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Jane Austen’s Country Life – Deirdre Le Faye

Jane Austen's Country Life -

Jane Austen’s Country Life -Deirdre Le Faye

This is a beautiful book – thick pages and stunning illustrations. It is worth owning for the illustrations.

Here is the blurb …

Jane Austen lived for nearly all her life in two Hampshire villages: for 25 years in her birthplace of Steventon, and then for the last 8 years of her life in Chawton, during which she wrote and published her great novels. While there are plenty of books describing her periods of urban life in Bath, Southampton and London, and the summer holidays in Lyme Regis and other West Country seaside resorts, no book has given consideration to the rural background of her life. Her father was not only the rector of Steventon but a farmer there as well, managing a property of some 200 acres. Her brother Edward, in addition, was a large landowner, holding the three estates of Godmersham in Kent, Steventon and Chawton in Hampshire. Agriculture, in all its aspects, was even more important to Jane than clerical life or the naval careers of her younger brothers. This book fills a gap in the Austen family background, discussing the state of agriculture in general in the south of England during the wartime, conditions which lasted for most of Jane Austen’s life, and considering in particular the villages and their inhabitants, the weather conditions, field crops, farm and domestic animals, and the Austens’ household economy and rural way of life. Apart from these obvious sources, there are other Austen family manuscripts, as yet unpublished, which provide particular and unique information. Richly illustrated with contemporary depictions of country folk, landscapes and animals, Jane Austen’s Country LifeĀ conjures up a world which has vanished more than the familiar regency townscapes of Bath or London, but which is no less important to an understanding of this most treasured writer’s life and work.

There are seven chapters – Hampshire (as I mentioned in a previous post, I needed a map to understand the relationships between the places), A Year in the Country Side, The Hardships and Pleasures of Rural Life, Crops, Livestock and Pleasure-Grounds, Urban Interlude and Life at Godmersham and Chawton. This isn’t an academic book it is really to help a modern audience understand and appreciate life in Austen’s time. For example, peas at Christmas is quite an extravagance! Not something that I had thought about, but it reveals information about the characters that a contemporary reader would appreciate.

It was a very easy read and makes me want to go back and read Austen’s novels again taking notice of the time of year, the weather and the food.

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