Saving Chawton


The Times had a nice article about Sandy Lerner and the renovation of the Great House at Chawton into the Chawton Library in the context of this year’s celebration of the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s arrival in Chawton.

The focus in 2009, though, is the year-long celebration of Jane’s arriving at Chawton, with her mother and sister Cassandra, to live in the bailiff’s cottage Edward had given her. Whether she had the slightest idea of the impact her little harvest of books would have on the great world is uncertain. “I think I may boast myself to be, with all possible vanity,” she confessed, “the most unlearned and uninformed female who ever dared to be an authoress.” She thought Pride and Prejudice “too light and bright and sparkling” and would no doubt have been diverted to learn that Winston Churchill got his actress daughter Sarah to read the whole of it to him when he was laid low with illness as wartime prime minister — or that Benjamin Disraeli read it 17 times. Yet somehow you feel she would have enjoyed the junketings this year at her brother’s house: the Regency card party and “Tea with Mrs Austen”; the talk on Regency gardens followed by “Tea with Mrs Knight”, with recipes from the family cookery book; and, perhaps best of all, “Undressing Mr Darcy”. This, visitors are promised, is “a wry look at what made the hunk in the wet shirt so irresistible”.

Do read the whole article, it’s quite good and informative about the activities at Chawton Library. Thanks to Alert Janeites Lisa and Helen B. for the link.