There’s a bit of England that exists in the popular imagination that is entirely conjured up by reading Jane Austen’s novels: a world of grand balls, drawing-room politics, headstrong heroines, and the incorrigible Mr. Darcy. This year is the best yet for Austen fans to experience the author’s world, thanks to the Jane Austen 200 festival organised by the Hampshire Cultural Trust. The lushly wooded county of Hampshire, where Austen was born and buried and located about a 2hr-drive from London, marks 200 years since Austen’s death with guided walks, concerts and picnics all through 2017.
Embrace England’s drippy weather on the self-guided Rain Jane Trail—when it rains, 12 quotes from Austen’s novels will appear on pavements at 39 locations in Winchester city centre. Take a break in the College Street garden opposite the house where Austen died; sit on the bench facing a quote temporarily displayed on a wall of ivy: “Know your own happiness. Call it hope.” Catch “The Mysterious Miss Austen” exhibition from May until July 2017 in Winchester Discovery Centre Gallery, which brings together portraits, letters, and Austen’s personal objects from public and private collections. Look out for Austen’s silk pelisse, the only gown proven to be hers. From July to August 2017, fans can sit on book-shaped benches placed around Hampshire, and contemplate landscapes that were important to her. At Austen’s grave in Winchester Cathedral, join a guided tour and exhibition until November 2017. There are talks, performances of her novels like Persuasion, and concerts on the music she liked and would have been familiar with.
Plus, there’s fare that Austen fans usually turn up for in Hampshire. In nearby Chawton village are the homes of Austen and her brother, now Jane Austen House Museum and Chawton House Library. Dress up for the annual ball, go to a vintage fair, and attend workshops on dancing and embroidery at the Jane Austen Regency Week, in Chawton and Alton in June. More insights on the life and times of the author await at the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, 3hr from London (more here).
What: Jane Austen 200
Where: Various locations across Hampshire, about 2hr by road from London, U.K.
When: Events ongoing until December 2017
Entry: Some events are ticketed; check with the website for updates.