Jane Austen: volunteers wanted to transcribe brother's biography

Jane Austen enthusiasts are being asked to help transcribe a handwritten manuscript biography of her brother Frances.

The unpublished text details the life, travels and navel career of Admiral Sir Francis William Austen.

The Jane Austen House Museum is calling for help transcribing the 78-page document so it can be published online.

Along with an album of paintings, it is on display at the museum to mark the 250th anniversary of his birth.

Believed to be written by Admiral Austen himself, despite being in the third person, the manuscript biography describes his life and family relations as well as observations on historical events and impressions of the countries he visited during his 79 years at sea.

Known as Frank, he went to naval college in Portsmouth at the age of 12 and rose up through the ranks.

He served against the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic sea forces, and was described by Admiral Nelson as "an excellent young man".

He rose to become Admiral of the Fleet and was knighted in 1837.

The manuscript and the album was acquired by the museum in 2023, with funding from Friends of the National Libraries.

The museum is asking for volunteers to each transcribe a section of the text of the handwritten manuscript.

The transcribed text will then be checked and compiled into a digital version to be viewed online.

The album contains 73 watercolours and drawings, predominantly of the West Indies and Canada, created by Francis and his daughter Cassandra Eliza Austen in the 1840s.

He lived with Jane Austen, her sister and mother in Southampton from 1806 to1809, and corresponded with them while away at sea.

The author used the name of his ship, HMS Elephant, in her novel Mansfield Park, writing to ask if he would object to it being mentioned.

A skilled wood turner, Francis Austen is also thought to have inspired the character Captain Harville in the novel Persuasion.

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