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  • Print publication year: 2012
  • Online publication date: July 2012

1 - Jane Austen's Reading in Context

from Part One


Jane Austen's Reading

As a child and young woman, living with her family in Steventon Rectory, Jane Austen had access to her father's library of some five hundred volumes, many of which she read, along with books borrowed from friends, neighbours and wider family members. After the family's move to Bath, when her father's library was sold, and the family's second move to Southampton after the death of the Reverend George Austen, Jane Austen borrowed books from the circulating libraries of Bath and Southampton, and enjoyed borrowing and reading books from the private libraries of friends and relations during her sometimes lengthy visits to them. In particular, Austen seems to have relished her brother Edward Knight's library at Godmersham Park, and to have taken full advantage of his collection. While they were in Bath and Southampton, Henry Austen sent his mother and sisters works from London, and they also sometimes received newspapers and periodicals from the same source, and, rather like the Dashwood family in Sense and Sensibility, from friends and neighbours. When Jane, Cassandra, Mrs Austen and Martha Lloyd made their home in Chawton, in 1809, the Austens formed part of the Chawton Book Society, and Jane continued to borrow books from both public and private libraries. In the last three years of her life, once she belonged to the prestigious John Murray stable of authors, she received the latest publications as loans from her publisher.

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