If you’re a bit stir-crazy after fifteen months’ home confinement, the Four Seasons luxury hotel chain has a suggestion for you: drive across Europe, on one of six itineraries strung between London and Moscow. (Yes, according to Four Seasons, Great Britain remains a European destination, Brexit be damned.)
The British leg of the journey takes you on a ninety-minute jaunt from London to the Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire – summer room rates starting at more than a thousand dollars per night – where, along with golf, falconry, and clay-pigeon shooting, one of the optional activities includes “a private tour of Jane Austen’s House,” aka “the pretty Hampshire cottage where Jane wrote her beloved novels.”
“Here, visitors can travel back to 1816 and follow in the renowned novelist’s footsteps,” explains a company press release on the “top five history spots in Hampshire.”
So I’ve got some questions. For the moment, I’m not asking how Stonehenge, which is in Wiltshire, and Waverley Abbey, which is in Surrey, can make a list of historical sites in Hampshire. I’m not even holding Four Seasons responsible for one travel website’s glossing of Chawton cottage as “famed author Jane Austen’s country home,” as if she were some habitual city-dweller with a weekend place in the Hamptons. (Purchased, no doubt, with the proceeds from her movie sales.)
No, what I’m really curious about is -- why 1816? Austen moved to Chawton in 1809 and left for the last time in 1817. Yes, she did spend much of 1816 there, busily monitoring the sales and reviews of Emma, writing Persuasion, and coping with the early stages of the illness that would kill her the following year, but still – it seems a tad random to single out that year in particular.
But I won’t be churlish. If someone wants to offer me the expensive hotel room, the private tour of Chawton Cottage – even the visit to Hampshire sites that aren’t in Hampshire – I won’t say no. It’s been a long fifteen months.