Pride and Prejudice and My Fantasy Library

Pride and Prejudice and My Fantasy Library

In the middle of a global pandemic, a roller-coaster economy, and the brouhaha of an election year in the U.S., I decided to move house.

I’m not alone in this; fellow Austen Authors Allie Cresswell and Gianna Thomas are doing the same, so I feel I’m in good company.

By the time you read this I will have moved from my three-bedroom house of twenty-five years into a two-bedroom condominium. In other words, I’m down-sizing, and one of the hardest things about the entire process is trying to decide which possessions I’ll take with me and which I’ll get rid of.

One of those hard take-or-discard decisions concerned my books. I started buying and collecting books in grade school, and although I’ve certainly culled some titles from my collection over the years, I’ve always maintained a healthy stock of fiction and non-fiction titles.

Books are a part of my everyday life; in my house, every room had books on shelves or table tops, but I always dreamed I’d someday live in a house with a dedicated library filled floor to ceiling with book of all shapes, sizes, and subjects.

As Caroline Bingley said in Pride and Prejudice:

When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.

A view from the catwalk in the library at Pemberley/Chatsworth.

In Pride and Prejudice Charles Bingley had a library at Netherfield, and though he probably had many more books than I’ll ever own, he felt the need to apologize to Elizabeth Bennet about the size of his library:

“I wish my collection were larger for your benefit and my own credit; but I am an idle fellow, and though I have not many, I have more than I ever looked into.”

Elizabeth assured him that she could suit herself perfectly with those in the room.

“I am astonished,” said Miss Bingley, “that my father should have left so small a collection of books. What a delightful library you have at Pemberley, Mr. Darcy!”

“It ought to be good,” he replied, “it has been the work of many generations.”

“And then you have added so much to it yourself, you are always buying books.”

“I cannot comprehend the neglect of a family library in such days as these.”

It’s interesting to me that each of the four people involved in the conversation have completely different perspectives on reading and libraries:

Elizabeth Bennet didn’t try to impress anyone with her reading choices; she was simply content to read whatever was available to her.

Charles Bingley knows he’s responsible for maintaining and enhancing the family library, but he’s an indifferent reader; and when he does buy books, he doesn’t always read them.

Caroline Bingley understands the importance of reading and owning books. We know that because she acknowledges her family’s library is small and then blames her father for the circumstance (and since her father is deceased and can’t defend himself, I suspect Caroline blames him for a lot of shortcomings in her life).

Fitzwilliam Darcy is proud of his library, but then, he more than anyone else, has the financial means to buy quality books. He makes a gentle dig at Charles Bingley, reminding him that the Darcys are “old money” and that the library at Pemberley has been built over generations (and probably contains some valuable titles). More important, Darcy thinks a family library is a serious business; he doesn’t just buy books—he reads them.

When it comes to books and libraries, I’m a little like Elizabeth because I read a variety of genres and subjects; but I’m also like Darcy, because I love to buy new books (even though I know I may never get through the to-be-read pile I’ve already accumulated).

What about you?

When it comes to books and libraries, are you an Elizabeth or a Darcy? A Charles or a Caroline?

p.s. I’m happy to share with you that I found good homes for the majority of my books, and I’ve settled into my new place nicely. While I still look longingly at images of luxurious home libraries, I am very content with the comfy chair and reading corner I set up in my new place. Happy reading, everyone!

29 Responses to Pride and Prejudice and My Fantasy Library

  1. Maybe a little Elizabeth. I really can’t afford to buy a lot (esp physically bound books though I started these past 3 years). I only read what I am interested in or if I need it for work/research etc. It would be nice to be rich like Mr Darcy and buy everything that fancies my eye. I want to kick myself for I had missed a lot of books that are no longer in the market/Amazon.
    (Thanks for the pic – Love this library – I always wondered how FDs library looks like)

  2. I also moved house during the pandemic. 3 Bedroom house down to a 2 br apartment. I put all my books (over 40 boxes) in storage except for cookbooks, my family’s books, and whatever I’m reading at present, which is still 3 bookshelves worth.

  3. Congratulations on a successful move, Nancy. I hope mine goes as well. So far it’s a little slow, and I’m having to pick up the pace. We leave July 5th. Everything goes in storage in Illinois as we begin looking for a house. I’ll stay with my daughter for a month or so until I find what I’m going to love…I hope. Houses go for a lot less there, so I can’t complain in that regard. Am looking at it as a bit of a new start after simplifying my life. Yeah, right! 🙂

  4. I was an avid reader in my youth, but read less as I got older and a boyfriend seemed more interesting. Before my late husband (not the boyfriend) passed away almost eight years ago, we had shelves and shelves of books. He was an avid reader of mysteries. I loved the look of our library. I had my share of novels in the collection along with my treasured hardcover collection of Austen and Bronte’s main works, but I only read occasionally and did crafting more. Four years later, I decided to relocate back to my native Canada from Oklahoma. As much as I hated to give up our beloved books, it was impossible to take them with me. I only brought the best of the best with me. When I discovered JAFF, I once again became an avid reader, hungrier each day for more. I average a book per day or two. I don’t have the space for books now, so my library is my Kindle. I’ll be able to carry that library with me wherever I go. I do miss the smell of books.

    • I can absolutely relate to everything you wrote, Marie! No matter what happens in life, I always return to my love for reading. Thanks to all the Austen Authors who give us so many wonderful JAFF books to read. 🙂

  5. One of my greatest fantasies!! Having a house with a room big enough for a library!! Heaven. I too read a lot of genres and LOVE buying books. It cheers me up when I’m feeling low to go out and buy a book. I do enjoy my kindle now I have to say but still nothing beats a real paper in your hands book.

  6. I admittedly have many books I haven’t read but some have been gifts that sounded like they might be interesting and many of the others are books I got cheap and have meant to read (still hope to eventually) but haven’t yet. I have 2 wonderful libraries both within a mile of my home so I frequently visit and get books from them. A decent handful of my unread books I own have been purchased at library bag sales.

    • I’m a library user, too, Chelsea. I try to go once a month to browse the shelves (at least, that was my habit before our COVID-19 shutdown). Now I browse their e-book catalog online, but I still get something new to read. 😀 Thanks for commenting!

  7. I’ve downsized twice, once from our house to a large apartment and once from our apartment to an independent living facility. Both times, it was hard to decide what books to get rid of. My philosophy was to keep only those books I expected to reread. I love rereading my favorites.

    Books are less expensive than the shelf space to store them. I discarded all of Jane Austen’s writing. This was because I’ve gone to eBooks. I’m now a fan of eBooks. I hold one, relatively light object that contains multiple books and it is easy to add more. Also, there are multiple free eBooks available on Amazon, (Where you can get Jane Austen’s writing) and various other sites.

    • I agree with you, Renata; e-books are a game changer! Project Gutenberg was where I first learned about e-books many years ago, and it’s still one of my favorite sites because of the variety of books they offer. I only wish I had more time to read everything that catches my eye. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  8. My mother loved to read and was constantly buying books. She would loan them to family and friends and kept a record of who borrowed what and when [after someone forgot to return a favorite that she had to replace]. When she died, my father was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of books. He sold over nine-thousand to someone who had a used book store so at least they will be going to people who want them. My brother, cousin and I boxed up all those books and I groaned with each and every box. I kept wanting to stop look at them but time wouldn’t allow it. I had already downsized once [will have to again in the future, ugggh] so I simply didn’t have the room for them. That is why I now buy kindle books. My little to-be-read pile is growing by leaps and bounds but it doesn’t take up much room as I can hold my library in my hands. Technology is a marvelous thing. I loved that picture of Chatsworth’s library. Oh-My-Gosh! That was amazing. I actually held my breath as I looked at it. I wanted to grab a pair of white cotton gloves and touch those marvelous books. Wow! Thanks for sharing with up… stay safe and healthy. Blessings on your new location and I hope you enjoy your new digs [as they say].

    • I buy a lot of old books that often have book plates with the names of the original owners; or they have an inscription, such as, “To Mary, on Christmas Day, 1909, with love from Aunt Jane.” They always remind me that the used books I buy have a history and were cherished for generations by look lovers like your mother. How wonderful that she lent them to others to enjoy!

  9. When we relocated to South Carolina we decided to have a new house built. Husband and I each had our own priorities; mine was a dedicated tea room and a library, as we are both active readers and book collectors. The house has three bedrooms and a study; the study is our combination library/tea room. Three-plus walls are covered with bookcases; the third wall has a sofa and tea table (like a coffee table but we never drink coffee!). Of course there are also bookcases in our sleeping bedroom, the bedroom that became our office, and in the living room, as well as books on various flat surfaces. There is never enough room for books! Wishing you every happiness — not to mention many reading opportunities — in your new home.

    • Thank you for your kind wishes, Janis! I have to say, I’m a teensy bit envious of your study. It sounds like you designed a wonderful room for relaxing and reading.

  10. Sometimes I am Lizzy and read what is available but I am also like Darcy I also but books and read them too. I love to read!

  11. I am also a combination of Elizabeth and Darcy.

    I have so many books they have outgrown my bookshelves (smaller ones throughout the house since I do not have the space to have a dedicated ibrary). Decorative suitcases and storage bins now act as extra “shelves”.

    As for fantasy libraries, I based the Brandon’s library in “True Love Comes to Delaford” on the magnificent two-story one in the Biltmore Estate.

    A girl can dream! 😉

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