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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Friday, December 23, 2011

Robert Ferrars's Real Life Cottage

Diane Reynolds wrote the following in Austen L today, in response to Ellen Moody posting the text of an article about the extraordinary cottage built by the Ladies of Llangollen, whom I claimed were Jane Austen's covert source for Charlotte Lucas of Pride & Prejudice as a lesbian:

[Diane] "Thanks for the cottage article, Ellen. Cottage still capture our fancy:"

In the spirit of the season, I just responded as follows:

Diane, that article you linked to is simply astounding, thanks for posting it. It's almost too good to be true, that a guy with no background could build such a home in that fashion.

In that same vein (well, sort of), here's an image of the very house that I am convinced Robert Ferrars built with his bare hands, in the English countryside, beginning shortly after he left Gray's on Sackville Street in Chapter 33 of S&S:

If you don't believe me, just look at that image while reading aloud the following passage in S&S Ch. 36 (only three chapters later, when he had completed construction), and see if you don't see the obvious parallels:

"For my own part," said [Robert], "I am excessively fond of a cottage; there is always so much comfort, so much elegance about them. And I protest, if I had any money to spare, I should buy a little land and build one myself, within a short distance of London, where I might drive myself down at any time, and collect a few friends about me, and be happy. I advise every body who is going to build, to build a cottage. My friend Lord Courtland came to me the other day on purpose to ask my advice, and laid before me three different plans of Bonomi's. I was to decide on the best of them. 'My dear Courtland,' said I, immediately throwing them all into the fire, 'do not adopt either of them, but by all means build a cottage.' And that I fancy, will be the end of it. Some people imagine that there can be no accommodations, no space in a cottage; but this is all a mistake. I was last month at my friend Elliott's, near Dartford. Lady Elliott wished to give a dance. 'But how can it be done?' said she; 'my dear Ferrars, do tell me how it is to be managed. There is not a room in this cottage that will hold ten couple, and where can the supper be?' I immediately saw that there could be no difficulty in it, so I said, 'My dear Lady Elliott, do not be uneasy. The dining parlour will admit eighteen couple with ease; card-tables may be placed in the drawing-room; the library may be open for tea and other refreshments; and let the supper be set out in the saloon.' Lady Elliott was delighted with the thought. We measured the dining-room, and found it would hold exactly eighteen couple, and the affair was arranged precisely after my plan. So that, in fact, you see, if people do but know how to set about it, every comfort may be as well enjoyed in a cottage as in the most spacious dwelling."

I mean, isn't it obvious from looking at that image that his cottage easily exceeded the capacities Robert describes?

But of course the best clue, the one that makes us certain that it is _that_ cottage in particular, is when Robert is being _very_ particular about the _materials_ he is going to use to construct his snug little "castle":

"He was giving orders for a toothpick-case for himself, and till its size, shape, and ornaments were determined, all of which, after examining and debating for a quarter of an hour over every toothpick-case in the shop, were finally arranged by his own inventive fancy, he had no leisure to bestow any other attention on the two ladies, than what was comprised in three or four very broad stares; a kind of notice which served to imprint on Elinor the remembrance of a person and face, of strong, natural, sterling insignificance, though adorned in the first style of fashion. Marianne was spared from the troublesome feelings of contempt and resentment, on this impertinent examination of their features, and on the puppyism of his manner in deciding on all the different horrors of the different toothpick-cases presented to his inspection, by remaining unconscious of it all; for she was as well able to collect her thoughts within herself, and be as ignorant of what was passing around her, in Mr. Gray's shop, as in her own bedroom."

Marianne and Elinor think Robert is being a puppy, but I say, here is a man with a sure sense of his craft, who simply will not compromise when it comes to quality. And I don't care _what_ the fairy tale authors say, no Big Bad Wolf is going to blow _that_ impregnable cottage down, no matter how hard he blows!

Cheers, and have a happy Apri-----er, I mean---happy Holidays! ;)

Cheers, ARNIE

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