The Grand Houses of the Imagination

Phyllis Richardson makes a good point. Many authors of great stories have found inspiration to develop the story from the places where their characters reside. Those fictional homes are as important to set the tone of the tory as the characters themselves.  Of course, Brideshead and Howard’s End are two that come to mind.

So, did the authors use real places to anchor their imaginative rmablings? It seems that many did. And Phyllis gives us a fun overview of some of those places.

Not all are grand country houses.

When a country parson published the first two volumes of the rollicking, digressive The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, in 1759, it quickly became a publishing sensation. Sterne had the living at Coxwold, in the Vale of York, which included the tenancy of the cottage that became known as “Shandy Hall”. In such a house, whose close quarters give rise to interruptions – by a thumping across the floor overhead, for example, which disturbs Walter Shandy and Uncle Toby in the parlour, as the maid attends to Mrs Shandy in her struggle to give birth – digressions were inevitable. Sterne completed seven of the nine volumes of the book while in residence at Shandy Hall, and it is easy to see how the cramped conditions of his little home helped to set the stage for the accidents, intrusions, missteps and conversational meanderings of the story. In an age when authors like Samuel Richardson and Henry Fielding were writing about grand country piles, Sterne brought readers directly into the rooms of the humble cottage, sat them by the fire and gave them a cracking good tale.



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