Jane Austen loved autumn walks in the Hampshire countryside, often covering five miles a day so, as the leaves turn from orange to yellow, our guest blogger Christine Hughes has been looking at how this most mellow of seasons inspired our favourite author.
In Persuasion, which begins in the autumn, Austen uses the imagery of the waning year as a means for Anne to reflect poignantly on missed chances with the man she loves, as well as her faded youth when compared to the young woman in her bloom who is the clear object of his affection.
“The sweet scenes of autumn were for a while put by, unless some tender sonnet, fraught with the apt analogy of the declining year, with declining happiness, and the images of youth and hope, and spring, all gone together blessed her memory.”
However, she is ultimately given unexpected hope by embracing the beauty of her present surroundings.
“[Anne’s] pleasure in the walk must arise from the exercise and the day, from the view of the last smiles of the year upon the tawny leaves and withered hedges, and from repeating to herself some few of the thousand poetical descriptions extant of autumn–that season of peculiar and inexhaustible influence on the mind of taste and tenderness–that season which has drawn from every poet worthy of being read some attempt at description, or some lines of feeling.”
A Regency landscape in Autumn, by George Shephard
Jane Austen demonstrates how autumn endures in our imagination as a time of beauty and profound reflection. Meanwhile, there is still time to enjoy the glorious foliage to be found when out and about and, as several wealthy Georgians did, perhaps indulge in some hot drinking chocolate after a brisk walk.