Congratulations to Melody Bridges of Worthing WOW (World of Words Festival) for the splendid cornucopia of events to celebrate Jane Austen’s visit to Worthing in 1805.
Jane Austen came to Worthing with her mother, her sister Cassandra and her close friend Martha Lloyd on September 18th and was still in the town on November 4th – perhaps staying until after Christmas. She was here during the Battle of Trafalgar which took place on October 21st.
Jane went to church on September 19th, almost certainly at St Mary’s in Broadwater, and witnessed an affidavit in front of the Rector of Broadwater on November 4th.
Worthing’s foremost citizen of the time Edward Ogle, who had purchased Warwick House and its estate in 1801, made acquaintance with the Austen sisters and they became friends. Mr Ogle’s arrival was the catalyst for the transformation of Worthing from a fishing village to a thriving seaside resort. He built the Colonnade at the corner of Warwick Street and High Street just across the road from his house.
Of interest to Jane would have been the libraries which were the main social institutions at seaside resorts at the time. As well as reading there was gossip, gambling and musical entertainment. Worthing was blessed with the Colonnade Library and Staffords Marine Library.
Jane was 29 years old when she visited and had yet to publish her first novel Sense and Sensibility (1811). Her last but unfinished novel, probably due to ill health, The Brothers was posthumously published by her family as Sanditon in 1817.
Sanditon was almost certainly based on Worthing and the main character Tom Parker on Edward Ogle – although some claim it was Bognor Regis and Mr Hotham of Hotham Park fame. Another claimant is Eastbourne but is not thought Jane ever visited there.
Worthing Daily will have no truck with these imposters and claims Sanditon and Mr Parker as its own. What other town could Mr Parker possibly mean when he says: “But Sanditon itself — everybody has heard of Sanditon. The favourite — for a young and rising bathing-place — certainly the favourite spot of all that are to be found along the coast of Sussex; the most favoured by nature, and promising to be the most chosen by man.”
And in the words of Sanditon’s Diana Parker we wish Melody and WOW that “success more than repays”.