And having elected, sometime in the closing years of the last century, to write about Jane myself--I had little choice but to follow where she led. I have traipsed around the English countryside in the grip of obsession, hunting for the obvious and the obscure among the Monuments to Jane. I've lost myself in hedgerows searching for Edward Cooper's parsonage, slept in a canopied bed in a Palladian villa outside of Bath, and traced the remnants of a Humphrey Repton garden; but some of my loveliest memories are of Godmersham Park, Edward Austen Knight's estate about eight miles outside Canterbury, in Kent. And I never even looked inside the house.
|Godmersham in Jane and Edward's day|
|The Front Hall at Godmersham|
Years later, I walked through Canterbury myself, looking for the old gaol. I bought some Regency fashion plates--I collect them--at a small bookseller's in one of the town's winding streets, then caught a bus that dropped me without ceremony at the end of Godmersham Park's long drive.
|Sheep on the Godmersham Downs|
It is possible this is the last Jane Austen mystery I will write. I don't regret leaving my Jane here, where I first felt I truly found her--hurrying with her pen and small, handsewn book of paper toward the little temple set on a hill, to gaze out over Edward's paradise, and dream her particular dreams. I hope you find your own Jane Austen in this Canterbury Tale, too.