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February report

Our President, Sarah, welcomed us all to the Meeting saying how pleased she was that we had been joined by two guests for the evening.

Sarah then introduced our speaker Jane Glennie who was going to give a talk entitled

“Who was Jane Austen’s best friend”.

Jane was dressed in period costume which was very fetching and set the scene for what was to follow.  She introduced us to Martha Lloyd who at the time was living with the Austens in Southampton as the family were about to move to Chawton.  She had been befriended by the Austens after her parents’ death when she had been living in a church property in the Parish of the Reverend Austen.

Our speaker then played the part of Martha and gave us an account of life in Southampton at that time.  This was all delivered in a very amusing and lively manner.  She used some extracts from letters and other writing from Jane to illustrate her talk and to draw attention to the values and social mores of the period.  At the time Martha was helping pack the family’s papers and was collecting recipes from local friends so that she could take these to Chawton with her.  (A book of these recipes is sometimes on display there).

Life in Southampton was very genteel especially in the area near Castle Square, where Jane lived.  This was apparently in strong contrast to life in the neighbouring city of Portsmouth!  Jane was already avidly writing stories and drawing material from the social life she saw around her.  Martha did not always agree with the titles Jane gave to her stories but Jane stopped showing her work to Martha and pressed on undaunted. She described Jane as very assertive and determined.

Our speaker then came out of character telling us that Martha later moved to Chawton where she helped the Austen family run their home.  Some time after Jane’s death she married Sir Frank Austen, one of Jane’s brothers, whose first wife had died having given birth to thirteen children.

We all found this an amusing and enjoyable account and thanked our speaker warmly.

The subject for our next meeting is “The air I breathe”, a talk by David Woodford.

Visitors are always welcome.

Eileen Reynolds

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