Welcome back to Chawton House Library Conversations. First launched on Sunday 8 March 2015 in celebration of International Women’s Day, our monthly podcast is a round up of news, events and highlights, helping you stay connected with Chawton House Library wherever you are.
This month, we discuss eighteenth-century author Charlotte Smith, who scholars agree is not nearly as famous as she ought to be! We hear from the organisers of the Charlotte Smith conference, which was held here at Chawton House Library 210 years after her death. Smith was a successful writer of poetry, children’s fiction and romantic literature. Any fans of Poldark would be encouraged to read Old Manor House, Smith’s most successful novel! Her writing was both influential and radical and known to Jane Austen. Loraine Fletcher, Smith’s biographer, describes her as an unusually brave person, supporting twelve children on little money, with real successes in her writing.
A special guest at the conference was a descendant of Smith’s, Eldred Smith-Gordon, who found Smith’s liberal interest in continental Europe particularly exciting, given he is a passionate pro-European himself.
We also hear from two new scholars to Chawton House Library. The first is Dr Kim Simpson, who has just begun her tenure as postdoctoral fellow, splitting her time between Chawton House Library and the University of Southampton. She tells us about her own research and the work that she is doing here, which includes collating the upcoming events programme. The second is Jennifer Mueller, a Canadian researcher who has been studying at the Courtauld Institute of Art, doing art history. She is working on two projects here: the first is creating a catalogue of paintings at Chawton House Library. The second is creating a digitized version of the library at Godmersham Park as Jane Austen would have known it. She shares with us some anecdotes of working with old and sometimes very delicate books found in the collection.
Look as you listen:
The conference organisers, left to right: former visiting fellow Professor Beth Dolan, PhD candidate Val Derbyshire and Professor Jacqueline Labbe.
Dr Kim Simpson at the preview of the Emma Hamilton exhibition, representing Chawton House Library
Jennifer Mueller is recreating a digital version of the Godmersham Park Library from the 1818 catalogue, held in the Knight collection here at Chawton House Library. Around a third of the 1818 library is still extant.
NOTE: At 17:51 Thomas Knight is mentioned as loaning the books to Chawton House Library on long-term deposit rather than Richard Knight, the freeholder of Chawton House, and Trustee of Chawton House Library. Thomas Knight (1735-1794) was Edward Austen, later Knight’s adoptive father and an important figure in the history of the Chawton and Godmersham estates.