Two hundred years since the death of Jane Austen, the sumptuous Royal Pavilion explores the author’s intriguing connection with the Regency period’s most fashionable seaside town.
Brighton’s most famous writerly connections are about to be eclipsed. Graham Greene, Patrick Hamilton and even Peter James may love the town’s historic seediness. But none of them are loved so much as the nation’s literary sweetheart, Jane Austen.
But don’t be misled by the fact that the Royal Pavilion is bringing Austen to the seaside – the author never actually came to Brighton. Yet, she used the resort as a backdrop. It is said, she even used it as a shorthand for frivolity and vice. It may have been that Austen was too polite to ever direct a horse and carriage to the south coast.
She does however have a remarkable connection with the city. The Prince Regent, who built the extravagant venue that hosts this show, was a big fan and kept a complete set of her books in each of his palatial homes. She in turn dedicated her fourth novel, Emma, to the Prince; and his signed first edition will be one of the most exciting exhibits in the show.
In addition to the original letters and manuscripts, the exhibition will include a lock of Austen’s hair, her piano music, and for context, a contemporary ‘walking dress’ which was designed for strolling the Brighton promenade.
Most intriguing, perhaps, are three handwritten volumes of an unfinished novel called Sanditon, set in an unnamed Sussex coastal town. But, despite the impressions of her literary heirs, manners rather than murders are expected to feature.