To read a Jane Austen novel is to fall in love with Regency era Britain, so let’s jump into the grand stately homes, etiquette-filled tea drinking and romantic county dances.
Bath is a picture of Georgian elegance and was the height of fashionable society in the early 1800s. Jane Austen lived in the city from 1801 to 1806, and much of her writing on city life and experiences was based on her time here. The World Heritage site, with its Palladian architecture carved from golden Bath stone, remains virtually unchanged since Austen’s day, with Bath Abbey and the Royal Crescent two shining examples.
Jane Austen spent the last eight years of her life in Chawton, a Hampshire village between Winchester and London. This is where she did much of her mature writing, including Persuasion and Emma, and revised several of her earlier works.
This house is now Jane Austen's House museum, a fascinating 17th-century home in an idyllic setting, full of marvellous Regency era possessions. After her death, Jane Austen was buried in the nearby Winchester Cathedral,
Jane Austen’s characters enjoyed nothing more than a lively jig about, so why not try some quaint Regncy era country dancing yourself?
There’s no need dress up, but you might find it interesting to look into some ballroom etiquette beforehand. For example, guests at a ball often brought fans to cool down between dances, but these could also be used convey hidden messages to prospective suitors. For instance, a fan half-closed and held to the lips, meant ‘I would like to kiss you’.
There were a range of dances popular at Regency era balls for you to try, including English country dances, the Scotch Reel and the Boulanger dance, mentioned in Pride and Prejudice. You’re just a coordinated hop, skip and a jump away from becoming a regular Jane Bennett or Mr Bingley
When she wasn’t writing about balls or soaking up the spa town of Bath, Jane Austen is known to have enjoyed visits to Lyme Regis, a quaint coastal town on the South Coast of England. Her love of this British destination is evident in letters to her sister Cassandra, as she wrote fondly of walks along the seafront. A few of Jane’s notable experiences there are mentioned in Persuasion – which is debatably the most autobiographical of all her novels.
Undoubtedly, the talented writer would have promenaded along the Cobb, and seen the steps that she mentions in Persuasion, as this is the spot where where protagonist Louisa Musgrove allegedly fell on the famous harbour wall.
Much of the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice (1995), starring Colin Firth, was filmed on the Chatsworth Estate in Derbyshire. It is believed that Jane Austen based Mr Darcy’s breathtaking stately home of Pemberley on Chatsworth house, as she is known to have visited the nearby village of Bakewell whilst writing the novel. The tale also mentions Chatsworth by name, as one of the estates visited by the love-struck Elizabeth Bennet.
Want to find out how to enjoy an afternoon tea like Jane and her heroes and heroines?
A traditional British afternoon tea should include finger sandwiches, a warm scone served with Dorset clotted cream, jam and a pot of tea. Why not follow our simple scone recipe and create your very own Austen-inspired afternoon tea!
Another favourite sweet treat from the Regency era was a sugary Bath Bun from Sally Lunn’s, who have been filling bellies with their succulent treats since 1780. In her letters, Austen commented that she was ‘disordering her stomach with 'Bath bunns’, meaning that she had indulged in far too many that day!