Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Happy Birthday Jane

"Edward Austen Presentation" 
by Unknown - Hill, Constance. Jane Austen: Her Homes & Her Friends. Great Britain: Richard Clay and Sons, Ltd., 1901.. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

"He is the best landlord, and the best master," said she, "that ever lived. Not like the wild young men now-a-days, who think of nothing but themselves. There is not one of his tenants or servants but what will give him a good name. Some people call him proud; but I am sure I never saw any thing of it. To my fancy, it is only because he does not rattle away like other young men.” Pride and Prejudice, chapter 43

So what was it really like to be a member of the landed gentry in the Regency? Jane Austen gives us examples of several characters who are landowners. Some are better than others. Mr. Rushworth can’t wait to tear down Sotherton. John Knightly takes interest in all aspects of estate management from the “plan of a drain” to the “destination of every acre of wheat , turnips, or spring corn.” (Emma chapter 12).

Jane Austen’s brother Edward was her closest connection to the landed gentry. Edward was adopted by Thomas and Catherine Knight who had no children. Eventually, Edward inherited the Knight estates and took the Knight name. 

The Knight estate consisted of properties primarily in Hampshire, Kent and London. Jane Austen visited Edward’s primary residence Godmersham in Kent often and lived in a cottage in Chawton owned by Edward.

Godmersham, Edward Knight's primary residence
John Preston Neale [Public domain or No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

As a large landowner, Edward would have provided a clear lens for Jane Austen’s view of the characters who appear in her novels. So how did Edward Knight live? How did he manage his estates? What were his relationships with all the people who lived and worked on his property?

Fortunately we may have some answers. JASNA Central and Western NY is delighted to welcome Linda Slothouber to our Jane Austen Birthday Luncheon. Linda is a life Member and elected Board Member of JASNA. She comes to us from the Washington DC Metropolitan Region where she is co-coordinator of the 2016 AGM. She has had a career in management and technology consulting and has written on companies that were important in Jane Austen’s time such as Wedgwood and the cotton mills of Richard Arkwright. In 2013 she participated in the JASNA International Visitor Program, doing research on the management of Edward Knight's estate in Chawton.

As a result of her research, Linda has published a book detailing the operation of the estate. Jane Austen, Edward Knight, and Chawton: Commerce and Community is a delightful book that gives Jane Austen fans a close look at life on a country estate. If you haven’t already, please take a look at the review that appeared on your JANSNA CWNY blog here . 

Linda’s book is rich in the details of estate management, such as revenues and expenses, but it also delves into the character of Edward Knight and his relationships with many people in the community of Chawton. Linda will tell us much more, but for the moment imagine Darcy or Knightley rather than Rushworth or Crawford.

Please join us for this event. As always, there will be great food, great company, and a great speaker. The details are given below. Note that we ask you to pre-register by December 5. The registration form can be found at the link below.

Hope to see you there.

Event: JASNA CWNY Jane Austen Birthday Luncheon
When: Saturday December 12, 10:30 am.
Where: Chatterbox Club, 25 Goodman St. N, Rochester NY 14607
Registration: Registration Form here

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