It's December 1802. It is a big decision to say, "Yes," to a marriage proposal. It is even a bigger decision to refuse the offer after twelve hours. Especially if you are Jane Austen. Estate owner Harris Bigg-Wither proposed to Jane Austen.
This is the story of those twelve hours.
Born in December 1775 she lived in the small village of Steventon near Basingstoke in Hampshire. It was in her father's rectory where she wrote the drafts of her first three novels, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Northanger Abbey. It was in this quiet valley, described as the cradle of her genius, where she spent her formative years.
Her father has recently resigned as rector and has moved with his wife, Jane, and her sister Cassandra to Bath.
Jane Austen is now twenty-six, is back in Hampshire visiting her friends Catherine and Alethea, members of the wealthy Wither family on the Manydown estate.
Phil Howe has a story that is often overlooked about Jane Austen's life.
In "Twelve Hours" he recreates an intense event in Jane Austen's life that is often overlooked. It can be read as a story, a dramatic monologue or performed in theatre or non-theatre spaces. It is a sensitive subject which he has approached with sentiment, humour and respect. This book is a must-read for all fans of Jane Austen, her real-life, her novels, the films and TV dramas based on her books, and all book-lovers who thrive on stories of romance.
This exciting new monodrama is designed to be read as a story or performed in theatre as well as non-theatre spaces; schools, churches, village halls, to readings in book clubs. It is a dramatization of a real event in the life of one of the world's most famous authors and explores issues about the dilemmas of accepting an offer of marriage. It tells a tale about an event often overlooked about Jane Austen' life.
The story is set in Manydown, formerly a rural estate close to Steventon where Jane Austen spent her formative years. Manydown House itself was destroyed by fire in the 1960's although its neighbouring property also on the Manydown estate, Tangier, still exists. The village most closely connected to Manydown is Wootton St Lawrence and the pretty flint church still bears witness to the Bigg-Wither family and especially Harris whose marriage offer Jane Austen rejected.
Here is a page detailing the memorial erected in memory of Harris Bigg Wither.
At the time of writing Manydown and Wootton St Lawrence are on the threshold of immense change, having been granted planning permission for an initial development of 3,500 homes with further development phases proposed. Look upon this rural vista which has remained relatively unchanged since Jane Austen's day and consider it a view to be consigned to history.
For further information about Manydown please see the following links:
Hampshire Gardens Trust: Manydown Park
Lost Heritage: Manydown Park
The Stuff Around Us in North Hampshire: Many (makes me) Down, blog entry 10th April 2017
Thursday 18th July 2019 - 7pm - costumed reading - St Lawrence Church, Wootton St Lawrence, Basingstoke - tickets £10 - available from WeGotTickets (+ £1 booking fee per ticket).
Friday 30th November 2018 - Basingstoke Discovery Centre - Inaugural reading performed by Stacy Hart
Future Performances TBC. See also Facebook: @ToursJane - Jane Austen The Dancing Years Tour