©We have to thank the Jane Austen House Museum at Chawton (the only house in which Jane Austen lived and wrote which is open to the public) for allowing us to reproduce this image of our favourite author’s own handiwork, which the British Library currently has on loan from them. 

How do you work out your plots? Develop character? Decide how to effectively bring lovers together in a satisfying way?

Staring at a blank screen or sheet of paper can be more frustrating than inspirational. Instead, some of us develop our fiction while doing the family ironing (several gruesome murders in Herefordshire came about this way), others use a Labrador tugging at the extremity of a smart leather lead. I frequently nudge my subconscious into activity by dead-heading roses or measuring out the ingredients for a lemon drizzle cake.

One feels that Jane Austen knew the value of displacement activity instinctively. As an accomplished needlewoman, who made her own caps and no doubt her everyday gowns, she spent some of her leisure hours creating embroidered gifts for family and friends. The above photo is of a simple paper needle case stitched for her niece, Louisa. Did quiet time with her needle also help her decide that Lydia’s elopement would provide a satisfactorily scandalous derailment of the burgeoning romance between Elizabeth and Darcy? Did Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s insufferable arrogance simmer into being while Jane Austen frowned over the inflexibity of a back stitch? Darcy’s ungentlemanly proposal speech evolve over a peppering of French knots?

It is a delight to discover yet another of Jane Austen’s talents. Her perfectly constructed novels are like Savile Row tailoring. Pieces of story carefully selected and shaped to marry into an elegant whole. One creative art perhaps enhancing another. Maybe I should unearth that unfinished (and sadly amateurish) piece of tapestry from the attic…

We’d love to know how you distract yourself into creativity.

The Jane Austen House Museum, is, of course, an essential visit. They now own and have on display her gold and turquoise ring which was saved from leaving the country in 2014.

Austen House

Austen House