Monday, November 4, 2019

Jane Austen and the Godmersham Library

Godmersham Park
By Unknown - ajaneaustengazetteer, Public Domain,

"Mr. Hurst looked at her with astonishment.
"Do you prefer reading to cards?" said he; "that is rather singular."
"Miss Eliza Bennet," said Miss Bingley, "despises cards. She is a great reader and has no pleasure in anything else."
"I deserve neither such praise nor such censure," cried Elizabeth; "I am not a great reader, and I have pleasure in many things.""

Event:   JASNA CWNY November Meeting
Topic:    "Edward Austen Knight's Godmersham Library and Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey"
               A talk that was presented at the AGM by JASNA CWNY member Alice Villaseñor
When:    Saturday, November 16, 2019 at 1 pm
Where:   Pittsford Barnes and Noble, Community Room

It is interesting that Jane Austen had one of her most memorable characters describe herself as "not a great reader". Jane Austen herself was obviously a great reader. In Mansfield Park, Fanny laments the falling of Sotherton's trees with a line from Cowper.

“Fanny, who was sitting on the other side of Edmund, exactly opposite Miss Crawford, and who had been attentively listening, now looked at him, and said in a low voice--
"Cut down an avenue! What a pity! Does it not make you think of Cowper? 'Ye fallen avenues, once more I mourn your fate unmerited.' "
He smiled as he answered, "I am afraid the avenue stands a bad chance, Fanny."” Mansfield Park, chapter 8.

Toward the end of Mansfield Park, Fanny in Portsmouth longs for home, which has now become Mansfield Park.

“Her eagerness, her impatience, her longings to be with them, were such as to bring a line or two of Cowper's Tirocinium for ever before her. "With what intense desire she wants her home," was continually on her tongue, as the truest description of a yearning which she could not suppose any schoolboy's bosom to feel more keenly.”  Mansfield Park, chapter 45.

Clearly Cowper was a favorite.

Northanger Abbey may be the Jane Austen novel richest in literary references (yes, we will include Gothic novels as literary references). In chapter 1 we are told what Catherine Morland learned from Pope, Gray, Thompson and Shakespeare.

But what books did Jane Austen actually have access to and how did they influence her writing? At this month's meeting Alice Villeseñor will speak to us about the connection between Edward Austen Knight's Godmersham Library and Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey. This is a reprise of her talk at the AGM in Williamsburg. Here is the abstract.

"The Knight Collection at Chawton House Library invites us to consider what sorts of books Austen’s Northanger Abbey characters—and Austen herself—might have read. For example, annotated volumes of novels and sermons from Edward Austen Knight’s Godmersham Park Library can provide insight into the Morland family’s reading habits." JASNA Annual General Meeting, Williamsburg, VA 2019 Program

Chawton House Library houses many of the books that were in the Godmersham Library when Jane Austen would have been a visitor.

Knight Collection at Chawton House

Although Alice is well known to most of us, here is a bit more about her background:

"Alice Villaseñor is an Associate Professor of English at Medaille College in Buffalo, NY. Her articles and chapters on Jane Austen’s work and the Austen family have appeared in the Jane Austen Society ReportsPersuasionsPersuasions On-Line, the Journal of Victorian Culture Online, and Pride and Prejudice: A Bicentennial Bricolage. A lifetime member of JASNA, she has served as a board member of JASNA and JASNA-Southwest. She was the 2006 JASNA International Visitor and a 2011 Chawton House Library Fellow and has served as a past chair of the JASNA IVP Committee. She has spoken at several AGMs and Regional Meetings." 
JASNA Annual General Meeting, Williamsburg VA 2019 Program

Please join us for what promises to be a very informative discussion of what Jane Austen read and how it influenced her writing.