Posted by: John Looker | 13 February, 2017

In Jane Austen’s House

We visitors are whispering, withdrawing from each other. We feel too tall, too loud, navigating all this china, imploring children to be careful.

via In Jane Austen’s House: by John Looker — Bonnie McClellan’s Weblog


This was her writing table, this her chair
(‘Please Do Not Sit’); two bijou items placed
here by the window where the light fell square
on her page from the horse-drawn world she faced.
In a cramped corner the public (that’s me
and you) peer through glass at her neat handwriting;
or we squeeze into the bedroom which she
and her sister shared – until she was dying.
We visitors are whispering, withdrawing
from each other. We feel too tall, too loud,
navigating all this china, imploring
children to be careful. We’re quite a crowd.
       We open a door (she would have opened it too,
       her skirts brushing the frame) and we pass through.


© John Looker 2017

This appears as today’s poem in the International Poetry Month organised by Bonnie McClellan every February.  I’m grateful to her for selecting it and I warmly recommend following the daily poems there throughout this month. They have a unifying thread but are the varied work of different writers from many countries.



  1. Very evocative John. I can almost hear her skirt rustle!


    • Thanks Tom – it’s nice to hear from you.


  2. Hooray, people still write sonnets. Your rhymes flow naturally, never forced. Wonderful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve been busted: my guilty secret (that it’s a sonnet) has been rumbled! Many thanks though Brian!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Evocative, John. I shall remember it.


  4. I feel instantly teleported to that wondrous room. I love it, John!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’d love it Elaine. And thank you.


  5. Just lovely, John.


  6. I remember this John. It is a magical sonnet and deserving of notice and publication. The sonnet evokes so much, the idea of passing through the artifacts of a life, the awkwardness and seeing what was used in another life for another purpose, but feeling the power of the writing and even beauty in that room, the mystery of time as we pass through, remembering, but also, for a moment, touching on timelessness and the idea that our brief passing through cannot leave a trace on either time or the artifacts preserved to let the too big and tall and crowded see . . .

    Sometimes poems evoke more than they say. This sonnet really does that.


    • I do appreciate the close reading you have brought to this sonnet, Tom, and the generosity of your comments. I was fortunate that her house, which was kept almost as though she had walked out only that morning, was such an inspiration. Best wishes.


  7. Nicely done! You move us like a fine film director to experience a series of perspectives of a space, step by step more estranged from ourselves because identifying with the other, until that magical moment that we ARE what we see, or are in the same narrow space– that last brushing of the doorframe by the skirt. I feel I must sat “Excuse me, Jane, this IS YOUR house, you go first.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a delightful observation Tom (“excuse me … … you go first!”). Thank you so much for that. J


  8. Delightful and giving a strong sense of her presence in rooms too small to accommodate the gawpers of the future.


  9. Such a good poem, John. You’ve perfectly captured that sense of awe we feel visiting homes such as this, where once the great lived and worked, genius somehow still aquiver in the very air, their living presence seemingly just a heartbeat away, the sheer actuality of their long-ago world as we pause and wonder…

    Yes, I like your sonnet very much.



    • That’s very kind of you Paul – thank you.


  10. I have tried sonnets and it’s HARD! They can sound stilted and yet this is fluid and alive. I love this- the opening and certain lines strangely evoke the Last Duchess.


  11. Hello Polly – thank you, it’s very good of you to say that. I remember thinking that I wanted a form of poem that would have been familiar in Jane Austen’s time but that I needed to combine that with a 21st C conversational voice (a bit like Browning, yes, although I would have felt somewhat intimidated had I thought of his example!).


  12. I enjoyed this, John – especially those last few lines.


    • Thank you Betty – it’s nice to hear from you.


  13. Reblogged this on Site Title.


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