As every homeowner knows, the passage of time can wreak havoc on even the best-constructed building. Paint peels, window frames warp, roofs start to leak – it’s common. And when your home is a couple of centuries old, it’s inevitable.
So it’s no surprise that Chawton cottage, the iconic Hampshire house where Jane Austen wrote or revised all her novels, is in need of some fixing up. And given that next year is the bicentenary of Austen’s death – and therefore, in our anniversary-obsessed culture, the occasion for all manner of festivals, commemorations, publications and the like – it’s no surprise that the trustees of the cottage, now a museum of Austen's life, are using the momentous date as the excuse for a bit of fixer-upper fundraising.
The Jane’s Fund campaign, which launched last month, aims to raise £250,000 ($318,000) toward “vital building repairs. . .required to ensure that the fabric of the house does not deteriorate further,” explains the web site of Jane Austen’s House Museum. “Exterior and interior work will secure the house now and protect it for future generations. In addition, there is an exciting plan to refurbish each of the House’s rooms to bring visitors closer to Austen’s life and works than ever before.”
Those lucky folks who can afford to donate £1,000 ($1,280) or more (don’t look at me!) will get a private tour of the house, free from the encroachments of pesky fellow Janeites. No word on whether dinner with Colin Firth is on offer in exchange for an even bigger gift.