On display for the first time will be a decorative cross stitch sampler by Jane Austen and a newly-discovered portrait which has been the subject of recent research by Austen scholars. As both items are on loan from private collections specially for this one-day Austen display, this is a unique opportunity for lovers of Austen to see items directly linked to the writer.
The sampler is signed and dated ‘Jane Austen 177’ (some of the stitching from the ‘8’ has come away), and was made when the novelist was eleven or twelve. A note attached to the back of the frame states that an early owner ‘was related to Jane Austen the novelist’ and that she ‘received it as a memento of her (n.b. Austen’s) life.’
It was in her third novel Northanger Abbey that Jane referred to samplers when Henry Tilney playfully boasts to Catherine Morland that he has read far more novels than her: ‘Consider how many years I have had the start of you. I had entered on my studies at Oxford, while you were a good little girl working your sampler at home!’ ‘Not very good I am afraid’, replies Catherine. While we can imagine the young Jane Austen dutifully embroidering this sampler at home, she was, by then, starting to write, and already showing the distinctive irony and literary intelligence that would characterize her great novels.
|The Bodleian Library's new acquisition, the incomplete manuscript of|
The Watsons will also be displayed (a number of pages are missing.)
Since then, the portrait’s authenticity has been debated by Austen scholars and also made the subject of a BBC documentary. The Bodleian Libraries are joining the debate by putting the portrait on display and inviting the public to decide for themselves. Click here for the rest of the announcement on the Bodleian Libraries Site at the Universities of Oxford.
- A fascinating discussion ensued on my other blog, Jane Austen's World, when I wrote a post about the new portrait. Click here to read it.