Friday, February 05, 2010

Jane in the Rain - It Mattered Not

"So where are you off to", my husband asked politely as I raced around the house throwing things into a backpack.

“I’m off to Box Hill with my Austen class. See you tonight.”

“Oh, is it an interesting house?”

“No, silly, it’s a hill – right outside of London. Great views. You know, it’s where they had that famous picnic in Emma.

Wait, your class is going to a hill? But it’s pouring.

Who cares? They don’t even know if Jane Austen ever saw Box Hill. If she can imagine it, well, so can I.

And imagine we did as we trudged through the rain, the fog and the mud. Thanks to our intrepid teacher, Alice Leader (you can read about Alice here and buy her books here ) we ‘saw’ Box Hill through the eyes of Jane Austen’s characters, even though, in actual fact, we saw next to nothing. We talked about how the servants and carriages would have made it up the hill, how the area would have been made ready for the fashionable business of dining “au plein air” and how Emma would have had her famous denouement with Mr Knightley. As our guide Mark so nicely put it, “The people change, but the place stays the same”.

While we Austenites were busy with our imaginings, we were passed by all kinds of walkers and mountain bikers, also undeterred by weather. Box Hill, is a country park of more than 800 acres, that is part of the National Trust which oversees more than 300 historic homes and gardens. It has much to offer anyone who loves nature and a fitting tribute to this other worldly place so close to London can be found in the opening line of Keats’ poem Endymion, which he finished while staying at the Burford Bridge Hotel at the foot of Box Hill:

A thing of beauty is a joy forever.


  1. Its loveliness increases; it will never
    Pass into nothingness;

    Dear John,
    Oh yes it will. "Beauty is truth, truth beauty" Really, John?

    Dear Kate, Is this not the beginning of Romanticism?

    BTW thanks for this. You really are a good sport.

    best, John Chypre

  2. Kann ich so nur zustimmen