Oh, how bittersweet my last day in Chawton was.
The bitter part? It rained a lot that day, and I had to walk in it a few times. It was a sad, gray day.
Actually, the day was mostly sweet, for I got to look through a book that I have been wanting to see for about five years! This book is an 1801 copy of the prose volume of Elegant Extracts that Jane Austen gave to her niece, Anna Lefroy. This is the volume that includes Austen marginalia, which I have written about in my article on Austen’s The History of England. The Elegant Extracts is a book that shaped the young Jane Austen’s thinking on Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I. It is also a book she felt compelled to give to her niece, and this helps comment on Austen’s special relationship with Anna. I am eternally grateful to all of the people at Jane Austen’s House who helped me gain access to the book: Alex, Izzy, and Mary.
I took pictures of this book, but I won’t post them because I promised only to take them for research purposes. I will post an image from the web (The British Library’s website, to be exact) to show you the book:
The book will be displayed in September at Jane Austen’s House Museum as a part of the 41 Objects exhibit. I have probably said this before, but this exhibit is wonderful! I wished that I could have seen the entire thing, for the 41 objects were not all displayed at once. The EE and Austen’s music book, as examples, are not released until September when other items in the house will leave the exhibit.
The feeling of holding this book in my hands, of seeing the marginalia and notes inside it, is something I cannot adequately put into words. I could try, after all I am a writer, but I don’t want to do that. I just want to say that a dream has come true. ♥
By the way, for you Emma fans out there, the EE is also mentioned in the novel as a book from which Robert Martin reads to his family. Not enough to impress Emma, though! Poor Harriet! But I digress….
I also got a chance to look JA’s music book. OK, I can’t read music, but I can read the titles of the pieces and see when she crossed things out and made changes–after all, this is a part of my interest in manuscripts and the writerly process of revision.
Even cooler than this process, though, is this book’s opening page, a title page/frontispiece, that includes an image of the cutest little cherub, who has been colored in and who holds a banner with text written by JA.
To see the book in person reminds me that images online cannot replace what you see with your own eyes. The colors of the cherub’s face and wardrobe are so vibrant–so alive! Seriously, I am in love. The text says, “Juvenile Songs & Lessons for young beginners who don’t know enough to practice.” That’s my Jane right there! That’s my snarky girl! ♥♥
Let me pause to give a shout-out to the University of Southampton, for Jeanice Brooks and others have digitized the Austen family music books. The image shown above comes from that project. The link to the book can be found here. Why stop there? You can look at the other books, too.
Believe it or not, what I just wrote about only captures my morning! After looking through these books and saying goodbyes to my JAHM friends, I went shopping. I had to do a little gift shop Christmas shopping, you know. You can, too, by the way. Just go to this site.
After walking home from JAHM with my gifts in tow (all huddled under my umbrella–remember the rain), I packed up and readied myself for an afternoon at Chawton House Library.
There I said more goodbyes to my CHL friends, and I met up with Janet from JAHM, who coordinates the stewards. Janet is helping me track down contact information for tour guides and drivers for my future travel course to the area. She also is just one of the nicest people. We had some tea/coffee and cake, and she gave me a goodbye gift from the shop (the shopkeepers told her that I was in there earlier, so she miraculously got me a gift that I didn’t purchase!). Then Gillian Dow met up with us, and we chatted about CHL, research, teaching, children, etc.
It was a lovely afternoon–a perfect way to say goodbye to my two summer homes: Jane Austen’s House Museum and Chawton House Library.
I finished up the day by hanging out in the Stables with the CHL fellows and the CHL intern and said more goodbyes! XOXO to Christine, my CHL and CHS buddy!
The next morning, I awoke extra early to begin the trek back to London so that I could fly back to the States.
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