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Monday 28 September 2015

Francis Austen, keen woodworker and brother of Jane Austen the novelist

Jane Austen's House museum can be found in the pretty village of Chawton in Hampshire.

jane austen's house museum

The novelist lived there, with her mother and sister, from 1809 until her death in 1817. She did a lot of writing and editing of her novels whilst living at Chawton and the house contains many items that Jane would have known; her jewellery, a rare example of her actual handwriting and clothing and even the table at which she is thought to have written.

jane austen's house

Now less well-known than Jane were her brothers Francis and Charles, who were successful officers in the British Navy. Some of their possessions are on display in the museum, including a sword presented to Charles by Simรณn Bolivar the famous revolutionary

Francis lived from 1774 to 1865 and, according to an information panel at the museum:

'from a boy was hard-working and resourceful, and as a man was known for keeping strict discipline on board ship... Both were known for their genuine decency, love of family and active Christian faith.'

Francis was also a keen woodturner, joiner and carver and is thought by many to have inspired the character of Captain Harville in the novel Persuasion, being a good example of Naval characters being treated very sympathetically in Austen's novels. The museum has a few items of woodcarving known or thought to have been made by Francis Austen and I thought it might be nice to show them here.

This toy chest was made by him for one of his children:

francis austen jane's brother  carving

There are also two cases for letters and writing equipment that are thought to have been made and carved by him on display:

They may not be the most amazing examples of early nineteenth-century carving that can be found, but they definitely have their own charm and I'd say that the writing cases in particular certainly show some skill in carving. It's interesting to see the creative output of another of the Austen family.

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