"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
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.