Jane Austen died two hundred years ago this month, on July 18, 1817. Readers around the world are commemorating the anniversary with exhibitions, lectures, conferences and other events, and above all—I hope—by reading and rereading her novels.
A few weeks ago, the Jane Austen Society of the UK held a conference in my hometown of Halifax, Nova Scotia, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Austen’s novels Persuasion and Northanger Abbey, to discuss connections between the Austen family and Halifax, and to honour Jane Austen’s literary achievement in this anniversary year.
Sheila Johnson Kindred and I gave a lecture on the story of Jane Austen’s two naval brothers, Charles and Francis, and the time they spent in Halifax between 1805 and 1811 (Charles) and between 1845 and 1848 (Francis). To complement the lecture, we prepared a walking tour of sites in Halifax that were familiar to Captain Charles Austen and Admiral Sir Francis Austen and their families. I promised to share the walking tour online as well as at the conference, and I’m pleased to say that it’s now available on a new “Austens in Halifax” page on my website. It’s also possible to download and print a PDF of the walking tour.
At the conference, we heard lectures by Cheryl Kinney (“Persuasion: Engineered Injury” and “Jane Austen: Her Doctors and Her Death”), John Mullan (“The Hurry of Northanger Abbey,” “What Matters in Jane Austen?” and “Persuasion and Self-Delusion”), and Peter Sabor (“Jane Austen and Canada: from Anna Lefroy to Joan Austen-Leigh” and “Jane Austen and America: The first fifty years; from 1817 to the late 1860s”). I gave a second lecture on “Anne Elliot’s Ambitions” and Sheila’s second lecture focused on “Fanny Palmer Austen: The Story of a North American Naval Wife.”
Sheila’s biography of Fanny Austen, Jane Austen’s Transatlantic Sister: The Life and Letters of Fanny Palmer Austen, will be published this fall by McGill-Queen’s University Press. The book includes the letters Fanny wrote while she was with her husband Charles in Halifax, and it features rarely seen illustrations.
It was a pleasure to visit many of the sites mentioned in the walking tour during the week-long conference, including Citadel Hill, Government House, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, St. Paul’s Church, and Admiralty House.
There are many photos on the “Austens in Halifax” page, and in two blog posts I wrote in June, “Austens in Bermuda and Nova Scotia” and “Reading Jane Austen’s Poems in the Halifax Public Gardens.” I’ll include a few more photos here, all of which I took during the JAS conference.
St. Paul’s Church, Halifax, Nova Scotia, where Jane Austen’s niece Cassy was baptized in 1809, and her nephew Charles John Austen, Junior married Sophia Emma Deblois in 1848:
Admiralty House (now the Naval Museum of Halifax), where Admiral Sir Francis Austen and his family lived when he was in Halifax, Nova Scotia as Commander-in-Chief of the North American and West Indies Station, 1845-48. The first photo is the view from the front steps of the house: