By Okechukwu Nzelu
I’ve decided I want to live in Rosings Park. Perhaps you know it — the enormous country house where Lady Catherine de Bourgh lives in Jane Austen’s novel, Pride and Prejudice. Specifically, I want the one from the 2005 adaptation, filmed at Burghley House, the grand Elizabethan prodigy house near Stamford, Lincolnshire.
I know moving house is a big decision. But it’s time I got on the property ladder, and since this is a fantasy, I want the best one. You can have Longbourn, the more modest home of Lizzy Bennet and her family. I’m not bothered about Netherfield, where Mr Darcy lives (it’s nice enough, but life there seems to involve an awful lot of walking around). I don’t even really want to live in Burghley House. It’s the fiction I’m after.
It’s 2023 — I don’t want reality and I’m not terribly fussed about taste. I want opulence. I’m tired of being outbid on a forlorn property I only half liked. I’m sick of rising rents and increasing train fares. I’m tired of interest rates, mortgage applications, inflation, spiralling energy costs. I want a massive house — and I want it for free.
I don’t want to be Lady Catherine de Bourgh, the insufferable noblewoman (played with formidable haughtiness by Judi Dench in the 2005 film), or her daughter Anne. I don’t want a fortune that could have come from slavery. Or all that taffeta. Elizabeth Bennet can marry whom she wants, and as for Mr Collins, his services will not be required.
I just want to be able to wander around a vast, echoing palace, run my hand along the drapery and say “ahhh”. I want to be able to look at my windows and see massive wealth instead of condensation. I want enough space for a “small summer breakfast parlour”, and I want to redecorate it every year. I want an excess of carriages. I want to own so many horses, I keep forgetting which is which.
And this working-for-a-living thing? Let’s nip that in the bud. I want my bills paid by an ancestor rather than an employer. I want the luxury of not doing anything, but still saying I would have been “a great proficient” if I had ever actually tried. I would like to wake up at 10 every morning for a quick toilette. Then I would like to descend for the first of many breakfasts to be eaten throughout the day. I’d quite like to try something called “luncheon”. I want dinners that could be described as “handsome”.
And I am tired of stepping around piles of books in my living room. I want a home big enough to have a library. I want to fill it with thousands of books, every last one of which I will read because I have the time, never having to work or cook or clean. And when guests point to those books and ask if I’ve read them, I will give a cryptic smile before adjourning to the drawing room for a game of quadrille.
Just for a day, I want the whole stupid, impractical, ghastly package — sprawling grounds, silverware, dividends. I don’t need to be the protagonist in the middle of things. It’s the quiet life I want. Just me, thousands of books, hundreds of rooms, and all that glazing.
Okechukwu Nzelu’s latest novel, ‘Here Again Now’, is published by Dialogue Books
Photography: Ohmaymay/Dreamstime.com; Moviestore Collection/Alamy; Maximum Film/Alamy