An exhibition marking the 200th anniversary of the death of Hampshire writer Jane Austen will feature her teenage writings, a portrait unseen for 40 years and the original ending she penned for one of her great novels, Persuasion.

About 80 items, including paintings, personal letters, prints, illustrations and clothing, from private and public collections around the world, will go on display in the show, The Mysterious Miss Austen.

Highlights include Austen's silk pelisse coat, featuring a pattern of oak leaves, and the only surviving piece of clothing confirmed as being worn by the Pride And Prejudice and Sense And Sensibility author.

It will go on display alongside Austen's purse and her sewing materials case.

The show will also include a portrait which has come from a private collection and has not been seen in public for more than 40 years.
The image is one of five portraits of the author which will go on display together for the first time.

They include an 1869 watercolour and pencil sketch made famous when it was published in Austen's nephew's biography of his aunt the following year, and A Friendship Book containing an 1815 portrait which some believe to be of the author.

A pencil and watercolour sketch by Austen's sister, Cassandra, and a hollow cut silhouette by an unknown artist are on loan from the National Portrait Gallery.

Other pieces on display include the manuscript for an alternative ending to Austen's final, fully completed novel, Persuasion, on loan from the British Library.

Dissatisfied with the original ending, Austen rewrote the chapters for the novel, which was published posthumously in 1818.

Also on loan from The British Library is a manuscript of a volume of writings, including a spoof History Of England, which, according to exhibition organisers, she penned at the age of 16.

Modern works include Jane Austen in E17 (2009), a large ceramic vase, decorated with detailed drawings of Georgian ladies enjoying tea, by potter Grayson Perry.

The exhibition takes place at The Gallery in Winchester Discovery Centre. Austen, who was born a few miles away in the village of Steventon, died in the Hampshire city in 1817.

Co-curator Louise West said: "The bringing together for the first time of five portraits of Jane Austen will, we hope, provoke reaction and excite argument, about the mysterious Miss Austen.

"This is a new way of exploring Austen's identity and we are thrilled to be sharing this opportunity with the public."

Professor Kathryn Sutherland, who is also curating the show, added: "If you think you know Jane Austen, think again.

"Jane Austen is our most intimate writer - the writer we each feel speaks to and for us - and yet we know so little about her.

"What we do know is built upon ambiguities, contradictions and paradox: even how she looked is something of a mystery.

"The Mysterious Miss Austen will celebrate and challenge the reputation of our best-known, unknowable writer."

  • Mysterious Miss Austen runs from May 13 to July 24 at The Gallery in Winchester Discovery Centre.