Coastal jaunts


It was whilst Jane was visiting her brothers Charles and Frank, both serving officers in the Royal Navy in Portsmouth, that she was influenced to write Mansfield Park. In the novel she portrays the old city convincingly, touching on the squalor of its poverty. The naval dockyard she describes in Mansfield Park is now a sports field in neighbouring Portsea but the city still features the Georgian architecture which marks its development as a suburb serving the naval personnel who guarded the once heavy coastal fortifications.


Jane, her mother and sister Cassandra moved to Southampton after the death of her father in 1805. Jane found living in a city a challenge after her country childhood and we know that the women spent much time out of doors - promenading along the city walls and taking excursions to the River Itchen and the ruins of Netley Abbey. Surviving correspondence also tells us that the three women travelled up the Beaulieu River passing Buckler’s Hard, an 18th century shipbuilding village, and Beaulieu Abbey. Jane also danced at the Dolphin Hotel.

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