Reading Books for Big Houses

With the great variety of shows centred around looking into the homes of others, Holmes on Homes, Trading Spaces, Divine Design and House Hunters International, my favorite, there is also, thankfully, a lot of classical literature that centre’s on the magnificent homes of others. Sometimes I do find myself picking up a book solely because the cover portrays a magnificent estate and I know when I read the story, I will be transported to elegance I can only read about.

This is why I have decided to list my top 5 books with big houses:

1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

“I believe that on the first night I went to Gatsby’s house I was one of the few guests who had actually been invited. People were not invited–they went there.”

– In my mind I see Gatby’s house as a neo-classical example of architecture in the 1920’s. Click here to get more of a feel for what it would have been furnished with.

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2. The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe

“All without was silent and dark, unless that could be called light, which was only the faint glimmer of the stars, showing imperfectly the outline of the mountains, the western towers of the castle, and the ramparts below where a solitary sentinel was pacing. What an image of repose did this scene present! …in a foreign land – in a remote castle – surrounded by vice and violence…” (Page 97).

– The Castle of Otranto from the novel is a medieval castle and is todays definition of gothic in literature. The house is made to have a spirit of it’s own and a history that surpasses all who live there.

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3.  The Female Quixote or The Adventures of Arabella by  Charlotte Lennox

“The Marquis, following the Plan of Life he has laid down, divided his Time between the Company of his Lady, his Liberty, which was large and well furnished, and his Gardens.” (Page 6).

– This novel is an example of the Romantic Period and includes much grander descriptions of homes than the one I was able to find above. The main character Arabella lives like Don Quixoto, having read too many romances, and believes the world to be but a fairy tale.

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4.  Dracula by Bram Stoker

“The castle was built on the corner of a great rock, so that on three sides it was quite impregnable, and great windows were placed here…The windows now curtainless, and the yellow  moonlight, flooding in thorugh the diamond panes, enabled one to see even colours, whilst it softended a wealth of dust which lay over all and disguised in some measure the ravages of time and moth.” (Page 55-6).

– Stoker describes Dracula’s castle in great detail, perhaps because he was inspired when visiting this real-life castle in Transylvania. This 700-year-old castle thankfully haunted Stoker’s mind and the result, one of the most popular gothic tales of all time.

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And for the finale…

5.  Against Nature (À rebours) by J.K. Huysmans

“This dining-room resembled a ship’s cabin, with its ceiling of arched beams, its bulkheads and floorboards of pitch-pine, and the little window-opening let into the wainscoting like a porthole. (page 19). …By these means he was able to enjoy quickly, almost simultaneously, all the sensations of a long sea-voyage, without ever leaving home;” (page 21).

– I recommend anyone who is in design to seriously think of reading this. The main character Jean Des Esseintes is a rich man in Paris who shuts himself away in his house, which mimics many different atmospheres, such as the description of traveling on a ship above. The novel is titled Against Nature because Esseintes mimics nature, fooling his senses to think he is exerperiencing something authentic. I would love to see someone design the home he describes, because it really is a masterpiece.

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Any recommendations?

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The birthday of one of my favourite…harlots

Today is the famous Madame du Berry’s birthday!

The mistress of Louis XV, born Jeanne Bécu in Vaucouleurs, France (1743). The officer of the king’s troops, Monsieur de Belleval, described her in his memoirs: “I can still see her carelessly seated or rather reclining in a large easy chair, wearing a white dress with wreaths of roses. She was one of the prettiest women at a court which boasted so many, and the very perfection of her loveliness made her the most fascinating. Her hair, which she often left unpowdered, was of a beautiful golden color and she had so much that she scarcely knew what to do with it all. Her wide blue eyes looked at one with an engaging frankness. She had a straight little nose and a complexion of a dazzling purity. In a word, I like everyone else fell immediately under her charm.” (Her paintings must not do her justice).

After the king died from smallpox in 1774, Madame du Barry wasn’t welcome at the new court, but she continued to live in luxury and have affairs with various powerful noblemen. She was suspected of giving money to help people escape from France during the Reign of Terror, and in 1793, at the age of 50, she was sentenced to death and executed by guillotine.