Conducting Research in the Upper Reading Room & Hanging Out with Those Living at Chawton

Images of books from Chawton House Library collection.

After spending a week getting acquainted with the CHL and JAHM and meeting the people who work there, attending and assisting in events, and volunteering, I finally sat down on Tuesday afternoon (July 11) in the Upper Reading Room to begin my archival research. My goal last week was to look at marginalia as well as writings by women for women (including themselves).

Over the course of the week, I looked at copies of the Baronetage, Shakespeare’s Works (1734), Elegant Extracts, Mary Brunton’s Self-Control, Fordyce’s Sermons, Ann Murry’s Mentoria, and more. I looked at unique, handwritten manuscripts on prayers and poetry, an account ledger of Mary Topham’s shopping, a riddle manuscript, and a play manuscript. I took copious notes and pictures, but I will not post those here. The images above show a few of the many books I looked at last week, arranged from 1) top left to right, and 2) bottom left to right the following: 1) the oh-so fragile copy of Self-Control, Mentoria, and an account diary and 2) a riddle manuscript and a play manuscript.

I spent the following hours in the Upper Reading Room: Tuesday afternoon from 1:30-4:30, Wednesday morning from 9:30-12:30 and 1:30 to 4:30, Thursday from 1:30-4:30, and Friday from 1:30-4:30. Thursday morning I spent some time synthesizing notes and planning. Friday morning I attended a conference at CHL (another post forthcoming).

The Upper Reading Room is closed from 12:30-1:30, so I oftentimes hang out with the CHL fellows, Ros, Robin, and Jodi, for lunch. I always pack a sandwich, some crisps, and a juice box. During the break on Wednesday, we all went to see the Chawton horses. Shown below are Speedy and Summer.

Occasionally, I even get to snap a picture of the sheep on the property.


I feel extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to spend this time in Chawton conducting research related to my Austen project, hanging out with the fellows, meeting and greeting four-legged friends, and volunteering at the CHL and JAHM.


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