The Morgan Library & Museum in New York City has the largest collection of Jane Austen’s personal letters and manuscripts in the world. Among the collection is the manuscript of Lady Susan. We are very fortunate that the Morgan had the foresight to acquire and retain these items as a collection after the Austen family decided to sell their ancestors legacy in the early 1890’s. For the first time in over twenty-five years, the Morgan Library & Museum is mounting a new exhibition to showcase Jane Austen, their collection, and her literary influence. ‘A Woman’s Wit: Jane Austen’s Life and Legacy’ will open on November 6, 2009 and run through March 14, 2010. Here is a description of the event from the Library’s website.
This exhibition explores the life, work, and legacy of Jane Austen (1775–1817), regarded as one of the greatest English novelists. Over the past two decades, numerous successful motion picture and television adaptations of Austen’s novels have led to a resurgence of interest in her life and work. Providing a close-up portrait of Austen, this show achieves tangible intimacy with the author through the presentation of her manuscripts and personal letters, which the Morgan has not exhibited in a generation.
The Morgan’s collection of Austen’s manuscripts and letters is the largest of any institution in the world and includes the darkly satiric Lady Susan, the only surviving complete manuscript of any of Austen’s novels. The exhibition also includes first and early illustrated editions of Austen’s novels as well as contemporary drawings and prints depicting people, places, and events of biographical significance. In addition to the literary influences that inspired and informed Austen’s works are responses by later writers as diverse as Auden, Kipling, Nabokov, Scott, Woolf, and Yeats. A highlight of the exhibition is a specially commissioned film of contemporary authors and artists, including Fran Lebowitz, Colm Tóbín, and Cornel West, commenting on Austen’s work and influence will also be shown in the gallery.
Also included will be a free Gallery Talk on Friday, November 20, 2009 at 7 p.m. given by Declan Kiely and Robert H. Taylor, the Curator of the exhibit and Department Head, Literary and Historical Manuscripts, The Morgan Library & Museum respectively. All gallery talks and tours are free with museum admission; no tickets or reservations are necessary. They usually last one hour and meet at the Benefactor’s Wall across from the coat check area.
I am quite envious of anyone who can attend, and hope to hear favorable reports of a pleasant day spent with Jane in New York.