The display will reassess Austen’s relationship with the town in the light of a long-term misunderstanding, arising from a hand-written letter of 8 January 1799. Curator Dr Alexandra Loske said: “For many years, Austen has been quoted as having written: ‘I assure you that I dread the idea of going to Brighton as much as you can do..’, but her sentence actually referred to Bookham, a village in Surrey, rather than Brighton. We now know that Austen may not have felt as negatively about the town as has been thought.”
Walking Dress, 1818 Fashion plate from Ackermann’s Repository of Arts.., University of Sussex, Special Collections
Photo: James Pike
Jane Austen by the Sea will look at the seaside context of Austen’s plots and paint a picture of the leading resort of Brighton in the early 1800s, when it was a fashionable ‘watering place’ featured in novels like Pride and Prejudice.
George IV, who created the Royal Pavilion and spent long periods living there when he was Prince Regent, was a high-profile fan of Austen’s – and although she seemed not to approve of his lifestyle she was encouraged to dedicate Emma to him in 1815.
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