This year marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s masterpiece Pride and Prejudice, as of today still ranked #7 in the Fiction Classics category of the Amazon Kindle Store and #252 in the Top Free Kindle ebook listings. Since I’m presently staying in Austen’s native county of Hampshire, I dropped in on the Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton, where she lived while the famous work was completed and published, for some contemporary impressions.
As it happens, Pride and Prejudice was largely complete before 1797, under the earlier draft title of First Impressions, so the house at Chawton played no part in the genesis of the novel. But Jane Austen was living there while she finished the final revisions before its publication in 1813, so the house has some justification to host the writing table where she reportedly wrote her works.
The now-famous Jane Austen ten-pound note design is also prominently displayed outside the museum’s gift shop.
The shop itself is full of editions of Jane Austen’s works of every style and price, including antiques, as well as plentiful souvenirs of smouldering Mr. Darcy images, as well as other Austen memorabilia. But not one Kindle or ereading device.
Perhaps one day we’ll see a serious ebook display in sites of literary-historical interest like this, but it may have to wait until the place takes a more serious approach as a whole to Jane Austen the great writer, rather than Jane Austen the cream tea and interior decoration icon.