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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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Jane Austen News – Issue 83

The Jane Austen News Takes a Turn About BathWhat’s the Jane Austen News this week?   The Guardian Visits Bath! We had a lovely surprise this week when we discovered that The Guardian newspaper has just published a piece about why visiting Bath is such a wonderful thing to do. Included in their two and a half mile round-trip walking tour of Bath (beginning and ending at Bath Spa train station, so a good choice for any London day-trippers) is a stop at our very own Jane Austen Centre! Alan Franks, the journalist who came to visit Bath and wrote the piece, had this short summary of Jane’s two partially Bath-based novels: Two of her six novels – Northanger Abbey and Persuasion – are set in the town. In the course of their narration Bath changes from being a backdrop to a virtual character, full of airs that are not of the healthiest kind. What for Catherine in the first book was elevating has become, for Anne in the second, enervating. Perhaps, given the hot springs that gave the city its name, the best word is immersive. If you fancy following in Mr Franks’ footsteps yourself, then you might like to read the whole of his article here. A Well-Dressed Well of Austen! This week the Jane Austen News was treated to a marvelous sight thanks to Jessica from Derbyshire, who shared pictures of a well dressing which had been created in her local village. In case you’ve not come across it before, well dressing is a tradition (more…)
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