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.