The 200-year anniversary of Jane Austen’s novel Mansfield Park is to be celebrated with a line-up of internationally renowned speakers at an event hosted by Chawton House Library, a leading study centre for early English women’s writing. 

The bicentenary symposium for Austen’s first country house novel, written and published in Chawton, Hampshire, is aimed at a wide audience from academics and students to Austen fanatics and lovers of early English literature.

The event runs from 10am to 4pm on Saturday, 8 March, at Chawton House Library in Chawton.

The University of Stirling’s Katie Hasley will talk about the readers of Mansfield Park, from its publication in 1814 to today while Deidre Shauna Lynch, from the University of Toronto, will focus on her work on editing Austen’s novel for Harvard University Press.

In a year which also saw the publication of The Wanderer by Frances Burney, a novelist much-admired by Austen, and Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley, Cardiff University’s Anthony Mandal will explore whether 1814 was a bad year for the novel. 

Mary Ann O’Farrell, from Texas A&M University, will focus on new ways of looking at Mansfield Park, the third of Austen’s six best-known works and, possibly, her least popular novel. 

Dr Gillian Dow, Chawton House Library’s Director of Research and a senior lecturer at the University of Southampton said: “Mansfield Park has a very unappealing heroine in Fanny Price.  She is very reserved, not particularly healthy, nor is she lively and witty like the more popular Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice.

“Fanny’s relationship with Edmund Bertram, her cousin, is not one of the great love stories of Austen’s writing career. The elopement in Pride and Prejudice is matched by an elopement in Mansfield Park but the consequences of that elopement are much more serious and do not lead to a marriage brought about by a Mr Darcy-like figure. 

“But Mansfield Park is one of Austen’s later novels and the product of a more mature writer. Austen herself famously said Pride and Prejudice may be too ‘light and bright and sparkling’ and that it ‘wants shade’. Mansfield Park has shade in abundance. Many readers enjoy the real mastery of Austen’s craft that we see in this, her third published novel.”

Chawton House Library is home to rare books and manuscripts by female writers from 1600 to 1830, including Jane Austen and Mary Shelley. The house itself is more than 400 years old and is regularly open to visitors, alongside library readers, for tours and during public events.  It also runs educational and outreach projects with schools and colleges and fosters links internationally. 

Tickets for the symposium cost £40, which includes lunch and refreshments, or £33 for students or the unemployed. For more details and to register visit or call (01420) 541010.

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