"...I had the pleasure of knowing that I was standing
in the very spot where Jane Austen stood..."
Ray Mitchell: Looking for Jane Austen

July, 1999

We must begin with this posting from our very-own, latter-day Mark Twain.

And so it all began with high hopes, high spirits, and promises of great gifts for his friends. How could we know that it would all end in a mystery? First stop -

At Steventon and Chawton

Chawton House
Chawton House
Photo from Ray's folded brochure

Jane Austen's home
Chawton - from the road

"7/15/99 Looking for Jane Austen

Dear Folks,

It is my sad duty to report that Jane Austen is not to be found either at Chawton or Steventon. I am now at the library in Winchester and will visit the site of the burial this afternoon. The women in tweed were there but they had all changed into seersucker for the summer. I will, of course, have a full report at a later time, but for now just know that I am here and that I am fighting the good fight. ..."

- Ray Mitchell

"7/16/99 Pissed! (in the American sense)
Dear Folks,
...
In general, I am pissed (not in the English sense of being drunk but in the American sense of being very mad). So far I have not been pleased with what they did with Chawton (put photo copies of stuff all over the walls, removed the beds, turned what could have been a perfectly good Jane Austen experience into a mess). Chawton cried out for a woman dressed as our Lady who could charm the visitor. Also the walk that Jane Austen took from Chawton to Alton is now a truck route and it is worth your life to walk the first half of the walk. The church at Steventon did not draw me any closer to finding Jane Austen, which is, after all, the reason I came."

Jane Austen's Desk
Jane Austen's Writing Desk with
first edition of Pride and Prejudice
postcard photo

Jane Austen's Desk
Jane Austen's Writing Desk
Photo by Ray Mitchell

"Something tells me that she is, as I said yesterday, not to be found here. I know it sounds hooky, and thus goes against my grain to say it, but if one seeks Jane Austen, one need look no further than her books.

There are, of course, other things that occured to me when I got to Chawton. Things like why did our Lady, her sister and her mother get put in that strange house located right on the road on that busy corner when there was that perfectly good grand house also owned by her brother? Basically I have a strong urge to go back in time and take a 2x4 among the family and get this whole thing cleared up. Then, in the current time I would like to take the same 2x4 to both Chawton and Winchester. ..."

- Ray Mitchell

At Winchester

"7/16/99 Mechanical atrocity at the gravesite

Dear Folks,

[I visited] the grave site yesterday in Winchester. Ash, be glad you were not with me. In order to get a clear view of the slab I had to move a vacuum cleaner aside. As if that was not bad enough, the vacuum was one of those cute canister type that was painted up so that the top looked like a derby hat. There were two eyes painted on the canister, which made the hose look like an elephant’s trunk. Listen, I am sorry to have to report such sacrilege, but there it was.

Sleep well, golden loom

Jane Austen's grave site
at Winchester Cathedral

Mechanical Perp
Photo by Ray Mitchell

...
"I have a strong urge to go back in time and take a 2x4 ... That vacuum cleaner would be the first thing to go.

... think about this: does not our Lady deserve better at her gravesite than a bunch of tacky fake flowers? I say we need to get behind a campaign to put fresh flowers there."

- Ray Mitchell

At Lyme Regis

At Bath

Somewhere in Retrospect (GA)

And then—nothing!

So there it is; we have had no other word from our friend. We know that he has other photographs and other impressions, but they are withheld. I have been told—not on good authority—that Ray is using these things to negotiate a free-agent contract with The Republic of Pemberley or AUSTEN-L. However, I am familiar enough with our friend's habits and predilections to know that if he had ever intended to go for the big money, it would have been with Nordic Jane Austen. Other possibilities? I don't know - perhaps it does no good to speculate but there are those scattered news reports you all have seen. Firstly, there is the case of the missing maintenence worker in Winchester and then there is the seemingly unrelated report of a strange person walking English streets. He is described, rather vaguely, as six-foot-four, 225 pounds, and wearing barbed wire around his chest, broken glass in his shoes, and a 2x4 in his hand. We only know about him because he was arrested for possession of a really bad English accent ("Cheerio, y'all"). It's hard to know what to make of all this—Perhaps we will never know.


Read of Kate2 at Chawton and at Bath.

Here is a link to Jane Austen's home county, Hampshire

Jane in Vain is a poem by Paul Jennings
and brought back to our shores by Ray.


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