Deborah Yaffe

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On the trail of great writers

By Deborah Yaffe, Mar 9 2017 02:00PM

Logically, there’s no particular reason we dedicated readers should yearn to visit the houses where our favorite writers were born, grew up, met their future spouses or wrote their great works. Events don’t leave their imprint on wood, glass and stone.


And yet they do, at least in our imaginations. So it was that my heart leapt last month when I ran across this account of a literary trail made up of forty-five “houses of bookish importance” scattered across Great Britain.


The trail, sponsored by the Historic Houses Association, which represents the UK’s privately owned historic homes, includes places associated with some of my favorite authors, including George Eliot’s birthplace, Arthur Conan Doyle’s alma mater, the castle where Shakespeare’s Macbeth murdered King Duncan, and the house whose attic supposedly inspired Jane Eyre.


Yes, there are also Austen connections. Among the trail’s attractions are Chawton House, owned by Austen’s older brother Edward; and Goodnestone Park, the family estate of Edward’s wife, Elizabeth Bridges. Austen spent plenty of time in both places, though what connection either has to her novels is a matter of speculation.


Unless you’re planning a trip to Britain, this literary trail is likely to be fodder for armchair daydreaming rather than active vacationing. But if you're lucky enough to have such a trip on your agenda – well, then, as I noted last year, Goodnestone is now renovated and available for rental. Perfect for a getaway for yourself and twenty-three of your closest friends.


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