Hampshire Archives and Local Studies will be showcasing an unusual document thought to be among Jane Austen’s first pieces of fiction - a fake marriage entry and proclamation of marriage to two separate men she playfully wrote for herself in her teens.
Located within the Steventon marriage register for 1755-1812, Jane Austen’s hand-written notes appear in the specimen entries at the front of the book. The register not only reveals a fictitious entry for the publication of banns – a proclamation of marriage - between Henry Frederic Howard Fitzwilliam of London, and Jane Austen of Steventon, but also a fictitious entry for the marriage of Edmund Arthur William Mortimer of Liverpool and Jane Austen of Steventon. Whether or not Fitzwilliam or Mortimer actually existed is a mystery. Jane had easy access to these documents as her father George Austen was the rector of the parish of Steventon, near Basingstoke.
Hampshire County Council’s Executive Member for Culture, Recreation and Countryside, Councillor Andrew Gibson, said: “In the year when we celebrate 200 years since her death, this unique document uncovers another side to Jane Austen’s character. Jane would have been in her teens when she wrote these fake marriage entries, and some could say it reveals a mischievous side during her younger years.”
Jane spent much of her relatively short life in Hampshire. She was born in Steventon near Basingstoke in December 1775 and spent her childhood there before settling in Chawton where she wrote Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park and Emma. Ill health brought her to Winchester for the last six weeks of her life. She died in July 1817, aged 41, and is buried in Winchester Cathedral.
Councillor Gibson added: “We are incredibly proud of Jane Austen’s legacy in Hampshire and we are busy planning various Jane Austen 200 celebrations across the County Council’s libraries, country parks and other venues, for everyone to enjoy. This includes the fake marriage entries which go on public display in May at Winchester Discovery Centre as part of the Mysterious Miss Austen exhibition, in collaboration with Hampshire Cultural Trust.”
Hampshire Archives and Local Studies also holds Jane Austen’s baptism record from 1775 written by her father, and the record of her burial in Winchester Cathedral in 1817, as well as a wealth of other material dating from Austen’s life and times. Members of the public are welcome to visit the Hampshire Record Office in Sussex Street, Winchester, to discover more about Jane Austen.
Earlier this month, Hampshire County Council launched the Writers’ Way – a 13 mile trail across East Hampshire for walkers, cyclists and horse riders, which starts from Jane’s former home in Chawton. Visitors can follow in the footsteps of Jane herself as they walk the trail and head on to Alton, Gilbert White’s Selborne before ending in Four Marks.