chapter  1
27 Pages

Introduction

WithRobert Clark

The increase in personal geographical mobility was made possible by private companies building turnpikes, particularly from the 1750s onwards. An obvious explanation for why Henry Austen uses precise mileages to create the impression of precise locations is that during her lifetime there was a vertiginous increase in personal travel, and therefore in the regular use of such aids to geolocation as maps, guides and road books. Whilst such publications would have furnished Austen from her childhood with a clear and accurate understanding of English geography and her place within it, her maturity also coincided with the publication of the First Series of Ordnance Survey maps. Tourism reveals, but it denatures what it reveals, for example converting the harsh lives of the rural poor into picturesque commodities for consumption by the leisured class. Austen's costs for taking his own carriage on the 120-mile return trip from London to Chawton would have been in present day money between £420 and £6,000.