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The Austen Family Music Books Project

March 1, 2013

I must have my share in the conversation if you are speaking of music. There are few people in England, I suppose, who have more true enjoyment of music than myself, or a better natural taste. If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient. And so would Anne, if her health had allowed her to apply. I am confident that she would have performed delightfully…

Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 31.

Music was an important part of Jane Austen’s life and, while we are sure she would never have seriously described her abilities as boastfully as did her creation, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, above, she was seriously interested in music that appealed to her and played on her piano every morning when she lived at Chawton cottage.

She collected music in her manuscript music books and the eight manuscript music books that are part of the Jane Austen Memorial Trust’s collection at the Museum have recently been returned to us after being studied by Professor Jeanice Brooks, Ms. Samantha Carrasco and Professor David Owen Norris of Southampton University for part of their Austen Family Music Project. They are undertaking a major study of the Austen family’s interest in music and are investigating how they collected it, made copies of it and performed music in their homes. We hope that in the near future images of all the Austen family music books in our collection will be available for you to view online.

It is a totally fascinating project with which the Museum is very proud to be associated. Go here to the Project’s website to read more about it.

Hopefully, there will be more news about this project available later this year, but in the meantime we thought you might like to see the frontispiece from Book Two of the manuscript music books in the Museums’ collection:

Frontispiece to Book Two of Jane Austen's Manuscript Music Books

Frontispiece to Book Two of Jane Austen’s Manuscript Music Books ©Jane Austen Memorial Trust

BBC Radio 4’s Open Book Programme Recorded at the Museum

February 19, 2013

In January BBC Radio 4’s popular programme, Open Book,  was recorded at the Museum for a very special edition to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the first publication of Pride and Prejudice. 

The programme was presented by Mariella Frostrup, shown here, below…

 standing by Jane Austen’s letter to her sister Cassandra dated 29th January 1813. This letter famously describes Pride and Prejudice as Jane’s “Own Darling child” and it will be on display at the Museum this year as part of our Pride and Prejudice exhibition.

Guests on the programme included Professor John Mullan, whose book, What Matters in Jane Austen?: Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved, has recently been released in  paperback;


Dr Paula Byrne, whose book on the life of Jane Austen, The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things was published in January…


and Dr Bharat Tandon, whom you can see in the red jumper, seated on the right at the table in the photograph, below.


He recently edited the recently published Harvard University Press Annotated Edition of Emma

The programme also included a pre-recorded piece from the author, Helen Fielding, who was inspired by Pride and Prejudice when she wrote her book, Bridget Jones’s Diary.

If you missed this very enjoyable programme, you will be pleased to learn that it is still  available to listen to via the BBC Radio 4 website by clicking on this link here. The programme will be available to listen to for a period of 12 months, so we do hope you will all be able to listen and enjoy the spirited discussion!

Here, below, is a gallery of some photographs which were taken on the day of recording: to enlarge any of the photographs, simply click on them.

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Our Celebrations on the 28th January: the 200th Anniversary of the First Publication of “Pride and Prejudice”.

February 11, 2013

The Museum, once Jane Austen’s home and the place where she revised First Impressions into her most famous novel, Pride and Prejudice, was THE place to be on Monday 28th January, the day we began our year-long celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the first publication of Jane Austen’s most popular novel.

The day began very early for Louise, our Curator and Ann, our House Manager who were on site from 4 a.m. to help with the preparations and to welcome the team from BBC News who were with us all day, presenting live links to BBC Breakfast and News programmes.Our local radio station, Radio Solent was also with us and they broadcast from the Museum throughout the afternoon.

All day the Museum positively buzzed with happy activity; “Jane Austen”  took delivery of her  Own darling child…

Music was played…


and many visitors who came to share the day with us. Amongst them local school children in Regency dress,

Professor John Mullan and the actress, Jemima Rooper of the television series, Lost in Austen,

the novelist Joanna Trollope,

and Professor Kathryn Sutherland, a member of the Jane Austen Memorial Trust,(third from the right) together with many members of staff and volunteers.

Louise and the staff coped magnificently, and Louise was seen giving many interviews both inside

and outside the house (!)

As no celebration is complete without a cake (whatever Mr. Woodhouse might think!) we were lucky to have a very beautiful confection. It was kindly provided by Squires of Farnham. It very carefully recreated the frontispiece of the Museum’s copy of the first edition of Pride and Prejudice, which was once owned by Jane Austen’s brother, Edward and is now part of the Museum’s collection.

Not only was it technically brilliant, it tasted wonderful, too.

Our special day was exhilarating, and we hope that you can, by looking at the photographs, both here and below in the gallery, share some of the atmosphere and joy. Photographic Credits:  Joe Low and Martin Dell

The Winner of the First Anniversary Giveaway Competition is….

January 24, 2013
Wendy's Prize

Wendy’s Prize

…Wendy Phillips whose name was picked from a non –Regency hat this morning. Congratulations Wendy! If you would like to contact me by email at this address:


( please replace the dashes etc. with the usual punctuation ) then we can arrange to send your very special prize to you.

Thank you to everyone else who entered and made comments. We are very grateful for your interest, and I have passed your very kind words on to all at the Museum. We do hope you will continue to visit us during this very special year of celebrations for the 200th anniversary of the first publication of Pride and Prejudice, and will enter our next giveaway which will be announced on the anniversary of Jane’s birth, 16th December 😉

The First Anniversary Give-away Deadline approaches….

January 14, 2013

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If you want to enter the competition for a chance to win the facsimile edition of Jane Austen’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility, then we ought to remind you that you have until the 17th January to add your comment to the original post about the give-away, by clicking on this link, here.  Nearly 160 of you have commented so far. The winner will be chosen on the 18th January and will be announced here very soon thereafter.

Good luck!

January 13, 2013

We tonight you might like to read this lovely and interesting blog post about a vist to the Museum by Jack who has previously attempted to re create Mrs Austen’s recipe for a pudding in verse…..

Jack's Adventures in Museum Land

After writing about the Austen Family’s Bread Pudding Recipe not so long ago, I thought it would be fun to continue the adventure by visiting the museum that provided said recipe.  And which museum would that be? That would be one of the many Jane Austen museum’s out there. Luckily, it was the one closest to me – Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton, Hampshire.

It’s a good year to visit the Chawton house, because 2013 marks the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice and what better way to mark the occasion than by visiting the place where it was completed? Actually, the last few years have been Big Ones for Chawton, recently they have celebrated:

  • 200 years since Jane Austen and family came to live in the house in 2009
  • 200 years since the publication of Sense and Sensibility in 2011

And coming up…

  • 200 years since the…

View original post 505 more words

The At Home with the Austens Exhibit at the Museum

January 11, 2013

2012 was the Year of At Home with the Austens, during which the Museum celebrated the domestic life of the Austen family at Chawton. The exhibit in the Reading Room, of some domestic items dating from the early 19th century, has been very popular and we would like to share some images of it now with you.

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The display cabinet was filled with items, some associated with the Austen family, some not, to give a flavour of domestic life in the cottage when the Austens lived here.

Among the items on show was a contemporary map of the Chawton village by Edward Mogg, showing the position of the Museum in 1814

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A Victorian book of Charades which were written by Jane Austen and her family.

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Word play was an important part of Austen family life: as Jane Austen noted when she wrote to her sister, Cassandra  in 1816:

Our day in Alton was very well pleasant-Venison quite right-Children well-behaved-& Mr. and Mrs. Digweed taking kindly to our Charades & other Games

(See: Jane Austen’s letter to Cassandra Austen, dated 8th September 1816)

Some draught pieces used by Mary Jane Austen and which were kept in her working and games table which is now on display in the Austen Family Room at the Museum.

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Early 19th century coffee cups and wine glasses, typical of the type of wares used in the house:

Syllabub, Tea, Coffee, Singing, Dancing, a Hot Supper, eleven o’clock, everything that can be imagined agreeable

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(See: Jane Austen’s Letter to Cassandra Austen, dated 31st May 1811)

Some early 19th century fashion prints: Jane Austen had a keen eye for the latest fashions


She was also a keen needlewoman, and included in the exhibit was a reproduction of a sampler made by a “Jane Austen” although it is not known whether this was by our Jane Austen or by someone else who shared the same name.

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An early 19th century aide memoir made of ivory.

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Some bone, ivory and mother of pearl gaming counters, dating from the late 18th century, some in the shape of fish:


A copy of the donkey cart which the Austen ladies used at Chawton. The original is on show in the Bakehouse at the Museum

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And finally, below, some donkey shoes, which have been found in the garden by our gardener, Celia. Could these have belonged to the donkey owned by the Austens?

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Our First Anniversary Give–Away

December 16, 2012

Today is the anniversary of Jane Austen’s birth in 1775 at Steventon in Hampshire. Visitors to the museum will be asked to join in our celebrations, as usual, by being offered a warming cup of coffee and a seasonal mince pie. And exactly one year ago we began this blog. So, to celebrate, we are going to offer a very easy competition with a rather special prize.

The rules are very easy. If you leave a comment to this post, then you will be automatically entered into a draw to win a copy the Chawton Edition of Sense and Sensibility  which has been especially commissioned by the Museum to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the first publication of Sense and Sensibility in 2011.

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This edition includes a facsimile of the first edition of the book that was published by Thomas Egerton in 1811.  All three volumes are bound in one, and it has been published in a strictly limited edition of 500.

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The book comes in a beautiful presentation box, which also contains a reproduction of the Austen family seal, a feather quill, and a certificate of authenticity. In addition to all this, the Museum commissioned a foreword in the form of an essay about Sense and Sensibility written by Professor Kathryn Sutherland, of St Anne’s College, Oxford, who is the Museum’s Patron.  This is contained in a separate 20 page booklet which is also included in the presentation box.

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The competition will be open until the 17th January, 2013. You can add your comment until then, limited to one comment per person. The winner will be chosen at random by Louise West, the Museum’s Curator, on the 18th January and the result will be announced soon thereafter . We ought to emphasise that the competition is open to anyone who reads this blog, wherever you are in the world, for, we consider that if you take the trouble to read us, and to comment, you should be eligible to enter!

And now it only remains for us to say….Good luck!

Wedgwood Plates? Well, not quite…

December 12, 2012

Annalie, the Museum’s Education Officer manages to think up very intriguing and attractive activities for visitors to the museum and their children to take part in during school holidays. We have already seen that the chance to write with a quill pen was very popular earlier this year

During the Autumn Half-Term Holiday she organised another activity that has proven to be very popular: creating decorated paper plates inspired by the china that Jane Austen knew, some of which is on show at the Museum. The activity took place in the Kitchen:


She provided the visitors (of all ages!) with some photographs of an early 19th century Willow Pattern plate;

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A photograph of some of  the Wedgwood China that was made for Jane Austen’s brother, Edward Knight;

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We then went to Wedgwoods where my Brother and Fanny chose a Dinner Set. The pattern is a small Lozenge in purple, between lines of narrow Gold; & it is to have the (Knight) crest…

[Letter to Cassandra Austen, 16th September 1813]

And some  Wedgwood “foliage” china which is currently  very kindly on loan to the Museum. This china did not actually belong to the Austens but is from the same period, so it is very likely that the china Jane Austen writes about in her letter to Cassandra of 1811 (see below) was very similar in design.

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On Monday I had the pleasure of receiving, unpacking and approving our Wedgwood ware. It all came very safely and upon the whole is a good match, tho’ I think they might have  allowed us rather larger leaves, especially in such a year of fine foliage as this…

[Letter to Cassandra Austen, 6th June 1811]

The visitors then were invited to decorate a plain, white paper plate, inspired by these images and by their visit to the Museum. Here is one of the plates, and  more examples can be seen in the gallery at the end of this post:

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The results are now on display, very appropriately, in the kitchen and you will be able to see them on your next visit.

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As it has been so successful, the activity is still on offer for a limited amount of time.

Louise West and celebrating “Pride and Prejudice” on Radio Solent

December 8, 2012

Our Curator, Louise West, gave an interview to Katie Martin of BBC Radio Solent on Thursday 6th December, and we thought you might like to hear it.

Katie Martin of BBC radio Solent ©BBC

Katie Martin of BBC radio Solent ©BBC

Louise’s interview about Jane Austen and the Museum’s plans for the year-long celebrating the bicentenary of the first publication of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s most famous novel, begins at approximately 36 minutes into the programme. If you click here you can listen to the programme again. The interview lasts approximately ten minutes. It is available for the next five days.

We hope you enjoy hearing about Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice and our plans for next year!