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The Sense and Sensibility Exhibit in the Reading Room

January 25, 2012

The room in the House which used to accommodate the Museum shop is now a quiet space where visitors can sit and have access to many editions of Jane Austen’s novels and some related works, which are all part of the Museum’s collection. Furnished with comfortable chairs and well stocked bookshelves it is a very cosy place for reading or contemplation.  It is also a perfect space for exhibits, and during the celebrations for the 200th anniversary of the first publication of Sense and Sensibility in 1811, the room hosted a special Sense and Sensibility exhibit.

The exhibit was partly static and partly interactive. The items on the shelves above the display case were made available to all our visitors to read or inspect.

The items on open display were, of course, all related to Sense and Sensibility, and included foreign language editions of the novel and DVDs as well as Marvel Comic’s graphic novel edition which was illustrated by Sonny Liew and adapted by Nancy Butler.

The majority of the items on show on these shelves were also available to purchase in the Museum’s shop.

The display cabinet, below the shelves, held rarer treasure from the Museum’s collection. Pride of place went to a first edition of Sense and Sensibility…

in three volumes, still in its original boards.

Also on display in the cabinet were related items…such as this edition of Cowper’s poems, so beloved of both Jane Austen and her creation, Marianne Dashwood.

There  was also a copy of the first published sequel  to Sense and Sensibility, or indeed to any of Jane Austen’s works.  Margaret Dashwood: Or, Interference was written by Mrs Francis Brown and was published in 1929.

Mrs Brown was the married name of Edith Hubback who was the great-grand-daughter of Francis Austen, Jane’s brother. Her grandmother, Catherine Hubback was also a writer and completed her aunt’s unfinished novel, The Watsons in 1850, under the title The Younger Sister: A Novel.

And, finally, you might care to see the lock of Jane Austen’s hair that was included in the exhibit, as a nod  to Chapter 12 of Sense and Sensibility, where we discover that Marianne has allowed Willoughby to take a lock of her hair. The conversation is between Margaret and Elinor Dashwood:

“But indeed this is quite another thing. I am sure they will be married very soon, for he has got a lock of her hair.”

   “Take care, Margaret. It may be only the hair of some great uncle of his .”

   “But indeed, Elinor, it is Marianne’s. I am almost sure it is, for I saw him cut it off. Last night after tea, when you and mama went out of the room, they were whispering and talking together as fast as could be, and he seemed to be begging something of her, and presently he took up her scissars and cut off a long lock of her hair, for it was all tumbled down her back; and he kissed it, and folded it up in a piece of white paper, and put it into his pocket-book.”

   From such particulars, stated on such authority, Elinor could not withhold her credit: nor was she disposed to it, for the circumstance was in perfect unison with what she had heard and seen herself.

19 Comments leave one →
  1. January 27, 2012 9:54 am

    So do you still have a shop or is it all online now?

    • jfwakefield permalink*
      January 28, 2012 3:58 pm

      Oh yes, we still have a wonderful shop. It is now housed in the barn to the side if the house, and if you look to the right hand side bar of the blog, you can see a photograph of it, stocked with very tempting goods. The link there is to our online shop for the convenience of our online visitors who can’t make it to our shop in person 🙂

  2. January 29, 2012 3:25 am

    I can only just swoon at all of this. Amazing.

    • jfwakefield permalink*
      January 29, 2012 12:55 pm

      So glad you think it “swoon-worthy”, 🙂 we think it is a very godo display, and it allows visitors to get to know the story of the novel and of its composition very succinctly.

  3. Jenny permalink
    January 29, 2012 2:19 pm

    What an excellent idea. A quiet place for visitors to sit down among Jane Austen’s work is a lovely addition to the museum.

    • jfwakefield permalink*
      January 29, 2012 2:29 pm

      Thanks,Jenny, and yes, it is a great addition to the house. It is a small but peaceful place for visitors to be able to read or gather their thoughts or simply just sit quietly in Jane’s house.

      • Cathy Allen permalink
        February 2, 2012 6:26 pm

        Oh my goodness, what a wonderful room! If I lived nearby, I believe I’d be visiting VERY frequently. In spite of my distance, thank you to whomever is responsible for setting it up. Perhaps one day I’ll be able to visit…

      • jfwakefield permalink*
        February 2, 2012 6:42 pm

        It really is a great idea, Cathy. It’s a small but necessary space, and adds a lot of enjoyment to a visit. We really do hope you will be able to sit there in peace yourself one day.

  4. Martina Q permalink
    January 30, 2012 9:17 am

    Hi, I really need a copy of “Interference” by Mrs. Francis Brown, since I’m writing my dissertation about Jane Austen’s Sequels. Would you be so kind to tell me where do I can find it?

    • jfwakefield permalink*
      January 30, 2012 3:59 pm

      Hello, Martina. Sadly, Interference is a rare book. It is not, as far as we are aware, commercially available at present. You might be lucky in finding it via a library loan. May we wish you good luck with your dissertation.

  5. February 2, 2012 3:42 pm

    Thank you for writing a blog…what wonderful delights for any Austen fan. (I have put a link to it on my own blog) I was looking for opening times and followed a few links to you, and am looking forward to visiting in March.

    • jfwakefield permalink*
      February 2, 2012 6:41 pm

      Thank you for the link, and for the kind comments, Annabel. We do hope that Janeites from the UK and all over the world will find keeping in touch with the Museum easy and fun via the blog. It gives us a chance to show a large audience what we are about. And while nothing can substitute for an actual visit, we hope the glimpses of the Museum’s life we can show you “virtually” will be entertaining and educational, and we hope that you will be able to feel part of our “community” even at a distance.

  6. February 7, 2012 7:55 pm

    Hello- I enjoy the blog postings very much. Is that really a lock of Jane Austen’s hair?

    • jfwakefield permalink*
      February 7, 2012 8:59 pm

      Thanks, Mike. And yes, that really is a lock of Jane Austen’s hair.

      • March 17, 2012 5:21 am

        Julie, do we know of what age the hair dates from? It is a beautiful colour, lighter than what I often imagined from the painted image of her, but as we know the painting is not as real as the real thing! It’s mind boggling to see her hair.

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