Deborah Yaffe


By Deborah Yaffe, May 18 2020 01:00PM

For some unaccountable reason, lately I find myself fantasizing longingly about travel to exotic destinations. (Not even that exotic! The mall would be fine!)

In other words, I’ve been in the perfect mood for discovering a boutique hotel in Ontario, Canada, whose rooms are named after famous artists, including Jane Austen. The Arlington Hotel is located in the quaint little town of Paris, about seventy-five miles west of Niagara Falls. (Yes, Ontario boasts both a London and a Paris; who knew?)

The Arlington’s twenty-three rooms, twenty-two of which are pictured on its website, are mostly named after nineteenth- and twentieth-century literary figures, from Lewis Carroll and Virginia Woolf to Hunter S. Thompson and Maya Angelou. But a smattering of other creative types are also represented — Leonardo da Vinci, Leonard Cohen, Monty Python.

Judging from the website photo, the décor of the Jane Austen room tends toward the Austen-as-avatar-of-swoony-femininity trope: the walls are painted a pale lavender, the chairs are upholstered in pink satin, and Regency prints decorate the space. It’s not as entertaining as, say, the Freud room, whose walls are hung with Rorschach ink blots, but these days, I’m in no mood to be picky.

The Arlington isn’t the first small hotel to mine world literature for inspiration: Loyal blog readers may remember that a few years ago I wrote about the Sylvia Beach Hotel, on the Oregon coast, whose twenty-one rooms were also named for literary figures, including Jane Austen. (In fact, the two hotels have given identical names to nine of their rooms – good news not only for Janeites but also for fans of Agatha Christie, Emily Dickinson, Ernest Hemingway, Dr. Seuss, J.R.R. Tolkien, Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, and Virginia Woolf.)

The Sylvia Beach Hotel is currently closed for coronavirus quarantine; the Arlington seems to be open, or at least hasn’t announced a closure on its website or social media. Alas, my travelling will probably remain the armchair-only variety for the foreseeable future, but someday I hope to see Paris – and the Jane Austen room -- in the springtime.

By Deborah Yaffe, Mar 30 2015 01:00PM

So it turns out there’s a cliffside hotel with amazing views of the Pacific where all the rooms are named after famous writers and, since no one gets a TV, a radio, a landline or even Wifi, there’s pretty much nothing to do all day except read.

Oh, and did I mention that one of the rooms is named for Jane Austen?

No, this is not my imaginary dream-fantasy vacation spot. This is an actual place in Newport, Oregon, called the Sylvia Beach Hotel. You can stay in a Virginia Woolf Room with a view of a lighthouse! How perfect is that?

I happened across this little slice of paradise via my daily Google alert for Austen mentions, which yielded a traveler’s tale of a stay in the Jane Austen Room. “Austen is right next door to the Melville room,” wrote Washington State gardening blogger Tangly Cottage.

I like to imagine sensible Jane running into brooding Herman in the hallway, perhaps on the way down to the dining room. (Did I mention that this hotel also serves breakfast and dinner?)

“Mr. Melville, I do hope you do not always write doomy seafaring stories,” she might say, in the polite yet firm manner that we Janeites know she must have had. “I think it is the misfortune of dread-filled allegorical tales with intense religious overtones to be seldom safely enjoyed by those who enjoy them completely. The strong feelings which alone can estimate them truly are the very feelings which ought to taste them but sparingly.”

And then she would recommend some lighter reading promoting a greater faith in the ultimately just and well-ordered nature of the universe – the kind of thing found in the hotel’s Agatha Christie room, perhaps.

And he would listen attentively, seeming grateful for the interest implied, and – though with a shake of the head, and sighs declaring his little faith in the efficacy of any books on existential misery like his –would jot down the titles of Murder on the Orient Express and Peril at End House, promising to procure and read them.

Alas, such an encounter is only possible in fantasy, since Melville was born two years after Austen’s untimely death. Still, if I’m ever on the Oregon coast, I hope to stop by the Sylvia Beach Hotel’s Jane Austen Room.

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