Life in Jane Austen's London with Sue King

Life in Jane Austen's London with Sue King


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Together we’ll explore the role London plays as a character in Jane Austen's literary world and in her real life. We'll contextualize the buildings, squares, and parks that frame her beloved narratives.

In Jane’s time (1775-1817), London was a fraction of the size it is today and was entrenched in the Napoleonic Wars.  But in laying the groundwork of Britain’s forthcoming Industrial Revolution, the early 1800s saw London leaders construct a series of fashionable squares and consolidate distinct villages which were previously separated by gardens and countryside.

Like Jane Austen herself, her characters often contentedly led sheltered lives in the country – with only the occasional visit to town for medical needs and social gatherings. However, when her characters are depicted in London, their drama ratchets up a notch and hilarity ensues. The iconic landmarks of Regency London almost become characters of the book themselves. Maria Rushworth runs off with Henry Crawford from a house in Wimpole Street; Lydia and Wickham hideaway in the City until Mr. Darcy discovers them, and poor Marianne is snubbed at the ball by Willoughby and discovers he is engaged to another.

During her life, Austen regularly visited relations and her publisher in London but never stayed more than a few weeks. Her letters are full of detail about shopping expeditions, visits to galleries and theatres. Her enthusiasm shines through in letters to her sister Cassandra: “Here I am once more in this Scene of Dissipation & Vice, and I begin to find my morals corrupted” she jokes. Much of the London that Jane knew remains to be explored, and we will journey there together – examining great public buildings, elegant streets, and famous private parks.

Led by an expert guide of the art, architecture, and literature of London, this conversation will explore the places familiar to Jane Austen which formed the backdrop for events in her novels. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with a clearer picture of London which inspired Jane, and the significance of the particular streets and districts mentioned by her critical characters. 

Sue King was born a Londoner and has lived in several other cities including Seoul, Berlin, and Washington DC. Since returning to London, she has spent the last three years studying its art, architecture, literature, and history. Sue holds a research MPhil in History of Art from the Barber Institute, Birmingham University and has specialist knowledge of Victorian Britain through her study of its painting and literature. Her thesis, on symbolism in Victorian Art, focused on the work of the Pre-Raphaelites and she has also made studies in 20th Century American art. Sue is fascinated by London's history and is most interested in the artists and writers who have helped to define it. She loves to recount stories of their lives and works, and their connections with each other and the city.

Not suitable for children under age 13 (sensitive content).

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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