Sunday, January 27, 2008

Hertford - a possible setting for Meryton

Jane Austen set her wonderful novel, Pride and Prejudice, in Hertfordshire. The fictional town of Meryton, which is about a mile from Longbourn where the Bennets live, is likely to have been based on the real town of Hertford, according to Deirdre Le Faye. I am very lucky to live on the edge of London and yet am close to the countryside, in the market town of High Barnet in Hertfordshire. Hertford is a market town also and having been on shopping visits and research trips to the museum, I found it easy to picture the Bennet sisters wandering around the shops. It was very inspiring for imagining where the girls might have shopped and where Lydia might have visited her friend, Harriet Forster, the colonel's wife.
Jane Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice between October 1796 and August 1797. Deirdre Le Faye mentions the fact that the Derbyshire Militia came to Hertfordshire in the winter of 1794-5 and that the troops were stationed in Hertford and Ware. We do not know whether Jane visited Hertford but her father had a cousin who lived there and he may have supplied her with information for her novel.Perhaps the Derbyshire connection inspired Pemberley to be set in that county.


'Such a pretty scene met Lydia’s eyes on their arrival in town that she didn’t know which way to look; at the ravishing bonnets in straw and silk in the milliner’s bow-fronted windows or at the figured muslins, crêpes and linens, ruched and draped across the width and length of the tall windows of the mercer’s warehouse. Vying for her attention was a highway teeming with those captivating visions in scarlet, officers everywhere, strutting the pavements and swaggering in step. A whole regiment of soldiers had arrived in Meryton several months ago, along with the changeable autumn winds, blowing every maiden’s saucy kisses like copper leaves down upon their handsome heads. Lydia and Kitty had been far from disappointed when line upon line of handsome soldiers and debonair officers had come parading along the High Street, a blaze of scarlet and gleaming gold buttons, laden with muskets and swords, clanking in rhythm as they marched. It had not been very long before both girls had made firm friends with all the officers, helped along by the introductions from their Aunt and Uncle Phillips who lived in the town.' Excerpt from Lydia Bennet's Story.
Jane Odiwe

Reference - Jane Austen, The World of her Novels by Deirdre Le Faye

No comments: