Monday, August 4, 2014
My Visit to Goodnestone Park by Syrie James (and GIVEAWAY of Jane Austen's First Love)
Situated in county Kent, England, Goodnestone Park is about nine miles from the cathedral city of Canterbury. The estate, which has been occupied since the Tudor era, was purchased by Brook Bridges, 1st Baronet, who in 1704 demolished the original manor and constructed a new, red and blue brick palladian house, which forms the basis of the house we see today. He also put in extensive, fifteen acre formal gardens, similar to those at Versailles. His grandson, Sir Brook Bridges, 3rd Baronet (who welcomed Jane Austen and her family into his home, after his daughter Elizabeth became engaged to Jane’s brother Edward Austen), made several alterations to the house in the 1770s, and replaced the manicured formal gardens with an open landscape park—a natural look which was more fashionable at the time.
I was privileged to visit Goodnestone Park on a very special Austen tour last autumn. It rained the day we where there, but that couldn’t dampen my spirits. It was such a thrill to see the beautiful, ancient house and grounds where I had set my novel, and to know that Jane Austen had been there herself.
Although Goodnestone House is not open to the public, I applied to the present owners and asked to see the interior, explaining that I was writing a book which took place there and wanted to depict the house as accurately as possible. A very kind family member graciously complied, and gave me and my dear friend and traveling companion, Laurel Ann Nattress, a private tour.
At this point in the story, Jane is newly arrived at Goodnestone Park and has spent the better part of the evening conversing with the handsome and completely fascinating Edward Taylor. They are now exploring the gardens with Jane’s sister Cassandra and Edward’s cousin, Mr. Payler.
“This a lovely garden,” commented Edward Taylor.
“It is,” replied I.
Studying the ancient, mossy, ivy- and vine-covered brick wall surrounding us, he added: “I particularly admire these walls.”
“The walls?” repeated I, amused.
“These walls, according to Lady Bridges, have stood here for more than a hundred years—and will no doubt still be standing two hundred years hence. Fascinating, is it not, to think of all the people who will see them and walk within their confines, long after we have all stopped breathing?”
Mr. Payler laughed and shook his head. “You have read too many history books, cousin.”
“Edward!” cried Mr. Payler. “What are you doing?”
My heart beat in my throat; the wall at that juncture was more than eight feet high! Further on, and for the greater part of the enclosure, the walls were even higher yet, towering an alarming eleven feet above the ground—and they did not appear to be very wide. “Come down, Mr. Taylor!” cried I.
He ignored me, and with some effort, managed to reach the top of the brick wall, where he cautiously rose to his feet, turning to look down at us.
“My brothers and I used to dare each other to walk the length of walls such as this, in every European village and town we visited or lived in. A sum of money was always involved. What do you say, cousin? Are you game?”
“Do not be a fool,” said Mr. Payler. “You could fall and kill yourself.”
“Therein lies the challenge. Where would be the interest, if the wall were but two feet high?”
Penguin Books has graciously offered a giveaway of one copy of Jane Austen's First Love by Syrie James.
If you would like to win this book please leave a comment about what most intrigues you about this book or this guestblog.
As part of your comment, you must include an email address. If I can't find a way to contact you I will draw another winner.
For an additional entry, blog about this giveaway or post it on your sidebar. Provide a link to this post in your comment.
I will be using random.org (or a monte carlo simulation in excel) to pick the winners from the comments.
This contest is only open to US and Canadian residents (Sorry!).
No P.O. Boxes.
The deadline for entry is midnight on Monday August 18th, 2014.
The winner will be announced on this blog on Tuesday August 19th when I also post my review of Jane Austen's First Love by Syrie James.
Please make sure to check on August 19th to see if you are a winner. I send emails to the winner, but lately I've been put in their "junk mail" folder instead of their inbox.