The novelist Jane Austen spent time in Goodnestone visiting her brother Edward and other family connections who lived in the parish. From her surviving letters we catch glimpses of life here between 1796 and 1817.
It is interesting to hear her mention places which will be familiar to villagers today. In September 1796 she was staying at Rowling and describes a convivial evening in Goodnestone – dinner and dancing and a walk home to Rowling under the shade of two umbrellas – and a walk to Crixhall ruff. The following week she is still in Rowling, has been to an evening party in Canterbury returning by moonlight, has seen Farmer Clainbould’s funeral procession pass by and relates that her brothers have been shooting with mixed success.
In August 1805 she is staying at Goodnestone Farm and mentions how much she has enjoyed walking up to Rowling after dinner on each of the preceding two evenings. The distance is not inconsiderable. She has also had time to visit “all the principal walks of this place, except the walk round the top of the park, which we shall accomplish probably today” . The reason for this visit was to keep company a young lady who was ailing and we are put in mind of the episode in Pride and Prejudice when Elizabeth walks across country to Netherfield Park, muddying her petticoats in the process, to visit sister Jane who has fallen ill there.
We hear of the fair in Goodnestone in 1813. Her young nieces from Godmersham are to spend the weekend in Goodnestone for the fair. It’s clear the young people are keen to go and that their elders are less so! She refers to it as the “famous Fair, which makes its yearly distribution of gold paper & coloured persian through all the Family connections”
Jane Austen was born in Hampshire in 1775 and died in Winchester in 1817. Pride & Prejudice was first published in 1813 although the first version seems to have been written around 1796.