Reading of Sanditon at JAHM on 17 March 2017
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On 17 March 1817 Jane Austen made what would turn out to be her last additions to the text of her unfinished Sanditon. She went to bed that night as England's then greatest novelist. Something then happened to her which we will probably never know the specifics of but the following day she added the date 18 March 1817 to mark her finishing her work on the manuscript and then apart from a few brief items (letters and so on) she never wrote again. We assume that her illness had taken a sudden and severe turn and she was of course to die at far too young an age just four months later on 18 July 1817.
To mark the bicentenary of 17 March 1817, JAHM organised a reading of the twelve existing chapters of Sanditon by some twelve JAHM staff and volunteers. We used the drawing room in Jane Austen's cottage where she may well have read out some of the same twelve chapters of Sanditon to her sister and mother. Sanditon is the only Jane Austen novel which we can be certain was fully written at Chawton as Jane did not make any of her usual travels to London or Kent in the months of composition.
The evening reading was a wonderful occasion. JAHM had intended it to be a celebration of Jane Austen's last work and all those present were very glad they had made an effort to be there. The quality of the reading - which in total was just short of four hours - made me more aware of just how a fine a novel Sandition was shaping up to be.
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