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Controversy Over Church Commemoration A church in Adlestrop in Gloucestershire, England (Adlestrop being a village which is thought to have inspired features of some of Jane Austen's works), is currently being met with controversy. Plans are afoot to introduce a new plaque into the church, dedicated to a woman who is not a member of the Leigh family, and who is a "relative newcomer" in the area. Since the 16th century, the Leigh family, Austen's wealthy relatives on her mother's side, had owned Adlestrop Park, the great house which is thought to have inspired Sotherton Court, an estate owned by the character James Rushworth in her novel Mansfield Park. Now it is owned by the Collins family - the relative newcomers. It has to be said that "relative" is the appropriate term, as the Collins family, whose coat of arms it is that is being proposed as the new addition, have lived in the area since at least 1974. Dominic Collins and his late wife had been in residence at Adlestrop Park itself since the late 1990s. In that time the house has been restored and the family were generous donors to local projects including the refurbishment of the church's five bells. The idea to let Dominic Collins install a hatchment (a coat of arms display) in the church in memory of his late wife is opposed by local historian and Austen expert, Victoria Huxley, who has said it is inappropriate to install a memorial to a family who were not the Leighs.
I was very surprised that someone with a relatively short link to the village (compared to the age of the church) should seek to place their coat of arms in the church, and I do not think that most people in the village have been alerted to this request. I feel that only a family which has strong ties over several generations should have such a display.June Rogers, Chancellor of the diocese of Gloucester, ruled that the plan could go ahead.
The Jane Austen connection does not preserve in aspic this Church. As the Leighs succeeded Evesham Abbey, so the Collins family is now in residence. Another layer has been added to the life and continuity of this village.
Performing An Unfinished Austen Jane Austen wrote six completed novels, but she also wrote two incomplete novels. One is Sanditon, the other, begun while Jane Austen was living in Bath but never completed, is called The Watsons. Austen wrote just under 18,000 words of the story before she stopped. In those 18,000 words the beginnings of a complex story are laid down. However, after the five brief chapters which encompass the whole of the text the novel comes to an abrupt halt. That hasn't stopped playwright Laura Wade from creating a stage adaptation of The Watsons though. The play follows nineteen-year-old Emma Watson as she searches for a suitor. She’s been cut off by her rich aunt and has had to return to the family home. Emma and her sisters must marry, fast. If not, they face poverty, spinsterhood, or worse; an eternity with their boorish brother and his awful wife. (Sound familiar? It's quite close to circumstances which Jane and Cassandra Austen were facing in their own lives after the death of their father). Luckily for Emma, there are plenty of potential suitors to dance with, from flirtatious Tom Musgrave to castle-owning Lord Osborne, who’s as awkward as he is rich. But there’s a problem: Jane Austen didn’t finish the story. So who, asks Laura, will write Emma’s happy ending now? Based on the incomplete novel, this adaptation of The Watsons looks under the bonnet of Jane Austen and asks: what can characters do when their author abandons them? It is being performed at the Minerva Theatre in Chichester from the 3rd of November to the 1st of December, and it sounds like it will be a most interesting performance.
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