Friday, June 15, 2012

Picnics and Jane Austen

"They had a very fine day for Box Hill...Nothing was wanting but to be happy when they got there.  Seven miles were travelled in expectation of enjoyment, and everybody had a burst of admiration on first arriving..."
-- "Emma" by Jane Austen

The Cotswolds, England -- June, 2010

Books and travel take us places.  Sometimes when we travel, we notice things that remind us of something we have read in a book.  In fact, we may be at our travel destination because of a book.  After all, we read for images and we travel for images, and those images can stay with us forever.  It is not surprising that they intersect.

When I was in the English countryside for a garden tour and saw this vista in the Cotswolds, I was reminded of the Box Hill Picnic from Jane Austen's novel "Emma."  "Emma" is one of my favorite books and has always been a book that can take me to a cozy place.  No matter how badly behaved she is, I think we all love Emma.  Her heart is in the right place, though it is sorely tested during the episode of the Box Hill picnic.   And even though the Box Hill picnic was in another part of England, I thought that this vista in the Cotswolds with the verdant hill in the distance looked as if it could have been the setting for the misguided outing that forms the core of Jane Austen's great novel.

Image via here

All the main characters were part of that expedition to Box Hill -- Emma, Mr. Knightley, Miss Bates, Mr. and Mrs. Elton, Frank Churchill, and Jane Fairfax.  They made the leisurely trek, chatting as they walked along, pointing out the beautiful highlights of the surrounding landscape.  It was an idyllic scene.  Mr. Woodhouse would have been safely deposited in an armchair in front of the fire at Donwell Abbey (Mr. Knightley's residence), happily looking at Mr. Knightley's books as he awaited the group's return.

Travel and books supply us with vast amounts of images to store in our memory bank.  It is exciting when the two worlds intersect.  In many respects, Jane Austen led me to the English countryside.  I already knew that part of the world from her books before I ever visited.  Those novels sent me there.  I hope these images from the English countryside and Jane Austen inspire you to get outside this month of June and have a picnic.  It is one of the quintessential summer pleasures and a great mood lifter.  Throw a blanket on the grass and be sure to include strawberries and champagne.  It will lead you on a beautiful journey of images and you may find yourself remembering a special scene from one of your favorite books.


  1. Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors ever. In fact re-reading her now, as I can't concentrate on a new book. I need cozy and familiar at the moment, and I'm instantly transported when I read her. David and I have been to London so often, but never to the English countryside. I'm really longing to go, but actually more from your blog than from Jane Austen.

  2. I remember visiting the Cotswolds so many years ago. It was a rainy rainy day. Now that the nest is empty how seldom we think to head out for a picnic. As always, a lovely post. You always take me on the sweetest journeys. Thank you, Bonnie

  3. I still cringe when I hear Mr. Knightley say, "Badly done, Emma. Badly done.".
    But she did need to hear it.

  4. I can re-read Jane Austin's novels every few years and they are always a joy.
    She had such a wonderful way with words.
    I believe that they should be required reading in school!

  5. Sunday,

    What a wonderful post for a rainy day...the Cotswolds is one of my favorite places in the world. And Jane Austen is such a special writer I never tire of her stories.

    Have a wonderful weekend Sunday! Are there any more garden tours on your schedule? I have loved your photos!

  6. Wonderful post! Emma is one of my favorite books also. I remember the Box Hill scene making me feel so uncomfortable, just like I had been sitting there observing it all in person. Your photo is lovely, and I certainly see why it reminded you of Box Hill.

    By the way, I ordered the book Down the Garden Path by Beverley Nichols that you recommended many posts ago from Amazon today. I'm excited to read it.

    I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

    1. Keri, thank you so much! I hope you enjoy the Beverley Nichols book.

  7. I would love to go on a picnic - I haven't been on one in ages. Unfortunately, in Phoenix, we really have to wait until fall for our outdoors dining or we might get heat stroke!
    I long to visit Austen's England. Your blog helps me to satisfy the craving until I can go.

  8. Alas in England there are no picnics at the moment just rain.... So much that our hosepipe ban has been called off. So, even though I live in England I shall join you in a glorious English summer picnic. Happy weekend.

  9. The picnic scene in EMMA is a classic!

  10. You've made me want to re-read Emma now. I particularly love the strawberry picking party with terrible Mrs Elton!