On Sunday, I went on a pilgrimage to Winchester Cathedral.
(Description: large stone building in the distance, surrounded by low green hills)
We walked from a small village through English lanes and across fields to Winchester, where we passed by this house, where Jane Austen died, in 1817.
(Description: buttery-yellow house, small plaque on the front wall)
We didn’t go into the house, because it is a private residence. Mr Bee adjourned to the pub, and I went to the cathedral, to bow my head beside Jane Austen’s grave.
(Description: black gravestone set into the floor.)
Her grave is quite plain, and doesn’t mention her writing at all. It reads:
In Memory of
youngest daughter of the late
Rev GEORGE AUSTEN.
formerly Rector of Steventon in this County
she departed this Life on the 18th July, 1817
aged 41, after a long illness supported with
the patience and the hopes of a Christian.
The benevolence of her heart,
the sweetness of her temperment
the extraordinary endowments of her mind
obtained the regard of all who knew her and
the warmest love of her intimate connections
Their grief is in proportion to their affection
they know their loss to be irreparable
but in their deepest affliction they are consoled
by a firm though humble hope that her charity,
devotion, faith and purity have rendered
her soul acceptable in the sight of her
In the years after her death, she was memorialised, first with a brass plaque on the wall, and then in 1900, with a great stained glass window.
The window has six images: St Augustine, King David, St John, and the sons of Korah (2 Chronicles 20.19), traditionally regarded as Psalmists.
That’s right. This wonderful woman, who is one of the greatest writers in English, who helped to define and refine the structure of novels, who put questions of love and honour and women’s lives at the centre of her writing, is remembered entirely by images of men.
I sat alongside the gravestone, and thought of this wonderful writer, whose books I love so much. After a while I wandered around the rest of the magnificent cathedral, listening to the organ being played, and the choir practising before Evensong. I returned to the gravestone, and sat again, and then left before the service.
I am so glad to have been able to pay my respects to this great writer.