Deborah Yaffe

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Back in Winchester. . .

By Deborah Yaffe, Apr 22 2019 01:00PM

The cathedral city of Winchester, England, seems to have a love-hate relationship with Jane Austen. Or so we might assume from the odd juxtaposition of two recent bits of news.


Earlier this year, as blog readers will recall, Winchester Cathedral, where Austen is buried, scrapped plans to erect an expensive statue in her honor, after a torrent of public criticism. Around the same time, however, the cathedral unveiled a new tourism package featuring a “Jane Austen themed tour.”


For £18.50 (about $24), visitors get a guided tour of the cathedral, offering “an intimate and often amusing insight into [Austen's] life”; a walk through the Inner Close to the College Street house where she died, which is not open to visitors; and afternoon tea in the cathedral’s refectory. (Scones and clotted cream! Hurrah!)


Critics of the statue plan noted that Austen had only a tenuous connection to Winchester – she came to the city to seek medical treatment and died less than two months later – and the cathedral’s tour arrangements inadvertently confirm this inconvenient fact: Visitors meet their guide at 11:25 am and are finished with Austen and ready for tea by 1 pm. The afternoon is allocated to “free time to explore Winchester.”


Still: scones, clotted cream, and one of England’s most beautiful cathedrals. A soupçon of Jane Austen is just a bonus.


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