Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History, has written more than 50 books specializing in British Christianity. These books include: The Monastery Murders, clerical mysteries; Lord Danvers Investigates, Victorian true-crime; The Elizabeth and Richard series, literary suspense; and Glastonbury, The Novel of Christian England. She loves research and sharing you-are-there experiences with her readers.
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Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History
A traveling researcher engages people and places from Britain's past and present, drawing comparisons and contrasts between past and present for today's reader.
By Donna Fletcher Crow ~ June 11, 2016
The Idaho Chapter of the Jane Austen Society of North America has an annual summer picnic which we sometimes bill as our Box Hill picnic after the pivotal scene in Emma. This years’ event was held today in the beautiful garden of one of our members. We held our annual book exchange where members bring Jane Austen themed books to share, had a short business meeting, and most of all enjoyed the delicious dishes members brought to share and visiting with like-minded friends.
Here I am setting out with my English cake (brought from Canada) and enjoying a mimosa with sister bonnet-wearing Janeites.
Our next event will be the book club discussion of Longbourne in July. The society and book club are open to any interested members. Learn more here.
Attending our local “Box Hill Picnic” put me in mind of the scene in my Jane Austen Encounter where my literary sleuths Elizabeth and Richard are experiencing a picnic on the actual Box Hill, led by the domineering Muriel Greystone. Elizabeth had earlier recalled Emma’s blunder of insulting Miss Bates and told Richard she hoped she could hold her own tongue against Muriel.
Like Austen’s picnickers, mine began by enjoying the view:
Near the top, a low, curving brick wall offered a perfect vantage point. Elizabeth walked to the edge of the hill and surveyed the tranquil wooded landscape far below. Around them, their fellows were exclaiming on the beauty, the sense of serenity, the startling distance of the vista. “Absolutely lovely.” Elizabeth pulled a small camera from her pocket.
Elizabeth thought it all so lovely that it would be difficult to overstate, but she couldn’t help recalling that the “burst of admiration on arrival” in Emma had ended in tears as the heroine cried all the way home after Mr. Knightly rebuked her for her rudeness.
And, sure enough, Elizabeth and Richard’s picnic did, indeed, end in disaster, but not due to Elizabeth’s words:
Richard offered his hand to help Elizabeth to her feet, and the party was on the move again. “We’ll just put this kit in the car, then have a look around,” Muriel directed.
She led back toward the parking lot, then on toward the summit where she pointed out a range of rather dilapidated-looking stone buildings. “Mobilization Fort,” she announced. “Part of a ring of thirteen forts built in Victorian times to protect England from continental invasion. Can’t go in. Full of bats. Little monsters are protected.”
Now she marched them back past their picnic spot and through a thick clump of trees. “Down here you’ll see the pill boxes from World War II. This would have been the last stopgap to defend London, had Hitler invaded— as all thought he surely would do.”
“Thank God he didn’t,” Elizabeth breathed.
“Yes,” Richard said softly, taking her hand and pulling her back a bit. “Watch your step.”
She was happy to take his advice, as the way was getting decidedly steep. She paused to gaze across the wide green vista before her. “I’d far rather think about Emma and her friends than Hitler in this beautiful spot.”
“Yes, or Keats,” Richard suggested. “He wrote the conclusion of Endymion after a moonlit stroll on top of Box Hill. Although I should think walking this slope after dark must have been risky.”
“Mm. ‘A thing of beauty is a j—’” but she got no further quoting Keats.
A sharp cry from the path beneath them sent them hurrying forward as fast as an awareness of the ground under their feet would allow.
You can visit all the sites on the Jane Austen Trail with Elizabeth and Richard in A Jane Austen Encounter.
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