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Chawton House has just issued news of a new exhibition.

For three days only – October 7th 8th and 9th 2010-  there will be an opportunity to visit Godmersham House in Kent the home of Edward Knight, Jane Austen’s brother, to view a case of books  which were formerly part of Edward Knight’s library and which now are in the possession of Chawton House Library. The hand written catalogue of the library dating from 1818 will also be on show.

The tickets are priced at £5 each and include admission to the exhibition and a catalogue.

On Saturday the 9th October  between o’clock and  12 noon and then between 2pm and 4pm Gilliam Dow of Southampton University, Jennie Batchelor of the University of Kent,and Katie Halsey of the University of Stirling will be giving a short series of talks on Jane Austen and the Library at Godmersham, The Austens and their Pocket Books,and Jane Austen’s Readers.

Futher details can be had from Godmersham Park Heritage Centre, telephone 01227 732 272 or by emailing them  on

heritagecentre-at-btconnect.-dot -com

replacing the words with the usual punctuation.

I feel a trip to Kent coming on…….

Yesterday, I had great fun at  Kelmarsh Hall’s second annual Country House Book Day.

Kelmarsh Hall, in Northamptonshire,  is a beautiful, small Georgian house,designed by Gibbs and Smith of Warwick, and has much in common stylistically and in size with its near neighbour Cottesbrooke Hall.

It is surrounded by parkland

a lake

the parish church

intimate gardens

and a walled kitchen garden in the process of being restored.

In addition to the fine surroundings yesterdays Book Day provided entertainment about houses and gardens with lectures being given by  leading garden writers and historians  to small but rapt audiences.

Amid these beautiful and fitting surroundings I went to listen to Amanda Vickery give her talk Out of the Closet: Love Power and Houses in the Eighteenth Century. It was as ever a virtuoso performance from Professor Vickery, author of the very interesting and rightly lauded book, BehindClosed Doors, and The Gentleman’s Daughter. She gave a talk full of riveting information and good humour. She told us about the universal need for a home,and what this need says  about us and about those who lived in the past ; how difficult it is to write about the home of the poor or even the middling sort for unlike the homes of the elite, few homes or artefacts from these classes survive into the 21st century; how responsibility for the different areas of a home were delegated between the sexes and how lack of a home was considered degrading for both spinsters and bachelors, those poor unmarried souls who had failed to achieve that most desirable  consumer object-a home of one’s own. She also discussed the concept of taste as defined in the 18th century and how this was viewed by the differing classes, ranging from the elite to the shopkeepers who supplied consumer goods to all classes. In all it was a marvellous bravura performance, totally enjoyable and very informative. If only all history lecturers were like this as my teenage daughter wistfully remarked  at the conclusion to Professor Vickery’s talk. Ah yes…if only….

 

If you go here you can downlad a podcast of a similar lecture Professor Vickery gave, the 2008 HarperCollins History lecture: I don’t think you need ITunes in order to play it, so I do hope many of you who cannot physically get to hear Professor Vickery talk will do this as it will give you a very good idea of her good humoured and intensely interesting style.

After the lecture I had the opportunity to take tea with Professor Vickery and amongst  other matters of important Austen-related gossip, she told me that she had been commissioned by the BBC to make a three-part television series based on Behind Closed Doors .I won’t give away details here but you can be assured that when  more information is available I will pass it on.

In all it was a wonderful day (and the English summer weather was kind for once!) and I am glad for this opportunity to share it with you.

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