#8 Susannah Fullerton (WGH 83-85)
The very first day I spent in London felt like I had come home because of my passion for English literature. I was in the city described so vividly by Dickens. I was living on the square where Virginia Woolf lived and the location of Dorothy L. Sayers' fictional heroine Harriet Vane. Whilst just down the road was the British Museum, where so many writers had penned works in the library. I agreed with Dr Johnson that a man who is tired of London, is tired of life.
Whilst living at William Goodenough House (WGH) I took part in two dramatic performances, a combined effort between WGH and London House. The first was a play called The Government Inspector and the second was a pantomime of Dick Whittington – I played Dick as principal boy. It was huge fun and we got really good audiences, and had great after-show parties on the last night. I also have vivid memories of the opera Cosi Fan Tutte being rehearsed in the courtyard at WGH.
The amazing location – in the heart of Bloomsbury – was a big attraction, and the sense that you are part of an international community. I loved meeting people from so many different countries. I joined a women’s discussion group: we used the beautiful garden square, and made the most of living in one of London’s most literary and exciting areas.
I launched my new memoir Jane & I: A Tale of Austen Addiction – about my passion for the novels of Jane Austen and how her books have shaped my life – in 2017 to coincide with the 200th anniversary of her death. Jane Austen was only 41 when she died. Although I mourn her early death, I celebrate the fact that she lived and wrote. She totally changed my life for the better.
I work freelance, so every day is different. I could be leading a literary tour to somewhere like Ireland, but if I am at home, I could be preparing a new lecture, or out giving that lecture, or writing a new book, or doing some of the administration of running the Jane Austen Society of Australia, of which I am the President. There is no typical day for me, but all my days are filled with English writers from the past, and I love every minute of it.
I think perhaps my proudest moment was holding my first published book in my hands – it was Jane Austen and Crime and it examines such crimes as duelling, elopement, theft and even murder in the fiction of Jane Austen. It took me 7 years to write and to have a published book at last was a fabulous moment. I have also been made a Fellow of the Royal Society of NSW and have been awarded an Order of Australia Medal for services to literature, so both of those honours gave me a huge thrill.
When I lived at WGH I was working full time in a job that did not excite me. My advice would be to get into doing something closer to what I loved, and also to make the most of every minute of living in London: walk the streets, see the museums and galleries, discover those amazing out-of-the-way places that make London such a rich city to explore.