Today’s guest post has been written by Will Leary, a former student of English with Film at University College Dublin. Will is especially interested in the crossovers between the two mediums of literature and film, particularly film adaptations of novels.
Whom amongst us hasn’t dreamt of traversing the hallways of Pemberley? Or longed to take a turn in the gardens of Netherfield Park? Unfortunately, most of the houses and many of the place names used in Pride and Prejudice are imaginary (so much for popping over to Longbourn for afternoon tea). However, Austen got her inspiration for many of these fictitious domiciles from real houses across England, which still exist today and can be visited by those of us who won’t give up on that dream of seeing for ourselves what Mr. Collins was making such a fuss about when commending Rosings’ chimney pieces.
Jane Austen’s brother, Edward Austen Knight had inherited three estates from Thomas Knight, including Godmersham Park and Chawton House. Jane Austen spent a good deal of time in these two houses and attended her first parties and dances here. Godmersham Park is thought to be what her novel Mansfield Park is based on but her experiences there were also, along with Chawton, a likely source of inspiration for the sociable lifestyles of the Bennet girls in Pride and Prejudice. There is a vicarage on the grounds of Godmersham Park that some think is the inspiration for Mr. Collins’ house near Rosings Park.
For those Darcy fans out there, Chatsworth House is worth a visit. It’s said to be the house that Pemberley is based on. The description of the imaginary Pemberley given in the novel when Elizabeth first sees it, bears a striking resemblance to the real-life Chatsworth,
“It was a large, handsome, stone building standing well on rising ground, and backed by a ridge of high woody hills; and in front, a stream of some natural importance was swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance.”Austen, p. 217
It isn’t known what house, if there was in fact a specific one in mind, inspired Lady Catherine’s Rosings Park. But Burghley House and Belton House in Lincolnshire have both been used in on-screen versions of Rosings, and these beautiful houses are definitely worth a visit too.
Fear not Austen fans, the houses of Pride and Prejudice may not exist, but their real-life inspirations do. So pack your bags and don your most up to date gowns and silks, and visit some of these beautiful houses that inspired Jane Austen’s famous novel.
Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. New York: Modern Library, 1995. Print.
Myer, Valerie Grosvenor. Jane Austen, Obstinate Heart: A Biography. Arcade Publishing, 1997.
Dixon, Emily. “Where Were Jane Austen’s Novels Set? Fans Can Visit The Real Places That Inspired The Books”, Bustle.com, 2018, https://www.bustle.com/p/where-were-jane-austens-novels-set-fans-can-visit-the-real-places-that-inspired-the-books-11949267