A countywide programme honouring the 200-year anniversary of the death of legendary novelist Jane Austen’s is due to be launched tomorrow in Basingstoke.
A collection of priceless artefacts belonging to the writer including her former writing desk and spectacles are currently on display at the Willis Museum.
The Top of Town gallery will hold the treasured items until February 20 following an agreement with the British Library as part of Hampshire Cultural Trust’s big theme for next year – Jane Austen 200.
Austen was born and raised in Steventon, near Overton, and wrote classics Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey and Sense and Sensibility during her time in the borough before her death in 1817.
Jane Austen 200 will see a series of exhibitions, talks, walks, writing competitions and performances take place across the county next year to mark the landmark.
And to mark the countdown, the Willis Museum will hold the campaign’s launch from 11.30am tomorrow, where Austen’s descendent Rebecca Smith will perform a reading from one of her great work, and unveil a plaque commemorating her life.
Ms Smith, who was the writer in residence at Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton, said: “”I am so excited to attend the launch of Jane Austen 200 and it will be lovely to see Jane Austen’s writing box and spectacles back in Hampshire.
“This is just the beginning of an important celebration for the county and everybody who loves Jane Austen and will be a wonderful opportunity for new people to discover her work. ”
The event will also see musician Lisa Timbs perform regency music, reminiscent of the era on a pianola, with Hampshire Cultural Trust chief executive Janet Owen labeling the programme as “truly fantastic for Hampshire”.
She added: “In the run up to 2017, 200 years since her death, Hampshire should celebrate its most famous daughter, one of the greatest writers in English history.
“Our aim is to bring the best items and exhibits from across the world to Hampshire, complementing the amazing home-grown arts and culture we have on our doorstep.
“Jane Austen 200 will see a wealth of exhibitions, events and activities related to Jane Austen at museums and arts venues across the county. “There will be more going on about Jane Austen in Hampshire than anywhere else in the world.”