You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘jane austen’ tag.

The Valley of Fear by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (100 years)

221b Bake Street, London, Sherlock Homes Museum

Sherlock Holmes’ famous flat, 221b Baker Street, London

In the fourth and final novel starring Sherlock Holmes, a coded message warning of imminent danger is delivered to his London flat and hastily sends him crime-solving in the countryside. Visitors to the fictional sleuth’s Victorian-era quarters at 221bBaker Street—once shared with roommate and detecting partner Dr. Watson—can be forgiven for thinking he might reappear there at any moment. The rooms he “rented” have been vividly re-created just as they’re described in “A Study in Scarlet” and other tales. On display at the Sherlock Holmes Museum are the detective’s most prized possessions, including his deerstalker cap and the Persian slipper where he stored his tobacco.

The Metamorphoses by Franz Kafka (100 years)

Franz Kafka Museum, Prague (photo: prague.eu)

Franz Kafka Museum, Prague (photo: prague.eu)

The strange story of a man who wakes up one morning to find himself transformed into a large, insect-like creature was one of only a few of Franz Kafka’s works published during his lifetime. Before his death from tuberculosis at age 41, the relatively unknown author implored a friend, Max Brod, to burn his diaries, manuscripts, and letters unread. Instead Brod overrode the directive and published three of Kafka’s unfinished novels, including The Trial and The Castle. Today, Prague’s Franz Kafka Museum continues the work of Brod and others who refused to let the writer fade into anonymity. Some not-to-miss items are the last known photo of Kafka and the final letter he wrote to his parents the day before he died. w

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (150 years)

Alice in Wonderland Window Oxford

Stained glass window in the Great Hall, Christ Church College, Oxford, UK

The original manuscript of Carroll’s beloved book is usually on display in the rare treasures gallery at the British Library in London. Soon Alice admirers in the U.S. will have a chance to view the manuscript, the centerpiece of exhibits at the Morgan Library in New York City (June 26-October 11) and the Rosenbach Museum & Library in Philadelphia (October 14-March 27, 2016). Across the pond, in Oxford, Carroll was a mathematician at Christ Church College, where the dean’s daughters, Alice and Edith Liddell, inspired the storytelling that eventually led to his famed book. Inside the college’s Great Hall is a stained glass window featuring images of the fictional Alice and the characters she encounters underground. For more places with Carroll connections, check out Culture 24’s article “Alice in Wonderland: On the Trail of Lewis Carroll.”

Emma by Jane Austen (200 years)

The English cottage where Jane Austen conjured up the escapades of Emma Woodhouse.

The English cottage where Jane Austen conjured up the escapades of Emma Woodhouse.

The sparkling satire Emma flowed from Jane Austen’s pen in a 17th century cottage in Chawton, England. Prior to moving into the abode, located on her wealthy brother’s country estate, in 1809, none of her work had been published. Her time in Chawton proved prolific. In addition to Emma, the novelist turned out Mansfield Park and Persuasion and revised Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. The writing table where she worked is on display in the cottage, now Jane Austen’s House Museum. Emma-related events are taking place throughout the year, leading up to the anniversary tie-in in December.

Don Quixote, Part II by Miguel Cervantes (400 years)

Don Quixote's "giants" in the Spanish countryside.

Don Quixote’s “giants” in the Spanish countryside.

On a hillside in Campo de Criptana, Spain, witness the spectacles put on by the famous windmills that Don Quixote valiantly battled after mistaking them for giants. The comic misadventures of the chivalry-obsessed knight errant and his faithful squire, Sancho Pancho, were enormously popular with 17th century readers. Miguel Cervantes is believed to have begun writing what is considered the first modern novel while imprisoned in a cave underneath the Casa de Medrano, some 60 miles south of where the windmills turn. He had the misfortune of being imprisoned at least twice for irregularities in his accounts while working his day job as a tax collector.

chawtonTo celebrate the 200th anniversary of the arrival of Jane Austen in the rural village of Chawton, on July 3 the recently restored Chawton House will be hosting a sumptuous Regency Ball. ‘The Great House’, as it was known in Austen’s day, was once the scene of numerous Austen family gatherings.

During the special evening, deep-pocketed costumed guests who can afford the event’s $5,000 price tag can wander through the house’s 18th century splendor, dance to traditional Regency music in its Great Hall,  and partake in an elegant Regency supper with dishes prepared from recipes in the house’s collection of eighteenth-century cookbooks. Dinner will be served on the magnificent mahogany table at which Jane and her family once dined, and guests can admire Edward Austen Knight’s silver, which will be on display along with the tableware Jane helped her brother choose on a visit to London in 1813.

Proceeds from the event, which will also host celebrity guests who starred in BBC productions of  Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, and Sense and Sensibility, will go to further the educational role of Chawton House as the home of early women’s writing. The house (not to be confused with modest Chawton Cottage, located nearby and home to Jane Austen for the last eight years of her life) is home to an extensive and valuable library of some 9,000 tomes focusing primarily on women’s writing between the years of 1600 to 1830. The library is accessible to members of the public via application, and guided tours of the house, library and gardens take place every Tuesday and Thursday at 2.30 pm.

The next best thing to reading the classics themselves is reading novels that vividly re-imagine the lives of famed authors. The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl immediately comes to mind, as does a new book out this week, Cassandra & Jane by Jill Pitkeathley, who is a guest blogger today on ReadingGroupGuides.com. Her novel illuminates the extraordinary bond between Jane Austen and her beloved sister, Cassandra, who nursed her through ill-health and later (much to the lament of today’s literary biographers and Jane fans) destroyed much of the great author’s correspondence to protect her privacy.  

Though there were eight Austen siblings, there were only two girls, and Jane, like a typical younger sister, doted on Cassandra. As their mother once ruefully commented, “if Cassandra’s head had been going to be cut off, Jane would have hers cut off too.” Though not a writer, Cassandra also had a creative bent, and her watercolors graced the pages of Jane’s early parody, The History of England, written when she was just fifteen years old. (You can virtually turn the pages of this youthful literary gem by clicking here on the British Library’s website.) 

Most importantly, Cassandra is responsible for the only reasonably certain portrait of the author from life, which is on display in England’s National Gallery. The portrait dates from 1810, a year after the two sisters had moved with their mother into a small cottage in Chawton, England. After the death of George Austen in 1805, the three women were dependent on the charity and goodwill of the Austen brothers for their survival, but nonetheless, the years they spent in Chawton were largely happy ones. (One of my favorite mementos from their time there is a quilt the three women stitched together, which you can check out if you visit the cottage today.)

Unfortunately, a cloud marred their shared happiness in 1816, when Jane’s health started to rapidly decline from a mysterious illness (suspected to be either Addison’s Disease or Hodgkin’s Lymphoma). She died in her sister’s arms a year later on July 18 at the age of 41.–Joni Rendon

novel-destinations-second-edition-cover writersF

Enter your email address to follow Novel Destinations and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Follow Shannon on Twitter

%d bloggers like this: