In the old Cathedral of Winchester stand the tombs of kings, with dates stretching back to William Rufus and Canute; here, too, are the marble effigies of queens and noble ladies, of crusaders and warriors, of priests and bishops. But our pilgrimage led us to a slab of black marble set into the pavement of the north aisle, and there, under the grand old arches, we read the name of Jane Austen. Many-colored as the light which streams through painted windows, came the memories which floated in our soul as we read the simple inscription: happy hours, gladdened by her genius, weary hours, soothed by her touch; the honored and the wise who first placed her volumes in our hand; the beloved ones who had lingered over her pages, the voices of our distant home, associated with every familiar story.
The personal history of Jane Austen belongs to the close of the last and the beginning of the present century. Her father through forty years was rector of a parish in the South of England. Mr. Austen was a man of great taste in all literary matters; from him his daughter inherited many of her gifts. He probably guided her early education and influenced the direction of her genius. Her life was passed chiefly in the country. Bath, then a fashionable watering-place, with occasional glimpses of London, must have afforded all the intercourse which she held with what is called “the world.” Her travels were limited to excursions in the vicinity of her father’s residence. Those were days of post-chaises and sedan-chairs, when the rush of the locomotive was unknown. Steam, the genie of the vapor, was yet a little household elf, singing pleasant tunes by the evening fire, at quiet hearthstones; it has since expanded into a mighty giant, whose influences are no longer domestic. The circles of fashion are changed also. Those were the days of country-dances and India muslins; the beaux and belles of “the upper rooms” at Bath knew not the whirl of the waltz, nor the ceaseless involvements of “the German.” Yet the measures of love and jealousy, of hope and fear, to which their hearts beat time, would be recognized to-night in every ballroom. Infinite sameness, infinite variety, are not more apparent in the outward than in the inward world, and the work of that writer will alone be lasting who recognizes and embodies this eternal law of the great Author.