RDC asked about the oversized book in my lap. I showed him the cover: Chatsworth: The House. He asked if that was the Downton Abbey house. I managed to say only that no, Chatsworth is in Derbyshire, and Highclere Castle is in Hampshire, quite near Janeaustenland and Watership Down, and despite the distance, Austen might have had Chatsworth in mind for Pemberley. Not that he knows or cares what Pemberley is, or the relative locations of Hampshire and Derbyshire, or that in Austen’s day Chatsworth belonged to the aristocracy, not to a mere landed gentleman.
I thought, “Let’s keep my obsessions in order, shall we?” I’ve read Austen’s juvenalia and letters, I read the scholarship and the tripe, I loved seeing the site of Steventon Rectory and touring Chawton Cottage, and I’ll debate the greatness of Persuasion against the charms of Pride and Prejudice at the drop of a handkerchief, but I only watch “Downton Abbey.”
Then I remembered Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle. Oops. But, I countered (to myself) Downton Abbey is in the title for marketing and the book is mostly a biography of the fifth Countess of Carnavon and the house she married into, and I might have read the book with equal interest though without the television show, just because her husband financed Howard Carter.
Mostly, I despair of myself. My father, who is as reflexively anti-English as any third-generation American of Irish extraction can be, wound up with anglophiles for daughters. Sorry, Dad.