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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe

Scarlets fever

The past year has brought us a bumper crop of stories about real estate with more or less legit Austen connections. (Mostly less.) Last spring, we learned we could rent rooms at Goodnestone Park, the Kent mansion of Jane Austen’s brother’s in-laws. Over the summer, we had a chance to buy a converted oast house on a farm where Austen’s father once lived. In November, we learned that the British government would contribute a goodly sum towards renovations of Wentworth Woodhouse, a gigantic Yorkshire mansion whose history Austen may or may not have mined for inspiration. And just last month, we sighed over a real estate listing for the house that played the Bennet family’s Longbourn in the BBC’s beloved 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. And now comes word of a real estate offering with rock-solid Austen connections: a listing for Scarlets, the Berkshire home built in the 1760s by Austen’s maternal uncle, James Leigh-Perrot, and his disagreeable wife, Jane. The listing provides the usual drool-worthy photos of oak paneling, parquet flooring, huge rooms suffused with natural light, and French doors opening onto acres of gardens. (Only 1.25 acres, actually, but the pictures make it look bigger.) And, compared to the £9 million ($11.7 million) price of Luckington Court, the aforesaid Longbourn stand-in, Scarlets is a bargain at a mere £3.5 million ($4.4 million). For Janeites, it’s more than a little ironic that Scarletts, as it’s now known –the extra “t” is a post-Leigh-Perrot acquisition – is being advertised for its Austen connections. We can’t help remembering how badly the already ailing Jane Austen took the news of Uncle Leigh-Perrot’s March 1817 will, which left his entire estate, including Scarlets, to his wife, providing no immediate legacy to his sister’s struggling offspring. (Though Scarlets did eventually come down to Austen’s nephew and future biographer, James Edward Austen-Leigh.) If the house were now to come into the possession of an Austen devotee? Revenge is sweet.


Jun 22 2017 07:53PM by A. Marie

If the house were now to come into the possession of this Austen devotee, the first thing I'd do would be to hang an Aunt Leigh-Perrot dart board in the principal drawing room!

Jun 27 2017 12:24AM by Deborah Yaffe

Ha! I'd like to see that. . .

Sep 19 2018 01:27PM by Mary Jankowski

Thanks very much for this information. I have long been interested in this house, as my mother-in-law was raised near Maidenhead. Mr. Leigh-Perrott seems to have been a weak-willed man dominated by his wife. It is tragic that Jane Austen's last months were clouded by stress over the estate. I hope James-Edward Austen-Leigh and his family enjoyed happy years in the house.

Sep 20 2018 01:29AM by Deborah Yaffe

I don't know much about JE Austen-Leigh's married life, but you might want to check out this blog:, which is partly about his wife, Emma Smith. Many fascinating stories in the extended Austen family. . .

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