Places: Barton Cottage

“A view of Barton Valley, as they (Mrs. Dashwood and the girls) entered it, gave them cheerfulness. It was a pleasant, fertile spot, well wooded, and rich in pasture. A small green court was the whole of its demesne in front; and a neat wicket-gate admitted them into it.

“As a house, Barton Cottage, though small, was comfortable and compact; but as a cottage it was defective, for the building was regular, the roof was tiled, the window shutters were not painted green, nor were the walls covered with honeysuckles. A narrow passage led directly through the house into the garden behind. On each side of the entrance was a sitting room, about sixteen feet square. Four bed-rooms and two garrets formed the rest of the house.”

I love this description of the Barton Cottage’s “failings” in quirkiness.  The theme of the Cottage as a concept (and opposed to any actual cottage) comes up again later in the text and from the perspective of one of the more foolish characters in the novel:

“‘You reside in Devonshire, I think,’ was his next observation, ‘in a cottage near Dawlish.’

“Elinor set him right ast to its situation; and it seemed rather surprising to him that any body could live in Devonshire without living near Dawlish.  He bestowed his hearty approbation, however, on their species of house.

“‘For my own part,’ said he,’ I am excessively fond of a cottage; there is always so much comfort, so much elegance about them.  And I protest, if I had any money to spare, I should buy a little land and build one myself, within a short distance of London, where I might drive myself down at any time, and collect a few friends about me, and be happy.  I advise every body who is going to build, to build a cottage.  My friend Lord Courtland came to me the other day on purpose to ask my advice and laid before me three different plans of Bonomi’s.  I was to decide on the best of them.  ‘My dear Courtland,’ said I, immediately throwing them all into the fire, ‘do not adopt either of them, but by all means build a cottage.’ And that, I fancy, will be the end of it.'”

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This post is a Place Description quoted from Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.  I intend no slight to the author in using this excerpt, in fact I recommend that you visit your nearest library or bookstore and get your hands on the real thing.

Although I’m quite horrified by John Dashwood’s behavior in throwing his friends architectural drawings (PROBABLY THE ONLY COPIES) into the fire, and I generally hate him and everything he stands for, I am forced to agree with his approbation for cottages. 


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