I am so excited to be posting for the very first time on Always Austen!
A little bit about me: I’ve been a fan of Jane Austen since 2005, when I saw the Pride and Prejudice movie with Keira Knightley in theaters. That was also the first year I began dabbling in reading and writing Jane Austen fanfiction, but it would be another ten years before I would complete my first full-length Austenesque novel, and three more before I became a self-published author. I now have three completed novels and several short stories, with another novel due to be published later this spring. You can find all of my books here if you’re interested in checking them out.
In my book “Not In Want of a Wife”, Darcy and Elizabeth have a clandestine rendezvous at Russell Square Garden. Unfortunately, they are spotted by Caroline Bingley on her way to visit the British Museum, which causes some complications for them.
Russell Square and the British Museum are both special to me, because they are some of the few places from my books that I have actually gotten to visit in real life! In 2008, I had a very brief stay in London for two and a half days, and I made the most of it by visiting as many attractions as I could while I was there.
My hotel was actually right on Russell Square, and so I was able to walk through the square to get to the British Museum. The hotel clerk misled me though; I was told “oh yeah, the British Museum, that’s just on the other side of the square!” Well, actually, the museum is not on the square, but a short ways down the street, and this being the pre-smartphone days and not having a printed map with me, I ended up wandering around Russell Square in drizzling November rain for about twenty minutes trying to find the museum before I finally asked someone and they pointed out the correct building to me. At least I eventually found it!
Russell Square was originally laid out in 1804, and named after the Duke of Bedford, whose surname was Russell. The square, like most other squares built in the Georgian era, was primarily a residential area for the wealthy. Notable residents throughout the years have included the poets William Cooper and Thomas Gray, novelist Mrs. Humphry Ward, and suffragist Emmeline Pankhurst.
The area is now a center of commerce and home to the famous Hotel Russell, built in 1898.
In 2002, the gardens of the square were redone according to the original design by Humphry Repton, including the circular horseshoe-shaped path with four intersecting paths from the corners, a perimeter fence and hedges, and rows of lime trees. So if you visit Russell Square today, it will look similar to how it was back in the Regency Era.
The British Museum
The site of what is now the British Museum originally belonged to Ralph Montagu, the 1st Duke of Montagu. The British Museum bought Montagu House in 1755 and the museum opened to the public for the first time in 1759. The museum housed a large collection of natural history, books, manuscripts, coins, drawings, engravings, antiquities, and other curiosities. The museum was, and still is, free to enter.
Montagu House was eventually demolished to make way for the present structure, designed by Sir Robert Smirk in the Greek revival style, which was completed in 1852.
So there you have two places which are mentioned in my book “Not In Want of a Wife.” I hope you’ll check out my story so you can find out how these two places come into play for Darcy and Elizabeth!