A couple of years ago, author Jane Lark and her husband travelled to Warwickshire to visit Stoneleigh Abbey. This lovely country manor was the home of the Leigh family from the 1560s through 1990. The Leigh family were cousins of the Austen family and during Jane Austen’s lifetime, she spent time at this lovely estate. In today’s article, Jane Lark shares her perceptions of the house and the various ways in which it is connected to the works of Jane Austen.
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In June my husband and I went to Stoneleigh Abbey near Warwick, Jane Austen’s cousin owned this property and she visited there with her mother not long after her father died, when they were required to live on the charity of family. They were going to live with her brother but he was not able to take them in yet and so they went to stay with a cousin who at that point inherited Stoneleigh Abbey. They travelled with him to claim his inheritance. On Wednesdays the house tour is a Jane Austen tour and they explain how — like me — she drew inspiration from her visit to the house for her books. There are even items there that are described in the books. And the story of Persuasion was inspired by the story she heard about an ancestor whose portrait hangs there.
One of the things they discussed was Jane’s mother’s descriptions of their stay there in her letters. One fact I particularly drew from this was her descriptions of what they ate. Often notes on history are conflicting and a few authors include sausages for breakfast in descriptions — they did not eat breakfast was we do now. Jane Austen’s mother particularly extols the plum cake. Letters are a fabulous way of learning what life was really like in the Regency era and people wrote loads — think how many times you text or email — well they sent letters. I have a book of Lady Caroline Lamb’s letters (she of a spectacular affair with Lord Byron fame), Harriette Wilson’s memoirs (a renowned courtesan of the era) and also Jane Austen’s letters to her sister. They give loads of details about life and fashion —fascinating —and when you read my books you will see these appear in them and loads of inspiration is taken from them.
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This month, Illicit Love, Jane Lark’s debut novel, will be published by Sapphire Star Publishing. It promises to be rather more steamy than any of Jane Austen’s novels, as it is based on the real life stories of some nineteenth-century courtesans. You can find more details about Lark’s first novel at her web site: http://www.janelark.co.uk.
© 2011 – 2013 Jane Lark
This article was first published at her blog Stories from history, in August of 2011.
Posted at The Beau Monde by permission of the author.