Friday, May 19, 2017

Playing the Tourist: Pemberley

If one were to walk in the footsteps of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice I think we can all agree that when one thinks of Pride and Prejudice there is only one destination possible, and that's Pemberley. This is especially beguiling to American readers where we seriously don't have grand manor houses or even castles strewn about the countryside protected by a National Trust. But as Lizzy and her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner clearly show, these great houses were just as beguiling to Brits over two hundred years ago. Because who doesn't like to wander around big beautiful houses seeing famous works of art in a setting that isn't strictly speaking a museum? But the question becomes, where is Pemberley? You could go to Lyme Park, which was the house used in the BBC miniseries, but to me, more known for being used in a season three episode of Red Dwarf, and yes, I know I have weird priorities. Or you could have even bought Wentworth Park fairly recently, where they were claiming that the house's notoriety came from the fact it was the basis for Pemberley. A "fact" that no one has really ever agreed on. But to me I think Pemberley as Austen saw it is most likely Chatsworth

It's not just that Austen knew of the house and compares Pemberley to Chatsworth that makes Chatsworth a good contender, as well as both real and fictional houses being in Derbyshire, it's also actually been used as Pemberley in the P.D. James continuation Death Comes to Pemberley as well as in the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice starring Matthew Macfadyen. In fact they have the Matthew Macfadyen marble bust still there, though they request that you don't buss the bust. They have a Regency Ball there every summer which I long to be invited to! But even if that doesn't get you excited there is a deal breaker in my mind that makes this great house a must stop, and that's the connection to the Mitfords. Deborah Mitford, one of the famous Mitford sisters, was the Duchess of Devonshire and the family seat is Chatsworth. She not only spent her life surrounded by the literary, but she helped save the house after the tragic death of the heir and went on to make it a thriving business that allowed her to extensively expand the house's art collection with modern masters. So go for your Darcy dream, stay, and you can literally stay on the property, for the Mitford milieu.


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