By Deborah Yaffe, Mar 2 2017 02:00PM
The curators of Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton are hard at work freshening the place up for this year’s commemoration of the bicentenary of Austen’s death. The latest renovation: new wallpaper.
Or, depending how you look at it, old wallpaper. According to its latest blog post, the museum has recently installed replica wallpaper in three different patterns, based on early nineteenth-century fragments discovered in random corners of the house where Austen lived from 1809 until her death in 1817.
The replicas were created by a company that specializes in historic and reproduction wallpapers – I’m tempted to say “only in England,” but perhaps this is a bigger niche than I imagine – using the hand block printing techniques employed in Austen’s era. Apparently, there’s evidence that the frugal and not-exactly-affluent Austens bought a discounted, flawed version of one of the wallpapers and installed it upside down to conceal the mistakes in the pattern
For us contemporary Janeites, however, the most interesting line in the museum’s blog post comes at the end: “Both designs, as well as a third. . . are available for purchase via the museum shop.” *
Yes, a new avenue of Janeite consumerism has opened up. You already own the Jane Austen Action Figure, the mugs, the tote bags, the fridge magnets, the temporary tattoos – even the air freshener and the toothpaste. Now it’s time to redecorate the den.
* Not all the shop’s stock is listed online yet, and the wallpapers seem to be among the missing items. But you can catch a glimpse of the patterns here, decorating the cover of a journal.
I remember seeing a small swatch of the original wallpaper exposed when I visited JAHM in 1990, and thinking it was a bit less Laura Ashley than the rest of the wall decor then in evidence. As for the replica wallpaper to be offered for sale, fuhgeddaboutit: I hate putting up wallpaper only slightly less than I hate inaccurate JA quotes!
Ha! I've never tried to put up wallpaper myself, so I will defer to your experience. Maybe the best approach would be to use it in a dollhouse. . .