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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe

Excessively fond of a cottage

If only the Austens had invested in Steventon real estate.

Back in 1801, as Janeites will recall, the Rev. George Austen moved out of the rectory in the rural village of Steventon, turned the house and the minister’s job over to his son James, and retired to Bath, taking along his wife and his daughters, Cassandra and Jane. James Austen kept the Steventon living until his death in 1819; the rectory itself was torn down some years later.

That teardown looks like a grievous mistake now that an exceedingly modest cottage in this tiny village is on the market for £350,000 (about $464,000). In the not-inexpensive New Jersey suburb where I live, a comparable price will typically get you about two thousand square feet comprising three bedrooms and two baths. In Steventon, it gets you just over six hundred square feet with two bedrooms and one bath.

It’s hard to believe that even that astute judge of real estate Robert Ferrars would find room for eighteen couples to stand up in this dining room. And with two hundred and fifty residents, Steventon is truly tiny. Even the shop, the school, and the two pubs are located in the next town over.

Still, Myrtle Cottage does look cute, if small – I believe “cozy” is the approved real estate term – plus the Jane Austen association probably adds something to the price. And hey – it’s called Myrtle Cottage. How many American suburbs have houses with names? Really, 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. (To quote that real estate expert again.)

OK, Robert, you’ve talked me into it. Anyone have a spare £350,000?


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