Monday, 25 July 2011

Jane Austen had a brother, Henry.

Revd. Henry Thomas Austen
closeRevd. Henry Thomas Austen — Henry Thomas Austen, an elder brother of the novelist Jane Austen, had a colourful life with three careers: a military one, a banking one and a clerical one. In the close- knit circle of the Austen family, Henry's involvement with his famous sister was considerable. In April 1811 Jane was staying with the Henry Austens as she corrected the proofs of Sense and Sensibility. Later on, the titles for Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were thought probably to have been chosen by Henry. Jane once described her cheerful brother as having "not a mind for affliction", and it is thought that she resembled him in a number of ways. Of his preaching, Jane expressed the view that "Henry writes very superior sermons". Quite a testimonial from one of the best-loved figures of English Literature.
In fact , Jane Austen had six Brothers but only one interests me- Henry.1771-1850.

Today he is buried in a small 3 acre site - not much visited , but a haven of protectionism surrounded  by eminient  Victorians such as Charles Tatteshall Dodd and Joshua Bell and really he should be more celebrated, revered and visited . This whole Cemetary should.

What a life he must have had,  eclipsed by his famous sister and indeed if not for her he would just be another name on a gravestone in this mortuary garden . But no -he is Jane Austen's brother and was an important part of her life. She has moulded literature so much so his part needs to be recognised and celebrated.

                                                                                                                                                                            It is this secret place, accessed through a public road into a special, magical arena that I went to today in glorious sunshine to an open air Victorian concert. The Gravelly Graveyard group and the Clockhouse Recorder consort entertained us with singing, music and victorian readings.

But before I am carried away with the emotion of the event . I wanted to feel the spirit of the place. 

I wandered through, admiring trees that are so beautiful, knarled and old they should have preservation orders on them.What stories they could tell, but they are keeping their secrets.
 This is an amazing oasis, filled with history and imagery on a small scale. No, it cannot equale Highgate with its structures, but its residents are magnificent and deserve attention, especially the number of young children who never had the chance to achieve their potential,but are buried with the great and good in such a small place.

                                                                                                                                                                                So now I am off to read' Sense and Sensiblity', in grey of course, in this marvellous edition , even though I can download it onto my kindle for free, but somehow I need to own it.

I am looking forward to re- meeting the Dashwood sisters and exploring their loves and heartaches within the larger social context. These editions from Penguin are so beautiful I may need to purchase some more- and a new bookcase!

                                                                                                                                                                                 In parting words from a traditional British song, sung by the  Gravelly Graveyard  group, I am proud  that my town- Tunbridge Wells , has such a literary connection.

Fare thee well, for I must leave thee
Do not let the parting grieve thee,And remember that the best of friends must part,must part.
Adieu, kind friends,adieu,adieu,adieu
I can no longer stay with you, stay with you,
I must hang my harp on a weeping willow tree
And may the world go well with thee

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