|Available on Amazon|
Ms. Crow is sharing some of her photos with us from her travels. I'm certain you will enjoy seeing them as much as I did, plus you get the added bonus of learning more of Jane's visits to London. Thank you, Donna F. Crow. Don't miss the giveaway info either! It's a good one!
Jane Austen’s London—Now and Then
Because one of my primary goals as a writer is to give my readers a “you are there” experience, visiting all the scenes in my book before I write it is essential. This is always one of my favorite parts of being a writer, but visiting Jane Austen’s London was a special treat because I had my own Mr. Knightly with me.
Yes, I know—Mr. Darcy is usually the hero of choice, but since Mr. Knightly does not enjoy accommodations that make him uncomfortable (a quality heartily shared by my husband) it makes him a traveling companion of choice. That translates into staying in a convenient hotel, never missing a meal and even taking a taxi on occasion—comforts I seldom indulge in when on my own. Jane Austen, however, would approve, since she wrote to Cassandra how “very pleasant” she found “parading about London in a Barouche.”
My newest Elizabeth and Richard literary suspense A Most Singular Venture, Murder in Jane Austen’s London, finds Richard teaching Jane Austen as a Queen of Crime at the University of London—as I was privileged to do in the summer of 2014. My seminar, like Richard’s, was held in the wonderful art nouveau Senate House. I don’t have any pictures of Richard speaking, but here I am in the Senate Room where he lectured.
I was most anxious to see Henry Austen’s homes where Jane stayed with her favorite brother on her frequent visits to London. When Henry, then a successful banker, married his fashionable cousin Eliza, widow of the guillotined Comte de Feuillide, they lived in elegant accommodations in Sloane Street. Jane stayed with them in April of 1811. She was correcting the proofs of Sense and Sensibility and said she was ‘never too busy to think’ of it, but her letters tell of a rather constant round of visits, dinners and museums.
Henry and Eliza gave a very grand party while Jane was with them and she recounted it all to Cassandra in great detail. “‘At half past seven arrived the musicians in two Hackney coaches and by eight the lordly company began to appear. . .I spent the greatest part of the evening very pleasantly. . . The drawing room being soon hotter than we liked, we placed ourselves in the connecting passage, which was comparatively cool and gave us all the advantage of the music at a pleasant distance, as well as that of the first view of every new comer. . .We were all delight and cordiality of course.”
Sadly, Henry and Eliza lived here for only 3 years because she died in April 1811. Henry then moved across London to the less fashionable, but bustling Covent Garden to live in rooms above his bank at number 10 Henrietta Street. Shortly after the move Jane reported to Cassandra that “it was all dust and confusion, but in a very promising way.” “No. 10 is made very comfortable with cleaning and painting and the Sloane Street furniture. The front room upstairs is an excellent dining and common sitting parlour.”
The black-painted ground floor exterior with its bright yellow door one encounters today would hardly have done for Henry’s bank, but the classical design of the upper floors are little changed.
Jane made three visits to Henrietta Street in the year and a half Henry lived there, all a constant round of shopping and theatre-going. The location couldn’t have been better, Covent Garden being in the center of the theatre district. Jane did not give a good review of “The Clandestine Marriage” which she saw at the Lyceum, but we were delighted with “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” which we saw there. As were Elizabeth and Richard when they took the young boy they suddenly became responsible for.
|Henry's Bank Cleveland Court|
Henry had two other bank locations in London as well, at Cleveland Court and at the exclusive Albany in Piccadilly.
Five days of almost non-stop walking also enabled us to visit some of Jane’s favorite art galleries and shops and worship in churches she attended. The modern Courtland Exhibit has replaced Royal Academy exhibit Jane planned to see at Somerset House, but Twining’s Teas, where Jane bought the tea supply for her family, is little changed. Jane probably worshipped at St. Paul’s Covent Garden, and at St. James’s Piccadilly, but Belgrave Chapel where she most often attended, has been replaced with a more modest building.
|Belgrave Chapel Site|
Of course, after 200 years many of the sites Jane wrote about in her wonderful reports to Cassandra are no long there, but the miracle, I felt, was that so many are still standing to help the imaginative visitor step back in time and experience Jane Austen’s day alongside our own.
And I had the delight of reliving it all again back home at my computer as I put my characters in those very scenes reminiscing about Jane and looking for clues to understanding the events that threatened them today. Because Elizabeth and Richard are exploring Jane Austen’s London, but their murderous opponent is all-too contemporary.
Donna Fletcher Crow is a former English teacher, a lifelong Anglophile and Janeite, and a Life Member of the Jane Austen Society of North America. She is the author of 50 books, mostly novels of British history. The award-winning Glastonbury, A Novel of Christian England, is her best-known work. . Where There is Love is a series of historical romances set in the Church of England of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Besides her Elizabeth and Richard literary suspense series she also authors The Monastery Murders, a clerical mystery series, and The Lord Danvers Victorian true-crime novels. Donna and her husband live in Boise, Idaho. They have 4 adult children and 14 grandchildren. She is an enthusiastic gardener.
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Thank you for taking us on a tour through Jane Austen's London, Donna. It was fun. It also adds much to the story knowing that it is based on history and true facts. (except for the modern day murders) I love your story-telling and hope you have much success with this book. I enjoyed it immensely!
Now for the giveaway! Donna Fletcher Crow is giving away, one eBook and one paperback and it is international! Great news! Thank you, Ms. Crow. I know that makes my readers happy! As always, leave a comment to be entered. Be sure to include your contact info. The giveaway will end at 11:59 PM on the 26th of September, 2016. Good luck to all.