Other Austen connections
In addition to her many family links with
Tonbridge, Jane Austen encountered a number of other Tonbridge people
in the course of her life, including the three listed here. She was also acquainted with the works of Tonbridge School
headmaster Vicesimus Knox II.
James Stanier Clarke
James Stanier Clarke was a boy at Tonbridge School in 1778. He went on to
become a naval chaplain and a writer. He had some correspondence with Jane
Austen in his role as domestic chaplain to the Prince Regent, later George IV.
The prince was an admirer of Jane’s work and she agreed, without much
enthusiasm, to dedicate her book Emma to him. Clark was a somewhat
pompous and thick-skinned character, not unlike Mr Collins of Pride and
Prejudice. His suggestion to Jane that she should include a clergyman,
presumably based on himself, in a future novel, was politely declined.
Ferox Hall, Tonbridge, home of the Children family until they were forced to sell it after the collapse of the Tonbridge Bank in 1816.
John George Children was a member of a well-known local family who lived in Ferox Hall opposite Tonbridge School. He was a scientist
and also the father of the pioneering botanist and
photographer Anna Atkins.
There were some family marriage links between the Childrens and
the Austens, and George Children, father of John George, was a pupil at the school when
Jane's father taught there. Jane made a humorous passing reference to John
George's marriage in 1796 in one of her letters, poking fun at his double christian name. If Jane Austen ever came to Tonbridge she might well have called
on John George Children whose home was only 50 yards from that of her father’s
John Papillon was the vicar of Tonbridge from 1791-1802 and was a very
distant cousin of the Austens. Through this connection he was offered the living
of Chawton in Hampshire. When Jane and her mother and sister went to live in
Chawton after her father's death, she came to know him well. As a bachelor he
was thought an eligible match for Jane and a running family joke on this subject
appears in her letters. His anxious personality – ‘nervous and fidgetty’ – meant
this was never a serious possibility, though Jane did come to know him well.