The Jane Austen Society of the UK

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History of the Society

The Society was founded in 1940 by Dorothy Darnell with the purpose of raising funds to preserve the Cottage in the village of Chawton, Hampshire, where Jane Austen lived with her mother and sister Cassandra from 1809 to 1817. Her brother Edward had inherited the Chawton estate from wealthy relatives and offered the former steward's cottage, dating from the early 18th century, to his mother and sisters as a permanent home. He improved the cottage and the ladies moved in on 7th July 1809. Jane Austen writes her impressions to her brother Francis on July 26th:

Jane Austen's Cottage, Chawton

Jane Austen's Cottage, Chawton

' for ourselves, we're very well,
As unaffected prose will tell.
Cassandra's pen will give our state
The many comforts that await
Our Chawton Home - how much we find
Already in it to our mind,
And how convinced that when complete,
It will all other houses beat,
That ever have been made or mended,
With rooms concise or rooms distended.
You'll find us very snug next year;.....'

There she revised her three early novels, 'Elinor and Marianne', published in October 1811 as Sense and Sensibility, 'First Impressions', published in January 1813 as Pride and Prejudice, and 'Susan', published posthumously in 1817 as Northanger Abbey. She also wrote the novels of her maturity there: Mansfield Park, published in April 1814, Emma, published in December 1815, and Persuasion, published with Northanger Abbey in 1817.

The Jane Austen Memorial Trust purchased Chawton Cottage in 1947 and the Jane Austen Society helped with its preservation. It is administered by the Trust and open to the public. As a museum it has a matchless collection of books, furniture, pictures and other memorabilia associated with Jane Austen and the Austen family.

The Society aims to:

Silhouette of Jane Austen

By courtesy of the National
Portrait Gallery, London

  • promote the appreciation and study of the life, work and times of Jane Austen and the Austen family

  • secure the preservation of the manuscripts, letters and memorabilia of Jane Austen and the Austen family

  • continue a programme of scholarly publications concerning Jane Austen and the Austen family

  • support the work of the Jane Austen Memorial Trust in maintaining the Museum at Jane Austen's House, Chawton