Friday, October 10, 2008

Jane Austen in Bakewell, Elizabeth Bennet in Lambton

I've started a new book - well, I've written a synopsis and a couple of chapters and am feeling really excited at the prospect of immersing myself in the world of another Jane Austen sequel. It does feel like escaping to another existence, albeit a fantasy one, and I must admit, I did have more than a little chuckle at the first episode of 'Lost in Austen', because I could identify so well with with the heroine, (even if we know deep inside that we all much prefer the time we live in). Of course nothing can equal Jane Austen's writing, but we sequel writers are compelled to carry on with the lives of her characters, inventing new stories, even if we know they are not exactly what she might have chosen to write about herself. Can we have too much Pride and Prejudice? I don't think so, or for that matter, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey or Persuasion.

On my northern tour with my sister, (well, it was just a long weekend really,) we stayed in an old coaching inn at Bakewell. Many people think that Bakewell was the inspiration for Lambton, where Lizzy Bennet stays with her aunt and uncle Gardiner when travelling through the peak district and where she starts to see Mr Darcy (or Pemberley) in a different light. The Rutland Arms, where I stayed, has a room which they claim Jane Austen stayed in. I don't know whether the evidence for this is very strong, but it's a lovely idea. As a surprise my sister booked us in for my birthday treat. The top photo shows the view of Bakewell from our window and below is the scene in the reception sitting room, which inspired a breakfast room scene in my own Lydia Bennet's Story. Doesn't it look cosy? We travelled in late November; I remember sparkling, frosty days, blue skies and mists in the valley- and sitting by a roaring fire when inside - perfect!

In 1835, Bakewell was described in Pigot and Co's Commercial Directory for Derbyshire: Bakewell is an ancient town, situate at the foot of a hill, on the western bank of the river Wye, whose stream abounds with trout and other fish affording ample reward to the patience of the angler; while the rich and romantic scenery, enhanced in beauty by the noble appearance of wood-clad hills, present strong and almost not to be resisted inducements, to the visitors of Buxton and Matlock, to tarry a time in this vicinity.

We certainly had a lovely time, sampling the delights of the landscape and the famous Bakewell Pudding!

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