It’s been a sadly long time since I strolled through the garden at Jane Austen’s House, the cottage in Chawton, Hampshire, where Austen spent the last eight years of her life. Now, the museum has launched a new initiative that stands to make such garden strolls even more magical for dedicated Janeites.
Benches in the cottage garden are now adorned with QR codes that give access to audio recordings of five different excerpts from four Austen novels. The snippets, which are performed by professional actors and range in length from four to fifteen minutes, include the strawberry-picking party at Donwell Abbey, in Emma (“English verdure, English culture, English comfort”); Elizabeth’s visit to Darcy’s home, in Pride and Prejudice (“to be mistress of Pemberley might be something!”); and the walk to Winthrop, in Persuasion (“autumn, that season of peculiar and inexhaustible influence on the mind of taste and tenderness”).
Yes, it’s possible to access the excerpts online and listen to them anywhere—no Chawton cottage visit required. But how much better to hear those wonderful words read aloud in the place where Austen wrote! It’s almost worth the price of a plane ticket.