We were delighted to hear that Peter James Bowman’s latest book The Real ‘Persuasion’: Portrait of a Real-Life Jane Austen Heroine was going to be a biography of Katherine Bisshopp, who was born at Parham in 1791 and married from the House in 1826.
The Bisshopps bought Parham from Thomas Palmer in 1601 and the family lived here for 320 years until the estate was sold to the Hon. Clive and Alicia Pearson.
Katherine’s character and experiences, and the constellation of people around her, create an extraordinary parallel with Jane Austen’s Persuasion. This is elaborated in Bowman’s book, which is also an evocative account of Parham in the early and mid-nineteenth century, following its fortunes as the seat of the Bisshopps in times of harmony and discord.
The book interweaves Katherine’s letters and diaries with other family correspondence.
She has a close bond with her mother Lady Bisshopp but cooler relations with her irascible father Sir Cecil, whose pursuit of a claim to an ancient barony empties the family coffers. Katherine falls in love with the naval officer George Pechell, but because of her parents’ opposition she has to wait eleven years before she can marry him. The Pechells then settle happily at Castle Goring, near Worthing, and for the rest of her life Katherine is a constant visitor to her beloved childhood home, here at Parham.
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