Saving Jane Austen’s Home

A live video talk

“Let me introduce you to a heroine. Her name was Dorothy Gwynnyd Darnell. It is thanks to this remarkable woman that we can today visit the Jane Austen House Museum in Chawton.”

These words marked the beginning of a feature talk I presented at a Jane Austen Society of Australia meeting recently.

Please watch this video talk FREE OF CHARGE, with my compliments.

Positivity and vision

Do you know how Jane Austen’s home at Chawton, which was rapidly becoming derelict, was saved for the nation? Do you know the story of the remarkable woman who managed to do this? I’ve discovered what motivated this quiet achiever and I’ll share Dorothy Darnell’s amazing accomplishment in this talk.

Our Chawton home – how much we find
Already in it, to our mind,
And how convinced that when complete,
It will all other Houses beat.
― Jane Austen

A remarkable woman who saved a treasure

Dorothy Darnell had long loved the novels of Jane Austen. On a visit to the township of Chawton she found Jane Austen’s house in a terrible state of disrepair. So Dorothy set about the task of saving the house and establishing a Jane Austen society.

What took place after that is nothing short of remarkable. A story of true tenacity and determination to save an important piece of history that I find totally fascinating.

What is it about the homes of famous writers?

Why do people want to visit the homes of famous writers? What drives us to go to such houses, what should be put on display there, and what is the function and role of a literary museum? I’ll delve into the whys and wherefores of a literary house museum, discuss what it is that visitors hope to gain from such an experience, and what the responsibilities of curators are. I ask you to consider why you would visit a literary house museum?

Discuss it with me

In a first for the Jane Austen Society of Australia, a meeting was recorded live to share with JASA members. Like most organisations, JASA has been unable to hold regular meetings for many months due to the Covid-19 pandemic. JASA worked within health and safety guidelines to arrange the meeting and the small group of people in attendance adhered to safe Covid-19 practices.

Prior to sharing it publically, this recording has been edited to remove the JASA agenda and items not of general interest. The meeting venue is a suburban church hall.

Have you visited Jane Austen’s House Museum? Of another literary house museum? What drew you to it? Let’s discuss it here.

Watch the complete Video Talk – this one is COMPLIMENTARY

Generally, my video talks are a paid item, but I’ve decided to make this one freely available. This video was recorded live in August 2020 at a meeting of the Jane Austen Society of Australia in Sydney, Australia during the Covid-19 Pandemic and runs for 52 minutes. Please enjoy it with my compliments.

To view this video in full screen mode click the small box in the lower, right corner which appears after it has started to play.

I was lucky enough to attend Susannah’s talk and it was wonderful. Run, don’t walk to see the video!


I was eager to listen to this talk because its Jane Austen content, but I found myself equally captivated by the broader theme of literary museums and what attracts us to the homes of famous authors. Susannah brought this topic to life with fascinating details about specific house museums, the practical concerns of their operation, and the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. A timely and timeless presentation!


Only you could make such a physical topic of an author’s home so interesting and touching.


Thank you, Susannah, an excellent talk. I always find it fabulous to visit an author’s home and look about me, to try and get a feel for them. I do hope as many as possible stay open after this COVID-19 times.

Discuss it with me

Have you been to Jane Austen’s House Museum? Are you a Jane Austen Society member? Let’s discuss your thoughts here.

Leave a comment.

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Featured image credit- Jane Austens House Museum,

Comments (12)

  1. Linda Fineman

    I was eager to listen to this talk because its Jane Austen content, but I found myself equally captivated by the broader theme of literary museums and what attracts us to the homes of famous authors. Susannah brought this topic to life with fascinating details about specific house museums, the practical concerns of their operation, and the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. A timely and timeless presentation!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Thanks for your lovely response, Linda. And feel free to share the talk around to anyone you think may enjoy it. I loved preparing it adn thinking about why we visit the homes of favourite writers and what we want to find in them.

  2. Anneke a Campo

    Thanks so much Susannah. Fascinating talk.
    I have great memories of visiting some writers’ homes in the UK, many years ago as a young teenager, when my intellectual parents insisted on this rather than on wasting a summer lying on a beach somewhere. In New Zealand we are of course less lucky in this regard, but I happen to live one street over from the house where Ngaio Marsh wrote her detective novels (and worked on producing plays with the University of Canterbury students). I had read all the novels, starting in my teens with Dutch translations, while my husband was involved with the University dramatic society. The Ngaio Marsh trust valiantly struggles (finances!)to keep the home with practically everything still ‘as it was’ and a visit is enormously rewarding.
    My husband and I have created a geocache puzzle mystery around Ngaio Marsh works for people to solve, the obtained coordinates leading to a geocache in the neighbourhood of the house.

    Literary homes, whether linked to authors or their characters, increase the enjoyment of the works in so many ways…
    My daughter Roswyn is moving to Oxford this Michaelmas term in order to start a DPhil in Classical Archaeology. She will have a room in the same street where T.E. Lawrence used to live. Sadly, his home only has the famous blue plaque and is not open to visitors!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Lovely to hear from you, Anneke. I can picture where you live as I have been to the fabulous Ngaio Marsh house. And how amazing your geocache puzzle is – well done! I am delighted you enjoyed my Jane Austen talk. I loved preparing it and thinking about what we expect from such visits. Your daughter is so lucky to have the chance to live in Oxford – such a wonderful city! There is a TE Lawrence home open to the public in Dorset, not far from Thomas Hardy’s home (he used to pop in regularly). I think you’d really enjoy my Top Ten Places in Literary England talk, and so would your daughter. I hope the Covid situation improves soon so that Kiwis and Aussies can visit each other and perhaps one day you might be able to come to a JASA conference or meeting. Stay well, and keep reading.

  3. Maria

    I was lucky enough to attend Susannah’s talk and it was wonderful. Run, don’t walk to see the video!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Oh you are kind, Maria. I think it was a talk that taught lots of people things they didn’t know before and hopefully made them think about visiting the homes of writers and what we all expect.

  4. Helen

    On a family holiday from Melbourne in 2017, a visit to this beautiful home was on the list, and I couldn’t wait. It was a pilgrimage of sorts. As it turned out in the day, we only had 30 minutes in which to visit before the museum closed and we had to get our bus back to Oxford to get our train back to London. It was one of the most wonderful, heart-warming 30 minutes of my life. For this history buff and Jane Austen fan, it was a walk in heaven. I was so grateful for the chance to step back in time and share a small part of Jane Austen’s life. We did everything we squeeze into that 30 minutes and I dearly hope that one day I will return for a longer visit.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Too short a visit, but wonderful that you did get there. It is such a special place. Do watch the free film I’ve given you a link for about how the house came to be saved for the nation, and what it is we all hope to find when we visit the home of a favourite writer. I think you would really enjoy it.

  5. Maria Zannetides

    The video is wonderful. Congratulations to all involved in its production and especially to Susannah for her excellent presentation. I’ve missed our JASA meetings and was very pleased to be able to attend this one. I’m even more pleased that all members can enjoy it via video.

  6. Vera

    This is wonderful! Thank you so much for organising this video for all of us who did not attend. Your presentation is superb as always Susannah! It is entertaining and very informative. I have learnt so much more about Jane Austen since becoming a member of JASA last year. We have much to thank Dorothy Darnell for as well. I look forward to seeing everyone in person as soon as we are allowed. Happy 80th to the Jane Austen Society ❤️

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I am so thrilled to see your comment, Vera. Isn’t it great the way we all keep learning from JASA. I do hope normal meetings can soon resume, but am delighted that you enjoyed the talk. Don’t forget that my video talks are similar, but even better with more illustrations. You can order them through my website.

  7. Clodagh Harrison

    Thanks. It would have been wonderful to get Susannah’s talk but, alas, my computer does not allow me to see anything on YouTube. My Safari crashes. This time it just didn’t start up going to a full black screen. Some one who knows better than I about computers can probably suggest what I should do to overcome this limitation,

    On August 15, being a child who escaped with my mother and younger sister from Singapore and the advancing Japanese, my family was involved with the VJ 75th commemorations that day.

    It was wonderful to see in the TV coverage from the Arboretum memorial in Staffordshire the veterans from the Indian Army, the Gurkhas, several from the African forces, Australian and South Pacific forces together with the British veterans all of who fought together in the 14th Army in Burma months after Europe was enjoying the end of the war.

    Its was they who succeeded in breaking through the Japanese lines in Burma and eventually freeing the thousands of POWs. My father, an engineer, his historian brother and doctor cousin were among the civilian internees.

    I understand that there were about 140 thousand civilians interned and, in these days when “slavery” is in the air, it is sobering to remember that they were slave labour.

    Thankfully we are now friends with both Japan and Germany.

    It’s always joy to connect with the enthusiasm of JASA. I’ve cousins who live at Lamberhurst in Kent so it was interesting to read about Frances Motley Austen. Many thanks.

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