Jane Austen never crossed the North Atlantic. Unlike Mrs. Croft in Austen’s novel Persuasion, who says she has “crossed the Atlantic four times” and travelled “once to the East Indies … besides being in different places about home,” Austen’s personal experience of travel was limited to relatively short journeys such as the ones between Chawton and Godmersham or London. But her brothers, especially Charles and Francis, did travel extensively, and through her knowledge of their journeys, her experience of the pleasures and difficulties of short trips, and her imaginative engagement with the idea of what it means to travel away from home and back again, Jane Austen explored both the familiar and the unfamiliar.
Sheila Johnson Kindred, Brian Southam, Peter W. Graham, and I presented papers at the 2005 Jane Austen Society Conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in which we analyzed the literal journeys of Charles and Francis Austen, some of the imagined journeys and naval experiences in Jane Austen’s novels, and a range of transatlantic responses to her fictional world. The papers are collected in Jane Austen and the North Atlantic, which I edited for the Society in 2006.