‘We greatly prefer the sea to all our relations’: Jane Austen’s maritime world


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Essential information

Date and time: 
24 July | 2pm-5pm
£25 | £20 concessions
Queen's House, Orangery & South Parlours

This study afternoon explores the range of Jane Austen’s maritime connections from the East India Company to naval warfare and even the sea songs in her music collection.

The sea was a recurring source of fascination and inspiration for Jane Austen.

Her brothers, Francis and Charles, were successful officers in the Royal Navy, bringing the Austen family into a series of well-connected maritime social circles. Jane herself enjoyed the attractions of seaside resorts and the benefits of taking the sea air. Reflecting her life, her novels feature the navy, maritime trade and the seaside.

Talks include

Jane Austen and the East India Company – Professor Emma Clery, University of Southampton

The Austen family were closely linked to Warren Hastings, Governor-General of India and head of the East India Company. Jane’s brother Frances, an officer in the Royal Navy, made adventurous and lucrative voyages to India and China, convoying EIC vessels. This talk will explore the significance of the East India connection in the life and work of Jane Austen.

Jane Austen, Wartime Writer – Professor Kathryn Sutherland, University of Oxford

Jane Austen’s popular and critical reception through much of the twentieth century was built on her seeming ignorance of public events.  But just how ignorant was she?  Turbulent public events touched closely the private lives of several members of the Austen family: her cousin Eliza’s first husband was guillotined; her sailor brothers Frank and Charles saw service in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars and the American War of 1812. They wrote letters home from the East and West Indies, the Middle East and Mediterranean, the North Sea and North American waters, and Austen posted replies: from Chawton in Hampshire to ‘Captn Austen, HMS Elephant, Baltic’, and to China. It is time to reclaim Jane Austen as the first English novelist to explore the effect of contemporary war on the home front.

‘These happy effects on the character of the British sailor’: Sea songs in Jane Austen’s music collection – Gillian Dooley, Flinders University

Songs about sailors and the sea were popular in Britain during Jane Austen’s lifetime. Some were intended to recruit volunteers and encourage patriotic and ‘manly’ behaviour, but they were also part of the musical repertoire of the middle-class drawing room and many are to be found in Austen’s surviving music collection.