Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Where is Jane Austen's Sampler ?

Consider how many years I have had the start of you.  I had entered on my studies at Oxford, while you were a good little girl working your sampler at home - Northanger Abbey

Our fascination with Jane Austen, her books and times never wanes. Jane  was both an accomplished novelist and expert seamstress. Her letters are scattered with references to household sewing as well as trimming and re-trimming her bonnets and gowns.


There are several items of her needlework that survive and can be seen in the displays at her home, Chawton Cottage, in Hampshire. These include a white Indian muslin tucker, a white embroidered lawn handkerchief and a patchwork quilt which was made by herself, her sister, Cassandra, and her mother in the early part of the nineteenth century. But where is Jane Austen's sampler ?
In 1996 a frayed unframed sampler sold for over £2000 GBP.  The following is an extract from the Phillips Auctioneers sale catalogue:
A late 18th century sampler designed with the psalm “Praise the Lord, O my soul”, and two small flowering trees within a stylised floral border, worked mainly in plum and green silk on linen (damaged) by Jane Austen 1797 (altered from 1787). The present owner received this sampler as a present, folded inside a tobacco tin. It is understood to have been inherited from Fred Nichols, whose grandmother was related to Jane Austen the novelist (1775 – 1817), and received as a memento on her death.
Sampler detail. Image @Jane Austen Centre Gift Shop*
It is amazing that something so treasured by us all was kept in a tobacco tin for many years. The date is 1787, which means that Jane would have been about 12 years old when she was working on this sampler, however it was not uncommon (after a number of years) for the dates on samplers to be either unpicked or altered, in order to conceal a person’s age.

Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries there are many examples of this, and they are generally referred to as “vanity" samplers.

Jane Austen prided herself on her precise sewing skills. This sampler shows a more inexperienced hand than a seamstress in her latter years.

Jane's sampler is now in the collection of Micheal and Elizabeth Feller.


Following the sucess of a visit in 2015 Nicola has arranged another  private tour of The Feller Collection for Wednesday, July 6th 2016. The cost will be £30 per person to include a two hour tour and a buffet lunch at the Manor House. This is a wonderful opportunity to meet with the Fellers in their idyllic Cotswold manor house and to view their private, world-class collection of needlework. There are a few places available, further information can be found HERE.

The Jane Austen Centre in Bath has PRINTS of this sampler for sale.

The BBC  has made a drama-documentary exploring the life of Jane Austen which is available broken down into eight videos on youtube (it appears that only 7 are accessible). Actress Anna Chancellor, a distant relative of Jane Austen, discovers the woman behind the acclaimed novels through readings and reconstructions. Location shots of her homes in Steventon and Chawton and extracts from adaptations of her work are also featured. They give a very interesting insight into Jane and her world.