Jane Austen

Daily Echo:

SHE put Hampshire firmly on the literary map.

For it was the county where Jane Austen, one of the world's most famous authors, spent the greater part of her life.

Born in Steventon, near Basingstoke, her father was the village rector and the family lived in the rectory until Jane was 25.

The house was demolished in 1823, but the 12th-century church remains largely as it was when the Austens knew it.

The decadent social occasions that colour Austen's work may have been drawn from her own experiences in the county.

Like many of her heroines, Austen's upbringing was decidedly middle-class, and she attended dances at the Basingstoke Assembly Rooms in the Market Place, where Barclays Bank now stands.

The Vyne nearby, now a National Trust property, also featured on the social circuit.

After a brief spell in Bath following her father's retirement and subsequent death, Austen returned to Hampshire with her mother and sister, Cassandra.

They moved in with one of her brothers, who had naval connections and lodgings at Castle Square in Southampton.

Austen enjoyed long walks beside Southampton Water and along the Itchen and Test.

The rooms above The Dolphin Hotel in the city's High Street also hosted dances that the sisters attended.

Her stay by the sea was short-lived however, as in 1809 another move took the sisters to the village of Chawton near Alton.

The red-bricked former bailiff's house on the Chawton House Estate is a must-see for Austen pilgrims and is said to be her true literary home.

It was here that she revised her earlier works (Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Northanger Abbey) before publication and wrote Emma, Mansfield Park and Persuasion.

Today the house is a museum, with a collection of family items, letters and displays.

Shortly before her death, Austen moved to College Street in Winchester to be near her doctor.

She died aged 41 from Addison's disease and is buried in the north aisle of Winchester Cathedral.

Understated until the end, her tombstone makes no mention of her written achievements, just as her books were published anonymously, merely stating, "By a lady".

Name: Jane Austen Occupation: Author Date of Birth: December 16, 1775 Died: July 18, 1817 Local link: Her birthplace and home for much of her life.

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