Monday, September 12, 2011

A Tale of Two Floods: Binghamton 2011, Steventon 1820

When we heard about last week's disastrous flooding in the Binghamton area, our thoughts here in Syracuse turned immediately to our JASNA Syracuse Region members and other friends of Jane in that area--particularly our kind hosts at RiverRead Books, where we hold our Binghamton meetings. (As the store's name indicates, it is very close to the Susquehanna--next to the Court St. bridge, in fact.) We are very happy to report this morning that we've heard good news from both Pat Day and Connie Barnes at RiverRead. The store did get a good deal of water in the basement, but no books on the first floor were damaged, many friends have helped, and they expect to reopen the store shortly. Three hearty huzzahs! (See the "Flood Update" they've just posted on the store website. As they note there, the best help we can all give them at present is to patronize the store and the other flood-damaged small businesses in the area.)

Believe it or not, Jane Austen herself may have gone through a flood or two in her early home at Steventon, Hampshire. And certainly her sister-in-law and niece, Mary and Caroline Austen, did. Caroline recorded in her "Reminiscences" that as she and her mother were packing up to vacate the Steventon rectory in January 1820, after the death of her father (James Austen, Jane's oldest brother) in December 1819, a sudden thaw inundated the cellar and first floor: "Next morning the cellar looked like the scene of a shipwreck." Pat and Connie report that they can relate to this description very well--they have "a big mess in the basement," according to Pat--but they add immediately that "We were luckier than most." We can only agree.

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