Chawton House, the Elizabethan mansion in Hampshire once owned by Jane Austen’s brother Edward, is one of the treasures of the Janeite world. So it’s fitting that its new exhibition, which celebrates the twentieth anniversary of Chawton’s opening to the public, is titled “Treasures of Chawton House.”
And what treasures they are! Among the items on display are the 1812 Grant-of-Arms that allowed Edward to change his name to Knight and inherit the house from Austen cousins; first editions from Chawton’s extraordinary collection of early English writing by women; rare cookbooks; and a mysteriously lost and fortuitously rediscovered music book owned by Austen herself.
Every year, I wistfully weigh the pros and cons of making another visit to Chawton, and this exhibition adds another item to the “pro” side of the scale. (Cons: time, money.) Luckily, the show is running through April, so I’ve got some leeway.