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Today in 1775, Jane Austen was born in Steventon. The Reverend George Austen, Jane’s father, wrote what I consider to be one of the nicest letters of announcement the following day:
You have doubtless been for some time in expectation of hearing from Hampshire and perhaps wondered a little we are in our old age grown such bad reckoners but so it was, for Cassy (Mrs Austen-jfw) certainly expected to have been brought to bed a month ago: however last night the time came and without a great deal of warning, everything was soon happily over. We have now another girl, a present plaything for her sister Cassy and a future companion. She is to be Jenny, and seems to me as if she would be as like Henry, as Cassy is to Neddy. Your sister, thank God is pure well after it and sends her love to you and my bother not forgetting James and Philly…
I thought you might like to know that today there have been some interesting announcements which might interest you…
First the Jane Austen’s House Museum Blog is holding its First Anniverasry Giveaway. The prize is rather spectacular, and the Giveaway is open to everyone, wherever you are in the world. All the details can be found, here.
And finally, in preparation for the year of Pride and Prejudice that is fast approaching, the Jane Austen’s House Musuem at Chawton in conjunction with the Jane Austen Society, the Jane Austen Society of North America and the Jane Austen Society of Australia, has just launched a special website, Pride and Prejudice 200, which will be the repository for all information about all the many and varied events that are going to be held to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s most celebrated novel. If you go here, you will be able to access it.
Or was he was weather-beaten as the companion of Admiral Baldwin in Persuasion who had, according to the disapproving of Sir Walter Elliot ,
..a face the colour of mahogany, rough and rugged to the last degree; all lines and wrinkles
Persuasion, Chapter 3.
The evidence appears to be that Charles Austen certainly knew how to care for a complexion in the early 19th century, and this post here, which I wrote for the Jane Austen House Museum Blog ,last week, explains all. These roses- Rosa mundi and The Apothecary’s Rose- below, which were cut from the Museum’s garden in the summer and are shown in a table in teh Drawing Room of the Museum, are a clue ;)
I thought you might care to see a post I wrote today on the Jane Austen’s House Blog about an item that has recently gone on display there: Charles Austen’s Sword. It is a very beautiful artefact, and takes my breath away each time I see it.
I thought you all might be interested to see a portrait of Edward Cooper, Jane Austen’s Evangelical cousin, rector of Hamstall Ridware in Staffordshire and friend of Thomas Gisborne. He was, or so it seems to me, a permanent irritant to Jane Austen, from the evidence of her letters.
The portrait is now on display at Jane Austen’s House in Chawton and if you click here you will be able to see it in a post I have written for the Museum’s blog.
In 2006 I was privileged to see this suit, shown below in its restored state, just before it went to be stabilised and restored, while I was on a visit to Chawton House Library. It is now the subject of an appeal, for it needs a special display case in order that the public can have access to it, to view it in all its restored glory
Chawton House was, of course, known to Jane Austen as The Great House in Chawton village and it was once owned by Edward Knight, her brother, shown below in his Grand Tour portrait, which is now also on show at the Library.
Edward inherited the Godmersham estate in Kent and the Chawton estate in Hampshire from Thomas Knight. He was a relative of George Austen, Edward and Jane’s father. Thomas and his wife were childless and had “adopted ” Edward, and made him their heir. This grand inheritance enabled him to provide a productive and happy home for Jane Austen her sister, Cassandra, their mother, Mrs Austen and their friend Martha Lloyd from 1809, at what is now the Jane Austen’s House Museum in the village.
This silk suit- a suit of two pieces, frock coat and breeches- has been in the Knight family since the 1790s.
It is said to have belonged to Edward, and the suit is now on loan to Chawton House Library by kind permission of Richard Knight, Edward’s descendant. Since I saw it the suit has been restored. Louise Squire, the textile conservator, prepared a report on it in 2009 and commented:
“The matching silk frock coat and breeches are dated to approximately 1789. The coat is fully lined with a yellow silk taffeta fabric,with the sleeves being lined in a white plain weave linen fabric. The olive green breeches are constructed in ribbed silk and feature a wide waistband, loose fitting seat and finish below the knee with narrow cuffs. The coat and breeches are a good example of the fashion of the day, with Edward’s penchant for oversize buttons!”
The Library has had a bespoke mannequin made for the suit, which you can see here, below, displaying the restored olive green silk breeches.
The suit is very small by modern standards, hence the need for the bespoke mannequin, and it is a fascinating object in its own right, without the added interest of its Austen family connections. For the suit to be put on display and for all us all to be able to enjoy it, it now needs a special conservation-grade display case, not only to display it but to protect it. This will cost around £5000, and the Library has raised nearly half the sun required for it. But just over half of the sum still needs to be raised, hence their current appeal for funds.
So, if you think you might be able to help the library with financial contributions towards the cost of displaying this very interesting Austen relic, you can contact Eleanor Marsden, the Development Director, on telephone number 01420-541010 or you can e-mail her on Elanor.firstname.lastname@example.org, for she would be delighted to hear from you with any offers of help you can afford to give.
On this, the 236th anniversary of Jane Austen’s birth, I really do hope ( fingers crossed!) that you will all be pleased to hear of my new venture.
I am terribly honoured to be involved with the launch of the Jane Austen’s House Museum’s new blog, which you can access here.
The idea behind the blog is to share the life of the museum with everyone, wherever you are in the world.
So….We will be bringing you news of the events and exhibitions held at the Museum, together with regular reports on the gardens, the objects in the museum’s collection and there will be also opportunities to virtually meet the staff, the volunteers and guests.
I do hope you will join us over there for all the fun, on the day when entrance to the museum is free and all visitors are offered a celebratory cup of coffee and a mince pie. On this cold, wintry and snowy day, reminiscent of the weather when Jane Austen was born in Steventon in 1775, I’m sure these offerings will be very welcome! Do join us, won’t you?
A s you all know, a few weeks ago I paid another visit to Jane Austen’s House Museum.
This is always a treat, but this autumn, which has been long and very beautiful, it was an extra special time to pay a visit to the stunning Hampshire scenery of the countryside around Chawton.
The autumnal colours of the gently rolling and wooded Hampshire countryside ( while nothing to the colours of a New England autumn ) were very lovely this year. I’ve written about the interior of the house before, so I thought this time I’d share with you my photographs of the garden. As some of you already know, I’m a very keen gardener,and, in fact, began my blogging life with a garden blog, so I always enjoy sitting and looking at this small but beautifully in-keeping and well-tended space.
The garden is to the left and to the rear of the house. On leaving the house the garden beckons, the last roses in bloom around the door invite you to wander…
The day I visited an autumnal cleaning up of the garden was taking place.
I like to see the garden actually being tended and used on a visit: it brings it alive.
The Austen ladies had a view of the garden from the ground floor of the house: the Gothic window on the garden side of the house was opened up and installed for them. You can see it on the left of the house, below.
The old drawing-room window was blocked up before they arrived to take possession of the house..
Chawton Cottage was of course, part of Edward Austen Knight’s Chawton estate and it was due to his beneficence that from 1809, the Austen ladies finally lived in a settled home.
The garden is not now how it was when the Austen ladies lived there, but care is taken by the Museum to try to include only plants that would have been available to them.
The view from the house looks out onto an oak tree surrounded by a Regency style tree seat. This is in fact a seedling from a tree that was originally planted by the Austen ladies when they took possession of Chawton Cottage. Two trees were planted by the wall that forms the boundary of the garden and the road.
These have now been felled due to disease,but Elizabeth Bowden, who was the then curator of the museum on the 1980s, found a seedling from one of the trees near the wall and replanted it here. It is an English oak-Quercus ruber.
A display of plants used in the dying process is also near to the house…
Onions grown for their skins….wihch produce a yellow or rust coloured dye.
Tickseed… which produces a yellow, green or rust coloured dye..
and Madder..which prduces a red dye.
In keeping with the pre-Victorian theme of the garden, the planting includes such cottage garden stalwarts as hollyhock , below…
and fuchsia. Fuchsia magellanica, below, was first introduced into England in 1788,
so it is entirely plausible that such a plant might have grown in the Austen ladies garden.
To the rear of the garden the herbaceous border sweeps round and on the lawn there is always plenty of comfortable seating.
This is a smashing position in which to sit in the summer. Quite often the number of summer visitors to the small house can be rather overwhelming, and it is good to sit here in the garden and take stock.
The beech hedge divides the public from the working part of the garden.
To the rear of the house is a great yew tree, which must surely date from at last the time of the house. At this time of year the red fruits of the yew are very visible
Hers is a very short video of the garden. You will be pleased to note I am taking delivery of a MUCH better camera this week and so, on my next visit, the photographs and videos(especially the videos!) will be of a much higher quality. If only the operator were more talented ;)
So that’s it : a short autumnal visit to the garden at Chawton Cottage, Jane Austen’s much-loved Chawton home.
I do hope you have enjoyed it .
Poor Blake Ritson has had to make his excuses and cannot now attend the evening in Chawton on Saturday the 9th April (which is this coming Saturday) as he is now committed to a days filming. But the good news is that Charity Wakefield will be able to attend in his stead and therefore this will be a marvellous opportunity to meet two of the Dashwood sisters as they were portrayed in the latest BBC adaptation of Sense and Sensibility.
Hattie Morahan, shown below in her role as Elinor……
and Charity Wakefield, shown below portraying Marianne
will be meeting everyone for a pre-performance gathering in the new Learning Centre at the Museum from 7 p.m., and then they will give a talk followed by a question and answer session at Chawton village Hall. They are both marvellous actors and I’m sure this opportunity to put questions to the Dashwood sisters about their roles, and how they enjoyed playing and interpreting the differences between the sisters etc will be one not to miss. The two sisters and their relationships are one of the most interesting aspects of Sense andSensibility to me,and therefore this really is an opportunity not to be missed.
Tickets cost £17.50 each, concessions £15.00 (to include pre-performance glass of wine). Under 16 tickets will cost £10.00 each.
Places are very limited so please do telephone the museum to book on 01420 83262 as soon as possible to secure your place.
…then hie thee to Chawton on Saturday the 9th April, when the actors Hattie Morahan( who played Elinor in the BBCs latest production of Sense and Sensibility) and Blake Ritson ( Edmund in ITVs production of Mansfield Park and the odious Mr Elton in the BBC latest production of Emma) will be paying a visit to the Jane Austen House Museum and Chawton Village Hall to take part in a very special actors panel entitled Always Acting a Part: A Panel of Austen Actors
This is a marvellous and rare opportunity to meet these two wonderful actors, to hear their thoughts on playing some of Jane Austen’s most interesting characters and also to put to them any questions you have as to how they prepared for these roles and also how they interpreted their characters in the recent adaptations.
The Panel Discussion, which is part of the Jane Austen’s House Museum’s celebrations marking the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s first novel Sense and Sensibility, will take place in Chawton Village Hall and commences at 8.00pm, but before that there will be a Pre-Performance Gathering in the Learning Centre at the Museum from 7.00pm
Tickets are now available to book from the Jane Austen House Museum at the following prices : £17.50, Concessions £15.00 (to include pre-performance glass of wine). Under 16s £10.00. To book please telephone 01420 83262
And I’d hurry if I were you as I’m sure these tickets will soon be sold out! It’s not every day you have the opportunity to see (and more importantly hear!) Elinor Dashwood, Edmund Bertram and Mr Elton in the same room…;)
The Tourist Office at Winchester have produced a new Jane Austen Trail leaflet and website to celebrate this years 200th Anniversary of the first publication of Sense and Sensibility. They are both very interesting and will be very useful for visitors to Hampshire this summer who want to visit the main Jane Austen sites, for not only does the trail and website give historical data but much-needed travel information: this will be invaluable to Austen-tourists not familiar with the area.
The trail plots the Jane Austen’s life in Hampshire chronologically, and includes information on Chawton Cottage, her family home from 1809 until 1817 and now the Jane Austen House Museum, which was of course where she composed and revised her six marvellous adult novels, and her final, unfinished work, Sandition.
I might quibble with about the veracity of a few of the statements in the leaflet, but then that’s just me being über picky ;) It is in fact generally very helpful, and I do like that it includes detail not only on the well-known Jane related sites such as Steventon, Chawton and Winchester, but also Southampton and Portsmouth (However, sadly I note that the Coastal Jaunts part of the website is not accessible to me : too many redirects)
Today I have something really special to offer you, an interview with Louise West, who has recently been appointed as the Curator of the Jane Austen House Museum at Chawton. She has succeeded the redoubtable and rather wonderful Mr Tom Carpenter in the role and was the Education Officer at the Museum for many years prior to this appointment.
A few weeks ago I asked Louise if she would give us an interview, for I knew you would like to get to know her a little better, especially as she is the person who is now caring for Jane Austen’s very important Chawton Home. Amazingly, she agreed to do it….
So, here it is. I do hope you find it interesting.
Louise, you have worked at the Jane Austen’s House Museum for some years, first as the education officer and now as the curator, can you tell us when and how you first become interested in Jane Austen?
I was aware of her from a very young age and in my bedroom there was a copy of Pride and Prejudice with illustrations by Brock which my mother had received as a school prize in the 1930’s. I first read beyond Chapter One when I was 15 (tried at 12 and got nowhere) and have been hooked ever since.
This is the question most Janeites hate, because it is almost unanswerable, but I’ll ask it anyway: which is your favourite Jane Austen novel and why?
Emma. It was my A level text so I knew it in detail from early on but it still surprises me. It’s also cheered my through sad times in my life.
Many people associate Bath with Jane Austen and are not aware of the treasures to find at Chawton. They often think it is difficult to access (most emphatically, it is not!) Yet too many people visiting the museum might endanger it’s unique and very special atmosphere. This is obviously a delicate balance to maintain, and I’d like to know what is your long-term vision for the museum, and your thoughts on attracting visitors to the house.
Let me say first of all that I can understand why people associate Bath with Jane Austen. It is after all a Regency town and includes places specifically included in her novels. However, I do want people in this country and worldwide to associate Chawton and Hampshire in their mind with Jane Austen, because this was her home county and Chawton Cottage (now Jane Austen’s House Museum) was actual home. More importantly it’s the home where she did the majority of her writing – the reason for her fame!
The numbers game is tricky but I would confidently say that we are nowhere near breaking point. There are times that are particularly busy in the summer but then there is always the garden to explore. The winter months of November, December, February and March can be quite quiet and visitors can enjoy the special atmosphere of the house sometimes on their own.
We do want to encourage repeat visits and we are lucky that over the next few years we have the bicentenaries of all the novels to celebrate.
The next seven years are very exciting ones for Janeites with so many important bi-centenaries on the calendar, culminating in 2017 with the bicentenary of Jane Austen death. How will the museum be celebrating this year’s 200th anniversary of the first publication of Sense and Sensibility?
In many ways. All our events this year are themed around Sense and Sensibility, and these will include concerts, talks and relevant displays. (Go here to see more details of the events.) We will be having regular readings from the novel by our staff and volunteers who have been helped by our wonderful patron, Elizabeth Garvie. (Whom you will all recognize in her photograph, below, for she is a general Janeite favourite, her portrayal of Elizabeth Bennet in the 1981 production of Pride and Prejudice produced by the BBC is considered one of the best, and her stage performances in A Celebration of Jane Austen, with her late husband, Anton Rogers and now with Robert Powell, are acclaimed- jfw)
May I ask about the new edition of about the new edition of Sense and Sensibility that the Jane Austen House Museum is publishing this year? Is this going to be the first of a series of all six of the novels? Can you let us have some details about the book: for example, will it be published in hardback and paperback format, will it be annotated and will it be illustrated? And can we order it from the Museum shop?
We are very excited about this venture as you can imagine – publishing Jane’s first novel 200 years after it was first published from this very house. Our aim at this stage is certainly to publish all 6 novels in the same format over the next few years. It will be a hardback copy with covers very similar to the original board ones, but it will be in one volume and not three. As with the original it will not be annotated or illustrated, but, it will have a foreword by our patron, Professor Kathryn Sutherland, renowned Austen scholar, from Oxford University. Yes, you will be able to order it from the museum shop.
The newly refurbished kitchen has been beautifully renovated, and is a wonderfully inviting space. Do you have any plans to use it for public events, and do you plan to use it in conjunction with Martha Lloyd’s amazing household book?
We already use the kitchen for certain events. We have held herb workshops in there and we often use it for intimate sessions with small groups. It’s also a very nice venue for refreshments at evening events. We do have plans to use the recipe book in new and creative ways, but these are still in development. Watch this space!
This all sounds rather exciting, intriguing and yet comforting at the same time. It is wonderful to note that Jane Austen’s house is in such good and capable hands, and I do look forward to the development of Chawton under Louise’s tenure very much. I should like to thank her for her time and for her gracious answers to my rudimentary questions, and I hope many of you will visit Louise at the Museum.
During my last visit to Jane Austen House Museum, I was lucky enough to have the place to myself, which gave me ample time to ponder the wonder that is her set of manuscript music books, one of which was on show.
I am only an amateur musician and play the piano very badly indeed, but have transcribed enough pieces by hand during my music studies to know that Jane Austen’s transcribing gifts were great indeed.
As you can see from the photograph I took of the book that was available to see, her musical notation is clear , neat and very beautiful. And of course this habit of transcribing was born of necessity, as sheet music was expensive to buy.
I thought you might like to know of two related on-going academic projects that are currently studying Jane Austen’s music collection.
The Australian soprano Gillian Dooley, who is also Honorary Research Fellow at Flinders University, has been transcribing and publishing online in pdf. form much of Jane Austen’s music that is in the collection of the Jane Austen Memorial Trust at the Jane Austen’s House Museum, or is in the collection of the Hampshire Record Office or the Chawton House Library, which currently holds the Jenkyns collection.
The collection is available to view here. Pieces will be added to the site gradually.
As Gillian Dooley writes on the Flinders University website:
Most transcripts were made during a research trip to England in September-October 2010. Transcripts were made only from manuscript sources, and only when print versions of a manuscript were not available elsewhere. When the music in the collections was a printed score, a copy was requested.
Some transcripts were made previously from music sourced elsewhere and performed in earlier concerts. In these cases, the versions provided were checked against the versions in the Austen Music collections and any differences noted on the scores. Concert programs are also available as part of this Collection in the Flinders Academic Commons.
A major research project at Southampton University, led by Professor Jeanice Brooks, is studying these collections and their place in the wider musical culture of the period, and I am looking forward to reading the results of their research when it is published.
I have just spent a very happy and absorbing hour looking at the 35 pieces that are available to view, including the songs Here’s the Bower She Loved So Much by Thomas Moore and Queen Mary’s Lamentation by Tommaso Giordani, a song all about Mary Queen of Scots, one of Jane Austen’s heroines, lamenting her imprisonment in England.
I’m sure the musically minded amongst you will enjoy looking through these pieces too.
This is the final part of my series of posts on a Christmas visit to Jane Austen’s House, her beloved Chawton Home. We have already seen inside, downstairs and upstairs and so now let have a look at the garden in winter and the outbuildings.
This is the view of the rear of the house. You can clearly see its basic “L’ shape , plus all the other additions made to the structure over the years.
The building that could be clearly seen from Jane Austen and Cassandra’s bedroom was the Bakehouse, a very important part of the Chawton Cottage domain.
Just outside the bake house was the well….which was needed to provide copious amounts of water
for the laundry,which was done in the Bakehouse too. This is the ‘copper’ :the bricks house a copper container. A fire would be lit underneath and the cottons boiled in the upper compartment, now covered with a wooden lid. I remember my grandmother -who had a similar room in her domestic offices- having her laundry done in this way by a team of people .As a tiny child I was allowed to watch the complex operation of boiling, mangling and starching. Seems a million years ago now…..
The baking for the Austen household took place here too…..
And the proximity of the well and the copper made the Bakehouse the perfectly practical place for boiling water for scalding the skins of slaughtered pigs. 18th century self sufficiency sounds delightful but having salted a pig once I can confirm it’s not something I’d like to do on a regular basis. Nor indeed is the time tyranny of always producing bread for a household something I’d like to revert to(I tried that once by hand for a few weeks and gave up:then I bought a bread maker!)
The other occupant of the Bakehouse is Mrs Austen’s donkey carriage which I have written about here in a previous post. Its interesting to note that Jane Austen in her final illness didn’t relish driving the cart, which would accommodate two not very large people. She had a saddle made for the donkey and prefered to use this as a sort of Georgian mobility scooter, and this enabled her to still walk with Cassandra around the lanes she loved so well, being a confessed ”desperate walker”.
To the rear of the Bakehouse are new additions to the museum complex. New rooms where lectures and receptions can be held. The museum has been in need of these facilities for years and I am so glad that they now have a splendid space in which to raise funds and educate.
If we go under the great yew tree at the side of the house we then arrive at the garden proper…..
…past the entrance to the house and the Gothic window…..
To look out onto the garden, covered in snow… looking towards the lane that leads to Chawton House.
And the lovely Regency- style tree seat…a pleasant spot in summer but chilly now….
If we turn back toward the house, this time we shall enter by the door on the left……
…into the newly refurbished kitchen……
With its restored range
…where the Austen’s meals would have been prepared…..
And where the laundry would have been ironed…..
And the griddle where scores would have been made
Some early 19th century pearlware in the ”Two Trees” pattern..waiting for some Twinings tea……
This is the view from the kitchen towards the Bakehouse and the old barn which is now the entrance to the museum and a wonderfully stocked shop,where certain purchases were made for next year’s AO Great Anniversary Giveaway (D.V.)
The kitchen was restored with the help and excellent advice of Peter Brears,whose new book about jellies I reviewed here last week. And there are some wonderful early 19th century jelly moulds on show in the kitchen on a small sideboard…
Including a lovely pineapple…….
Martha Lloyd’s recipe book is of course one of the treasures of the museum. Her recipes must have been prepared in this room. It’s all rather wonderful to think that her recipes and the room are now all in working order and available for us to see, food being such an important part of Jane Austen’s novels and letters.
If we leave the cosy kitchen and the garden we look out onto the road that now leads to the Selbourne road, with the Greyfriars pub on the right….
And we come to the front of the house ,where the Austen’s blocked up one of the windows in order to give them more privacy. And where there are now two plaques: one commemorating Mr Carpenter who gave the house to the Jane Austen Memorial Trust.
And this rather beautiful tablet with its apt wording:
lived here from 1809-1817
and hence all her works
Were sent to the world
Her admirers in this country
and in America have united
to erect this tablet.
Such art as hers
Can never grow old
And that ends my Christmas jaunt around Jane Austen’s House Museum for this time. I thought you might like to see it in its winter and Christmas finery,a change from the summer pictures we see all the time. I am planning to go back next year,so there will be some more conventional images for you to see then ;)
Last week on the anniversary of Jane Austen’s Birthday we toured the ground floor of her Chawton home, now the Jane Austen House Museum. Shall we now mount these small stairs to visit the upstairs rooms? It’s allowed…Yes, let’s…
On the way up we pass this window looking out onto the Bakehouse and the garden to the rear of the house.
The central corridor leads you towards three rooms on the left and two rooms on the right. Let’s go first left…..
and into a room full (full!) of Austen family relics.
This fine portrait of John Austen hangs in pride of place over the fireplace. He was Jane Austen’s great- great- grandfather,and was remembered in the family for his miserly treatment of his windowed daughter…shades of Sense and Sensibility.
There are so many treasures in this room, I’ve decided to show you only a few…….this post will be long enough as it is and you are all busy people….
One of the most touching treasures is a small lock of the Reverend George Austen’s hair, taken after his death in Bath in 1805, and kept in a small parcel of paper labelled by Jane Austen as “My father’s hair”…
A book of Jane’s eldest brother, James’ poetry, in his own hand
Jane’s ivory cup and ball, at which she was very skilled, and some ivory spillikins,again a dexterous game at which she excelled….
Some baby’s caps……familiar items to the lady below…..
Susannah Sackree, “Caky”, the nursemaid to Edward Austen Knight’s children at Godmersham…..
…and a copy of her prayerbook….bound in red leather…
Silhouettes of General and Lady Jane Matthews, the parents of Anne Matthews who was James Austen’s first wife and mother to Anna Austen.
The wonderful receipt book of Martha Lloyd, completed in many different hands…..
Jane Austen’s copy of Mentoria,which she remembered when writing Mansfield Park.
Into the room opposite, facing the garden and not the road…..
With a short exhibit explaining all the different houses where Jane Austen lived in Hampshire and Bath
And glass cases holding more treasure….The needlecase which Jane Austen made for her niece, Louisa
Eliza de Feuillide’s rouge pot, a deliciously tiny porcelain pot decorated in gilt on a dark blue ground
A soft cream silk shawl,an expensive gift to Jane from Mrs Catherine Knight, Edward Austen’s adoptive mother ….
Then to another room across the corridor, overlooking the road, dedicated to the naval brothers….
With Frank Austen’s collapsible cabin bed…..
All neat , ship-shape and Bristol Fashion…..
As he was thought to be the insportaion for Captain Harville in Persuasion, some of his handiwork is on show…..
including a carved writing case thought to have been made by him…
All overlooked by his Admiral, Horatio Nelson, shown here in a commemorative plate dating from 1805.
Then into a tiny adjoining room that is kept in darkness for its contents are very precious. As you walk in a light is automatically switched on and you see the quilt Jane Austen made with her mother and Cassandra
Have you remembered to collect pieces for the patchwork? We are now at a stand-still.
The window at the end of the corridor looks out onto the garden….
and to the road leading to Edward’s home,Chawton House…..
and the Winchester road…….the finger post marking the way….
But if we retrace our steps back along the corridor, we reach a special bedroom….
Jane’s Room, the room she shared with Cassandra from 1809 till she moved to Winchester in July 1817.
Here is a replica of one of the two beds that Mr Austen ordered for Cassandra and Jane in 1794 while they were still living at Steventon, and which has recently been installed at the museum.
The room faces the garden and looks down onto the bakehouse….which you can see with its open door below.
The closet contains a wash bowl and ewer
And the small fireplace has been decked out for the Christmas season….
A whited spotted muslin dress is on show here
A woman can never be too fine while she is in all white
Here is a short video of the room, which give you some idea of its dimensions, I think.
I do hope you enjoyed this second part of the tour. Next, the Gardens and Outbuildings.
Last week I was lucky enough to spend a few days at Chawton, staying in the village that was so important to Jane Austen and her development as a writer, so I thought I’d write about it today, to celebrate the anniversary of the snowy day when she was born in 1775.
And of course I couldn’t visit Chawton without paying yet another visit ( can we ever get enough of this place?) to Jane Austen’s happy Chawton Home, the cottage that from 1809 gave her security and peace and stability. And enabled her to have a productive freedom for eight years. During this period she revised Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey, totally created Mansfield Park, Emma and Persuasion, and wrote her last piece of fiction, Sandition which was left unfinished at her untimely death in July 1817.
The Cottage was owned by her brother Edward Knight, who owned the Chawton estate. The house was built in the late 17th century, is “L”-shaped, modest in size, and had six bedrooms as well as attics for the staff and storage. It was originally an inn. Edward Knight spent £45 19 shilling on structural alterations to the cottage, and another £35, 6 shillings and 5 pence on plumbing works.
Here is a section from Edward Mogg’s map of the village of Chawton dating from 1814, which shows the position of Jane Austen’s House on the junction of the roads
and here it is with the position of the house marked in blue. (Do note you can enlarge the maps by clicking on them in order to see the detail)
The position of the house on the junction of the roads leading to Winchester, Gosport, and Southampton made it a busy place in the early 19th century, with carriage traffic passing to and from Alton which was the nearest post town…So much so that the Austen ladies (Jane, Cassandra and their mother),and Martha Lloyd who lived with them, decided to fill in one of the drawing room windows that looked out onto the road and added the delightful Gothic window, that you can see above and below.
Shall we go in? Yes, lets…….
The first real room you enter is the drawing-room, one of the two “parlours” that the Austen ladies had. The new Gothic window gave them a view over the garden, which was set to the side of the house, and the Winchester Road which bordered the garden was screened by a high wooden fence to give them more privacy from prying eyes in coaches travelling to Winchester and beyond.
One of my favourite things about visiting the house is that the staff always have appropriate flower arrangements in the house: in spring and summer they have simple small posies of flowers from the garden on show but at this time of the year they always decorate the house as the Austen ladies may have done for Christmas, in common with many other Georgian families. As you can see the drawing-room fireplace is decked with boughs of evergreens, ivy and yew , and some oranges studded with cloves have been added( though the Austen ladies may have preferred not to use oranges this way but to make their store of expensive oranges into wine…)
There is a tremendous atmosphere in the house. It is a mixture of peace and happiness. I love being there and this time I had it all to myself save for the staff on duty. Who are always friendly and knowledgable, but realise you might want just to be quiet and walk around drinking in the atmosphere. They are always very sensitive.
The house is decorated in a way to suggest life as it was lived there from 1809 onwards…..
With small pictures of family places added in a sightly rickety manner on the walls…..
And pieces of costuming often to be found, suggest that someone similarly dressed might have once stood in the room: this is a replica of a morning dress dating from 1810.
The Bookcase contains editions of Jane Austen’s works……I wonder what she would have thought, seeing them on show….
And there is a square piano. Not the one Jane Austen owned, but one similar to it….. From the Drawing Room you pass into the Hallway, with a glimpse of the dining room ahead……
Edward Austen Knight’s Grand Tour Portrait lived in the house for many years but has now been returned to his Great House at Chawton(which is now the Chawton House Library.)During it’s restoration it was found to be much larger than originally thought as the edge had been folded to fit a frame.
Here we can see the restored Edward Knight in his new home, with Steve Lawrence, CEO of Chawton House Library, Sandy Lerner, Chairman of the Trustees, and Richard Knight, Trustee (Photograph by kind permission of Chawton House Library)
A print of the now restored portrait hangs in the passage and it does look much brighter than is used to, and the beautiful detail of the background is clearly revealed, as you can see .
There are always treats to be seen in the display cases in this part of the house…this visit it was one of Jane Austen’s own manuscript music books….Her music notation is a thing of clarity and beauty….and of necessity.
But there is also a portrait of Edward Knight was a child hanging over the fireplace…….no wonder the childless Mr and Mrs Knight were taken with him…..
The Silhouette showing him being presented to them is also on show in this small space…..
Then you go into the cosy dining room……
and where Jane used to write, and revise and write…..her glorious works of art…
….on this humble and very small table……
An object I always find to be a very touching and resonant relict…if only it could talk…..what tales it could tell…
I made a short video of the room…do click on it below…you can hear the upstairs floorboards creak, as one of the attendants had kindly left me on my own to soak up the atmosphere in this room…and then the downstairs boards creaked as I walked about…the silence, however, in this house is not unfriendly. And I think I can understand how Jane Austen loved this place so much, a place which afforded her peace and a regularity of life so that she could write….
The dining table is now denuded of the Wedgwood China that Jane helped Edward Austen choose at Wedgwood’ s showrooms in London…for the set was to be sold today, but failed to reach its auction estimate…I hope some of it makes it back to the house……
The educational elements are sympathetically done: you can see in the pictures the very discreet information boards which are attached to the walls in the rooms……And there is always something new and entertaining to see. This visit there was an exhibition of Rex Whistler’s costume designs for the 1936 stage production of Pride and Prejudice written by Helen Jerome and starring Celia Johnson as Elizabeth Bennet
This is one of the designs for Lady Catherine (above)
And here is another of the designs made up and on display……
The room that used to be a very tiny but wonderfully stocked shop is now a lovely quiet area where you can sit and think….
and read lots of material about Jane Austen. ……and from this room leads to the staircase to the upstairs bedrooms…
…which we shall discover in part 2, in a few days time .
In the meantime, Happy Jane’s birthday to you, from an appropriately snowy Jane Austen’s House Museum.
or so the saying goes…..
I am about to confess some recent antiquarian book purchases to you. In my defence, I will, of course, be sharing the contents of them with you in due course, so I’ve not been that extravagant. In truth I haven’t …I managed to purchase these books at quite amazing prices considering the contents. Of course some of them are not in very good condition,but as it is the content that I seek, I simply don’t care about aesthetics.
The first is a very good world gazetteer, Geography Illustrated on a Popular Plan for the Use of Schools and Young Persons by the Reverend J. Goldsmith
This is fabulously intact, still illustrated with many maps and engravings of places mentioned in the text.
Above is its view Kamskatchkan travellers. Kamskatchka was of course a place with which Jane Austen was very and amusingly familiar, using it as she did in her Plan of A Novel, as possibly the furthest place from England that she could imagine. She wrote her furious and funny attack as a result partly of receiving “helpful” suggestions of plots for novels from the Reverend Stanier Clarke etc etc
At last, hunted out of civilized Society, denied the poor Shelter of the humblest Cottage, they are compelled to retreat into Kamschatka where the poor Father, quite worn down, finding his end approaching, throws himself on the Ground, and after 4 or 5 hours of tender advice and parental Admonition to his miserable Child, expires in a fine burst of Literary Enthusiasm, intermingled with Invectives against holders of Tithes.
A real find in a local second-hand bookshop was this set of five volumes of the Middlesex volumes of The Beauties of England and Wales by Edward Wedlake Brayley and John Britton (1800-1815).
Ex-Library copies, their bindings are not the best, but they contain the most detailed descriptions of the topography and history of the counties of England. Middlesex is a marvellous county to have , for it included London and most of its environs in Jane Austen’s era, and so there are detailed descriptions of most of the places in London that Jane Austen knew and wrote about in these volumes. I’m enjoying dipping into them at the moment….
Amazingly, because they command reasonable prices on the print market, most of the engravings are intact in these volumes. Here is one of the Herald’s College.
This is an immensely interesting book, delineating four excursions from the city of Bath, with very detailed and idiosyncratic descriptions of the interesting places to be found en route. Each of the four exclusions is illustrated by a charmingly naive map: this is the route of the first excursion:
It also has great significance for those of us interested in the contents of Jane Austen’s library, for she actually owned a copy of this book. David Gilson in his Bibliography of Jane Austen describes the copy now owned by the Jane Austen Memorial Trust at the Jane Austen House Museum, which was annotated bythe Reverend Geroge Austen and was probably given by him to Jane.
I shall enjoy reading these books with you here and I shall be posting about them from time to time over the next few months. Do join me, won’t you?
Sotheby’s in London are to hold an auction – appropriately enough on the 16th December this year, the anniversary of Jane Austen’s birth – and among the lots on offer are two items with strong associations to her.
The first is the first edition copy of Emma in 3 volumes, that was presented to Maria Edgeworth in Ireland by Jane Austen through the offices of her publisher, John Murray. Maria Edgeworth was of course a friend of Jane Austen’s aunt and uncle Mr and Mrs James Leigh Perrots, as I have perviously detailed here, and sadly she seems not to have valued her copy of Emma very much if at all, and also seems not to have initially understood that it was the Perrot’s niece who as the author. Her statement
‘The authoress of Pride and Prejudice has been so good as to send me a new novel just published, Emma’
was followed by this assessment of the novel in a letter to her half brother:
‘There was no story to it, except that Miss Emma found that the man whom she designed for Harriet’s lover was an admirer of her own – & he was affronted at being refused by Emma… and smooth, thin water-gruel is according to Emma’s father’s opinion a very good thing & it is very difficult to make a cook understand what you mean by smooth thin water gruel”
The sale estimate is £70-£100,000. I doubt it will find its way into my Christmas stocking this year, but a girl can live in hopes…
The second lot which is of interest to us is the set of Wedgwood china that was ordered by Edward Knight and his daughter Fanny, in the presence of Jane Austen,as a spot of retail therapy after a traumatic trip to the dentist, as she noted in her letter to Cassandra Austen of the 16th September 1813:
We then went to Wedgwoods where my brother and Fanny chose a Dinner Set, I believe the pattern is a small Lozenge in purple, between Lines of narrow Gold; – and it is to have the Crest.
I have written about Wedgwood and the Austen’s here ,and below is a view of Wedgwood’s showrooms which were then situated just off St James Square in London:
This Friday the 18th July sounds as if it’s going to be a day of great fun at the Jane Austen House Museum.
There will be exhibitions of singing and dancing in period costume provided by The Madding Crowd a group of Regency music enthusiasts.
And there will be the opportunity to try your hand at ancient skills such as onion skin dyeing, lavender water making and peg doll making.
This year marks the launch of the museum’s brand new “handling sessions”.As the Museum’s blog explains:
These sessions allow people to pick up and touch real 200 year old objects from the museum’s handling collection. An experienced guide will help you explore what these objects tell us about the time of Jane Austen.
I think this is a marvellous way to bring history right into the hands and minds of young and old alike. I do wish I could go…..
In the evening there will be an harspichord recital by Dr Anthony Noble, the harpsichordist and musicologist who specialises in keyboard music of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The evening will consist of a recital of French harpsichord music by François Couperin, Jacques Duphly Claude-Bénigne Balbastre as well as some of the Pieces de Viole of Antoine Forqueray, in the versions published by his son Jean-Baptiste Forqueray, certainly arranged for the harpsichord by Jean-Baptist’s second wife, the great harpsichordist Marie-Rose Dubois.
The concert begins at 7.00pm and the tickets are very reasonably priced at £10.00 each. (Concessions £7.50)
The current exhibition at the Jane Austen’s House Museum at Chawton is a fascinating project, the development of which I have been following, fascinated, on-line for some time. Entitled Under the Influence, it showcases a series of works produced by design students of the Farnham University of Creative Arts, all of which have been inspired by the special atmosphere of Jane Austen’s house and garden. It will last until the 10th September 2010.
According to the exhibition’s website (which is fascinating: do explore it for the insights it gives into the creative process as experienced by some of the artists):
The aim of the project is to use the house and garden as a creative space and respond artistically to a sense of place. Using the museum collection and taking inspiration from Jane Austen’s life and novels, students will explore these aspects and develop contemporary artworks as a dialogue with the museum. We want to support up and coming local designers to produce artworks to sell and exhibit in summer 2010 at Jane Austen’s House Museum.
Here are two of the pieces of work inspired by the house and now on show there.
The first is a fabulous necklace, inspired by Catherine Morland’s resounding declaration for Bath in Northanger Abbey: “Oh Who could ever be tired of Bath ?” ( and please do click on it to enlarge the photograph in order to see the detail)
and this bravura ceramics piece, placed on the dining table nestling among Edward Austen Knight’s Wedgwood china.
I’m hoping to make my pilgrimage to Hampshire later in the summer to see this exhibit along with the Winchester Cathedral Exhibit on Jane Austen’s life. If I do mange to get there I will of course report back. But in the meantime I hope you enjoy this preview.
As many of you are fully aware, I love visiting Jane Austen’s house. I once had it nearly all to myself a few years ago on the day I was invited to the celebrations for the opening of Chawton House Library.
I arrived in Chawton village a little early for the lunch and decided to spend 45 minutes at Jane’s house. No one else was there save for the volunteers. Bliss.
I thought you all might like to read a first hand account of what it is like to be a volunteer at Jane Austen’s house. So, may I introduce you to another wonderful blogger, Beth Bonini, who in her post, Dispatches from Jane Austen’s House from her blog, From the Desk of Bee Drunken, allows us some glimpses into what it is like to spend time volunteering at the museum and to meet the visitors drawn there by a love of Jane…some with fascinating stories to tell.
I do hope you also take some time to enjoy the rest of this fabulous blog: it is well worth while exploring ;-)