Mr.Bennet's Library, Pride and Prejudice
When we think of Mr. Bennet we think of him reading or answering his mail in his ground floor library, surrounded by a quantity of serious books. He stayed there most of the day regardless of time, coming out only for dinner or appointments. Mr. Bennet liked to have the library to himself, though Lizzy and Jane were always welcome. He was also willing to conduct business within his sanctum, especially in regard to seeing his daughters settled, and spoke most willingly to Mr. Bingley and with some surprise to Mr. Darcy. Mr. Collins, however, was another matter: "Mr. Collins was to attend them, at the request of Mr. Bennet, who was most anxious to get rid of him, and have his library to himself; for thither Mr. Collins had followed him after breakfast; and there he would continue, nominally engaged with one of the largest folios in the collection, but really talking to Mr. Bennet, with little cessation, of his house and garden at Hunsford. Such doings discomposed Mr. Bennet exceedingly. In his library he had been always sure of leisure and tranquility; and though prepared, as he told Elizabeth, to meet with folly and conceit in every other room of the house, he was used to be free from them there"
Rev. Austen’s Library, Steventon Parsonage
Jane Austen grew up in a bookish family. Rev. Austen was a great reader (and writer of sermons) and he read aloud to his children.When her family moved to Bath, Jane's father sold or gave away over 500 books from his vast library, which must have crammed the parsonage in Steventon. Under her father's direction, Jane read English, classical and foreign literature by such authors as Samuel Johnson, Samuel Richardson, Henry Fielding, Alexander Pope, George Crabbe, William Cowper, and William Shakespeare. Jane was also encouraged to buy subscriptions to the popular novels written by Frances Burney, Sarah Harriet Burney, Maria Edgeworth and Ann Radcliffe. Rev. Austen's library at Steventon provided inspiration for the short satirical sketches Jane wrote as a girl and with which she entertained the family. To entertain each other, the close knit Austen family would also read to each other, play games, and produce plays. One imagines that Rev. Austen's library played an important part in devising these amusements.
During the Georgian era, serious private libraries were expected to showcase a variety of rare volumes, classics, topics, and great authors in a number of languages, including Latin, Greek, and French. Thomas Jefferson's library is representative of the great libraries of the world. His extensive collection formed the basis for The Library of Congress in the United States. View a list of his books at this link. One imagines that Rev. Austen and Mr. Bennet collected many of the books listed by Mr. Jefferson.
Posted by Vic, Jane Austen's World