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You may care to know that Simon Langton, shown below talking to Lucy Scott the actress who played Charlotte Lucas, and who was
the director of the BBC’s 1995 production of Pride and Pejudice starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, is going to give a talk about that experience at Chawton House on the 18th April at 7p.m.
Here are all the details from the Chawton House press release:
To Celebrate the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice acclaimed film and TV director Simon Laongton will discuss directing the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and prejudice starring COlin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, for which he was nominated for a BAFTA, as well as other costume dramas which he has been involved with throughout his prolific career. Simon Langton was nominated for both a BAFTA award in the UK and an Emmy award in the USA for his 1982 dramatisation of the John le Carré novel, Simley’s People. He later won a BAFTA award for the 1989 series, Mother Love, starring Diana Rigg. Other productions include The Scarlet Pimpernel; Upstairs Downstairs; Jeeves and Wooster; the Duchess of Duke Street and Anna Karenina with Christopher Reeve. He continues to direct British drama, most recently with a number of episodes of Rosemary and Thyme, Foyles War and Midsomer Murders. An intimate supper with Simon Langton at Chawton House Library will follow the lecture; tickets are
available for the lecture or lecture with supper.
If you want to book tickets for the lecture, or lecture and supper then please do contact Chawton House at Chawton House Library,
Chawton, Alton, Hampshire, GU34 1SJ; Tel: 01420 541010
This week’s edition of BBC2’s The Culture Show, presented by the delicious Andrew Graham-Dixon, has a wonderful, small section( just over 5 minutes long) presented by Professor John. Filmed on location at Chawton House on a very snowy day, he talks about Pride and Prejudice and the different adaptations that have been made of the novel – all nine of them- and it is a thoughtful, sensible essay, pointing out that the adaptations, in the main, reflect the times in which they were made.
The whole episode of The Culture Show is available to watch via the BBC iPlayer for the next seven days (and sadly this will only be available to this of you in the UK) here, but… hurrah and huzzah… the BBC has provided a clip of the entire essay on Pride and Prejudice from the programme which can be accessed by everyone ( or so I assume) via this link on their website here , Our Love Affair with Pride and Prejudice. I do hope you will watch it and enjoy it.
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.
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:
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.
I was lucky enough to visit this very fascinating exhibition at Chawton House Library on Friday.
It is based around a the discovery of a fascinating document, the sale catalogue of the bookseller, John Burdon who had premises in College Street, Winchester. When he died in 1803 , his sons failed to carry on his business and thus his entire stock was sold at auction in 1807. By studying the catalogue- which lists over 5,000 individual titles- we can deduce what reading material was available to his customers in Winchester and the surrounding area.
We can also deduce what Jane Austen might then have read and had access to, in addition to the books we know she referenced in her novels and letters.Burdon was entitled to be called the Austen family’s bookseller, because it would appear they had an account at the shop. In her letter to Cassandra Austen, her sister, of the 25th November 1798 she makes the following comment, referring to her father’s account at Burdon’s bookshop:
We have got “Fitz Albini”; my father has bought it against my private wishes, for it does not quite satisfy my feelings that we should purchase the only one of Egerton’s works of which his family are ashamed. That these scruples, however, do not at all interfere with my reading it, you will easily believe. We have neither of us yet finished the first volume. My father is disappointed — I am not, for I expected nothing better. Never did any book carry more internal evidence of its author. Every sentiment is completely Egerton’s. There is very little story, and what there is is told in a strange, unconnected way. There are many characters introduced, apparently merely to be delineated. We have not been able to recognise any of them hitherto, except Dr. and Mrs. Hey and Mr. Oxenden, who is not very tenderly treated…We have got Boswell’s “Tour to the Hebrides” and are to have his “Life of Johnson”; and, as some money will yet remain in Burdon’s hands, it is to be laid out in the purchase of Cowper’s works.
The exhibit very carefully leads the visitor around the story of what could be available to purchase in a provincial booksellers like Burdons. And the choice was surprisingly vast and varied: local authors, international big hitters, travel journals, political treaties, theological works, poetry, fiction, plays. And not all of this material was produced in London and distributed locally by the bookshop, after ordering them from catalogues. Burdon was a producer as well as a supplier. He supplied newspapers, pamphlets, single volumes, and lavishly produced multi volume sets. Neither was he alone: Winchester had several booksellers, stationers, bookbinders, private libraries and circulating libraries. The press that printed the weekly-produced Hampshire Chronicle from 1778 was on show in the Oak Room,which you can just make out in the photograph below, to the right.
The exhibit was set out in two rooms at Chawton House: the Oak Room, where part of the room was set up as a Gentleman’s Library of the period…
…his desk chair left momentarily empty as he is seemingly suddenly called away from his books…
And then the Map Room….
Each book was accompanied by a laminated card printed with thought-provoking statements and questions relating to each book.
One of my favourite books on show was the Winchester College Borrowers Book, below
I do hope this is available either to purchase or view online soon, as it would be wonderful to speculate about the type of books Jane Austen might have purchased and not mentioned in her letters….
And in the famous alcove in the Oak Room, The Winchester Bindery, which operates from the current P. and G. Wells bookshop in Winchester, where Mr Burdon had his premises in the late 18th century…
produced an explanatory display about the bookbinders art, which included some 18th century tools – see the mind-blowingly large set of card cutters, below:
How many children were employed in the use of these, I wonder ?…The exhibition,which runs until Friday afternoon does have a simply produced but very informative catalogue, which is reasonably available at the cost of £1.
Eleanor Marsden, the Development Officer at Chawton House Library, has kindly allowed us a teaser, a sneak preview of their new website:
It will be launched at the end of July, and looks very different from their current website, below, I’m sure you will agree.
I’m looking forward to examining it in detail, as I’m sure there are treasures waiting to be found within its digital pages! It will be at the same address, http://www.chawton.org/ so do keep an eye open for it.
Chawton House Library is currently staging an intriguing exhibition entitled, Jane Austen’s Bookshop.
A result of a joint research project by the University of Winchester, California State University Long Beach and Chawton House itself, the exhibition provides a detailed look at the stock of John Burdon’s bookshop in Winchester, which was open for business during Jane Austen’s life time in College Street, Winchester. As the University of Winchester website tells us:
The exhibition provides, for the first time, a snapshot of a complete catalogue of printed material which was available at John Burdon’s bookshop in Winchester during Jane Austen’s lifetime. Burdon’s was used by the Austen family as well as other influential writers of the period and was based in College Street, now the home of Wells Bookshop.
P and G Wells is a favourite bookshop of mine. They have always stocked rare to find Jane Austen-related material, and in the dark days before the online buying of books was easily transacted, you could always reply on them to send books to you via their excellent mail order service.
One of those rare survivors, an independent bookshop, P. and G. Wells still offer a fine service to their customers, all over the world, and, of course, an additional link to Jane Austen is that their premises are situated on College Street in Winchester, a few doors away from the house where it is thought that Jane Austen died, below…
and they are also in the same street as Winchester College, below, where many of Jane’s nephews were educated:
The big breakthrough which inspired much of the research was made by Dr. Norbert Schürer, a visiting Leverhulme Fellow at Winchester who specialises in studying the work of women writers of the eighteenth century. He found the bookseller’s catalogue which dates from 1807. As he explains:
I was researching eighteenth-century print culture in Winchester.One of the first things I did was to identify Burdon’s bookshop by putting research from other critics together. Then quite by chance, I discovered that the bookshop had been sold in 1807 with a complete catalogue, giving us the name of every single book in the store.
The catalogue apparently contains details of all the books stocked by John Burdon in 1807 : they include novels, biographies, travel narratives as well as travel guides, journals and periodicals, theological literature, sermons, poetry and a wealth of other reading matter. The exhibition will explore how readers and writers in Winchester shared printed material in the early 19th century, and it focuses on publications made by scholars at Winchester College, annual reports from the County Hospital, and advertisements and reviews in local newspapers like the Hampshire Chronicle. It is open weekdays, 10am-4pm, from Tuesday 19 June to Friday 6 July.
I am lucky enough to be in Chawton this weekend, and if I manage to get to the exhibition, I will, of course, report back to you, but I should think that many of you in the area will be making plans to visit it. It sounds totally fascinating.
Mr Brodnax Moore, the grandson of Mr. and Mrs. George Brook Knight, has very kindly made available to us a PDF. file of the booklet which was produced to mark the unveiling of the Centenary Tablet on Chawton Cottage (now the Jane Austen House Museum) in 1917.
This is the cover of the original booklet:
The booklet, now quite a rare find in antiquarian bookshops, contains details of the unveiling ceremony, with photographs and the text of the speeches. Constance Hill, who wrote Jane Austen, Her Home and Her Friends,(1902) and her sister, Ellen G. Hill were the prime movers in the desire to erect a tablet on the cottage, and helped form a committee to raise the necessary funds. They wished to commemorate the fact that this was the house where Jane Austen had lived and worked. At that time in the early 20th century the house was still in the ownership of the Knight family and was part of the Chawton estate. It was not open to the public, and the formation of the Jane Austen Society was some decades away. This booklet records, therefore, the beginnings of the interest in Jane Austen’s life, times and works which continues today.
Ellen Hill designed the tablet, shown below, which can still be seen on the house today, and its interesting symbolism is explained in the booklet.
If you would like to read the booklet, or download it to keep on your computer, then you may by clicking on this link, below, which will take you directly to the file.
I’m sure you will all want to thank Mr. Moore for this very kind and generous gift to us. The original booklet was found by him in one of his grandmother’s albums. She and her husband lived at the Great House, now know as Chawton House Library, below, in the 1930s.
He very carefully constructed the PDF file directly from it. I am very grateful to him for making this available to us all, and for his thoughtfulness. So, please, do enjoy reading this interesting item.
Today I’d like to give you advance notice of a talk to be given by Professor Kathryn Sutherland of St Anne’s College, Oxford University, at Chawton House Library on the 8th May entitled ‘The Watsons’: Jane Austen Practising.
The Watsons is one of the few remaining manuscripts written in Jane Austen’s hand to survive, and you may recall that it was bought by the Bodleian Library last year, to ensure that it remains in the UK for scholars and Austen enthusiasts to continue to have access to it. You can see it here on the Jane Austen Fiction Manuscripts website. The only other manuscripts of Jane Austen’s adult works that survive are the other unfinished fragment, Sanditon, together with the cancelled chapters of Persuasion. Professor Sutherland, below, has made an especial study of Jane Austen’s existing manuscripts, partly in an attempt to try to decipher her working methods and so her talk promises to be fascinating.
In her book, Jane Austen’s Textual Lives: From Aeschylus to Bollywood, Professor Sutherland deals with many fascinating subjects, looking anew and in great detail on aspects of Jane Austen’s life and works we take for granted as having “always been there”, particularly with regard to the censorship of the Austen and Knight families surrounding the release of biographical information. The part of her book I particularly admired were the chapters where she goes into amazing detail to try to determine how exactly Jane Austen wrote: how she revised, amended and fiddled with her manuscripts and what processes her works were subjected to before and after they left her care and control. The Professor has been criticised on the internet and in the press for some of her comments regarding Jane Austen’s grammar. In the book, in layman’s terms if you will allow me, Professor Sutherland details how Austen’s later works were corrected by a series of editors. Some journalists clearly decided that Professor Sutherland was on the side of the editors, and that she was agreeing with their “attacks” on Austen’s original and idiosyncratic texts. It is my understanding, on reading the book, that nothing could be further from the truth. This brouhaha has sadly detracted from her main argument, which is that Jane Austen’s genius should not and ought not to have been constrained by the workings of and the unasked for (and in many cases unwarranted) imposition of a Victorian ( or Edwardian or even modern) man’s idea of correct grammar. And that, in fact, by imposing their own standardised version of correct, written English upon her texts, quite a lot of Jane Austen’s original intent has been diminished as a result. She conducts a minute forensic examination of the novels, their publishing history and the changes various editors have imposed upon Austen( and us). The results will surprise you (and often discomfort). This part of the book is a fascinating and illuminating read. Some of the language used is undoubtedly academic and it is challenging…but then, why should reading always be a totally effortless pastime?
Reading her book opened my eyes to the terrible power an editor has, especially when the author is not available to defend her choices. These choices- her use of words, punctuation and grammar- which make perfect sense in the context of her novel, may be seen as sloppy or careless mistakes to a reader not exactly in tune with the author’s original intent. I had really not considered just how crucial the editorial approach to a text truly is until I had considered the effects on these texts. ( Forgive me, I am not always so dense). This book opened my eyes and made me think critically about the whole process of publishing a book, in detail, for the first time. As a dyslexic with some paralysed fingers, it has taken me years to try to attune myself to grammatical rules, punctuation and spelling: I once had the luxury of secretaries to point me in the right direction but I always had to ensure that their well-meaning additions did not detract from my correct legal turn of phrase. Now spell and grammar checks irritate me in a similar way ;)
I confess I waited to read the paperback edition of her book to be available because the original price for the hardback was prohibitive, and I think much of the outrage written about regarding Professor Sutherland’s comments reveals that not many of her critics seem to be familiar with the arguments in her book either. On reading her book- which though academic in tone is not inaccessible to the amateur reader of Jane Austen- I promise– it becomes clear that she is firmly on the side of Austen and her creative genius.
The book is available now as a reasonably priced paperback and also as an even more attractively priced Kindle edition. I would urge you to seek it out, and while it is an academic study, its subject matter is so fascinating and revelatory, I am convinced you will find it worthwhile and that it might very well alter your thoughts on Austen’s works and how they are edited .
Back to the Chawton House Lecture. It is to take place on the 8th May and tickets are available from Chawton House Library. Go here to see all the details. I do hope many of you can go along. If you can’t, do try to have sight of Professor Sutherland’s book. I really don’t think you will regret it.
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.