Jane Austen comes to Sussex!
Experts at West Dean College, near Chichester, recently verified a fragment of a note written by Jane Austen. That makes it one of the few surviving examples of the author's handwriting - odd when you consider that she would have written every one of her novels by hand, but apparently none of the original manuscripts survive. Written on the text of a sermon composed by her brother James in 1814, it's thought to relate to themes she used in Mansfield Park.
I mention this not just because it's been in the news, but because it reminded me that Austen aficionados on holiday in Sussex could easily visit the Jane Austen museum at Chawton, where the note itself - and the first edition of her memoirs in which it was found - will be going on display later this year. Another literary pilgrimage might take you just over another county border to Box Hill, in Surrey where the picnic in Emma takes place.
But Sussex can hold its own on the creative stakes - our literary luminaries include Kipling (his home, Batemans, East Sussex is lovely to visit), Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury set (Charleston, near Lewes) and of course AA Milne; some purists might argue the literary bit but a stroll round the 100-Acre Wood is essential for Pooh Bear fans of all ages. Artists have long sought inspiration in this county and one of my favourite places to visit is Standen, the Arts & Crafts house designed by Philip Webb. I love not only the house itself, which has a real 'family' feel for such a large place, but the meeting of great minds that went into creating it - and of course its stunning gardens with views over the Ashdown Forest and Weirwood Reservoir.
I've also just read - and I don't know how true it is, but I love it - that the poet and artist William Blake, who lived in Felpham, West Sussex, was tried for sedition in Chichester because he knocked the hat off a soldier whom he considered obnoxious.