I Met Jane Austen’s Writing Table


My Son, Upstaging Jane Austen's Writing Chair

This time, last year, I went to England to meet Jane Austen.  I was nervous, and with good reason since I’d taken the liberty of writing about our relationship, even though we’d never met.  I ran the terrible risk of discovering I’d based my book on a deep misunderstanding .  Five years of my life could go down the drain.  

Not to mention what Agent would say.   

Flying to England, I’d considered myself in the same league as Elinor Dashwood and Fanny Price.  Upon landing, it occurred to me that neither Elinor nor Fanny would presume to write first, ask questions later.  I could already feel the sharp end of Jane Austen’s pen, and imagine myself exiled to Portsmouth.   Driving on the wrong side I asked myself how a lowly Mature Debut Author like me could presume to be freinds (I know) with a Sustained Supernova whose immortal blaze cuts across languages, centuries, and planets for all we know.  What was I thinking?       

I met Jane Austen’s front door.  She was not there.  

Jane Austen's Front Door in Bath (trash day)

I met Jane Austen’s crowded museum.  She was not there, either.  

The Jane Austen Centre

I visited Jane Austen’s grave in Winchester Cathedral.  Oh, dear.   

But then we drove to Chawton. 

Everything in Jane Austen’s village is life-size or smaller.    

Standing in the simple room where the modest writing-table occupied a spot near the window, I felt My Jane Austen’s presence.  Not the celebrity icon, but the unaffected woman reined in by class, money, and gender.  The writer who nailed Aunt Norris while Mrs. Austen and Cassandra did chores.  Jane Austen was the person I had imagined: physically present at the little table, yet mentally far away, working in a universe of her own creation.  And this is what we both understand:  being stranded on a desert island is not a problem as long as you have paper, pen, and writing-table.    

Her writing-table is the most unassuming piece of furniture with the most impressive back-story I’ve ever met.


Filed under Agent, Everyone else's Jane Austen, Living in a novel, moment of clarity, My Jane Austen, My Jane Austen Summer

17 responses to “I Met Jane Austen’s Writing Table

  1. Erin

    Love your blog!!!

  2. Lauren

    I love your article. I am a Jane Austen fanatic too (I’ve read four of her books and wrote research papers on two of them) and this summer I made my parents, my sister, and my cousin take a little detour on our London trip and go to Chawton.
    Chawton is very picturesque. I can see why later in life Austen favored the country and didn’t care for thriving cities like Bath.
    I have been to nineteenth century writers homes, such as Louisa May Alcotts, so Jane Austen’s home didn’t seem special to me except that it is in such a beautiful place. But then I saw her writing desk. I felt like I was meeting a movie star. This is where my favorite book Persuasion was written! It was amazing to be in the same place that Jane Austen had been. It was so amazing!

    • You UNDERSTAND! That writing table IS like a movie star! Thank you for saying so. And lucky you, with two books yet to read for the first time. Persuasion is my favorite, right after Mansfield Park. My mother, brother, and son and I went to Chawton and I think everyone enjoyed it. It was raining when we were there, misty and cold in August. (sigh).

  3. Debby

    Such an impressive piece of furniture. Something tells me that, if I were ever to become a famous writer, my laptop and recliner would not have the same effect. Or is it affect? Ah well, guess I’ll give up on fame.

  4. I didn’t have the pleasure of visiting Chawton when I was in England this July. I was in Bath, but it was a very rushed trip!
    I do however understand your connection to this piece of furniture as I had a similar reaction when I saw Beatrix Potter’s writing desk! (I will be posting about that visit hopefully soon).
    Lovely blog! I was happy to find you on Facebook.

  5. I would like to go on a tour of English writers’ desks. I think it would be great! Thank you for reading my blog, I’d love to read yours.

  6. I, too, like thousands (millions?) before me, had an unforgettable close encounter with Jane Austen’s house, and particularly her writing desk. I had already written and sold my novel “The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen,” and was visiting England again to double and triple check the facts and locations in the book. I walked around Chawton Cottage as if under a spell. I stood transfixed before that tiny but all-important piece of furniture! My husband could barely drag me away. Just imagining Jane sitting there, conjuring all those brilliant characters and stories for us to enjoy over the ages… it still makes me smile.

  7. Alvin Burns

    Dear Cindy,
    What a joy to visit with you during our JASNA North Texas dinner in Ft. Worth on Saturday! Your delightful presence made me feel terribly ordinary by comparison but privileged to meet you. I can hardly wait to read your new book in March! You probably can’t imagine how much I envy you and others blessed with the talent to write well. But I do so enjoy reading a well-written story even though I could never write one.

    Your blog about visiting Jane Austen’s house in Chawton brought a flood of happy memories. I have been privileged to visit there on three different occasions, resulting in my joining JASNA about 8 years ago. I have made a hobby of visiting author’s homes when in England through the years (including Beatrix Potter’s) and committed myself to some reading of and about each one. But for some reason none quite grabbed me the way Jane did!

    A son in college? You surely must have been a child bride! I’m so glad you met our daughter Camille Riggs. What a delight to have her share JASNA meetings with me. I’ll bet you two have a lot in common.

    God bless you and yours during this happy Christmas season,

    Alvin Burns

  8. Hi Alvin,
    What a pleasure to meet you and Camille! How interesting to learn that we share so many career highlights. I wish I had asked for her web address so I could see her work. If you read this and think of it, my address is authorcindyjones@gmail.com and I’d love a link to her site. Otherwise, I’ll get it at the next JASNA meeting. Thank you so much for visiting my blog and leaving such a warm note. I’m so glad to know you!
    All best,

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