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2022 Speaker Series

Attention all Book Clubs and Regional Literary Societies! 

The 2022 North American Friends of Chawton House speaker subscription series is here to help small book clubs or regional literary groups access the type of global expertise that, pre-Zoom, was out of reach due to prohibitive travel costs for speakers. Our 2022 speakers will waive their usual honoraria for clubs or groups with a NAFCH subscription in order to raise awareness for Chawton House.  All talks connect to the two-pronged mission of Chawton House: to preserve both a historic Austen-family site and the unique legacy of early women writers housed there. All funds raised with these NAFCH subscriptions goes straight to Chawton House in support of their mission.

Jo Baker

Longbourn, A Novel

Jo Baker will talk about how she came to write her internationally bestselling novel, Longbourn. Inspired by her own family history and a life-long love of Austen, the book explores what’s going on below stairs in the Bennet household as the events of Pride and Prejudice play out above.

Jo Baker is the author of seven novels, most recently The Body Lies, a ‘Campus Noir’ thriller set around a creative writing MA group, where events, and the writers’ stories, begin to spiral into darkness. Her previous book based on Samuel Beckett’s wartime experiences, A Country Road, A Tree, was shortlisted for the American Library in Paris Award, the James Tait Black Award, and Walter Scott Prize, and was a Book of the Year in the Guardian and New Statesman. Longbourn was published in 2013 to considerable international acclaim, and is currently in development as a feature film. She is a former Creative Writing Lecturer, an Honorary Fellow of Lancaster University and was a Visiting Fellow at the Queen’s University of Belfast. She is married to playwright and screenwriter Daragh Carville, co-creator of hit ITV series The Bay. They live in Lancaster, England.


Britain's Black Past in the Long Eighteenth Century

This is an opportunity to hear and ask questions of Gretchen Gerzina, presenter of the 2017 BBC Radio 4 series “Britain’s Black Past.”  In 2020, she expanded upon the series with an edited book that bears the same title – a collection of essays that offers further stories and analyses through the lens of a recovered past.  By means of both radio series and book, she brings to light hidden people, places, and narratives.

Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina has published nine books, including Black London: Life Before Emancipation and Mr. and Mrs. Prince: How an Extraordinary Eighteenth-Century Moved out of Slavery and into Legend.  She has been a tenured professor at Vassar College, Barnard College, Dartmouth College and now the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she is the Paul Murray Kendall Professor of Biography and Professor of English. She has appeared extensively on both British and American radio and is currently working on a book about early black women who married British men.

Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina

Robert Morrison

The Regency Years, during which Jane Austen Writes, Napoleon Fights, Byron Makes Love, and Britain Becomes Modern

Robert Morrison will explore the fascinating decade of the Regency (1811-1820), when Jane Austen published all six of the novels for which we celebrate her today, and when her work appeared alongside the achievements of other major Regency figures such as the Duke of Wellington, Mary Shelley, Lord Byron, Maria Edgeworth, Sarah Siddons, J. M. W. Turner, and Elizabeth Fry.


Robert Morrison is British Academy Global Professor at Bath Spa University and Queen’s National Scholar at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario. The Regency Years was selected by The Economist as one of its 2019 Books of the Year, and shortlisted by the Historical Writers’ Association for the 2020 Crown Award for the best in historical non-fiction.


Chawton House through Objects

In this talk, one of the Chawton House team will take you on a tour of the collections, showing some of the treasures of Chawton House, alongside items from the 2021 Botanical Women exhibition.

The talk will be given by Katie Childs (Chief Executive), Emma Yandle (Curator & Collections Manager), Kim Simpson (Deputy Director) or Clio O’Sullivan (Communications and Public Engagement Manager), but will feature video interviews from the whole team.

The Chawton House Team

Olivia Murphy

From the Library Shelves at Chawton House:
Mary Brunton's 'Self-Control' (1811)

Self-Control is this year’s retro selection for book groups.  Jane Austen famously damned it with faint praise: “I am looking over Self Control again, & my opinion is confirmed of its’ being an excellently-meant, elegantly-written Work, without anything of Nature or Probability in it.” With the help of our expert, Olivia Murphy, judge for yourself why Austen would nonetheless look at Brunton’s novel “again.”


Olivia Murphy is the author of Jane Austen the Reader: The Artist as Critic, and a co-editor of the collections Anna Letitia Barbauld: New Perspectives and Romantic Climates: Literature and Science in an Age of Catastrophe. She is a two-time Chawton House Library Fellow who has published on Jane Austen and the wider literature and culture of the Georgian and Romantic periods. She also edited Mary Brunton's 1814 novel Discipline for the Chawton House series. She is currently teaching at the University of Sydney, where she is an Honorary Associate of the English Department and Interim Vice Principal of the Women's College.

Subscription Cost
A subscription costs $250 and includes a maximum of two Zoom talks from the 2022 slate of writers, creatives, and scholars (these categories overlap!). This bundled price is far lower than if a group booked these speakers individually for a noble honorarium.  


Format of Talks

The talks to take place on Zoom are partially pre-recorded to ensure quality, followed by a live Q&A with the speaker. This is therefore a real-time commitment, but one that allows these popular speakers to record part of their NAFCH lecture or performance so as to maintain sustainability.  

All Zoom talks launch with a 3-minute informational trailer about Chawton House.

If NAFCH subscription speakers are used for a club fundraising event, then we hope Chawton House will receive 50% of the funds raised as a donation. If the club (with speaker permission) makes any kind of recording of their event, NAFCH respectfully asks that such a recording not only reside behind a password for exclusive access to their club’s membership but also be short-lived.

50 commemorative NAFCH bookplates will be awarded with each subscription.

2022 subscriptions are active from January 1 to December 31, 2022. Bookings must accommodate the schedule or time zone of the speaker.

To subscribe your group, contact Carole Stokes at

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