Playwright Daniel Kramer has been sharing a lot of his resources with us. One website that came i very handy is an archive of Jane Austen’s letters. There are literally hundreds to dig through, and they date from 1796 through 1817.
Here’s a sample, from October 7, 1808:
On Tuesday evening Southampton was in a good deal of alarm for about an hour: a fire broke out soon after nine at Webb’s, the pastry-cook, and burnt for some time with great fury. I cannot learn exactly how it originated; at the time it was said to be their bakehouse, but now I hear it was in the back of their dwelling-house, and that one room was consumed.
The flames were considerable: they seemed about as near to us as those at Lyme, and to reach higher. One could not but feel uncomfortable, and I began to think of what I should do if it came to the worst; happily, however, the night was perfectly still, the engines were immediately in use, and before ten the fire was nearly extinguished, though it was twelve before everything was considered safe, and a guard was kept the whole night. Our friends the Duers were alarmed, but not out of their good sense or benevolence.
I am afraid the Webbes have lost a great deal, more perhaps from ignorance or plunder than the fire; they had a large stock of valuable china, and, in order to save it, it was taken from the house and thrown down anywhere.
The adjoining house, a toyshop, was almost equally injured, and Hibbs, whose house comes next, was so scared from his senses that he was giving away all his goods, valuable laces, &c., to anybody who would take them.
The crowd in the High Street, I understand, was immense; Mrs. Harrison, who was drinking tea with a lady at Millar’s, could not leave at twelve o’clock. Such are the prominent features of our fire. Thank God they were not worse!
Let’s not give away too much, but suffice to say, if you comb through enough of these letters, you might come across some parts of Mr. Kramer’s new adaptation.