Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Goodbye Dear Jane...

Two hundred years ago on 18 July 1817 at about 4.30 am the wonderful Jane Austen died in the arms of her beloved sister Cassandra at No. 8 College Street Winchester. Jane and Cassandra had moved here from Chawton, about 17 miles away, in the hope of better medical treatment for Jane who was quite unwell.

The cause of Jane’s tragically early death at the age of 41 has been the subject of much speculation. She may have died from Addison’s disease, from some form of cancer or from tuberculosis. Earlier this year a new theory emerged. Jane may have died from arsenic poisoning!

The British Library arranged testing for some spectacles found in Jane Austen’s Writing Slope / Desk. This portable desk had been donated to the library in 1999 by Joan Austen-Leigh a great-great-great niece of Jane Austen. Tests of the spectacles suggested that Jane Austen was long-sighted but may have needed reading glasses as she could have developed cataracts. From the results of these tests it was further suggested that Jane Austen may have died from accidental arsenic poisoning as arsenic was commonly found in medicines in 19th century England. The truth is that we will never really know what caused Jane Austen’s early death two hundred years ago..

Eileen Collins

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Jane's Journey to Winchester

On Saturday 24 May Jane and Cassandra set off on the sixteen-mile journey to Winchester, in James's carriage,sent over from Steventon for the purpose,and attended by Henry and their nephew William Knight;it distressed Jane to see them 'riding in rain almost all the way.' Mrs Heathcote had arranged accommodation for them near the Close,at Mrs David's small house,No 8 College Street,where they occupied rooms on the first floor. 'Our lodgings are very comfortable.We have a neat little Drawg.room with a Bow-window overlooking Dr Gabell's Garden' Jane told James-Edward in her letter to him of 27 May. She wrote in a resolutely optimistic tone and with her usual note of wry humour
'I will not boast of my handwriting;neither that nor my face have yet recovered their proper beauty, but in other respects I am gaining strength very fast'
(Deirdre Le Faye:JANE AUSTEN A Family Record)

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Jane's Austen's Will - On This Day 200 Years Ago

By March 1817 Jane Austen was unable to continue writing "The Brothers", later renamed "Sanditon", as she was quite unwell. On  April 27th, probably aware of the serious nature of her illness, Jane Austen wrote her will at her home in Chawton. The beneficiary of almost everything Jane had was her dear sister Cassandra. She specified a payment of £50 to her brother Henry who had helped so much in getting her books published, and another £50 to Henry's French housekeeper Madame Bigeon who had lost all her savings when Henry's bank failed. Allowing for the payment  of funeral expenses and the two legacies mentioned, everything else she possessed was willed by Jane to her beloved sister Cassandra.It is estimated that this amounted to just under £800.
As Jane's will had not been witnessed two of her friends had to sign sworn statements that they recognised Jane's handwriting as they had known her for many years.
Thankfully the legacy of her wonderful writing has been left to all of us her readers.

Less than three months after writing her will Jane Austen died in Winchester at the early age of 41.
Eileen Collins