I’ve spent the last several weeks moving The Republic of Pemberley to a new server and a new platform. This is the fourth or fifth time our web site has moved since it started as a one-horse bulletin board on a small local server. This, however, is the first moved necessitated by the need to retrench and it made me think about the moves that Jane Austen made in her life, all them driven by the shrinking income as a result of her father’s retirement and then death.
Jane Austen was born in 1775 in Steventon, Hampshire. The Steventon parsonage in which she was born and in which she spent her childhood is no longer standing, but St. Nicholas Church, where her father was vicar, is still there and still honors her memory. When George Austen retired and turned his church over to his son, James in 1801, he and his wife and two daughters moved to Bath. They first leased 4 Sydney Place, a good location and fine building, but moved to Green Park Buildings in 1804.
When Jane Austen first looked at Green Park Buildings in 1801, she wrote to her sister: Our views on G. P. Buildings seem all at an end; the observation of the damps still remaining in the offices of an house which has been only vacated a week, with reports of discontented families and putrid fevers, has given the coup de grace. We have now nothing in view. When you arrive, we will at least have the pleasure of examining some of these putrefying houses again; they are so very desirable in size and situation, that there is some satisfaction in spending ten minutes within them.
And yet, within three years, they had moved into them. At George Austen’s death in 1805, his income from the livings in Hampshire ceased and money became even tighter, forcing Mrs. Austen, Cassandra, and Jane to move from Green Park Buildings to 25 Gay Street.
At this time, Jane’s brothers began talking about supporting their mother and sisters. In 1807, the three Austen women moved from Bath to Castle Square in Southampton.
In 1809, Edward Austen Knight, offered the Bailiff’s cottage on his estate in Chawton to his mother and sisters. Jane Austen moved to Chawton cottage in July of that year and lived there until the year of her death, in 1817, when she spent May through July in Winchester at 8 College Street to be near her doctor.
Jane’s years in Chawton were a fecund period for her writing. There she revised Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, and wrote Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion.
We hope that the Republic of Pemberley’s move with Jane Austen is as successful as her removal to Chawton. Please come visit us at our new home.