Our next series of throwdowns will pit two of the houses that Jane Austen’s characters lived in. We will ignore Pemberley for the time being, for (we strongly suspect) Mr. Darcy’s great estate would win hands down. His is the only mansion that Jane described as a tourist destination and that had a housekeeper who acted as a guide. Such housekeepers were not uncommon, by the way, and they earned extra pin money from tourists for pointing out the house’s architectural features and great works of art.
Finding no other mansion worthy of competing with Pemberley – and do feel free to correct us if we are wrong – we will concentrate on bringing you these two other dwelling fabulosities.
The Most Fabulous Family Estate
Rosings, Lady Catherine de Bourgh's estate:
Lady Catherine's house and estate must be imposing indeed for Mrs. Darcy to consider allying her son to her sister's infant daughter. The promise made at Anne’s birth was not legally binding, but it indicated the reason why Lady Catherine defended her proprietary stance on Darcy: He was destined for his cousin because his mother and his aunt had decreed it. The very thought of Rosings made Mr. Collins scrape and fawn with admiration. He could find no fault with that great house, for "of all the views which his garden, or which the country, or the kingdom could boast, none were to be compared with the prospect of Rosings, afforded by an opening in the trees......nearly opposite the front of his house." (P&P p.156). While Elizabeth thought Lady Catherine's estate was grand, - (Rosings was a handsome modern building, situated on rising ground. One ascended the steps to a hall made of fine proportions and finished with ornaments) -she wasn’t bowled over by its particular brand of conspicuous consumption. (Gunton Hall as Rosings)
Norland Park, Dashwood family seat in Sense and Sensibility
The Dashwood ladies lived high on the hog in Norland Park until the premature death of Mr. Dashwood, who did not have the foresight to plan for such an ill-timed event. It never entered Mr. Dashwood's mind that he might cock up his toes and shrug off his mortal coil just as he was entering his prime, for he made few provisions for his second family. The reader is treated to tantalizing glimpses of Mrs. and Misses Dashwoods’ former extravagant lifestyle before the ladies are plunged into middle class obscurity on an estate belonging to a distant cousin. Mrs. John Dashwood (Fanny née Ferrars) is shown avariciously holding on to every farthing that John Dashwood inherited– even the amount that her husband had promised to give to his sisters and stepmother. One gets the sense that neither John nor Fanny will be good stewarts of the place. Jane, genius that she was, used Norland Park with its beautiful grounds to introduce the characters of her first published novel in a most unforgettable manner. She then settled the widow and her three daughters in Barton Cottage, a modest house provided by Sir John Middleton. Oh, how the mighty had fallen. (Norland Park in S&S 2007)
Gentle Reader, Please keep in mind that we have deliberately left Pemberley out of the mix.