New acquisitions!

As we celebrate the 250th birthday of Jane Austen's brother Admiral Sir Francis Austen, we're delighted to announce our acquisition of his handwritten Memoir and an album of watercolours and drawings from his global travels - on display from tomorrow in a new exhibition!

Jane Austen’s older brother, Admiral Sir Francis Austen (known to his family as Frank), was born on 23 April 1774 – a year before his celebrated sister.

This year, we celebrate the 250th anniversary of Frank’s birth with a new exhibition, Travels with Frank Austen, showcasing two newly acquired objects for the first time: an unpublished handwritten manuscript biography of Francis Austen and an album of watercolours and drawings from his global travels during his long career in the Royal Navy.

The manuscript biography describes Francis’s life and family relations as well as observations on historical events and impressions of the countries he visited during his 79 years at sea. The album offers a visual record of his global travels, containing 73 watercolours and drawings, predominantly of the West Indies and Canada, created by Francis and his daughter Cassandra Eliza Austen in the 1840s.


Never before seen outside of family ownership, these objects go on public display for the first time, offering new insights into Jane Austen and her family, and new avenues for research. Francis Austen’s story is intrinsically linked to his sister Jane’s – he was intimately connected with the domestic lives of the Austen women, living with them in Southampton from 1806-1809 and corresponding with them while away at sea. Jane used the name of his ship, HMS Elephant, in Mansfield Park, writing to ask if he would object to it being mentioned. A skilled wood turner, he is also thought to have inspired Captain Harville in Persuasion.

Travels with Frank Austen will run from 24 April – 7 July 2024 and is free with House admission. The exhibition will also be available online.

We are grateful to the Friends of the National Libraries and the V&A Beecroft Bequest for their help with these acquisitions.