Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Austen In A Landscape

"Adieu to disappointment and spleen. What are men to rocks and mountains?"
(Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice).

Thinking about Jane Austen's literary landscapes brings about a wider variety of settings than you might first think, and were chosen with very definite and deliberate care and reasoning. On the tip of it, there are genteel "shire" settings in all of her works, to some degree or other. This is where the day to day minutiae of the characters' lives play out, from the gossipy streets of Meryton and Highbury to the sweeping grandness of Mansfield or Norland Park. 

As well as this though, Austen takes her readers on various journeys around the country, giving us glimpses and insights into her characters. In Sense and Sensibility, the Dashwoods are uprooted from Norland Park to the Devon countryside. Northanger Abbey and Persuasion take us to the diversions of Bath and beyond, but my favourite of Austen's stop-offs has to be Elizabeth Bennet's trip to Derbyshire with her aunt and uncle in Pride and Prejudice.

The wildness of The Peak District, with it's vast, lonely spaces, otherwordly rock formations and sweeping views fit perfectly with Lizzy's exploratory, wayward nature. And, what better place for Austen to showcase Lizzy's love of long walks  than in the peaks? Of course, Derbyshire is also where she meets Darcy on his home turf, realising that he is not distant or snobbish, and promptly falling in love with him, and that's another reason why I love this particular part of the story so much.

All the photos you see in this post are actually taken at The Roaches in Staffordshire. This also forms part of the Peak District National Park, which encompasses the counties of Staffordshire, Derbyshire, Cheshire and South and West Yorkshire into its spiny shape. I've walked many, many times up in The Roaches, admiring the beauty of the area in the same way as Elizabeth Bennet. Nothing makes me feel quite as small and nothing calms me quite like sitting on these ancient rocks and breathing in the magic of a view like this.*

*Both the 1995 BBC adaptation and the 2005 film version of Pride and Prejudice have filmed Lizzy's Derbyshire journey in The Roaches.

Images 1 and 2 courtesy of André. Image 3 by me.

I'd love to know your favourite literary landscape; Austen or otherwise, what settings or journeys do you like the most? 


  1. Wonderful post, Laura. I would love to see the Moors from Wuthering Heights...and the Lake District, and right here where you've photographed. Those places call to me. I always wonder if my English ancestors lived there.


  2. You wouldn't be disappointed with any of those places, Catherine. They call to me as well. Bleak and lonely but at the same time, so full of life. I think this landscape is in my blood, I know it so well. It never fails to amaze me though.

    I would be very happy to give you a tour sometime!