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The University of Southampton

Original Jane Austen manuscript on display to accompany lecture at Chawton House Library

Published: 22 March 2004

A rare manuscript of Sir Charles Grandison by Jane Austen will be on display at Chawton House Library in Hampshire to accompany a lecture by the Chairman of the Jane Austen Society, Brian Southam. The lecture takes place on 25 March and members of the press are invited to attend and take photographs.

The manuscript is over 200-years-old and is owned by Chawton House Library and Study Centre. Brian Southam has published widely on Jane Austen's novels and was the first to edit the Sir Charles Grandison manuscript after its discovery.

Sir Charles Grandison is Jane Austen's only surviving attempt to write a play of any length and is a light-hearted dramatisation of some scenes from the novel 'The History of Sir Charles Grandison' by Samuel Richardson - one of Austen's favourite authors.

Chawton Postdoctoral Fellow Dr Jennie Batchelor of the University of Southampton said: "Chawton House Library is very fortunate to have this rare 52-page manuscript by Jane Austen, the only complete manuscript to have survived from her adult writing career. It has been carefully preserved by the Austen family for over 150 years and was not published until 1980 when it was admirably annotated and edited by Brian Southam.

"Jane Austen wrote Sir Charles Grandison probably for private use at the Austen Home in Steventon. The manuscript was discovered in 1977 and it is believed the opening part of the play was written around 1791-2 but that the rest of it was written significantly later, probably around 1800," added Dr Batchelor.

The lecture takes place on Thursday 25 March at 6.30pm at Chawton House Library in conjunction with the University of Southampton. It is open to members of the public and tickets are available from Kathy Quinn at Chawton House on 01420 541010 priced £6 and £4 concessions.

If members of press wish to attend the lecture or take photos of the manuscript please contact Susie Grandfield at Chawton House on 01420 541010 or email after 23 March.

Notes for editors

Chawton House is the Grade II listed Elizabethan manor house in the village of Chawton near Alton in Hampshire which belonged to Jane Austen's brother, Edward Austen Knight. The house, gardens and parkland, which would have been frequently visited by Jane Austen, have undergone ten years of sensitive restoration to establish a Library and Centre for the Study of Early English Women's Writing from 1600-1830. A major contributor to the project has been American businesswoman Sandy Lerner, through her charitable foundation the Leonard X. Bosack and Bette M. Kruger Charitable Foundation.

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