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Jane Austen News – Issue 143

The Jane Austen News goes to The Vyne

What’s the Jane Austen News this week? 


Austen Heard It Through The Vyne?

This week The Telegraph newspaper published an online article about a house in Sherborne St John near Basingstoke in Hampshire called The Vyne. The reason it caught the eye of the Jane Austen News is because it has been suggested that Jane Austen may have based her Mansfield Park heroine Fanny Price on Caroline Wiggett, who went to live at The Vyne in 1803 aged three, having been plucked from a pool of poor distant relations and adopted by the childless couple who lived there, William John Chute and his wife Eliza.

It is thought that Jane may have come into contact with the Chutes as her brother James Austen was appointed Rector of Sherborne St.John by William Chute, and so he moved in the same social circles as the Chutes and attend parties thrown at The Vyne. Certainly, Jane would at least have known about the family and the case of Caroline Wiggett’s adoption.

However, having said that, and just to play devil’s advocate, rich relations adopting a child from poor relations was by no means a rare occurrence which Jane could only have thought of by hearing of Caroline Wiggett. For one thing, another of her brothers, Edward Austen, was adopted by rich relations and went on to become a very wealthy landowner.

It’s an interesting house (following one of his regular visits there, The Vyne is also believed to have inspired Horace Walpole to build his 18th-century gothic castle in Twickenham, Strawberry Hill) and the Caroline Wiggett-Fanny Price connection is a fun speculation to explore at any rate.

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Netley Abbey

We had a little water party yesterday; I and my two nephews [George and Edward Knight] went from the Itchen Ferry up to Northam, where we landed, looked into the 74, and walked home, and it was so much enjoyed that I had intended to take them to Netley to-day; the tide is just right for our going immediately after noonshine, but I am afraid there will be rain; if we cannot get so far, however, we may perhaps go round from the ferry to the quay.” Jane Austen to her sister Cassandra Monday, 24 October 1808 “ Netley Abbey was founded by monks in 1239. If you find Southampton on the map, you can see why Jane Austen crossed over to it by ferry. Now the distance can be covered by bus. The Abbey is close to the water in a wooded area. There must have been some facility at the ferry landing when Austen visited but not much more. The little town that is near it was not developed until Victorian times. The ruins are quite substantial. One of the windows has the same characteristics of the window in Westminster Abbey and it is believed that the same mason worked on both windows. By Gillian Moy, CC BY-SA 2.0 Richard John King’s 1876 guidebook, A handbook for travellers in Surrey, Hampshire, and the Isle of Wight, offers a close hand look at the history of the Abbey: Netley Abbey, about 3 m. S. of Southampton, must not be (more…)
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