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 hear from our first speaker of the year, Dr Sophie Coulombeau from Cardiff University, who gave an excellent talk on the life of Hester Lynch Thrale Piozzi, or Dr Johnson’s Mrs Thrale as she is more commonly known. Thrale Piozzi was known as a woman of brilliant conversational powers who had a fascinating life. Dr Coulombeau discusses her time spent with Dr Johnson when her literary powers flourished, followed by her scandalous marriage to Gabriel Piozzi, her children’s music master. This cut her off from her entire social set but it also signaled the beginning of her diverse and eclectic publishing career. Thrale Piozzi was a radical, innovative, ground-breaking writer who should be celebrated.

We also get to know our two February Visiting Fellows who are both from Australia. The first is Dr Olivia Murphy who is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in English at the University of Sydney. She is working on the nature of experiments in the Romantic period and the prevailing attitudes towards them at that time. She tells us about Dr Joseph Priestly who isolated Oxygen and his friend Anna Laetitia Barbauld, the eminent person of letters and children’s author. She wrote a poem on his work from the perspective of the experimental subject, petitioning to not be experimented on. This led Dr Murphy to research how people responded to animal testing in the late eighteenth century.

The second Visiting Fellow is Dr Emily Cock, who is a Research Assistant in Medical History at the University of Winchester. She is researching on facial disfigurement among mothers and children in the eighteenth century. Her work has led her to consider contemporary views on what makes a face different. For instance, a tan having a drastic effect on the face and marking a person as a certain class, as well as physiognomy and how course features supposedly denoted criminal tendencies.

We also speak to our Garden Manager Andrew Bentley, who hosted our first Wassailling event. Guests sang a traditional Wassail song in order to wake up the apple tress in the hopes of having a productive upcoming harvest!

Our General Manager Anthony Hughes-Onslow talks about our upcoming Snowdrop Sunday event on 12 February. It gives visitors a chance to see the snowdrops which are now carpeting the grass and explore the rest of the grounds, as well as the house itself, which will be open on both Sunday 12 and 19 February. Tickets cost £4 for adults and will be available for purchase on the day.

Look as you listen:

Dr Sophie Coulombeau admiring the works on display at Chawton House Library

 

Our two Visiting Fellows for February: Dr Olivia Murphy (left) and Dr Emily Cock (right)

 

Garden Manager Andrew Bentley in his Wassail attire

 

Our Snowdrop Sunday event is on 12 February