Wednesday 16th December 2020

Venue: Online

‘the employment of mind and dissipation of unpleasant ideas which only reading could produce made her thankfully turn to a book.’

 – Jane Austen,The Watsons’

To celebrate Jane Austen’s 245th birthday this year, Chawton House are taking a fresh look at her unfinished work ‘The Watsons’, with an evening of online events, 3-8pm GMT.

3-3.30pm Introduction: Professor Michelle Levy, ‘Unfinishing “The Watsons”’

Dating from around 1804, a decade after the completion of her juvenilia and eight years before the publication of her first novel in 1811, ‘The Watsons’ is Jane Austen’s only lengthy piece of writing that she deliberately left unfinished (even when she had an ending in mind). This talk will explore Austen’s incompletion of ‘The Watsons’, and some of the following questions: What place does the draft manuscript, in its state of being unfinished, hold in Austen’s oeuvre, and how might we place it relation to her other surviving manuscripts? What reasons might a careful analysis of the narrative, and the manuscript itself, suggest about her decision to abandon the fragment, never to return to it?

Michelle Levy is a Professor in the Department of English at Simon Fraser University. She works in the fields of Romantic literary history, print and manuscript culture, and women’s book history. She has published extensively on women writers, her most recent book, Literary Manuscript Culture in Romantic Britain, was published by Edinburgh University Press earlier this year. She is the co-editor of the Broadview Reader in Book History (2014), the co-author of Broadview Introduction to Book History (both with Tom Mole, 2017), and the author of Family Authorship and Romantic Print Culture (2008). She directs the Women’s Print History Project, a comprehensive bibliographical database of women’s books.

3.30-6.15pm Reading ‘The Watsons’: Chawton House Reading Group

*our reading groups are now at full capacity but please email to be put on the waiting list*

We have limited spaces available in this month’s informal reading group discussion of ‘The Watsons’, led by Chawton House Postdoctoral Fellow Kim Simpson. Places are free, but on a first-come first-serve basis. If you are interested in joining us, then please email

3.30 – 4.45pm Group 1

5 – 6.15pm Group 2

For information about future meetings, please visit the Reading Group page.

If you are unable to attend, then why not use the time to listen to the free online Librivox recording of the text in advance of our evening talk? You might also enjoy exploring Austen’s extraordinary manuscripts of ‘The Watsons’, digitised as part of the Jane Austen Fiction Manuscripts project led by Professor Kathryn Sutherland.

6.15pm-6.30pm Chawton House Christmas Message

Our special Christmas message from CEO Katie Childs will look back at the momentous events of 2020, update you on what’s to come at Chawton House in 2021, and give you a look at the house dressed for Christmas.

6.30pm-8pm Continuing ‘The Watsons’: A Conversation with Rose Servitova

Very satisfying, sometimes moving and often laugh-out-loud hilarious.’

Jane Austen Regency World Magazine

A gift for Austen fans everywhere.’

Natalie Jenner (author of The Jane Austen Society)

Emma Watson returns to her family home after fourteen years with her wealthy and indulgent aunt. Now more refined than her siblings, Emma is shocked by her sisters’ flagrant and desperate attempts to ensnare a husband. To the surprise of the neighbourhood, Emma immediately attracts the attention of eligible suitors – notably the socially awkward Lord Osborne, heir to Osborne Castle – would could provide her with a home and high status if she is left with neither after her father’s death. Soon Emma finds herself navigating a world of unfamiliar social mores, making missteps that could affect the rest of her life. How can she make amends for the wrongs she is seen to have committed without betraying her own sense of what is right?


Rose Servitova is an Irish humour writer. Her second novel, The Watsons, a completion of Jane Austen’s unfinished work, won Bronze at the International SPR Book Awards 2019. Her debut humour novel, The Longbourn Letters – The Correspondence between Mr Collins and Mr Bennet, was described as a ‘literary triumph’. Rose has made author appearances at literary events in Ireland and the UK, including the Jane Austen Festival in Bath. You can follow Rose on Twitter @roseservitova

The pre-recorded interview will be followed by a live Q&A on Zoom afterwards.

*first 20 copies sold are signed

Tickets £10. This includes access to both talks and a downloadable copy of the Winter edition of The Female Spectator, to be published on the same day.


This is an online event. Ticket holders will be emailed links to access the talks, Q&A, and magazine download on the morning of the event. Talks will premier on YouTube at the specified times but will be available to watch for those with links afterwards.