of Sussex, its enthusiastic, charismatic developer, library, sea-bathing, a grand house, lodgings to let . . . the list of similarities is persuasive. Ultimately, though, it’s unlikely that anything could be more real for Jane than the structure in her own head. That’s the resort I most long to visit.

*****

This article about Jane Austen and Dawlish was written by Donna Fletcher Crow, and the article is reproduced here with her permission.

Donna is a novelist of British history, and a traveling researcher who engages people and places from Britain’s past and present – drawing comparisons and contrasts between past and present for today’s reader. Her website can be found here.

Posted on

Rachel Dodge on Writing “Praying with Jane”

The inspiration behind "Praying With Jane"

Author Rachel Dodge details the inspirations and process behind her new book Praying with Jane.

 ***

“Prayers Composed by my ever dear Sister Jane”

 

My first introduction to Jane Austen’s prayers, over a decade ago, happened by chance. I was in graduate school, working on my master’s thesis on Pride and Prejudice, when I found them at the back of the Chapman edition of Austen’s novels (in the Minor Works volume). At the time, I thought the prayers were beautifully written and wondered why I had heard so little about them.

Continue reading Rachel Dodge on Writing “Praying with Jane”

Posted on

“Praying with Jane” – a Review by Laura Boyle

praying with jane

In Praying with Jane, Rachel Dodge has managed to present Jane Austen’s life “in a style entirely new”, taking a closer look at the heart behind the one of the most beloved authors of all time. Much of what is known of Jane’s life comes in the form of her (censored) letters and the reminiscences of family members. While these details paint a cheerful and amusing picture, that which made Jane, Jane, lies at the heart of the three existing prayers we have that she wrote for use during evening prayers. We do not know why she wrote them- whether out of an overflow of devotion or at the bequest of some family member, but the serious, heartfelt tone, when examined, adds a deeper shade to our understanding of the writer.  These are no “vain repetitions”, but rather intimate, whole life lessons, summing up the core values of a woman once noted for her desire for anonymity.

In this book, Rachel Dodge closely examines each line of each prayer, in a day by day format, allowing for a 31 day devotional, to be used either in succession, or occasionally. Using Jane’s own historical background as well as Ms. Dodge’s extensive knowledge of Austen’s fictional works, the prayers are placed into context in Jane’s life, along with insightful ways to apply them to our own, often busy, lives. Each day includes related scripture as well as a call to prayer and worship as the reader seeks to apply Jane’s prayers to her own life. This breaking down works amazingly well to draw out the depth of Austen’s own writing and brings the reader a greater appreciation of Austen’s already acknowledged genius with language and the human heart.

Continue reading “Praying with Jane” – a Review by Laura Boyle

Posted on

Jane Austen’s Bracelet

Included in the collection at Jane Austen’s House Museum at Chawton are a few pieces of jewellery owned by the Austen women. These include Jane’s gold and turquoise ring, and the topaz crosses brought back from a voyage by the Austen’s younger brother, Charles. Both of these are available at the Jane Austen Gift Shop as beautiful replica pieces. And now, due to great demand, we have at last added our version of the third piece: Jane’s lovely beaded bracelet.

Jane Austen's Bracelet
Courtesy Jane Austen’s House Museum / Peter Smith
Our lovely new replica

Made exclusively for us in Somerset, each bracelet is intricately hand strung with Miyuki Glass Seed Beads, and completed with a Sterling Silver Gold Plated Box Clasp. It’s a must for fans and collectors alike, as well as a delightful accessory in its own right.

Even Jane approves..!

You can see our lovely new replica bracelet here

Save

Posted on

Oxford asks: Which Jane?

which jane?

by Elizabeth Jane Timms

which jane?

As part of the 200th anniversary events to commemorate Jane Austen’s death, the Bodleian Libraries launched its major summer 2017 exhibition in June, asking the intriguing question to its visitors – “Which Jane”? The exhibition seeks to challenge previously held views of Jane, arguing that she was perhaps, driven by ambition, as we might understand a career woman in the modern sense. “Which Jane” is complimented by a superb array of Austen material – some of which will be on public display for the first time – and a programme of events which will run alongside the exhibition, such as the free lecture on the special project to recreate Jane’s brown silk pelisse coat, today in the collections of Hampshire Council. Other free lectures seek to explore Jane’s relationship with her publishers, Thomas Egerton and John Murray, to ask whether or not Jane’s experience as a woman writing at the time was a typical one, and whether in fact, they took professional risks in publishing her work. Continue reading Oxford asks: Which Jane?

Posted on

Meeting Young Jane Austen

“It’s exciting to be contributing to the Jane Austen 200 celebrations, with performances of Young Jane and Meeting Miss Austen, my adaptations inspired by Austen’s Juvenilia.” – Cecily O’Neill

The exuberance and absurdity of the short novels, plays and letters known as the Juvenilia immediately captured my interest. Many of the characters, situations and issues in these teenage works clearly anticipate Austen’s mature novels, and the dialogue is as funny and revealing as anything she wrote later.

It was the power of the dialogue that made me think these delightful pieces might be adapted for the stage. This is Mary’s first speech from The Three Sisters,

I am the happiest creature in the world! I have received an offer of marriage from Mr Watts! It is the first proposal I have ever had, but I do not intend to accept it. At least I believe I won’t. Mr Watts is quite an old man, at least thirty-two. He’s very plain – so plain that I cannot bear to look at him. He’s also extremely disagreeable and I hate him more than any body else in the world! He has a large fortune but then he’s so very healthy

I could find no evidence that the Juvenilia had previously been dramatized, although the title of the recent film, Love and Friendship, which is based on Austen’s Lady Susan, borrowed the title from one of the minor masterpieces in the Juvenilia.

As well as The Three Sisters, I chose The Visit and Love and Friendship to include in Young Jane. Sell-out performances followed and this was the impetus for publishing the script of Young Jane.

I am currently at work on Meeting Miss Austen, another selection of works from the Juvenilia. One of the most compelling characters is Lady Greville, who prides herself on the fact that she ‘always speaks her mind’. This allows her to be as rude as she likes.

Continue reading Meeting Young Jane Austen

Posted on

On Each Return of the Night: A Prayer by Jane Aust

 

Give us grace, Almighty Father, so to pray, as to deserve to be heard, to address thee with our hearts, as with our lips. Thou art every where present, from thee no secret can be hid. May the knowledge of this teach us to fix our thoughts on thee, with reverence and devotion that we pray not in vain.

Look with mercy on the sins we have this day committed and in mercy make us feel them deeply, that our repentance may be sincere and our resolution steadfast of endeavoring against the commission of such in future. Teach us to understand the sinfulness of our own hearts, and bring to our knowledge every fault of temper and every evil habit in which we have indulged to the discomfort of our fellow-creatures, and the danger of our own souls.

May we now, and on each return of night, consider how the past day has been spent by us, what have been our prevailing thoughts, words, and actions during it, and how far we can acquit ourselves of evil. Have we thought irreverently of thee, have we disobeyed thy commandments, have we neglected any known duty, or willingly given pain to any human being? Incline us to ask our hearts these questions oh! God, and save us from deceiving ourselves by pride or vanity.

Give us a thankful sense of the blessings in which we live, of the many comforts of our lot; that we may not deserve to lose them by discontent or indifference….

By
Jane Austen

Enjoyed this article? Browse our book shop at janeaustengiftshop.co.uk

Posted on

A Second Prayer By Jane Austen

Almighty God!

Look down with mercy on thy servants here assembled and accept the petitions now offered up unto thee. Pardon oh! God the offences of the past day. We are conscious of many frailties; we remember with shame and contrition, many evil thoughts and neglected duties; and we have perhaps sinned against thee and against our fellow-creatures in many instances of which we have no remembrance. Pardon oh God! whatever thou has seen amiss in us, and give us a stronger desire of resisting every evil inclination and weakening every habit of sin. Thou knowest the infirmity of our nature, and the temptations which surround us. Be thou merciful, oh heavenly Father! to creatures so formed and situated. We bless thee for every comfort of our past and present existence, for our health of body and of mind and for every other source of happiness which thou hast bountifully bestowed on us and with which we close this day, imploring their continuance from thy fatherly goodness, with a more grateful sense of them, than they have hitherto excited. May the comforts of every day, be thankfully felt by us, may they prompt a willing obedience of thy commandments and a benevolent spirit toward every fellow-creature.

Have mercy oh gracious Father! upon all that are now suffering from whatsoever cause, that are in any circumstance of danger or distress. Give them patience under every affliction, strengthen, comfort and relieve them.

To thy goodness we commend ourselves this night beseeching thy protection of us through its darkness and dangers. We are helpless and dependent; graciously preserve us. For all whom we love and value, for every friend and connection, we equally pray; however divided and far asunder, we know that we are alike before thee, and under thine eye. May we be equally united in thy faith and fear, in fervent devotion towards thee, and in thy merciful protection this night. Pardon oh Lord! the imperfections of these our prayers, and accept them through the mediation of our blessed saviour, in whose holy words, we further address thee.

Our Father which are in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

By
Jane Austen

Enjoyed this article? Browse our book shop at janeaustengiftshop.co.uk