Silhouettes of Reverend and Mrs Austen

Silhouettes of Jane Austen's Mother and Father
 
Museum Number: CHWJA:JAH75.1-2
 
 
Text by:
Janet Johnstone
Volunteer Stewards Manager, Jane Austen's House Museum

 

 

These silhouettes have been passed down through the Austen family. They have been on loan to the Museum since 1951. Jane Austen’s parents both came from equally prosperous families though neither of them had a surplus of money themselves. Mrs Austen was related to the Duke of Chandos and was descended from the Leighs of Stoneleigh Abbey in Warwickshire. Rev Austen originated from Kent and, because of his father’s early death, he was dependent for
the living of Steventon on a rich cousin, Thomas Knight. Mrs Austen’s brother, James Leigh Perrot, excluded her from his will. Although unlucky in legacies, she seems to have been lucky in love and Jane’s parents seemed happy with each other and their family.


Rev Austen was a very loving supportive father. When Jane had completed First Impressions (later renamed as Pride and Prejudice), he sent it to the publisher, Cadell, asking him if he would like the book to read with a view to publication at the author’s cost, in fact he meant at his own expense. Sadly, Cadell refused. Rev Austen had a very good library of 500 books at Steventon; part of Jane’s early education came from being allowed to read any she chose. Jane’s father also was an excellent reader of novels and poetry. Reading aloud was a very popular pastime. When Jane’s father was Proctor at St John’s College Oxford, he was in charge of discipline among the undergraduates and was known as the ‘Handsome Proctor’.


Mrs Austen was a very practical person and worked effectively running the domestic side of Rev Austen’s school which educated the
boys of local gentry, as well as her own family. She was very talented at writing entertaining verse. The one I particularly like is a recipe for
a cake for a vicar, all written in verse. Mrs Austen was very proud of her family background and always felt she had a very aristocratic nose which is well highlighted in her silhouette.

 

 

 

Jane Austen's House Museum
An independent museum established in 1947
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