Monday, 14 December 2015

Happy Birthday Jane - 240 Years Old!

Jane Austen was born 240 years ago on December 16th 1775. One of her biographers, Claire Tomalin wrote:
"The winter of 1775 was a hard one. On Nov 11th the naturalist Gilbert White saw that the trees around his Hampshire village of Selborne had lost almost all their leaves. Fifteen miles away in Steventon, the rector's wife was expecting the birth of her seventh child from day to day as the last leaves fell. She was thirty-six and had been married for eleven years. The November days went by and the rains set in, keeping Mrs. Austen's four boys indoors;by the end of the month it was dark in the house at three in the afternoon, and dinner had to be eaten very promptly if they were to do without candles. Still no baby appeared. December came, bringing an epidemic of colds and feverish complaints.

There was a sharp frost, putting ice on the ponds, enough for the boys to go sliding; then on the 16th Gilbert White noted, 'Fog,sun,sweet day.'" This was the day of Jane Austen's birth- a month later than George and Cassandra Austen had expected the baby's arrival.

"The child came in the evening, without much warning. There was no need for a doctor;it was rare to call one for something as routine as childbirth, and the nearest, in Basingstoke, was seven miles away over bad roads. In any case 'everything was soon happily over.' The Austens were pleased to have a second daughter, 'a present plaything for her sister Cassy and a future companion.'

When the children were allowed into their mother's room, they saw that the new baby had a round face, fat cheeks and bright dark eyes. It was agreed that she looked most like her brother Henry, who had been the longest and finest of all the babies so far, so it is safe to assume that Jane was also long and large. Mrs. Austen fed her daughter at the breast, and as she would not dream of going outside the house for at least a month after the birth, the baby enjoyed undivided attention in the first-floor bedroom."
"On April 5th 1776 after a harsh, dark morning, the sun came out. Little Jane was well wrapped in shawls, her mother put on her pelisse and an extra shawl or two for herself, and the Austen family processed up the lane to the church for Jane's formal, public christening." (Jane had been christened at home by her father immediately after her birth.)?
Eileen Collins