News | April 24, 2024

Jane Austen Museum Seeks Volunteers to Help Transcribe Newly Acquired Memoir

Jane Austen Museum

Pages from the unpublished manuscript biography of Francis Austen

The Jane Austen Museum in Chawton, England, is looking for help in transcribing the unpublished manuscript biography of Francis Austen, Jane's older brother, which it has put on public display for the first time.

Travels with Frank Austen runs until July 7 and focuses on the life of Admiral Sir Francis Austen (known to the family as Frank), marking the 250th anniversary of his birth. The museum is showcasing two newly acquired objects, an album of watercolours and drawings by Francis and his daughter Cassandra, and an unpublished manuscript biography of Francis Austen who lived with his sister in Southampton for several years and wrote regularly to the Austen women. 

Jane Austen used the name of his ship, HMS Elephant, in Mansfield Park, and he probably inspired Captain Harville in Persuasion. The biography describes Francis’s life and family relations as well as observations on historical events and impressions of the countries he visited during his years at sea. 

The museum is now looking for volunteers from around the world to help them make the first full transcript of Frank's unpublished Memoir and discover more about the world in which Jane Austen lived and wrote.

Anybody interested in helping should email the museum direct at to request a page to transcribe. The museum will then send a high resolution image and full instructions on how to make a transcription. Once complete, the full memoir will be published online and freely available.

The memoir consists of 78 pages of handwritten text, written in the third person and believed to be the hand of Francis Austen. The full text is unpublished although some short extracts have appeared in biographies of the Austens. It is essentially an account of Frank Austen’s life from his childhood in Chawton to his life in the Navy (including carrying despatches to Lord Nelson at Palermo), a stay with his family in Bath in 1802, travels in the West Indies, his marriage and settling in Southampton with his mother and sisters, and retirement to Chawton.

The acquisitions have been possible thanks to help from the Friends of the National Libraries and the V&A Beecroft Bequest.