So here’s what I’d be doing right this minute if I were in England: Taking today’s “Fitzwilliam Tour” of Wentworth Woodhouse.
You will recall that Wentworth Woodhouse is an unbelievably huge, unbelievably rundown stately home in northern England whose Austen-ish associations – a former owner, the 4th Earl Fitzwilliam, is one of the many, many people sometimes suggested as a model for Mr. Darcy – came up often during the past eighteen months of real estate drama.
To recap: A sale of the property, which features nearly ninety acres of parkland, five miles of corridors and an estimated £42 million in deferred maintenance, was first discussed in November 2014. A year later, the whole shebang was sold to a Hong Kong-based investment company, after a conservation consortium failed in a bid to save the four-hundred-year-old estate for the nation.
But at the eleventh hour, the foreign investors withdrew and, in an Austen-worthy happy ending, the conservation consortium bought the estate for £7 million and announced a plan to spend fifteen years restoring the property. In the meantime . . . tours!
The estate’s Austen associations are on the circumstantial side – besides the dubious Mr. Darcy connection, it has a history replete with names familiar from the novels – but that’s no reason to miss out on seeing such attractions as the Whistlejacket Room, the Oak Staircase, and the Chinese Dressing Room. And tourists can feel virtuous in the knowledge that their £25 is contributing to the restoration of a true national treasure.
But hey -- I had you at “Fitzwilliam,” didn’t I?