Jane Austen and Sir Walter Scott ~ Finding Scott in the Godmersham Park Library

Walter Scott, by Henry Raeburn, 1822

While the goal here is to locate works that were in the Godmersham Park Library [GPL] that have gone missing, there is also an interest in just seeing what authors and subjects were included in the collection. I have written previously about Samuel Johnson where we find some of the works  in the existing Knight Collection at Chawton House and some are unfortunately Lost Sheep.

Today I am going to look at Sir Walter Scott, an author Austen wrote about in her letters and alluded to in her works. We know she admired him but in no way tried to emulate him – in her famous letter to the Prince Regent’s Librarian James Stanier Clarke, she is certainly referring to Scott when she writes:

“I am fully sensible than an Historical Romance founded on the House of Saxe Cobourg might be more to the purpose of Profit or Popularity, than such pictures of domestic Life in Country Villages as I deal in – but I could no more write a Romance than an Epic Poem. – I could not sit seriously down to write a serious Romance under any other notice than to save my Life, & if it were indispensable for me to keep it up & never relax into laughing at myself or other people, I am sure I should be hung before I finished the first Chapter.- No – I must keep to my own style & go on in my own Way…” (Ltr. 138(D), p. 312).

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What we find in the GPL catalogue are only two works by Scott, and both remain in the Knight collection today. So no Lost Sheep. But we also find a good number of other Scott titles in this extant collection and so we might infer from this that the Austen Family were avid fans of Sir Walter Scott!

Jane Austen and Walter Scott (1771-1832) really had a fair amount to say about each other. They were contemporaries after all, and Scott a respected poet before he started writing his highly successful novels. Jane Austen is not silent on this development, and writes in Ltr. 108. 28 Sept 1814 to her niece Anna Austen (later Lefroy):

Walter Scott has no business to write novels, especially good ones. – It is not fair.- He has Fame & Profit enough as a Poet, and should not be taking the bread out of other people’s mouths. – I do not like him, & do not mean to like Waverley if I can help it – but fear I must.”

In February 1813, Austen writes  her sister about Pride and Prejudice being “too light & bright & sparkling” and writes that perhaps “something unconnected with the story; an Essay on Writing, a critique of Walter Scott, or the history of Buonaparte…” would offer the necessary contrast.

We know she had access to his works, either in her brother’s collections or in the local circulating library. The two titles listed in the GPL 1818 catalogue are  Marmion and The Lady of the Lake and she mentions both in her letters and her novels:

  1. Marmion (6th ed. 1810):


Marmion; a tale of flodden field
, by Walter Scott, Esq. In two volumes. Sixth edition. Edinburgh / London: Printed for Archibald Constable and Company, Edinburgh: and William Miller, Albemarle-Street and John Murray, London, 1810.

  • Located in the South Case: slip 1, shelf 5 (an interesting fact: Marmion was shelved at the GPL right next to Northanger Abbey!)
  • Current location: Knight Collection, Chawton House
  • Full text: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/100613514

Austen’s thoughts on Marmion:

“Ought I to be very much pleased with Marmion? – as yet I am not. – James reads it aloud in the Eveng – the short Eveng- beginning about 10 & broken by supper… [Note that this Letter 53, dated June 20-22, 1808  is written from Godmersham].

“Charles’s rug will be finished today, & sent tomorrow to Frank, to be consigned by him to Mr. Turner’s care – & I am going to send Marmion out with it – very generous in me, I think.” [Ltr. 64: Jan 10-22, 1809].

Later, when writing about her just published Pride and Prejudice: “There are a few Typical errors – & a ‘said he’ or a ‘said she’ would sometimes make the Dialogue more immediately clear – but ‘I do not write for such dull Elves’ ‘As have not a great deal of Ingenuity themselves.’” [Ltr. 79: 4 Feb 1813].

– As Deirdre Le Faye points out (Letters, 4th ed. p 420), this is a quote from Scott’s Marmion (vi. 38):

I do not rhyme to that dull elf
Who cannot image to himself…

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  1. The Lady of the Lake (1810):


The Lady of the Lake. A poem
. By Walter Scott, Esq. The fourth edition. Printed for John Ballantyne and Co. Edinburgh; and Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and William Miller, London; by James Ballantyne and Co. Edinburgh, 1810.

Austen’s references to The Lady of the Lake:

“We began Pease on Sunday, but our gatherings are very small – not at all like the Gathering in the Lady of the Lake.” [Ltr. 75. 6 June 1811].

Both Marmion and The Lady of the Lake are referred to in Persuasion: “Trying to ascertain whether Marmion or The Lady of the Lake were to be preferred” and in her final unfinished work Sanditon, we find the poetry-obsessed Sir Edward Denham directly quoting  from both Marmion and The Lady of the Lake as he spouts off as a “Man of Feeling.”

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Austen also refers to other works by Scott that are not in the GPL catalogue. As noted, some are in the current Knight Collection: these may have been in the library at the Chawton Great House, or mistakenly not listed in 1818, or never owned by Austen or her brother but added to the library by future generations:

3. The Field of Waterloo (1815):

She writes to John Murray during her brother Henry’s severe illness: “My Brother begs his Compts & best Thanks for your polite attention in supplying him with a Copy of Waterloo.” [Ltr. 124: 3 Nov 1815].

– Scott’s poem The Field of Waterloo was published in 1815 and written to raise funds for the families of soldiers killed in the battle. (Le Faye, 450). It is not extant in the Knight Collection.

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4.  Paul’s Letters to His Kinfolk (1815):

And later that month, she writes again to Murray: “My Brother returns Waterloo, with many thanks for the Loan of it. – We have heard much of Scott’s account of Paris – it is be not incompatible with other arrangements, would you favour us with it – supposing you have a set already opened? – You may depend upon its’ being in careful hands.” [Ltr. 126: 23 Nov 1815].

-The reference is to Scott’s Paul’s Letters to His Kinfolk (Murray, 1815), his personal writings on his travels to the battlefield of Waterloo and through Paris and occupied France. This title is in the Knight Collection.

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5. The Antiquary (1816): On December 16-17, 1816 [Ltr. 146], Austen writes to her nephew James Edward Austen (later Leigh), referring to the character Isabella Wardour in Scott’s The Antiquary:

“Uncle Henry writes very superior Sermons.- You & I must try to get hold of one or two & put them in our Novels; – it would be a fine help to a volume; & we could make our Heroine read it aloud of a Sunday evening, just as well as Isabella Wardour in the Antiquary, is made to read the History of the Hartz Demon in the ruins of St Ruth – tho’ I beleive, upon recollection, Lovell is the Reader.”

The Antiquary title page, 1871 ed.

The Antiquary, considered to be Scott’s own favorite of his novels, is in the current Knight Collection.

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6. The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805):

 

 

The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805): Austen directly quotes Scott’s chivalric romance on two occasions in Mansfield Park, one by Fanny and the other about Fanny, and this work, though not in the GPL catalogue, is in the Knight Collection. This is the poem that brought Scott instant success.

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The other Scott works in the Knight Collection:

  1. The Vision of Don Roderick (1811)
  2. Ballads (1806)
  3. Rokeby (1813)
  4. The Waverley Novels (20 volumes)
  5. The Lord of the Isles (1815)
  6. Scott’s History of Scotland (1829-1830)
  7. Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft (1830)
  8. Other editions of Marmion and The Lady of the Lake
  9. And also Lockhart’s 7 volume Life of Scott (1848)

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7. The Quarterly Review (1816):

One final mention of Scott in Austen’s letters refers to the review of Emma in the Quarterly Review (issued March 1816). She writes on April 1, 1816 [Ltr. 139] to her publisher John Murray:

“I return you the Quarterly Review with many Thanks. The Authoress of Emma has no reason to complain of her treatment in it – except in the total omission of Mansfield Park.- I cannot but be sorry that so clever a Man as the Reveiwer of Emma, should consider it as unworthy of being noticed.”

Though an anonymous review, it was widely known to have been written by Walter Scott. This is still disputed by some critics.  And whether Austen knew if her “so clever a Man” was Scott has also not been definitively established.

You can read the original text here at the British Library:
https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/review-of-emma-in-the-quarterly-review-1815

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We can’t discuss Scott and Austen without a few words by him about her:

Sir Walter Scott wrote in his journal on March 14, 1826, with his oft-quoted “Bow-wow”:

I have amused myself occasionally very pleasantly during the last few days, by reading over Lady Morgan’s novel of _O’Donnel, which has some striking and beautiful passages of situation and description, and in the comic part is very rich and entertaining. I do not remember being so much pleased with it at first. There is a want of story, always fatal to a book the first reading–and it is well if it gets a chance of a second. Alas! poor novel! Also read again, and for the third time at least, Miss Austen’s very finely written novel of _Pride and Prejudice_. That young lady had a talent for describing the involvements and feelings and characters of ordinary life, which is to me the most wonderful I ever met with. The Big Bow-wow strain I can do myself like any now going; but the exquisite touch, which renders ordinary commonplace things and characters interesting, from the truth of the description and the sentiment, is denied to me. What a pity such a gifted creature died so early!

Scott’s journal entry for September 18, 1827, has the following reference to Austen:

Wrote five pages of the _Tales_. Walked from Huntly Burn, having gone in the carriage. Smoked my cigar with Lockhart after dinner, and then whiled away the evening over one of Miss Austen’s novels. There is a truth of painting in her writings which always delights me. They do not, it is true, get above the middle classes of society, but there she is inimitable.

Indeed!

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Images of Marmion and The Lady of the Lake: the Reading with Austen website.
Image from The Antiquary is from The Geste of Robin Hood

 c2019 Reading with Austen blog

Wanted! ~ The Godmersham Library Copy of Cowper’s Poems

This is at this moment the Godmersham Lost Sheep Society’s Holy Grail. William Cowper’s Poems. Cowper was Jane Austen’s favorite poet (or so her brother Henry tells us in his “Biographical Notice”]. It was located in the Godmersham Library in the South Case: column 1, shelf 3, and a book that Jane Austen would certainly have read there while visiting.


This title, unlike the majority of the Lost Sheep, is actually for sale – and unfortunately way beyond our collective pocketbooks – from Bernard Quaritch Ltd. of London.

Here is the description on Abebooks – see the reference to the all-important Montagu George Knight bookplate and a little bit of the history of Jane Austen and Cowper.

Cowper, William. Poems London: printed for J. Johnson 1782. [With:]_________. The Task, a Poem, in six Books To which is added An Epistle to Joseph Hill Tirocinium, or a Review of Schools, and the History of John Gilpin. London: Printed for J. Johnson 1785.

Price: $ 10,657.66 / £ 8,000

Description:
2 vols., 8vo., pp. [4], ‘vii’ [i.e. viii, misnumbered], 367, [1, errata]; [8], 359, [1, advertisement for Poems 1782], Poems with the suppressed Preface, E6 and I6 are cancels as usual, The Task with half-title (‘Poems Vol. II’); title-page to The Task shaved at foot touching the date, else good copies in contemporary tree calf, morocco spine labels; front board of volume I restored, joints rubbed in volume II, spines dry and rubbed; the Chawton copy, with the large roundel bookplate of Montagu George Knight and with the earlier Knight family shelf tickets ‘J 9 27-8’; scattered underlining or marked in the margin throughout in pencil and occasionally pen or red crayon. First edition of each volume, with the notoriously rare suppressed preface by John Newton. This copy comes from the library of Chawton House, with an early shelf label and the bookplate of Jane Austen’s great-nephew George Montagu Knight [sic]. Austen’s ‘favourite moral writers were Johnson in prose, and Cowper in verse’ (‘Biographical Notice’, Northanger Abbey), and Cowper provides the moral framework for much of her writing, is referred to or quoted in Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Emma, and, in particular, Mansfield Park, and mentioned several times in her letters. Jane’s father, himself a clergyman, ‘bought a copy of Cowper’s works in 1798 and Jane described him reading them aloud to the family in the evening; ten years later she bought a copy of a new edition as a present for her niece Fanny’ (David Selwyn, Jane Austen and Leisure, 1999). The Austens moved to Chawton Cottage, in the grounds of Chawton House, in 1809, after her brother Edward, who took the name of Knight, had inherited the estates of Chawton and Godmersham Park. Jane regularly used the libraries at both houses: ‘I am now alone in the Library’, she wrote to Cassandra from Godmersham, ‘Mistress of all I survey’. The present volumes appear in the 1818 Godmersham Park catalogue compiled by Edward Knight (South Case, col 1 shelf 3). It has been carefully read, and numerous passages marked, especially in the poems quoted by Austen (‘Tirocinum’, ‘The Truth’ etc.), though almost certainly not by Austen herself. They do however express the canonicity of Cowper in the Austen family and it is hard to imagine she would not have turned through the pages of this set in the library at Godmersham. The Godmersham and Chawton libraries were later merged, hence the Chawton bookplate of Austen’s great-nephew Montagu George Knight. Poems, published at the age of 50, was Cowper’s first and most important collection. The suppressed Preface by the reformed slave trader John Newton is notoriously rare. As curate of Olney, Buckinghamshire, Newton for seven years was a neighbour of Cowper and became a close friend. They collaborated on Olney Hymns in 1779, Newton’s contributions including ‘Amazing Grace’. His Preface was ‘not designed to commend the Poems to which it is prefixed’, but to provide testimony to Cowper’s (and his own) religious experience. In the poems, he writes, Cowper’s ‘satire, if it may be called so, is benevolent dictated by a just regard for the honour of God, an indignant grief excited by the profligacy of the age, and a tender compassion for the souls of men He aims to communicate his own perceptions of the truth, beauty, and influence of the religion of the Bible. A religion, which alone can relieve the mind of man from painful and unavoidable anxieties’. The publisher, no doubt rightly, was alarmed that such an evangelical Preface might prejudice the sale of the book, and, with Cowper’s reluctant consent, withdrew it a week before publication. The Task was written at the suggestion of Cowper’s friend and neighbour Lady Austen (no relation). She had encouraged him to attempt blank verse, and he agreed provided that she would supply the subject. ‘O’, she replied, ‘you can never be in want of a subject: you can write upon any. Write upon this sofa!’ And so he did, hence the wry title, Bookseller Inventory # E4430.1

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If you would like to contribute to the Lost Sheep Fund and help in facilitating the return of this book, we would be most grateful – and you will become one of the esteemed members of our community of GLOSSers. Please contact us here for more information.

Images: Abebooks and the RwA website, courtesy of Bernard Quaritch, Ltd.

C2019 Reading with Austen Blog

Found! ~ John Milton, Paradise Lost, 1736

This book was found online, purchased by a few of us GLOSSers, and is now returned to the Library at Chawton House. It was in the 1818 catalogue and shelved in the East Case: column 5, shelf 6.

Milton, John. Paradise Lost

Milton, John. Paradise Lost. A Poem. Book The First. Paradisus Amissa. Poema, A Joanne Miltono Conscriptum (Latin and English). J. Hughs, 1736. Bookplate of Montagu George Knight of Chawton to front end paper.

 

Montagu George Knight bookplate

[Images: Reading with Austen]

c2019, Reading with Austen blog

Welcome to the “Reading with Austen” Blog!

rwa-postcard-front5b15d

[The lovely image for the website was created by Jessica Irene Joyce – jessicairenejoyce.com]

The Reading with Austen website is a re-creation of the Library of Godmersham Park, the estate of Jane Austen’s brother Edward Austen Knight. This virtual library is based on an extant handwritten catalogue from 1818 that lists all the books in his collection and their exact locations on his shelves. Here you can explore the Library as Jane Austen might have seen it on her many visits to the Godmersham estate. On the website you will be able to browse photographs of and bibliographic information for the very editions she may have handled.

You can read the history of the project, spearheaded by Professor Peter Sabor of McGill University on the website and on the pages on this blog (see the sidebar]. The first post on this blog gives a brief history and explanation of what we continue to search for and how you can help us.

In this effort to locate the many books still missing from this original Godmersham collection, a group of scholars, researchers, bibliophiles, and interested people has been created – we call ourselves The Godmersham Lost Sheep Society – GLOSS – and invite any and all of you to join us in this search.

On this blog, I will be posting some of the books we have found and returned to the Library at Chawton House, where the remaining titles from the original library now reside (in the Knight Collection and still owned by Austen’s descendant). And I will also post about the books we have found but are beyond our pocketbooks, those that we have found in institutions, and those 500 or so remaining titles we are still actively looking for.

Please follow us in this journey and help us in our quest to return as many of these books to the fold – you too can become an official GLOSSer!

c2019, Reading with Austen blog

WANTED! ~ Books with Montagu George Knight Bookplates

Calling all Booksellers, Librarians, Bibliophiles

Wanted !

The Godmersham Lost Sheep Society*

Cordially invites you to join in the

Global Search

For all books bearing

Montagu George Knight bookplates**

Please help us return these books to the fold

at the

Library at Chawton House, Chawton, Alton, Hampshire, UK

* The Godmersham Lost Sheep Society (GLOSS) is a research group of scholars and bibliophiles searching for all books that were originally in the libraries of Godmersham Park and later Chawton House, both estates of Jane Austen’s brother Edward Austen Knight.

**The three Knight bookplates were all designed by Charles Sherborn in 1900 / 1901:

Bookplate 1

Bookplate 2

 

Bookplate 3

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We note here that there are also the bookplates of Thomas Knight (1701-1781) and Edward Knight (1767-1852) and his son, also named Edward (1794-1879) – it is unclear if the bookplate was father or son’s, or if they both used the same bookplate – these bookplates are also to be found in some of the Godmersham library books, so we are searching for these as well, especially if they are listed in the original 1818 catalogue:

 

Thomas Knight bookplate

 

Edward Knight bookplate

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1.  The History:  

Edward Austen Knight inherited three estates from his adoptive family the Thomas Knights: Godmersham Park in Kent, and Chawton House and Steventon in Hampshire. Godmersham and Chawton had large extensive libraries typical of the gentry of the time. Edward had a catalogue of the Godmersham Library compiled in 1818, listing about 1250 titles. These books were later combined with the Chawton House Library when Godmersham was sold in 1874, with many of the volumes sold or otherwise distributed over the years. [Montagu George Knight, grandson of Edward Knight, placed his bookplates in most of the books of this combined library, as well as in the books he added to it. The remaining library (called the “Knight Collection” and still in the family) is now housed at Chawton House Library, which serves as an important literary heritage site and a center for the study of early women writers]. We know Jane Austen spent a considerable amount of time in both these libraries – and an ongoing project has been to try to locate the missing volumes that have wandered away and might still be extant in libraries, in book collectors’ homes, or on bookseller shelves – the “Lost Sheep” of Godmersham Park.

2. The Digital Godmersham Project:

Initiated and run by Professor Peter Sabor (Canada Research Chair in Eighteenth-Century Studies and Director of the Burney Centre at McGill University), this is a web-based open-source project that will include the Knight family books that are recorded in the catalogue of 1818, as they were on the shelves – a virtual library so to speak. You can visit the Reading with Austen website here; phase I of the project launched in 2018, the bicentenary of the original catalogue. While it would be a final goal to locate all the missing titles that are out there, this digital project will create for us what Jane Austen would have seen and read when visiting her brother.

3. What we need:

If you have or locate any books with any of the three Montagu George Knight bookplates, or the Thomas or Edward Knight bookplates, please contact us – we would like good pictures of:

a.) the binding/cover;

b.) the inside cover of the book, where Montagu Knight’s bookplate should be attached, often together with a small shelf ticket from Chawton House Library; and

c.) the title page of the book;

d.) any marginalia

These images would be used on the website, with or without your name as the book’s current owner/location (this is up to you).

4. Donation / sell options:

Some of those found thus far have been privately purchased and donated back to the Library at Chawton House (they do not have funds for this project). If you would like to “return” the book to Chawton to be part of their permanent collection, you would become one of GLOSS’s Team Heroes and we would be forever grateful. All donations are tax-deductible. Or, if you would consider selling the book back to CH now or in the future (or making a donation to the cause so we can purchase books as they become available – you can do that at the “North American Friends of Chawton House” website), we would add it to our wish-list of purchases and ask that you send the pictures noted above so it can be added to the website. Progress is slow, and because every book may not be able to return home, we hope this virtual library will serve as a useful research tool for future studies of reading habits in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

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[CHL book with bookplate and shelf ticket]

Thank you for any help you can offer! 

For more information, please contact one of us:  

  1. Deborah Barnum – Board Member, North American Friends of Chawton House Library: jasnavermont [at] gmail.com
  2. Peter Sabor – Professor, Canada Research Chair in Eighteenth-Century Studies, Director of the Burney Centre, McGill University: peter.sabor [at] mcgill.ca
c2019, Reading with Austen blog