The Winchester Verses

Object name: The Winchester Verses & Obituary

Object number: CHWJA:JAHLTR.13

Category: Letters

Description: Transcript of a poem in Cassandra’s hand, entitled: ‘Written at Winchester on Tuesday the 15th July 1817’. Written below, also in Cassandra’s hand, is Jane Austen’s obituary notice, entitled ‘From The Courier (newspaper) 23d July – 1817’.

The page measures 23.2cm x 37.5cm and is written on both sides.

Made: 1817

Context: Jane Austen became ill in 1816. The following year her health had declined and on 24 May 1817 she left Chawton with Cassandra and moved into lodgings in Winchester, to be near Dr Lyford at the County Hospital. Her illness however rapidly worsened and she died on 18 July 1817.

Jane Austen wrote this poem just two days before her death, on 15 July 1817, which was the day of the Winchester Races, a fashionable race day, and also St Swithin’s Day. St Swithin, a 9th century bishop, patron saint of Winchester, is linked through long tradition to the idea that if it rains on his feast day, it will continue to rain for 40 days and nights. The summer of 1817 was notably wet…

The Austen family all wrote light verse, often as a parlour game. Jane’s mother Cassandra was particularly noted for her comic verse, which she wrote to commemorate special occasions and family events.

Read a full transcript

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