Jane Austen was known as a patron of London’s theatre – in some cases attending shows several times a week while in the city (despite the fact that many, based on her writings – in particular Mansfield Park, believe she wasn’t really a fan).

She is known to have visited a number of West End establishments to see performances. They included:

The Lyceum Theatre: Jane visited this Wellington Street theatre more than once and expressed her frustration on one occasion of her failure to see the incomparable Sarah Siddons perform there.

The Covent Garden Theatre: The theatre Jane attended was a second iteration, opening in 1809 on the site of what is now the Royal Opera House adjacent to the market as a replacement for the previous theatre which, dating back to 1732, had burned down.

The Theatre Royal Drury Lane: The oldest of London’s theatres still in use, Jane saw the great actor Edmund Kean famously perform here as Shylock in the Shakespearian play, The Merchant of Venice, in 1814.

 

Jane Austen is known to have patronised many shops while in London (mainly concerned with fabrics) – here’s just a few…

Twinings – The Austen family is known to have bought their tea from the famous merchant’s 300-year-old premises which still stands in the Strand near Temple Bar; a letter survives which Jane wrote to her sister Cassandra in reference to an order.

Newton’s – A linen drapers formerly located at 14 Coventry Street just off Leicester Square. Jane is known to have visited here with her sister Fanny.

Wilding & Kent – Upmarket drapers, located in Grafton House on the corner of New Bond and Grafton Streets. Jane, who is known to have visited frequently, complained of the queues there.

Layton & Shear’s – A fashionable mercer’s shop located at 9 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, conveniently located next door to where Jane lived for a time with her brother Henry.

There are others – this is just a sample!

 

This Grade II*-listed building is the former site of the offices of publisher, John Murray, who published four of Jane Austen’s six novels including Emma (1815), Mansfield Park (1814), Persuasion (1818) and Northanger Abbey (1818) (the last two after Austen’s death on 18th July, 1817).

Murray, whose offices were located here from 1812 onwards, published, along with Austen, many of the great literary names of the age including everyone from Lord Byron to Sir Walter Scott and Washington Irving (the company also later published the likes of Herman Melville and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle).

The John Murray with whom Austen dealt (and it seems her brother Henry must have played a considerable part in getting Murray to publish his sister’s works given Murray had already won considerable fame with the publication of Byron’s epic poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage in 1811) was actually John Murray II, of whom Austen wrote to her sister Cassandra: “He is a rogue, of course, but a civil one”.

His father John Murray I had founded the business in Fleet Street in 1768 and his son, John Murray III, continued it after his father (in fact, there were a succession of John Murrays down to John Murray VII).

The business was acquired in 2002 by Hodder Headline, itself then acquired by the French Lagardère Group. John Murray is now an imprint of Hachette UK.

PICTURE: Google Maps

Another of the places Jane Austen stayed when visiting London, the terraced house at 23 Hans Place was the address her brother Henry moved to from his flat in Covent Garden (see last week’s entry)

Jane stayed at the premises for almost two years over 1814 and 1815 (it was her last known visit to London). Austen, who stayed in a bedchamber at the front of the house on the top floor (a plaque commemorating Jane’s occupancy is located on the building), described the home as “delightful” and expressed her love of the garden.

The house has been considerably altered since although the original property still is said to lie underneath the brick skin now upon it.

It was while Jane was staying there that she was invited by the Prince Regent (later King George IV) – a fan of her writing – to Carlton House on 13th November, 1815, where she was permitted to dedicate one of her future works to him (Emma was duly dedicated the following year).

Henry, meanwhile, lived here until 1816 – the complete collapse of the bank in which he was partner had come in March of that year after which Henry was declared bankrupt. Following the financial disaster, he took up a post as curate at Chawton in Hampshire where the family were based.

While we’re in the area, we should also mention another property around the corner – 64 Sloane Street. It was here that Henry lived before moving to Covent Garden and here that, in April and May 1813, Jane stayed with Henry as his wife Eliza was dying (she passed away on 25th April).

Henry and Eliza had moved into the the Sloane Street property in 1809 (from Brompton) and Jane had visited several times (among the books she worked on while there was Sense and Sensibility).

Both properties were part of the Hans Town development which dated from the late 1770s.

PICTURE: Gwynhafyr/CC BY-NC 2.0