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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe

Edward Knight, publican?

Edward Knight, Jane Austen’s third-oldest brother, was a husband, a father, a landowner, and the man who provided one of England’s greatest novelists with a home peaceful enough to sustain her writing. Apparently, he also built a tavern.

Or so I learned last month, when I happened across a news article announcing that the Rose & Crown, an establishment in Hampshire, England, that describes itself as a “destination gastro pub,” is on the market at an asking price of £995,000 (about $1.2 million).

The pub “dates back to 1810 and is believed to have been built as an ale house by Edward Austen Knight,” the article in the local Alton Herald says—apparently quoting the Rose & Crown’s website, which claims that “it is widely believed” that Knight, who owned a stately home in nearby Chawton, was the original builder.

“Is widely believed”? Ah, the pesky passive voice, concealer of a multitude of sins. Who holds this allegedly widespread belief? And what’s the evidence for it? Unclear: I can’t find a mention of Knight’s ale-house interests in the Austen reference books I have to hand, so it’s impossible to answer the multitude of questions that spring to mind: Did Edward just build the pub, or did he take occasional breaks from estate management to pour pints behind the bar? Did his little sister ever stop in for a beer after a tiring day spent revising Mansfield Park? And what would she have thought of the current menu, which includes halloumi, vegan brioche, and a suite of gluten-free offerings?

Curiously enough, the supposed Austen connection goes unmentioned in the pub’s online sales listing. Perhaps the real estate agents didn’t think this fun fact was a selling point. Or perhaps they didn’t think it was a fact. But at least they aren’t claiming that Jane Austen was born there.


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