The beginning of September found me in Devon, at the tail end of the school holidays, and although I’ve started to have rather mixed feelings about camping lately, especially in autumn weather, it was well worth it because it allowed me to see a house that was on my ‘To Do’ list for at least 8 years.
Saltram is Regency through and through, which is why I wanted to get there for so long, and it didn’t disappoint.
This is the exquisite drawing room where, as the room steward told me, some scenes of Sense and Sensibility were filmed. “Can’t tell you which ones,” the gentleman added with a grin, “because Bruce Willis wasn’t given a part.”
This is the beautiful and ever-so-Regency dining room, with graceful urns and delicate ornaments (and the rather less than graceful and delicate items concealed in the urn’s plinth, which the same room steward kindly pointed out for a laugh). Much as we know it was the norm for gentlemen to make liberal use of such items when left to their own devices, modern sensibilities can’t help but trigger the instinctive reaction ‘Right, fine when it comes to the uncouth early Georgians, but surely not Mr Darcy!!’
The library was gorgeous too – I’ve yet to find a library that isn’t – but the greatest surprise was in one of the bedrooms, where the charcoal sketch of a handsome gentleman of ‘naval appearance’ caught my eye (in fact it was the uniform of the local militia, nothing naval about it; I got the wrong idea from the bicorne hat).
I love it when I go to National Trust houses to discover that they belonged to people I’ve heard about in all my squirreling through titbits of juicy Regency gossip. And this was juicy indeed. The sketch depicted the first Earl of Morley (then Lord Boringdon), who made the headlines in 1808 for instituting proceedings for ‘criminal conversation’ against Arthur Paget, who eloped with his first wife, Lady Augusta Fane. You can read more here, especially the outcome: “The jury, after some consideration, found damages Ten Thousand Pounds.”
No such scandals at nearby Antony, just a gem of a home ensconced in beautiful countryside, and a lovely message carved into a bench – which is exactly what we wish for our dear Elizabeth and Mr Darcy.
As always, I look for traces of their lifestyle wherever I go, and it’s such a joy to find them! The dining room at No 1 Royal Crescent in Bath could so easily be the dining room of their London townhouse.
This morning parlour could be theirs too. It was commonly used as a breakfast parlour and then as an informal morning room, where the master or mistress of the house would go about the daily business and perhaps entertain close acquaintances.
The more formal visitors were received in a more formal setting, and asked to have tea in the drawing room.
But what I found most appealing was the kitchen, the most Georgian kitchen I’ve ever seen, with no Victorian embellishments and no AGA cooker either, but full of all manner of ‘mod-cons’ that Mr Darcy’s maids might have used, from a coffee beans roaster to spinach and cabbage pressers, sugar clippers, moulds of all shapes and sizes and a particularly heavy iron in the laundry room (20lb or more) which I could barely lift. It would have been a very bad idea indeed to get on the wrong side of the washerwoman used to handling that particular piece of equipment 🙂
The delights of Bath are many, and in September the greatest delight of all is the Jane Austen Festival, to meet up with old friends and make new ones, do a spot of Regency shopping, listen to wonderful talks, be hugely entertained by performances, gamble the night away (or at least pretend to), have fun with murder mysteries and of course wear one’s finery at balls.
It was wonderful to meet Alexa Adams face to face at last – hope we can meet in Bath again, Alexa! – and party with friends who would happily go for holidays in the time machine, if one is ever invented.
It was so hard to leave beautiful Bath behind, and it’s so much harder now to say goodbye.
Sadly, I must, and this is my last post at Austen Authors, where I’ve been so happy for a couple of great years. It will be a pleasure to keep supporting the group and the wonderful friends I made here, but supporting my kids through their upcoming exam years is likely to keep me offline for longer stretches every now and then.
I can’t stop dreaming up stories and scenarios for Elizabeth and Mr Darcy’s Happily Ever After – with any luck, if I stay on track, the next one will be released in November – but I’ll definitely spend less time gallivanting to National Trust places 🙂 If I manage to sneak out to a couple, I’ll be sure to post about them on my website (www.joanastarnes.co.uk) or share them on Facebook.
Thanks for stopping by to read my posts here at Austen Authors and for coming with me on virtual trips, your wonderful company was hugely appreciated, and so was your wonderful support! I wish all authors and readers at Austen Authors Happy Trails, and I’ll finish not with Farewell, but with See you again very soon in this JAFF world of ours. Have fun, take care, and all the best!