Pursuing Classical Perfection

A letter from Jane Austen (1775 – 1817) to her sister Cassandra in 1799 highlights the point, when a horse her brother purchased cost sixty guineas and the boy hired to look after him four pounds a year. Country houses provided a perfect setting for Jane’s novels; the interiors of which provided a backdrop of classic order with on centre stage, social folly.  It was no ordinary time, in fact, Jane lived in one of the most eventful, colourful and thought by many tumultous and romantic of all eras in England. Her peers wanted aesthetic perfection in their houses, which were set in an almost equally perfect landscape urged on by their awareness of the ‘antique’. They were striving to emulate what was seen as the ideal –  classical perfection. Because Jane mixed with the highest ranking families in the kingdom, her observations of real settings provided the raw material for her writing, and also chronicled some of the finest examples of England’s architectural past. Various examples of houses from different periods, such as Lyme Park posing as Mr Darcy’s divine Pemberley in Pride and Prejudice, had evolved from an earlier Jacobean House.

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