A few weeks ago I wrote that Chawton House Library were about to launch a new website. It is now live and ready for you to explore.

Chawton House Library’s New Website

Go here to see it in all its newly-minted glory. The online novels are there in full and there is a wonderful picture gallery to bring back memories or  to give those of you who have not been lucky enough to visit the Chawton home of Jane Austen’s brother, Edward ( and yes, it was also ocassoinally occupied by Frank Austen and his family )some idea of how quietly spectacular it all is.

Eleanor Marsden, the Director of Development, has asked me to mention a very special project that the Library is currently working upon. They are  raising funds to restore a rather beautiful and intricate sampler in their collection, shown below.  It dates from 1830 and was stitched by Mary Pennington aged only 10 years, as Instructed by Mrs Stubbs:

The Chawton Sampler

As they write on the appeals page:

The Pennington sampler is an asset to the Library as we seek to contextualise the education of the period and C.18 women’s literature held here; its maker’s proficiency at age ten speaks volumes about how she filled her time, her accomplishments, tastes, and her interests.  The sampler also sits alongside portraits of other accomplished women of the period, and re-values work produced in the home by placing it alongside work produced professionally by writers and painters. 

Our object collections are fundamental to contextualising the literature – and vice versa – and with a number of C.18 miscellanies in the literary collection, the sampler by Mary Pennington is a beautiful and rare example of domestic work by a  young woman of the long eighteenth century. 

If you would like to help them with any donations to fund this project, then do go here to their fund raising page. You have to agree, this sampler is very fine, and would probably out do poor Charlotte Palmer’s effort -a landscape of silks -which was hung  in her old bedroom in Mrs. Jennings’ house in Town, as proof of her rather expensive, and, it is implied by Jane Austen, rather useless education:

It had formerly been Charlotte’s, and over the mantlepiece still hung a landscape in coloured silks of her performance, in proof of her having spent seven years at a great school in town to some effect.

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 26.