Megan and I are at the RWA New England Chapter Conference this weekend. We will be celebrating Romance Writers (mostly women) of the 21st century. We’ll also be hanging out with Romance Writers of the 21st century and going to some great workshops, including a master class with Julia Quinn on dialogue (at which she is, indeed, a master). While we’re going to workshops with women writers of the 21st century, I thought it might be nice to give you a glimpse of women writers of the 18th and early 19th century.
Chawton House Library was founded in 1996 by Sandy Lerner in the home owned by Jane Austen’s brother, Edward Knight in Chawton England. After years of restoration, it became the home of a extensive library of women’s writing in English 1600 to 1830.
According to the site, “Writers whose work is held in the collection include Penelope Aubin, Aphra Behn, Frances Burney, Maria Edgeworth, Eliza Haywood, Charlotte Lennox, Hannah More, Sydney Owenson, Ann Radcliffe, Mary Robinson, Mary Shelley, Frances Sheridan, Charlotte Smith and Mary Wollstonecraft, and many more both well-known and lesser-known writers, as well as a significant number of anonymous works.”
Fortunately for us, Chawton House Library has made many of these texts available on line and continues to add to their digital collection. You’ll find the Georgian/Regency era represented among the novels available. If you’d like to visit the library in person, it is open to the public. Anyone may apply for a reader’s pass.
In addition to this extraordinary resource, Chawton House and its farm has been restored to its 18th century condition using traditional methods. The farm is also run on 18th century methods. It is an easy walking distance to Chawton Cottage, Jane Austen’s last home and the site of the Jane Austen;s House Museum. If you’re in the area (and don’t we wish we were?), Chawton House Library offers a wide variety of events that illuminate the period in which we read and write.
It’s well worth a virtual visit. Enjoy.