The Comfort of the Billiard Table here is very great.—It draws all the Gentlemen to it whenever they are within, especially after dinner, so that my Br Fanny & I have the Library to ourselves in delightful quiet. (14-15 October 1813)
The library was clearly central to life at Godmersham; earlier that year, she told Cassandra that
“we live in the Library except at Meals” (23-24 September 1813).
The library includes books in several languages as well as English. There are texts (usually in the original Greek or Latin) by classical Greek and Roman writers and philosophers, as would befit a gentleman’s library at this time, including works by Plutarch, Plato, Homer, Sophocles, Epictetus, Euripides, Horace, Virgil, and Ovid. There are a substantial number of French books (including works by major figures in eighteenth-century French philosophy, such as Voltaire and Rousseau, and classic works of French fiction such as Gil-Blas), several books in Italian, and at least one in German.
In terms of the subjects included, much of what is in the Godmersham library probably reflects the interests of many such country house libraries at the time. There are books on travel (not just around Britain and Europe but also much further afield, including journeys to Egypt, Syria, Africa, North America, and India); history books (mainly English history but there are also histories of Europe more generally, and of specific countries or regions such as Greece, Russia, and the Ottoman empire); many works on religion, including books of common prayer, several seventeenth-century bibles, and a significant number of collections of sermons by various authors; examples of conduct literature, such as works by Jane West, Hester Chapone, and Hannah More; books about architecture and painting; parliamentary records (more than one owner of Godmersham Park was an MP); works on science and medicine; dictionaries (including two editions of Samuel Johnson’s) and works on grammar (not just English but also Greek); and a selection of periodicals, such as a 1758-1791 run of The Annual Register. Unsurprisingly, given that this is the library of landed gentry, there are books on farming, agriculture, and horsemanship, as well as gardening and landscape, and there are also a number of books on Kent and the local area. A glimpse into Godmersham leisure pursuits is offered by A Short Treatise on the Game of Whist (by Edmund Hoyle, 1746), and Chess Analysed (F. D. Philidor, 1773).
In terms of literature, as one would expect, there are works by many of the major figures, including Shakespeare (three editions of the complete works), Milton, Dryden, and Pope. There are also a significant number of novels in the library: Austen’s favorite, according to her family, Samuel Richardson’s Sir Charles Grandison (1810 edition); Henry Fielding’s Joseph Andrews (1742) and Tom Jones (1749); Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy (1760), and Jonathan Swift’s Travels . . . by Lemuel Gulliver (1726).
Read more: http://www.jasna.org/Jane Austen’s Reading