Welcome back to Chawton House Library Conversations. First launched on Sunday 8 March 2015 in celebration of International Women’s Day, our monthly podcast is a round up of news, events and highlights, helping you stay connected with Chawton House Library wherever you are.

In November’s podcast we hear from Fiona Stafford, Professor of English at the University of Oxford and Vice-Principal of Somerville College.  Professor Stafford tells us of the impact that the Battle of Waterloo had on the major writing of the period, in particular how it affected traditional ideas of the hero and the heroic.  We discuss the significance of the Battle of Waterloo in Byron’s Don Juan and Jane Austen’s Persuasion – two texts that Professor Stafford later focused on in her lecture.

Librarian Dr Darren Bevin gives us an insight into the collection of rare and unique books and manuscripts held by Chawton House Library, and we talk about the importance of the current book conservation programme.  Volunteer Carol Knight joins us to talk about her connection with the house and her volunteer work in the Library.  Carol is the wife of Jeremy Knight and lived in Chawton House for about 20 years before coming back to volunteer.

We also head outside to say hello to the five shire horses on the estate and talk  to Angela, the Head Horseman, who, along with her colleague Simone, is currently training one of the younger horses and maintaining the woodland on the 270-acre estate.  Angela tells us of her love and admiration for the ‘gentle giants’ and how her aim is to raise money to buy new harnesses for them. 



Next month we will have news of the special fundraising supper in the company of best-selling novelist, Joanna Trollope, taking place on 5 December.


Look as you listen:

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Professor Fiona Stafford (University of Oxford) who gave her lecture Austen, Byron and the Aftermath of War here at Chawton House Library on 29 October.




The recent book conservation training day in action! Our volunteers are trained by specialist book conservator Caroline Bendix.




One of our gentle giants, Isaac the shire horse, is currently being trained by Angie and Simone.

…By a Partial, prejudiced, & ignorant Historian*

At the recent Jane Austen Society of North America AGM in Kentucky, our Founder and the Chair of our Board of Trustees, Dr Sandy Lerner, OBE, unveiled a timeline of women’s writing which looked at key moments and writers from the past. It examined Chawton House Library’s place in, and contribution to, the writing of women’s literary history, highlighting the unique volumes in our library collection and our Novels-on-Line project.  While the main purpose of the timeline was to illustrate the rich and long history of women’s writing prior to and during Jane Austen’s life-time, the graphic presentation attracted general viewers and comments.

The time-line proved very popular at JASNA, prompting many attendees to reconsider Austen’s position within the context of women’s writing through the centuries.  By highlighting the unique books in the collection at Chawton House Library, the work generated a long and much-appreciated list people who wished to help us make these rare texts available to readers and scholars through the Novels-on-Line project. The origin of CHL’s The Female Spectator was much discussed, as well as the centuries of women’s fiction that preceded the well-known and long-studied male writers like Daniel Defoe and Henry Fielding, such as Henry’s sister Sarah, and Defoe’s associate, Eliza Haywood.

Women have had a long, colourful, and successful history as writers.  Come celebrate our past, and contribute to our future!

Timeline of Women Writers (Opens PDF)

*When Jane Austen was fifteen years old, she wrote The History of England from the reign of Henry the 4th to the death of Charles the 1st By a partial, prejudiced, & ignorant Historian, which poked fun at schoolroom history books and ridiculed historians’ pretensions of objectivity.

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The Foyle Foundation, and numerous individuals, made possible the restoration of this silk suit and purchase of the display cabinet.

We are excited to announce the introduction of new display cases here at Chawton House Library.  Thanks to the extremely generous support of the Jane Austen Society of North America, the Foyle Foundation, Friends of the Library and the George Cadbury Trust, we have been able to purchase four climate-controlled display cabinets to house some of the treasures of our collection.
The first display cabinet, located in the Dining Room, now houses the silk suit that reportedly belonged to an adolescent Edward, Jane Austen’s brother, who became Edward Knight in 1812.  Also on display is his journal documenting his travels through France to Switzerland in July 1786.  We are grateful for the support of the Foyle Foundation, and numerous individuals, who helped restore Edward’s suit and pay for this cabinet.







Several of Mary Robinson’s works are displayed in this case, which was made possible thanks to the support of the Friends of the Library.

The second new display cabinet, made possible by the ongoing support of the many Friends of the Library, lives in the Great Hall under the watchful eye of Mary Robinson’s ‘Perdita’ portrait.  It contains first editions of a collection of Robinson’s poems (1791), her first novel ‘Vancenza, or the Dangers of Credulity’ (1792), and her memoirs (published posthumously in 1801).






The Tapestry Gallery is now home to the third display cabinet, which contains books donated to us by Sandra Clark, Texas, all of which have the name Caroline Austen (Jane Austen’s niece by her elder brother James) inscribed on the front.


Cowper, William. Poems. Volume One. (London: Printed for J. Johnson 1812) Inscription: “Caroline Mary Craven Austen. March 1820”

One of these books is Stephanie-Felicite de Genlis’s ‘Theatre a l’usage des jeunes personnes’, which contains the inscription “Caroline Austen. The gift of her Aunt Cassandra. Jan 13 1815”. Cassandra was of course Jane Austen’s sister, and the inscription is in her hand. This book is open on a pencil drawing of a dog that may have been sketched by James Edward Austen-Leigh, brother of Caroline, and Jane Austen’s first major biographer.  The poems of Burns and Cowper, and Edward Young’s ‘Night Thoughts on Life, Death and Immortality’ are the other three books on display.

We were able to purchase this cabinet due to the ongoing support of the Jane Austen Society of North America.







12049226_10153599273215821_704095708938710438_nOur third (and final) new table top display case, situated in the lower reading
room, is here thanks to the generous support of the George Cadbury Trust.

Our first display focuses on our book conservation programme (http://www.chawtonhouse.org/?page_id=58943) which takes place in the reading room where trained volunteers undertake minor repairs on our rare books. The books inside the display case are beyond the capabilities of our volunteers and will be repaired by a professional conservator.


In May 2012photo.aspx, Chawton House Library hosted a conference on Anna Letitia Barbauld (1743-1825) from which, three years later,  Anna Letitia Barbauld: New Perspectives was borne.  Co-edited by William McCarthy and former Chawton House Library visiting fellow Olivia Murphy, this is the first ever volume of essays devoted to Barbauld.  The collection contains essays by former visiting fellow Michelle Levy and our Patron Isobel Grundy, amongst other specialists of Romantic-Period poetry.

Barbauld, an essayist, literary critic, poet and children’s author, had a successful writing career at a time when female professional writers were rare.  Her versatility and influence are reflected in these new essays which, surveying Barbauld’s writing from early to late, range in discussion from her children’s books to her political writing and her impact on Coleridge and Wordsworth’s generation.


Anna Letitia Barbauld: New Perspectives is now available in paperback.

Welcome back to Chawton House Library Conversations. First launched on Sunday 8 March 2015 in celebration of International Women’s Day, our monthly podcast is a round up of news, events and highlights, helping you stay connected with Chawton House Library wherever you are.


In October’s podcast we hear from Professor Jane Chapman, Turner Sims Fellow at the University of Southampton and recent performer of eighteenth-century Indian music on the harpsichord here at Chawton House Library. Professor Chapman tells us about the ‘Oriental Miscellany’ (1789), a collection of Indian music gathered by woman such as intrepid travel writer from our Library collection, Maria Graham. Harpsichord maker, Chris Barlow, then gives us a delightful introduction to this romantic instrument that predates the piano.


This month we were proud to welcome our first cohort of visiting fellows for 2015-16. This academic year we have six named fellowships supported by literary societies and individuals, in addition to our usual fellowships. Here, Alexis Pogorelskin, (University of Minnesota Duluth) our Vera Brittain/Society of Women Writers and Journalists Fellow, and Jeni Buckley (Independent Scholar), our Hester Davenport/Burney Society Fellow, tell us about their fascinating research projects.


At the end of September we held our annual Fun Ride around the Estate and Parkland, this year with the addition of a special, historic event: a Side Saddle Gala by the Side Saddle Association (SSA). Angela Wells, an area Chairman of the SSA, tells us about the appeal of the elegant art of side saddle and the inspiration behind the beautiful costumes the riders wear. Finally, we hear from champion side-saddle rider, Esther Roston about the experience of parading on the South Lawn here at Chawton House Library.


Look as you listen!

Here are some of the things you will hear described in this month’s Chawton House Library Conversations podcast:

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Professor Jane Chapman

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An illustration by Maria Graham (1785-1842)

October VFs

Our visiting fellows this October

SS parade

Side-saddle riders on the South Lawn


Have you missed out on any of the podcasts in our series? Catch up here

Become a Friend of Chawton House Library


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Here at Chawton House Library, we recently launched an exciting new version of our Friendship Programme. We are delighted to be including specially made quill pins for Friends of Chawton House library as an iconic emblem of your support.


The first of these pins—a specially made gold version—was presented to Joan Ray, Trustee and President of the North American Friends of Chawton House Library, by our founder Dr Sandy Lerner on International Women’s day, 8 March 2015. Joan is the founding member of our Legacy Circle, having pledged a generous $100,000. All of our Friends will now receive an exclusive quill pin, modelled on this original version, as part of their welcome pack.

Joan Ray legacy


Today, just a few of our valued team of volunteers were presented with their quill pins at a special ceremony here at the Library.  All of our volunteers are special Friends of the Library, if you would like to join them, please get in touch with Sarah Parry via Sarah.Parry@chawtonhouselibrary.org.

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We would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to Master Jeweller Kate Wolf who kindly carved the original design for us entirely free of charge.


Here was how this exciting new Friends programme was announced in our quarterly newsletter The Female Spectator earlier in the year.

TFS quill redu

Angela reducedAfter the success of our artist-in-residence scheme last year, Chawton House Library has appointed another talented local artist. Angela Thames from Headley Down will spend the next year creating prints and artists’ books inspired by our collection of early women’s writing.

The artist’s work will be displayed in an exhibition here at Chawton House Library in 2016. Next year, Angela will also be running exclusive workshops at the Library on print and book making.

The post is an opportunity for Chawton House Library to support and encourage talent within the local community whilst highlighting the history and heritage of our collection of women’s writing, along with the house and landscaped gardens set within the South Downs National Park.

Keith Arscott, Development Director at Chawton House Library, said: ‘We are delighted to build new links within our local community and to further encourage interest in the literary heritage we work hard to preserve.’ He added: ‘We believe that Angela’s unique and inspiring work will really bring the library collection to life for many visitors who might not otherwise have known or read these authors’ works.

Angela StudioAngela Thames said: ‘This year-long residency at Chawton House Library will give me a rich source of research and the opportunity to produce a variety of books and prints inspired by this historic house, gardens and library

She added: ‘I will be spending the first few weeks gathering information from the many first edition rare books in the collection and then later in the year I will be available at the Library to discuss my residency and work with visitors.’

Angela graduated from UCA Farnham in 2006 with a degree in fine art. Her books can be found in private and public collections in Italy, Oxford Brookes University and Bath Spa University. Her work has been featured in exhibitions throughout the South East of England.

Chawton House Library aims to educate and inspire people of all ages to discover the works of early women writers and preserve the literary heritage for academics and non-scholars for generations to come. The Library, which is set in the Elizabethan manor that once belonged to Jane Austen’s brother, Edward, is regularly open to visitors and library readers. It also provides research facilities for visiting fellows from around the world, and has a busy programme of events and conferences.

Click here to see Angela Thames’ website

In this special podcast, we bring you all the highlights from a very exciting day here at Chawton House Library on 5 September — our conference to celebrate 20 years since the phenomenally popular 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, adapted by Andrew Davies, produced by Sue Birtwistle, and directed by Simon Langton.

Do listen to hear interviews with two of the scholars who took part in the day, Professor Juliette Wells (Goucher College, Baltimore) and Professor Devoney Looser (Arizona State University). Juliette and Devoney discuss the 20th-century history of Pride and Prejudice mania, and how the 1995 production reinvented Mr Darcy as a sex symbol.   Simon Langton, Director, tells us how the success of the series came as a surprise and gives us an insight into the uncertain world of directing.  Next, we hear from one of our fantastic reading room volunteers Huw Prall about what it was like to be a dancer in the production, and the impact it had on his career.  Finally, Crispin Bonham-Carter (Mr Bingley) and Polly Maberly (Kitty) tell us all about horse riding, squinting, the script, heaving bosoms, loving their characters, and what they are up to now.

We are extremely grateful to all those who freely gave up their time to take part in the day. The academic experts on Jane Austen in adaptation – including Sayre Greenfield, Nora Nachumi and Linda Troost – made special trips from the States to be with us. From Director Simon Langton, and the original members of the cast and crew to Huw Prall, who contributed so many fantastic items to our Pride and Prejudice display, we certainly celebrated in style.  We would also like to thank the delegates who attended: your enthusiasm and love for the production was what made the event so special.



If you enjoyed this podcast, the day itself, and the subsequent photographs and social media interest, please donate to Chawton House Library by visiting our website, www.chawtonhouselibrary.org. We thank you in advance for your support.


A Selection of Photos from the Day

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Mr Bingley and Jane reunited again!

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Our Executive Director Gillian Dow with Benjamin Whitrow (Mr Bennet), Susannah Harker (Jane), Crispin Bonham-Carter (Mr Bingley), Simon Langton (Director of the Production), Jane Gibson (choreographer for the production), Polly Maberly (Kitty) and Joanna David (Mrs Gardiner).

The original cast and crew reminisce on the production

The original cast and crew reminisce on the production

Simon Langton, Jane Gibson and Polly Maberly

Simon Langton, Jane Gibson and Polly Maberly

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Delegates enjoy our ‘Pride and Prejudice’ display

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Library volunteer and dancer in the 1995 production, Huw Prall

4th & 5th September reducedMr Bennet (Benjamin Whitrow), Mr Bingley (Crispin Bonham-Carter), Jane Bennet (Susannah Harker), Kitty Bennet (Polly Maberly), Mr Collins (David Bamber), Mrs Gardiner (Joanna David), plus Director Simon Langton and Choreographer Jane Gibson, will join us on 5 September to celebrate 20 years since this landmark in television history.



The critically acclaimed six-part TV drama, adapted by Andrew Davies and produced by Sue Birtwistle, elevated Colin Firth, who at that time was a relatively unknown British actor, to international stardom.

darcy wet shirtDuring the conference cast and crew will reveal secrets from the set of a series that gripped the nation when it aired in September 1995. They will discuss how one of the most unforgettable moments in television history – Mr Darcy’s iconic wet shirt scene – came about.

Simon Langton, Director of the BBC production, said of the celebration at Chawton House Library: ‘I look forward to celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Andrew Davies version of Pride and Prejudice that has done much to prolong the genius of Jane Austen, not only for the last twenty years but for generations to come.’

He added: ‘A beautiful research centre into early women’s writing, set in the house that once belonged to Jane Austen’s brother, will provide the perfect environment to bring cast and crew back together to reminisce on the production’.

A host of academic experts on Jane Austen and the many adaptations of her work will reflect on the place of Pride and Prejudice in popular culture before and after 1995. The author of Jane Austen and Discourses of Feminism, Professor Devoney Looser from Arizona State University, will give a talk titled: ‘Playing Mr Darcy, from Archery to Wet Shirts’.

P&P display reducedHere at the Library there will also be a display relating to Pride and Prejudice and other treasured works by Jane Austen. This large display will include books, photographs from the set and ephemera relating to the production. Many of these items are being contributed by Huw Prall, one of our fantastic library volunteers and a dancer in the 1995 adaptation.  Huw, who is also Head of Dance for the education department at Shakespeare’s Globe, will be in the Lower Reading room on 5 September to talk about the display and what went on behind the scenes of the 1995 production​.


We are now fully-booked for this conference.  If you missed out on a space, you will still have the chance to see the display, which includes photos from the set, at our Open House and Gardens on 6 September   Tickets cost £6.00 or £3.50 for adults and are available on the day. 

Welcome back to Chawton House Library Conversations. First launched on Sunday 8 March 2015 in celebration of International Women’s Day, our monthly podcast is a round up of news, events and highlights, helping you stay connected with Chawton House Library wherever you are.

On 16 July, Professors Anne Curry and David Owen Norris from the University of Southampton gave a wonderful talk and music recital on women and the Battle of Agincourt, which took place 600 years ago, in 1415. As part of this special extended podcast we bring you the highlights: Professor Curry discusses the medieval letters and texts that give a unique insight into the plight of the widows of the battle, before telling us about the activities of the charity Agincourt600 of which she is the chair.  Then, Professor Norris treats us to some beautiful piano extracts from the evening, composed on the theme of female loss after battle, and performed on the historic Stodart piano, on loan from the University of Southampton, and housed in our dining room.

Austen scholar Professor Janine Barchas (University of Texas at Austin) and theatre historian Professor Kristina Straub (Carnegie Mellon University) tell us about an exhibition, to be held at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC in 2016, which explores the celebrity of Jane Austen and William Shakespeare.  On the 200th anniversary of the publication of Emma and the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, the exhibition will look at the process of how these authors became literary superheroes. Professor Barchas has recently agreed to join the North American Friends of Chawton House Library board, and we look forward to working closely with her in the future.

Finally, we hear from three recent visiting fellows at Chawton House Library, all graduate students. Katie Charles (University of California Los Angeles), Courtney Hoffman (University of Georgia) and Jessica Roberson (University of California, Riverside) talk about the immersive experience of researching the collection here at Chawton House Library.


Look as you listen!

Here are some of the things you will hear described in this month’s Chawton House Library Conversations podcast:

Professor Anne Curry

Professor Anne Curry

Professor David Owen Norris and the talented music students from the University of Southampton who performed on 16 July.

Professor David Owen Norris and the talented music students from the University of Southampton who performed on 16 July

Janine Barchas Kristina Straub

Professors Janine Barchas and Kristina Straub

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Our onsite accomodation for visiting fellows: The Stables





































Have you missed out on any of the podcasts in our series? Catch up here




books reducedWe are thrilled to announce the new visiting fellowships at Chawton House Library for 2015-16.  This year we received more applications than ever before and Dr Gillian Dow, Executive Director at Chawton House Library and Chair of the selection committee, said of the selection process: “our task was tremendously difficult this year and sadly we had to reject many excellent applications.  We hope these scholars will not be discouraged from reapplying in the future. We would like to heartily congratulate those who were accepted and thank once again the literary societies and individuals who sponsored the named fellowships.”


Click the link to see the list of fellowships 2015-16, we wish all of the visiting fellows a wonderful and productive stay here at Chawton House Library.

Chawton House Library Fellowships 2015-16