Although Jane Austen is a quintessentially British writer, her admirers in North America are legion. Indeed, the Jane Austen Society of North America, with more than five thousand members, is considerably larger than the original Jane Austen Society in the UK.
So it’s good news that the North American Friends of Chawton House, which raises money for the research library housed in a Hampshire mansion once owned by Austen’s brother Edward, has upgraded to a spiffy new website.
Regular blog readers will recall the saga of Chawton House, which was restored to its former glory by Silicon Valley gazillionaire Sandy Lerner, whose rare-book collection anchors the library’s holdings in early English writing by women. Lerner’s money supported the library for years, and in 2016, when she decided to withdraw that support, a scramble to replace her sizeable contribution began. (Review the details here and here.)
Among those trying to help are the North American Friends, who have raised $160,000 in the past two years, according to board president Janine Barchas, an Austen scholar who is an English professor at the University of Texas-Austin.
“Many friends are needed to help this worthy charity and historic property establish a bright future of financial independence,” Barchas writes on the new website. “After all, Chawton House and the rich literary history it now safeguards should never have been one person’s financial responsibility to shoulder.”
Donations are tax-deductible. As for that feeling of helping to preserve Jane Austen’s literary context: priceless.