Jane Austen and Chawton House Library
Image: Chawton House, Hampshire, home to Chawton House Library's collection of literature and its fellowship programme. The Elizabethan manor house once belonged to Jane Austen's brother, Edward Austen Knight.
Today Chawton House Library houses a collection of books and manuscripts by women writing from 1600 to 1830. In addition to Jane Austen, the authors include Aphra Behn, Frances Burney, Maria Edgeworth, Charlotte Lennox, Hannah More, Ann Radcliffe, Mary Robinson, Mary Shelley, and Mary Wollstonecraft. The subjects range from Gothic fiction to travel memoirs, from botany and medicine to politics and the rights of women.
American entrepreneur, philanthropist, and book collector Sandy Lerner and her husband Leonard Bosack founded the Library. Richard Knight, the current freeholder of the manor, remains actively involved in the project as a trustee.
One manuscript in Jane Austen’s hand is part of the collection. It’s her dramatic adaptation of Samuel Richardson's novel, The history of Sir Charles Grandison.
Grandison is a male model of virtue, and as such has not been terribly convincing or interesting to many readers. Jane's hand-written pages intrigue because they show her scratch-outs and revisions. There is some uncertainty about the date of the revision. She may have been as young as sixteen. She was adapting the novel for a family theatrical.
Chawton House welcomes visitors by appointment, and offers one-to-three month research fellowships.
Looking across the fields to St Nicholas Church, Chawton.