Interview with Hazel Jones, author of “The Other Knight Boys: Jane Austen’s Dispossessed Nephews”

Enquiring Readers: Today I welcome Austen scholar Hazel Jones in an interview about her newest book The Other Knight Boys: Jane Austen’s Dispossessed Nephews. If you have been following my blog Reading with Austen: Returning the Lost Sheep of Godmersham, you have seen the several posts on the diaries of Charles Bridges Knight, i.e all the excerpts that Hazel shared with me of Charles’ references to his reading in the library at Godmersham Park, home to his father, and Jane Austen’s brother, Edward Austen Knight [see below for links to these posts]. Hazel has been researching not only the life of Charles, but also the lives of the five other sons of Edward [all six in order are: Edward, George, Henry, William, Charles, and John]. Her recently published book just flows with tales of their childhood into manhood adventures. I highly recommend it, many of the stories worthy of an Austen novel!

So, Welcome Hazel!

JAIV: Can you give a brief summary of the book?

HJ: Jane Austen’s letters provide clear-sighted glimpses of her six Knight nephews as they grew up, but hers was not the only pen to record their privileged upbringing. Cassandra and Henry Austen commented on Edward Austen Knight’s indulgence of his sons and worried about the boys’ ability to cope with future adversity in the wider world; their affectionate sister Fanny noted key moments in their lives – birthdays, holidays, marriages; Charles kept a detailed diary throughout  the 1830s and 40s. The Other Knight Boys explores the character of each nephew in turn, their professional and personal circumstances, their close fraternal bonds as well as the difficulties and disappointments they encountered in adulthood. For five of the brothers, future dispossession of their beloved family home at Godmersham as a consequence of birth order was a reality they had to live with. How it affected the choices they made forms the story that the book attempts to tell.

 JAIV: How did you end up doing this research on Austen’s nephews, the six sons of her brother Edward?

HJ: Quite by chance, in 2010, I was in a small party on a guided tour of Trafalgar (pronounced Traffle-gar) Park near Salisbury in Wiltshire. The property featured as Hartfield in the 1996 ITV film of Emma [with Kate Beckinsale], as well as Barton Park in Emma Thompson’s Sense & Sensibility.  Originally known as Standlynch Park, it was acquired in 1813 by Parliament for Nelson’s brother William, the new 1st Earl Nelson and re-named Trafalgar Park. The Nelson family lived here until 1946. In 2010, the owner was Michael Wade, whose housekeeper conducted us around the ground floor rooms. In the saloon she pointed out a stunning full length portrait of William Nelson’s beautiful wife, Hilare. Wait a minute, I thought, wasn’t she subsequently married to one of Jane Austen’s Knight nephews? Next followed some very intensive sleuthing which uncovered baptismal records in Cornwall and three marriages – to a cousin, to Nelson and eventually to George Knight of Godmersham. The Kent History and Library Centre and the British Library supplied more biographical material and in a room not usually open to visitors at Chawton House, I found a portrait of George as a young man. My research turned into an article on the couple for the 2016 Jane Austen Society Annual Report. After that came the urge to write about the other five Knight boys and uncover as much as possible about the women in their lives. Charles of course never married, but he had close relationships with his father, his brothers and their spouses.

[Portrait of Hilare Countess Nelson, by George Sanders, 1829-34. Courtesy of Martyn Downer and Michael Wade] 

JAIV: Your research took you to materials scattered throughout southern England – “Kent, Hampshire, and beyond” as you say (3). Was most of this known or did you discover any untapped sources?

HJ: The archives in Hampshire Record Office and the Kent Archives at Maidstone have been scoured pretty thoroughly by Austen scholars across many generations, although even here I discovered one or two sparkling gems which had never appeared in any other text. Previously ‘untapped sources’ for me were the Winchester College Archives, the matriculation records held at St John’s and University College in Oxford, the Nelson archive at the British Library and the War Office records at the National Archive, Kew. Articles in the Jane Austen Society Annual Reports (now accessible online) also filled in a number of gaps and put me in touch with other Austen / Knight researchers such as Margaret Wilson, who then provided material I would not otherwise have found. Sophia Hillan, Linda Slothouber, Maggie Lane and Deirdre Le Faye were also happy to have their generous flow of scholarship ‘tapped’. Karen ievers, Andrew Bradford and Hampshire Cultural Trust allowed me to see and reproduce previously unseen images.  

JAIV:  Of the six boys-to-men you researched, was there more information available from sources on any one more than others? And if so, was that frustrating? For instance I know that Charles kept extensive diaries for years – did any of the others leave such behind them?

HJ: Edward’s life is well documented, given that he was the eldest son and lived at Chawton House, but there are few examples, beyond business letters, of his own personal voice. George’s facility with language shines through his amusing poems and articles on cricket written for The Sporting Magazine. His restless character is evidenced by Fanny’s reports of his comings and goings between England and the Continent, his inability to settle to a career in the law and Charles’s revelation of his brother’s wish to try his luck in America. Letters were written to Fanny by all of the brothers, she records their arrival in her daily diary entries, but where are they now? I wish I had found a greater number of letters from Henry to Lizzy Rice. He comes across as the most contentedly independent and self-sufficient of all the brothers; the harrowing nature of his early death tugs at my heart strings. One or two of William’s letters have survived, together with contemporary descriptions of his youthful exuberance and Fanny’s revelation of his affair with the Knatchbull governess. John is the brother about whom least is known and the hardest to pin down on the page, yet his moving account of the loss of Godmersham is the most revealing of all.

JAIV: Edward, of course, was the heir, and while he appears to have maintained a close and friendly relationship with each of his brothers, there had to have been some bad feelings about how he really dispossessed all of them from their Godmersham Park home. Do you feel sympathetic toward him? Did he have any choice?

HJ: Edward’s siblings must have understood that maintaining Chawton House and Godmersham Park was impossible. The drain of his first and second families on Edward’s finances would have been excessive. The sons from his first marriage were at the stage where they required cash, so when Edward Austen Knight died, money came their way via their father. What appears inexplicable is Edward’s expensive and architecturally unsympathetic alterations to Godmersham in 1853, shortly before he decided to lease the property for 20 years. I can understand his attachment to Chawton – it had been his permanent home since 1826, although his frequent and lengthy returns to Kent each year might have misled his brothers and sisters into believing he would eventually move back and continue to make Godmersham available to all the family. When he sold it in 1875, of the brothers only John was still alive.

Chawton House

JAIV:  Some great drama in the family! What is your favorite story? [then I’ll tell you mine!]

HJ: Difficult to choose one … Louisa Lushington’s* description on her visit to Godmersham of the boys somersaulting into the river fully clothed comes near the top of the list and I rather like the story Henry and George concocted, featuring Uncle Henry Austen’s imprisonment for poisoning his second wife. Scandal is always irresistible too … Fanny’s snide references to Fanny Jones, the consequences of Edward’s elopement with Mary Dorothea, William’s affair with the governess.

*[The Journal of Louisa Lushington (1821-22), with an introduction by Linda Slothouber, Chawton House, 2017]

Ok, so you mention my favorite! Edward’s elopement with his sister’s step-daughter is quite compelling, and definitely worthy of a novel – I cannot tell anymore, readers – buy the book!

Photograph of a lost portrait of Edward Knight,
held by Kent County Cricket Club, Canterbury.

 JAIV: There was so much tragedy in their lives: not unlike their father and uncles (excepting the youngest John, and Charles who never married), all suffered the loss of first wives in childbirth or illness. It is really wrenching to read – how do you think they all handled this?

HJ: Tragedies such as these are almost unimaginable in our modern age of effective remedies, reliable diagnoses and informed medical expertise. Death in childbirth happened so frequently that many women – judging by their correspondence – did not expect to survive, so perhaps their husbands anticipated the worst before it happened. As for the Knight husbands, they certainly grieved for a time, it’s difficult to tell for how long, but from Charles’s diaries we learn that Edward was decimated by the loss of Mary Dorothea and that William and Henry were emotionally affected on the first anniversary of their wives’ deaths. Two or three years later, they are all married again, and embarking on the creation of second families. Life went on. Perhaps a combination of strong religious belief, practical rationality and fraternal support carried them through the worst. 

Elizabeth Bridges Knight – Jane Austen blog by Kleurrijk

JAIV: Any sense that the death of their mother after the birth of her 11th child (Brook John, known as John) in 1808 (Edward was 14) had a long-lasting effect on any/each of them?

HJ: John would not have remembered his mother and Charles’s recollections were probably indistinct at best. The affection the brothers felt for each other, for their sisters, and for their father – and his for them – strengthened the familial tie after Elizabeth’s death. Their easy, happy life at Godmersham appears to continue much the same as before, with Fanny standing in as a very capable and loving presence. Male and female occupations and interests were largely separate and distinct, which perhaps helped to lessen the sense of loss at the time and later. Edward, George, Henry and William were away at school for most of the year, Charles and John were initially under Fanny’s care until the time came for them to leave. Any long term effect might have manifested itself in a very understandable anxiety when their own wives became pregnant.

JAIV: Was Jane Austen a big factor in any of their lives growing up (she died when Edward was 23 in July 1817)? But when she became more popular and James Edward Austen Leigh (James’s son) wrote her memoir in 1869 – did any of Edward’s children contribute to that?

HJ: According to Anna Lefroy, Jane Austen was not loved by the Knight children, although they appreciated her story-telling skills. Anna had her own reasons for holding this view, but the probability is that Jane was merely tolerated by the nephews while at Godmersham, especially as they grew older and beyond female influence. Given their hunting, fishing and shooting pursuits, Jane called it ‘sporting mania’, they would see little of her during the day and there is evidence that at and after dinner, she found their their male acquaintance and their talk of wholesale slaughter distasteful. Maria Bertram, bored silly by Mr Rushworth’s boast of game bagged and poachers apprehended, comes to mind. A spinster aunt casting disapproving looks across the table, however, would have had little effect on these confident, indulged young men.  At Chawton, out of the hunting season, the nephews appear to have proved more congenial company, especially Henry and William, whose visits to the Cottage in their aunt’s final year are recorded with great affection in her letters. In 1822, Henry Knight wrote to his sister Lizzy that he expected Chawton to feel ‘sadly unreal’, surely on account of Aunt Jane’s absence, when he next visited.

James Edward Austen-Leigh attempted to access Fanny’s letters from Jane Austen, but did not succeed. He stayed with William Knight at the new Steventon Rectory for a day and night, in order to walk the familiar lanes and remind himself of where the old rectory used to stand. At the time the Memoir was written, Henry, George and Charles were dead.

JAIV: In reading about Edward’s family, do you feel that at any time in her writing that Jane Austen was modelling a character after a real-life family member?

HJ: No. [ha! Love this very succinct answer!]

JAIV: What surprised you the most? – Something previously unknown to you or anyone else in the Austen research world?

HJ: A small discovery involved Henry’s attendance at University College, Oxford. There is no reference to this in other texts and it was even a surprise to Deirdre Le Faye. Another concerns George’s final years, after his wife’s death. I am intrigued by his relationship, whatever it entailed, with Fanny Jones. George’s sister Lady Knatchbull certainly suspected something untoward, especially when her brother moved to Hereford to share a house with Fanny and her husband. One that almost got away is the small sheet of paper, Plate 8 in my book, comprising poems written by Edward Knight II and his second wife Adela. It was listed in the HRO catalogue, but missing from the file. It had still not surfaced when my last day at the Record Office came, but in the three hours it took to drive home, the Archivist had located, photocopied and forwarded it.

Charles Bridges Knight

JAIV: For instance, Charles went to Cambridge not Oxford like the rest of his family – do you know why that was?

HJ: One of my theories is that he was sent to Cambridge to detach him from certain school friends who had involved him in a rebellion at Winchester College in 1818. A number of the expelled ringleaders went on to Oxford, with which Winchester was closely associated. His sister Fanny reveals that Charles was ‘intended for the Law’ at this point – maybe Cambridge had a better reputation for training lawyers. One can only speculate.

JAIV:  All the brothers had very interesting and novel-worthy love interests – some thwarted by parental involvement – but there were elopements, governess shenanigans, some intermarriage with cousins, etc., some of which you have mentioned above  – Charles was the only brother not to marry – was there any love interest found in his diaries?

HJ: From time to time, Charles expresses a lukewarm interest in what he calls ‘domestic happiness’ but he recognized at the same time that it would very likely result in a diminution of his income and the luxury it afforded. While living at Godmersham he attended balls with his sisters, usually reporting afterwards that he had found them ‘stupid’ or that he ‘had not been up to the mark’. He is open to the appeal of women and notes their beauty, or lack of it, and liveliness. In the summer of 1847, when Charles was forty-four, heavily inked deletions appear in his diaries, which appear to be linked to Lizzie Pole, a young woman he encountered at Wolverton Rectory. That Charles himself was not responsible for these obliterations is a possibility, since not all of the references to ‘dear Lizzie’ are removed. His end of the year summary for 1847 expresses ‘shame and sorrow’ at his unbecoming behaviour and ‘cold unfeeling heart’. What happened remains a mystery.

JAIV:  Charles’ diaries are quite detailed and extensive. Are you hoping to do more with them? Make them available to a larger audience? [You were terrific in sharing excerpts from the diaries about Charles’ reading while at Godmersham – see links below]

HJ: Yes indeed. See the answer below!

JAIV: Your previous books, Jane Austen and Marriage (2009, paperback 2017 by Uppercross Press), Jane Austen’s Journeys (2014) are both excellent and informative reads where you discuss the times Jane Austen lived in and how the understanding of that helps us understand her plots and characters. Did you enjoy researching the real people in Austen’s life more or less than delving into a subject?

HJ: I loved creating both of my previous books, but have found biographical writing fascinating and wholly compelling (for that, read obsessive). The Other Knight Boys was my first foray as a writer into this territory and I must admit I did find this kind of study more absorbing than focusing on a set subject. It’s something of a cliché to say it, but I did develop a strong sense of each nephew as a living breathing individual, and consequently able to make informed leaps into speculative musing where there were gaps in the records. Where the boys’ experiences overlapped – attendance at Henry and Sophia’s wedding, for example, or the visit to Ireland on their sister Cassandra’s death – deciding in which chapter or chapters to locate the material and at the same time avoiding unnecessary repetition, was a very complex but rewarding process, rather like solving a six-dimensional puzzle.

JAIV: Which leads us to: What’s up next?

HJ: I am currently working with Peter Sabor on the transcription and annotation of Charles Knight’s diaries – 1832 – 1851.

[The Sophia Hillan book May, Lou & Cass: Jane Austen’s Nieces in Ireland  (Blackstaff Press, 2011) covers the lives of Marianne (May), Louisa, and Cassandra Jane – much has already been written about Fanny, so what about Elizabeth (Lizzy) – is there a story to tell there?

M.C. Hammond’s Relating to Jane has already covered Lizzy Rice’s life.

[JAIV: Goodness, I have this book on my shelf and have never read it – more than half the book is on Lizzy Knight!:  Relating to Jane: Studies on the Life and Novels of Jane Austen with a Life of Her Niece Elizabeth Austen/Knight,  by M. C. Hammond (Minerva Press, 1998)].

JAIV: What is your favorite Austen and why? Your favorite character?

HJ: This reminds me of that question from a famous BBC Radio 4 programme: ‘Which book would you choose to take with you to your desert island?’ My answer would have to be ‘The Complete Works of Jane Austen’.  I find it impossible to single out for special notice one novel or one character. Heroines, heroes and minor characters, they are all perfectly realized and crafted.

JAIV: An absolutely perfect answer! So, what else do you like to read?

HJ: I love reading biographies, by Claire Tomalin and Hermione Lee in particular, also intelligent detective and thriller fiction – P.D. James, Ian Rankin, Stella Rimington, Henning Mankell, Stieg Larsson, Kate Atkinson; authors from other genres include Dorothy Whipple, Hilary Mantel, C.J. Sansom, Tracey Chevalier … I could go on.

JAIV: well. Thank you for that – a perfect reading list to add to my already toppling TBR pile! [and I see that many of Dorothy Whipple’s books have been republished by the incomparable Persephone Books.]

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A hearty Thank You! Hazel, for sharing so much about your book and research into the world of Austen’s nephews. You give a very loving picture of their varied lives, emphasizing their continued connection and affection for each other, and giving us a compelling view into this next generation of the Austen family. The amount of your research alone astounds me! And again, I highly recommend it to all. If you have any questions for Hazel, please comment below and I will forward them to her for answering.

Hazel Jones, Denman College, Oxfordshire

About the author:

Hazel Jones taught English at Exeter University’s Department of Lifelong Learning. She has lectured to Austen Societies in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, and the Netherlands and contributed articles to a number of their journals. Since 1995 she has tutored residential courses on Jane Austen’s life, letters and novels in a range of locations. Her published books include Jane Austen and Marriage (2009) and Jane Austen’s Journeys (2014).

The Other Knight Boys: Jane Austen’s Dispossessed Nephews, by Hazel Jones
Crediton, Devon, UK: Uppercross Press, 2020.

165 pages, color illustrations, notes, bibliography, index.

You can find Hazel’s book at:

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The blog posts on Charles Bridges Knight’s reading at Godmersham Park can be found here:

©2020 Jane Austen in Vermont

“Celebrity Jane” Wants YOU! Help Support Chawton House!


Like all museums around the world, Chawton House has had to close its doors during the COVID-19 pandemic – and like all of those places that so many of us love and visit regularly, Chawton House is dependent upon visitor fees, those now sadly lost. In order to remain on track and continue to offer its grand historic house and gardens to visit, a place to study early women writers, a place for exhibitions and lectures, a place to have tea!, Chawton House needs your support.

Their Emergency Appeal runs from April 20, 2020 through June 20, 2020:

  “Donate today to help make sure Chawton House keeps going through closure, stages a vibrant digital programme to inspire and entertain thousands of people staying at home, and re-open to welcome visitors later in 2020.”

You can read more here, where you will find the list of donation perks: https://chawtonhouse.org/covid-19-appeal/

You can follow the daily updates and what’s on offer:

Missing shopping?  Be sure to visit their new online shop (Bonnets to die for!): https://chawtonhouse.org/shop/

Watch for online exhibitions and talks: already they have launched Man Up! – about women who stepped into a man’s world (think dueling, gambling, soldiering, acting, pirating!) – a podcast is also available – https://chawtonhouse.org/the-library/library-collections/man-up-online-exhibition/introduction/

Coming up is their Lockdown Literary Festival planned for May 15-17, 2020.

And great news is the soon-to-be relaunch of the Chawton House newsletter, The Female Spectator. Stay tuned for that!

AND, you can participate in their online Forums: the Poetry Challenge and their Reading Group.

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For all our North American Friends of Chawton House, we too have a special initiative to spur on support: our very own Celebrity Jane! A must-have limited edition bobble-head of our dear Jane in full Rock & Roll garb, for anyone who donates $250 or more and while supplies last.

You can donate here: https://www.nafch.org/give-join

For your donation of $250 or more, the USPS will happily deliver Celebrity Jane to your door – and we’d like to ask that you send us a picture (or two or more!) of CJ in your house, in your garden, on your bookshelves, playing with your dog (or cat), participating in your latest Zoom gathering, really anything you can think of that shows CJ as part of your daily life (if only she could cook!)

Trooper loves Celebrity Jane (and NO! I am not a PUG!)

[Please email your photos to Kerri Spennicchia, a.k.a. CJ’s publicist on the NAFCH executive Board: spennke [at] gmail.com] – [additional photos on our facebook page and the website].

You can follow us on social media as well, where we are showcasing CJ in all manner of places and situations, with hearty thanks to our generous donors: Be part of the story!

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Start your collection today! If “Celebrity Jane 2020” proves popular, then you may expect another limited edition “Bobble-head Jane” in 2021 and beyond.  Hopefully our special limited-edition Janes will prove such outrageously popular collectibles that this leads to an annual fundraiser/giveaway campaign.

We thank you for your support! Chawton House is a very special place – let’s keep it that way…

(c) Chawton House Library; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Mellichamp painting of Chawton House, c1740; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

©2020 Jane Austen in Vermont

“The Lost Books of Jane Austen” ~ Interview with Author Janine Barchas

Enquiring Minds: I welcome today, Professor Janine Barchas, author of the recently published The Lost Books of Jane Austen, a work of mind-boggling scholarship, wherein “hardcore bibliography meets Antiques Roadshow!” And whether your tastes run to book history, the science of bibliography, literary history, or just a love of Jane Austen, you will be delighted with this addition to your Austen collection – an absolute must-have in my mind, to be shelved in a place of honor right alongside your copy of David Gilson. And don’t think it is some pedagogical tome – I laughed, I cried, I learned, I was wowed! – and I think you will be too.

Today, Janine is going to share with us what got her started on this incredible journey, some of her finds, and where it all goes from here.

Deb:  First off, I must say that his book has been universally praised by Austen scholars and readers, book historians, and bibliographers! Did you have any idea the book would be so universally embraced?

JB:  I dared not hope.  Instead, I worried about whether crisscrossing the standard demarcations between audience groups (academics v. fans, readers v. collectors) might prove fatal.  At the start, anonymous readers of the manuscript for Johns Hopkins University Press warned against the intellectual Schizophrenia of my approach (my phrasing).  In view of their worry, much of the final book was rewritten and reframed so that essential bibliographical details would not detract from the larger human narrative—what my editor called “not getting lost in the weeds.” In other words, I had a lot of help and advice while shaping a book to appeal widely—and to different people for different reasons.  Who would have thought that any press could produce such a handsome gift-worthy volume filled with headshots of tatty, cheap, and rejected books?  From the start, there was something not entirely rational about expecting any audience for a book about unwanted books.  I’m immensely gratified that so many people share my affection for these neglected reprints.

Deb: How did your education / scholarship lead you to working on Jane Austen – how, and when? In other words, when did your fascination with Austen begin?

JB: I came to Austen late and reluctantly.  I was not introduced to her until college and graduate school, where I read her as a duty (as a stop along the history of the novel genre) rather than as a pleasure.  I did not return to her novels in earnest until I was asked to teach a single-author course on Austen.  At first, I tried to argue my way out of the task—after all, Samuel Richardson, who has no action figure, needed me more.  Eventually, I gave in to the market demand on campus.  Once I slowed down, reread all her books, and started teaching Austen, I had to bend at the knee along with all her other devotees.

Deb: You have always had an interest in book history – tell us about your first book: Graphic Design, Print Culture, and the Eighteenth-Century Novel, published by Cambridge University Press in 2003.

JB: All my projects seem to take a material turn.  Graphic Design argued that it was silly for serious academics to study and write about eighteenth-century novels while staring at and quoting from modern paperbacks (e.g. the Penguin reprints used in college classrooms).  I showed how these modern reprints had silently altered the text as well as the innovative typographical innovations for which the genre was termed “novel” in the first place (ie. layout, paratexts, illustrations, the advertising language of title pages, font choices).  In Graphic Design I urged serious scholars to return to the original editions of eighteenth-century books when studying literary meaning.  In Lost Books, I finally found a scholarly purpose for all those inauthentic reprintings that I dismissed as unauthoritative in that early project!

Deb:  You go through 200 years of Austen’s publishing history in such an interesting order. When did it become apparent that these divisions were a way of approaching the Lost Books: Paperback Jane, Scholarly Jane, Virtuous Jane, Temperance Jane, Marketing with Jane, Armed Services Jane, Chick-lit Jane, etc…

JB: For years, I periodically rearranged the shelves of the cheap Austen reprints that I acquired, grouping books on the dining room table and elsewhere to see what patterns emerged—patterns of aesthetics, formats, prices, audiences, etc.  I wanted to explore patterns that would allow me to go beyond the usual mere temporal lists of publications (“and then this edition, and then this one”).  While the story of the “pinking” of Jane Austen during the 1950s and 60s showed itself fairly quickly, the most meaningful patterns were impossible to see until after I gained access to the books of other collectors whose plentiful shelves contained many more examples to sort (physically or mentally). All in all, it probably took nine years of looking before the one year of writing to feel that I had a book’s worth of findings to share.

Deb: The seven Vignettes you include in the book tell the stories of book owners of the many Austen novels you have found. These are enlightening, sometimes wrenching – but such a personal tribute to Austen’s many readers through the past 200 years. A name, a date, maybe an address would send you on a deep-dive adventure into census, birth, marriage and death records – thank goodness for the internet and ancestry.com, making such research even possible! What was your favorite connection that you found?

JB: Locating the backstories and former owners behind particular copies was indeed the most rewarding part of researching and writing this book.  However, asking me to pick between these people and their books is like asking a mother which child is her “favorite.” As you say, some of the backstories proved tearjerkers while other copies offered up endearing or surprising anecdotes about the lives of real Austen readers.  The vignette that makes me smile most broadly is probably the one about the young Harvard law student named Heman Burr who, on his very first trip to Paris in 1879, binge read all of Jane Austen’s novels.

Deb: What was the most elusive, that you just couldn’t let go? – and finally found something…

JB: Unlocking the ownership history of one cheap mid-nineteenth-century copy of Mansfield Park depended upon locating the official naval record of the officer whose name matched the ownership signature. Even after I found his record, I needed help from a colleague familiar with naval terminology and a knowledge of specific ships and battles to see that his navel career mapped neatly onto the Austen novel that he had so treasured.

Deb: And the one(s) where you hit a brick-wall and ended at a dead end?

JB: There were dozens and dozens of books whose ownership signatures I could not trace with certainty in the historical record – sometimes because the name was too common or the inscription lacked mention of a location to help triangulate it. The anonymity that an all-too-common name conveys has its own cosmic sadness.  For a provenance researcher there is nothing more deflating than the proud ownership signature of a “Miss Smith.”

Deb: How many more stories do you have, not included in Lost Books, but possibly to be published elsewhere? Can we hope for a Vignettes sequel??

JB: There were handfuls of worthy backstories and many clusters of odd reprints that did not make it into the final book.  While a sequel is not in the cards (sweet of you to ask!), I have published a few of those findings as separate essays for the Los Angeles Review of Books and also for Literary Hub.

Another such essay (about the ignored marginalia of those who disliked Austen) is scheduled to appear in the May/June issue of Jane Austen’s Regency World magazine.

‘Sense and Sensibility’ in the Marguerite Series from Miles & Miles (London), no date – Barchas collection (page 112)


Deb: Throughout this past decade of research, you located and purchased as many of these cheaply published works as possible; or you found collectors willing to share their shelves with you; or you found the odd one in a scholarly institution:

– What surprised you the most?

JB: The sheer number of cheap reprints not listed in Jane Austen’s bibliographies. I had assumed that bibliographies were, barring oversight and human error, objective records of publications.  I was taken aback by how subjective the discipline of bibliography is and how biased towards “important” highbrow editions.

Deb: Your most amazing discovery?

JB: A well-thumbed copy of Mansfield Park from the 1890s that served as an attendance prize in a temperance society for coal miners.  Coal miners!

Deb: Most elusive find?

JB: A paperback copy of Elizabeth Bennet published in Philadelphia in 1845 and which originally sold for 25 cents.

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Deb: What is now the most prized book in your collection, and why?

JB: The cheap colorful copy of Northanger Abbey published by Blackie & Sons which was awarded as a school prize in Forfar Scotland in 1911 to one “Annie Munro.”  During my research, I discovered that only six months later Annie tragically died from diphtheria, age 13, and that this volume could be the sole artifact she left behind. It was an honor to be able to tell Annie’s story in the book’s last vignette, and it remains an honor to safeguard her prized book.


Deb:  Tell us about the cover, specially done for you – it is such a combination of the old, the new, the charming – just a perfect introduction to the feast that awaits the reader on the inside!

JB: The incredible artist who created the book sculpture for the cover is Mike Stilkey, who works with discarded library books and lives in Los Angeles.  He is famous for his large wall-sized installations on which he paints unique figures and animals.  In a fan letter, I told him about my own Lost Books project.  He then created his “Jane Austen” sculpture from discarded books for possible use on the cover.  Everyone at the press instantly loved it.  I agree that Stilkey’s work strikes the perfect note and I remain grateful to him for responding with such generosity to this project.

Deb: You end your book with a “call to action”: that this “gobsmackingly incomplete historical record” of the publishing of Jane Austen has much more to be added to – you wish / hope that other collectors, scholars, laypeople, and institutions will share with you any such “low-brow editions” they might have – you envision some sort of digital bibliography – how do you hope to move forward with this idea? How can people help?

JB: Ambitiously, I now hope that collectors of such reprints as I discuss in Lost Books will agree to donate these relatively inexpensive but scarce volumes to institutions with proper special collections, where these books can allow further research into publishing history and Austen’s reception.  The major Austen collector that I worked with has generously agreed to donate her Jane Austen reprints to a special collections library that has, in turn, agreed to house such a gift (cataloguing and storage costs are non-trivial).  I have agreed to add my own books to hers, trusting that, jointly, our donations will help to save information for the future and prompt others to do the same. Books such as this need to be together to maximize the information they contain as historic artifacts.  Interested parties can contact me about inquiring about similar donations.  In addition, a collector in Australia wrote me that he has reacted to my project by starting a blog that shows other collectors how to trace prices and provenance of “cheaper” reprints: https://bookcollectingheaven.com/2020/03/30/price-and-provenance/ .

Deb: And finally, what’s up next?

JB: This year, with the help of a fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies and a stay at the Lewis Walpole Library, I have begun a new project, called Renting in the Age of Austen.  When Jane Austen is born in 1775, the burgeoning consumer culture of late-Georgian England increasingly allowed temporary ownership over some luxury goods for a fee. Books and artworks could now be borrowed, furniture and musical instruments rented, carriages or horses hired, and whole country mansions let. Some Georgian rentals were bizarre (e.g. pineapples), but all complicated identity politics. Rented objects blur traditional social signals of rank.  Whereas old sumptuary laws aimed to fix luxury goods as markers of class, in Austen’s era privilege could be flaunted with kit and carriages not one’s own. My project explores the messy logistics of what was rented (where, to whom, and at what prices?) to reveal the social implications for this early economy of temporary possession.

Deb: Anything else you would like to share?

JB: I would like folks to know of my unexpected lockdown project: “Pride & Plague” on Twitter (@PridePlague). On this channel celebrity couple William Shakespeare and Jane Austen have been posting updates to their fans while in social isolation during the COVID-19 crisis. Even those not on Twitter can see it here for a chuckle: https://twitter.com/PridePlague.  I think of this project as my contribution to morale [and a welcome contribution it is! See below for some examples…]

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Thank you Janine for sharing your insights – I do most heartily recommend this book to everyone – and please, look at your shelves and see if perchance you might have your very own “unsung reprints” lying about – you too could add to the knowledge of Jane Austen’s publishing history and be a part of this fascinating story.

 

About the author:

Janine Barchas is the Louann and Larry Temple Centennial Professor in English Literature at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of Matters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location, and Celebrity and the prize-winning Graphic Design, Print Culture, and the Eighteenth-Century Novel.  She is the creator behind the digital project What Jane Saw wherein we can view two Georgian blockbusters as witnessed by Jane Austen (Joshua Reynolds in 1813 and the Shakespeare Gallery of 1796). She has also written essays for the Washington Post, New York Times, Lit Hub, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. Her newest work, The Lost Books of Jane Austen, about the many unsung editions of Jane Austen, was published by Johns Hopkins University Press this past October.

Janine is also the President of NAFCH, the North American Friends of Chawton House, a group that works to raise funds and garner support for the Chawton estate of Jane Austen’s brother Edward and its Library devoted to early women writers.

Further reading:

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The Lost Books of Jane Austen, by Janine Barchas
Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019
284 pages. Color illustrations throughout.

You can purchase it at your local bookseller or here at Amazon.

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As noted above, Janine is currently working through the present sheltering-in-place crisis by finding daily humor in the antics of Jane and Will and posting all about them on her twitter page “Pride & Plague.” You can follow the fun here: https://twitter.com/PridePlague

©2020 Jane Austen in Vermont

Reading with Jane Austen ~ Women Writers in the Godmersham Park Library


Dear Readers: This post originally appeared on Reading with Austen blog – a listing of all the women writers and their works that were in the Godmersham Park Library – a Library that Jane Austen had access to on her visits to her brother’s home in Kent. I have noted their current location or if they are LOST SHEEP – you can read more about the Library and our effort to locate the missing works here at the Reading with Austen website. Please contact us if you should happen upon any!

Abbreviations:

  • KC = Knight Collection at Chawton House
  • JAHM =  Jane Austen House Museum
  • LOST SHEEP – please help us find this title!

Of the 45 authors listed with a total of 62 titles, 23 are in the Knight Collection at Chawton House, 29 are LOST SHEEP, 3 works are partially in KC and partially LOST, 2 are in private collections, and the 5 Jane Austen 1st editions are at the Jane Austen’s House Museum.

As mentioned in my previous post on Sarah Scott, it is interesting to search the Godmersham Park Library 1818 catalogue for titles written by women, knowing that Jane Austen would have had access to them. So here is a list of all the women writers and their works,  with hopes to eventually do a post on each (which might actually get done in these times of quarantine…).

It is quite an impressive list – novelists, poets, playwrights, philosophers, historians, essayists, translators, letter-writers! And while many of the works remain in the Knight Collection, there are more that are Lost Sheep, our effort still to locate them. If you might have a copy of any work by any of these women with a Knight bookplate in them, please get in touch with us!

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Austen, Jane (1775-1817) [of course!]

  • Northanger Abbey: and Persuasion. 1st 4 vols. London, 1818. JAHM
  • Sense and Sensibility: A Novel. 1st 3 vols. London, 1818. JAHM
  • Pride and Prejudice: A Novel. 1st 3 vols. London, 1813. JAHM
  • Mansfield Park: A Novel. 1st 3 vols. London, 1814. JAHM
  • Emma: A Novel. 1st 3 vols. London, 1816. JAHM

Baillie, Joanna (1762-1851)

  • A Series of Plays, in which it is attempted to delineate The Stronger Passions of the Mind, each passion being the subject of A Tragedy and a Comedy. 4th 2 vols. London, 1803. LOST SHEEP

Barbauld, Anna Letitia (1743-1825) [as A. Aikin, her maiden name]

  • Miscellaneous pieces, in prose, by J. and A. L. Aikin. 2nd 1 vol. London, 1775. LOST SHEEP

Bowdler, Jane (1743-1784)

  • Poems and essays, by A Lady Lately Deceased. 2 vols. Bath, 1786. KC

[Jane Bowdler] Poems and Essays by A Lady Lately Deceased. Bath, 1786.

Brooke, Frances (1724-1789)

  • The History of Lady Julia Mandeville. By the translator of Lady Catesby’s letters. 2nd 2 vols. London, 1763. LOST SHEEP

Brunton, Mary (1778-1818)

  • Self-control: a novel. 3rd 3 vols. Edinburgh, 1811. KC

Burney, Frances (1752-1840)

  • The Wanderer; or, Female Difficulties. By the author of Evelina; Cecilia; and Camilla. 5 vols. London, 1814. KC (vol 2-4 only)

Campan, Jeanne Louise Henriette Genest (1752-1822)

  • Memoirs of the private life of Marie Antoinette, Queen of France and Navarre. To which are added, recollections, sketches, and anecdotes, illustrative of the reigns of Louis XIV. Louis XV. And Louis XVI. By Madame Campan, First Lady of the bed-chamber to the Queen. 3rd 2 vols. London, 1824. KC

Carter, Elizabeth (1717-1806)

  • Poems on Several Occasions. 1 vol. London, 1762. LOST SHEEP
  • All the Works of Epictetus, Which are now Extant; consisting of His Discourses, preserved by Arrian, In Four Books, The Enchiridion, and Fragments. Translated from the Original Greek, By Elizabeth Carter. With An Introduction, and Notes, by the Translator. 1 vol. London, 1758. KC (2 copies)

Chapone, Hester (1727-1801)

  • Letters on the Improvement of the mind, addressed to a young lady. 1st 2 vols. London, 1773. KC

Cornwallis, Mary (1758-1836)

  • Observations, Critical, Explanatory, and Practical, on the Canonical Scriptures. By Mrs. Cornwallis, of Wittersham, Kent. 4 vols. London, 1817. LOST SHEEP

Craven, Elizabeth Craven, Baroness (1750-1828)

  • A Journey through The Crimea to Constantinople. In A Series of Letters from the Right Honourable Elizabeth Lady Craven, To His Serene Highness The Margrave of Brandebourg, Anspach, and Bareith. Written in the Year M DCC LXXXVI. 1st 1 vol. London, 1789. LOST SHEEP

Dixon, Sarah (1671/2-1765)

  • Poems on Several Occasions. 1st 1 vol. Canterbury, 1740. LOST SHEEP

Dobson, Susannah (d. 1795) [as translator]

  • The Life of Petrarch. Collected from Memoires pour la Vie de Petrarch. Jacques-François-Paul-Aldonce de Sade (1705-1778); translated by Mrs. [Susannah] Dobson. 4th 2 vols. Embellished with eight copper-plates, designed by Kirk, and engraved by Ridley. London, 1799. KC

Edgeworth, Maria (1768-1849)

  • Patronage by Maria Edgeworth. 4 vols. 2nd London, 1814. KC
  • Tales of Fashionable Life, by Miss Edgeworth. 1st 6 vols. London, 1809-12. KC
  • Harrington, a tale; and Ormond, a tale. 2 vols. London, 1817. LOST SHEEP

Elie de Beaumont, Anne-Louise Morin-Dumesnil (1729-1783)

  • Lettres Du Marquis de Roselle. Par Madame E. D. B. Nouvelle Edition. 2 vols. London, 1764. KC

Elwood, Anne Katharine (1796-1873)

  • Narrative of a Journey Overland from England by the Continent of Europe, Egypt, and the Red Sea, to India; including a residence there, and voyage home, in the years 1825, 26, 27, and 28. By Mrs. Colonel Elwood. In two volumes. 1 vol ed? London, 1830. LOST SHEEP

Fielding, Sarah (1710-1768) [as translator]

  • Xenophon’s Memoirs of Socrates. With the Defence of Socrates, before His Judges. Translated from The Originial [sic] Greek. By Sarah Fielding. 1st 1 vol. Bath, 1762. KC

Gardiner, Jane (1758-1840)

  • An excursion from London to Dover: containing some account of the Manufactures, Natural and Artificial Curiosities, History and Antiquities of the Towns and Villages. Interspersed with Historical and Biographical Anecdotes, Natural History, Poetical Extracts, and Tales. Particularly intended for the amusement and instruction of youth. By Jane Gardiner, Elsham Hall, Lincolnshire. In Two Vols. 1st. ed. 2 vols. London, 1806. KC

Jane Gardiner. An Excursion from London to Dover. London, 1806.

Genlis, Stéphanie Félicité, comtesse de (1746-1830)

  • Adèle et Théodore, ou, Lettres sur l’éducation, Contenant[.] Tous les principes relatifs aux trois différens plans d’éducation des Princes, des jeunes Personnes, & des Hommes. 1st 3 vols. Paris, 1782. KC (vol 3 only), LOST SHEEP (vol 1 and 2)
  • Les Veillées du Château, ou, cours de morale à l’usage des enfans, par l’auteur d’Adèle et Théodore. 1st 3 vols. Paris, 1784. KC

Graffigny, (Françoise d’Issembourg d’Happoncourt), Mme de (1695-1758)

  • Letters written by a Peruvian Princess. A New Edition, in two Volumes. London, 1771. LOST SHEEP
  • The Peruvian letters, Translated from the French. With An additional original Volume. By R. Roberts, translator of Select Tales from Marmontel, author of Sermons by a Lady, and translator of the History of France, from the Abbé Millot. 2 vols. London, 1774. KC
  • Lettres d’une Peruvienne. 1 vol. Paris, n.d. LOST SHEEP

Grant, Anne (1755-1838)

  • Poems on various subjects, by Mrs. Grant. 1st Edinburgh, 1803. LOST SHEEP
  • Letters from the mountains; Being the real correspondence of a lady, between the years 1773 and 1807. 2nd 3 vols. London, 1807. KC

Hays, Mary (1759-1843)

  • Female Biography; or, Memoirs of Illustrious and Celebrated Women, of all ages and countries. Alphabetically arranged. By Mary Hays. 1st 6 vols. London, 1803. In the collections of the Godmersham Park Heritage Centre.

Haywood, Eliza Fowler (1693-1756) – as a contributor

  • A Companion to the theatre: or, a view Of our most celebrated Dramatic Pieces: In which the Plan, Characters, and Incidents of each are particularly explained. Interspers’d With Remarks Historical, Critical and Moral. 2 vols. London, 1747. LOST SHEEP

Lee, Harriet (1757-1851) and Sophia Lee (1750-1824)

  • Canterbury tales. By Harriet Lee [and Sophia Lee]. 5 vols. London, 1804. [The original 5 volumes of this work were published in 1797, 1798, 1799, 1801 and 1805. The 4th edition of vol. 1 was published in 1804; it’s not possible to identify the editions of the rest of volumes in the Godmersham Library copy from the Godmersham catalogue details]. LOST SHEEP

Lee, Sophia (1750-1824) [see under Harriet Lee]

Lennox, Charlotte (ca. 1730-1804) [as translator]

  • Memoirs of Maximilian de Bethune, Duke of Sully, Prime Minister to Henry the Great. Containing The History of the Life and Reign of that Monarch, And his own Administration under Him. By Pierre Mathurin de L’écluse des Loges (ca. 1713-1783). Translated from the French by the Author of The Female Quixote [Charlotte Lennox]. To which is added, The Trial of Ravaillac for the Murder of Henry the Great. 5 vols. London, 1757. KC

Macaulay, Catharine (1731-1791)

  • The history of England from the accession of James I. to that of the Brunswick Line. By Catharine Macaulay. 1st 5 vols. (of 8). London, 1763-83. KC

Catharine Macaulay. • The history of England from the accession of James I. to that of the Brunswick Line. London, 1763-83.

Maintenon, Françoise d’Aubigné, marquise de (1635-1719)

  • Lettres de Madame de Maintenon. Contenant[.] Des Lettres à différentes personnes, celles à M. d’Aubigné, & celles à M. & à Me. de Villette. Nouvelle Edition. 16 vols. Maestricht [Maastricht], 1778. KC

Marlborough, Sarah Churchill, Duchess of (1660-1744)

  • An Account of the Conduct of the Dowager Duchess of Marlborough, From her first coming to Court, To the Year 1710. In a Letter from Herself to my Lord––. 1 vol. London, 1742. LOST SHEEP

Masters, Mary (fl. 1733-1755)

  • Familiar Letters and Poems on Several Occasions. By Mary Masters. 1st 1 vol. London, 1755. LOST SHEEP

Meades, Anna (b. ca. 1734)

  • The history of Sir William Harrington. Written some years since, And revised and corrected By the late Mr. Richardson, author of Sir Charles Grandison, Clarissa, &c. 1st 4 vols. London, 1771. LOST SHEEP

Montagu, Elizabeth Robinson (1718-1800)

  • An Essay on the Writings and Genius of Shakespear, compared with the Greek and French Dramatic Poets. With Some Remarks Upon the Misrepresentations of Mons. de Voltaire. 1st 1 vol. London, 1769. LOST SHEEP
  • The letters of Mrs. Elizabeth Montagu, with some of the letters of her correspondents. Part the first, Containing her letters from an early age to the age of twenty-three. Published by M. Montagu, Esq. M.P., her 1st 2 vols. (of 4). London, 1809-13. KC

Montolieu, Isabelle de (1751-1832)

  • Agathoclès, ou Lettres écrites de Rome et de Grèce, au commencement du Quatrième Siècle, Traduites de l’allemand de Mme. Pichler, Par Mme. Isabelle de Montolieu. 1st 4vols. Paris, 1812. LOST SHEEP

More, Hannah (1745-1833)

  • Florio: A Tale, For Fine Gentlemen and Fine Ladies: and, The Bas Bleu; or, Conversation: Two Poems. 1st 1 vol. London, 1786. LOST SHEEP
  • Strictures on the modern system of female education. With a view of the principles and conduct prevalent among women of rank and fortune. By Hannah More. 9th 2 vols. London, 1799. LOST SHEEP
  • Coelebs in search of a wife. Comprehending Observations on domestic habits and manners, religion and morals. 9th 2 vols. London, 1809. KC

Orléans, Charlotte-Elizabeth, duchesse d’ (1652-1722)

  • Fragmens de lettres originales De Madame Charlotte-Elizabeth de Bavière, Veuve de Monsieur, Frère unique de Louis XIV, Ecrites à S. A. S. Monseigneur le Duc Antoine-Ulric de B** W****, & à S. A. R. Madame la Princess de Galles, Caroline, née Princess d’Anspach. De 1715 à 1720. 1st 2 vols. Hambourg, 1788. KC

Parry, Catherine (d. 1788)

  • Eden Vale. A Novel. In Two Volumes. Dedicated, by permission, To Lady Shelburne. By Mrs. Catherine Parry. 1st 2 vols. London, 1784. KC (vol. 2 only); LOST SHEEP (vol. 1)

Piozzi, Hester Lynch; Thrale, Hester Lynch (1741-1821)

  • Letters to and from the late Samuel Johnson, LL.D. To which are added some poems never before printed. Published from the original mss. in her possession, by Hester Lynch Piozzi. 1st 2 vols. London, 1789. LOST SHEEP
  • Observations and reflections made in the course of a journey through France, Italy, and Germany. By Hester Lynch Piozzi. 1st 2 vols. London, 1789. In a private collection.
  • Anecdotes of the late Samuel Johnson, LL.D. during the last twenty years of his life. By Hesther Lynch Piozzi. 1st 1 vol. London, 1786. LOST SHEEP

Porter, Jane (1776-1850)

  • The pastor’s fire-side, a novel. 1st 4 vols. London, 1817. LOST SHEEP

Radcliffe, Ann Ward (1764-1823)

  • A Journey made in the summer of 1794, through Holland and the Western Frontier of Germany, with a Return Down the Rhine: to which are added observations during a tour to The Lakes of Lancashire, Westmoreland, and Cumberland. By Ann Radcliffe. 1st 1 vol. London, 1795. LOST SHEEP

Riccoboni, Marie Jeanne de Heurles Laboras de Mézières (1713-1792)

  • Lettres de Mylady Juliette Catesby, A Mylady Henriette Campley, Son Amie. Quatrieme Edition. 4th 1 vol. Amsterdam, 1760. KC

Marie Jeanne Riccoboni. Lettres de Mylady Juliette Catesby, A Mylady Henriette Campley, Son Amie. Amsterdam, 1760.

Scott, Sarah (1723-1795)

  • The history of Sir George Ellison. 1st 2 vols. London, 1766. LOST SHEEP
  • A Description of Millenium Hall, and the Country Adjacent: Together with the Characters of the Inhabitants, And such Historical Anecdotes and Reflections, as May excite in the Reader proper Sentiments of Humanity, and lead the Mind to the Love of Virtue. By A Gentleman on his Travels. 1st 1 vol. London, 1762. LOST SHEEP

Sévigné, Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, marquise de (1629-1696)

  • Recueil des lettres de Madame la Marquise de Sévigné, a Madame la Comtesse de Grignan, sa fille. Nouvelle Edition augmentée. 9 vols. Paris,m 1785. KC

Smith, Charlotte Turner (1749-1806)

  • Elegiac sonnets, by Charlotte Smith. The fifth edition, with additional sonnets and other poems. 5th 1 vol. London, 1789. LOST SHEEP
  • The letters of a solitary wanderer: containing narratives of various description. By Charlotte Smith. 1st 2 vols (of 3?). London, 1800. LOST SHEEP

West, Jane (1758-1852)

  • Letters to a young lady, in which the duties and character of women are considered, chiefly with a reference to prevailing opinions. By Jane West. 4th 3 vols. London, 1811. KC

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There are several titles in the catalogue with no author listed. Here are two novels – could either of these been written by a woman? [these 2 titles were not counted in the totals noted above] –  more on these two books in a future post…

  • Edward. A novel. Dedicated (by permission) to Her Majesty. London, 1774. 2 vols. LOST SHEEP
  • The correspondents, an original novel; in a series of letters. A new edition. London, 1775. 1 vol. LOST SHEEP

[Title page images are courtesy of the Reading with Austen website].

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c2020 Reading with Austen Blog, Jane Austen in Vermont blog