Jane Austen by the Sea
17 June 2017 to 8 January 2018
Prince Regent Gallery
Free with Royal Pavilion admission, members free

A new display at the Royal Pavilion will explore Jane Austen’s relationship with coastal towns and life in Brighton during her time, to mark the bicentenary of her death.

The display will reassess Austen’s relationship with the town in the light of a long-term misunderstanding, arising from a hand-written letter of 8 January 1799.  Curator Dr Alexandra Loske said: “For many years, Austen has been quoted as having written: ‘I assure you that I dread the idea of going to Brighton as much as you can do..’, but her sentence actually referred to Bookham, a village in Surrey, rather than Brighton.  We now know that Austen may not have felt as negatively about the town as has been thought.”

Walking Dress, 1818 Fashion plate from Ackermann’s Repository of Arts.., University of Sussex, Special Collections
Photo: James Pike

Jane Austen by the Sea will look at the seaside context of Austen’s plots and paint a picture of the leading resort of Brighton in the early 1800s, when it was a fashionable ‘watering place’ featured in novels like Pride and Prejudice.

George IV, who created the Royal Pavilion and spent long periods living there when he was Prince Regent, was a high-profile fan of Austen’s – and although she seemed not to approve of his lifestyle she was encouraged to dedicate Emma to him in 1815.

Highlights to include:

  • The King’s personal, specially-bound copy of Emma – on display at the Royal Pavilion for the first time (generously lent by Her Majesty The Queen from the Royal Collection)
  • A mourning brooch containing a lock of Jane Austen’s hair
  • The manuscript of Jane Austen’s unfinished novel, Sanditon, set in a seaside town in Sussex
  • Examples of Regency costume and accessories, including a wedding dress that has never been on show before and a dress in the style of the ‘Brighton Walking Dress’ featured in a London fashion magazine in 1817
  • Letters from Jane Austen to the Prince Regent’s librarian, James Stanier Clarke
    Military Dandies or Heroes of 1818
    William Heath, published by M. Cleary
  • One of Jane Austen’s music books
  • Prints, paintings and caricatures of the resorts and fashions popular with seaside visitors
  • Rare images of Brighton as it looked in Jane Austen’s lifetime

Jane Austen by the Sea will form part of our Regency Season in 2017, which will also include the exhibition Constable and Brighton, and the display Visions of the Royal Pavilion Estate (both at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery).

Also in our Regency Season

Constable and Brighton – Brighton Museum

Visions of the Royal Pavilion Estate – Brighton Museum