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How to Tour Jane Austen’s English Countryside

Follow in the footsteps of Mr. Darcy and the Bennet sisters and take in the manors and gardens of rural England

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 Jane Austen Centre
Bath, Somerset

Jane Austen was not thrilled when her father retired from his ministry and moved the family from the quiet safety of Steventon to Bath. The five unsettled years she lived in the city (1801-1805) were indeed marred with hardship, including the death of her father. Professionally, however, Austen was inspired. Bath is the setting for two of her six novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. The city’s Jane Austen Centre offers Georgian-era walking tours with stops at venues Jane would have been familiar with, including the chandelier-adorned Assembly Rooms and the Bath Circus, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Centre’s Regency Tea Room is the perfect place to enjoy finger sandwiches, clotted cream and 15 varieties of loose leaf tea, named for some of the writer’s most famous characters (think: Lady Catherine’s Proper Cream Tea).

Jane Austen’s House Museum
Chawton, Hampshire

Austen’s house in Chawton—where she lived the last eight years of her life—looks much the same as she might have left it, when she died from Addison’s disease at age 41. The museum contains a rare collection of Austen artifacts, including her writing table; a patchwork quilt made by Jane, Cassandra and their mother; and a pair of topaz crosses belonging to the sisters which were a gift from their brother, Charles—paid for with prize money he collected after capturing an enemy ship while in the Royal Navy. Throughout 2013, the museum will celebrate 200 years of Pride and Prejudice with an exhibition that explores the story of the novel and the history of its writing. The museum is displaying a letter Jane wrote to her sister Cassandra when she received her first copy of the book, costumes from the 1995 BBC television production and a contemporary art exhibition inspired by the novel.

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