Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Isn't It Grand!

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire

Keira Knightley's latest movie, The Duchess, is about the life of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, who lived part of the time in the palatial estate of Chatsworth located in Derbyshire, England. When I went to England in October, I visited this estate and absolutely loved it. But there is one word that can describe this house and everything in it: grand.

While I oooh'd and ahhh'd over almost everything in this residence, from the gorgeous furniture and ornate ceilings to the breathtaking artwork and exquisite marble statues, I couldn't help but think what it would be like to live here. And in fact, the current Duke and Duchess of Devonshire do live here.

But can you imagine calling this place your home in the eighteenth century as Duchess Georgiana did? Can you imagine writing at this gold-encrusted desk?
Or eating dinner at this magnificent table lit by this stunning chandelier?
I wonder if she ever longed for the comfort of a small cottage with a fireplace, a comfy rocking chair, a single candle to illuminate her quill and parchment. Perhaps this room was a bit cozier.

But here's what you don't see at first glance with Chatsworth. You are dazzled by all its outer beauty that veils its true history - the children that scampered through the rooms chased by a frazzled nursemaid, the loud conversations and laughter at the dining room table between friends, the midnight rendezvous between lovers, the arguments between husband and wife, the gossip in the servants' quarters - the people who lived here are what is at the heart and soul of this house. That is what this house truly represents.

Let it be so with your novel. If you take away the golden metaphors, the beautiful descriptions, the elegant dialogue, what is the true meaning of your story? What does it represent? What is its essence? This, then, is the heart of your novel. This is what you should make grand!


  1. Wow, what a glorious place!

    My vacations consist of going to Wisconsin where my husband fishes and I go to the casino or shopping and walks with the dog. Not as exciting, unless I'm winning at slots.

    Morgan Mandel

  2. Excellent advice and word pictures as usual. Thanks!

  3. Nice thoughts here, I like the analogy. It is essentially the heart of the novel that will grab your readers, not the "furniture."

  4. The "furniture" of words, I might add. (Sorry, left that off first comment!)

  5. BRAVO, Melissa! I love this post! It's true all the beauty in the world is just beauty--if it isn't real! I can't wait to see chatsworth. I'll be there this spring! eeeh! Only 5 months left in england! :o(

  6. Holy mackeral! Talk about some ornate digs. Wow.

  7. Seriously inspiring post Melissa! And the pictures are beautiful. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Morgan - Thanks for stopping by! Yes, Chatsworth was definitely glorious. I loved the day that I spent there.

    Ang - You're welcome!

    Joanne - I hope the analogy works. I was struggling with it a bit, but that could be because I wrote this post when I was tired. Ha!

    Giddy - OH, you will LOVE Chatsworth! I could have stayed there for hours more, but had to leave so I could catch my bus back to the city. Next time I go, I plan to drive, so I'll have more time to peruse. :-)

    Janna - Yes, it's very ornate. Almost overwhelming.

    Jenn - Hope it inspires you in your writing. :-)

  9. Lovely photos, I'd love to visit there some time. So inspiring.

  10. I want to see that movie! I just ordered the book.

    I love grand houses like that. (Mansions, castles, whatever.) Love them. Especially all that shiny gold!

  11. I love what you said about what the heart of our books should be--so should it be that way with all of writing--we need to show the heart of our writing in everything!
    Hope your day is a good one!

  12. Debs - Oh, do visit if you get the chance! It is well worth the trip.

    Spy - Thanks for stopping by! I really want to see the movie, too. They had some of the costumes that Keira wore in the movie (plus some from the other actors) on display at Chatsworth. I can send you pics of them if you'd like. :-)

    Terri - I agree! Showing our "heart" in all our writing will be a gift to everyone who reads it. :-)

  13. Was any of The Duchess filmed at Chatsworth, Do you know?

  14. Diane - Yes, some of it was. I know they deleted one of the scenes set there, though.

  15. Very nice, Melissa. Very nice indeed.

  16. I'm sorry to barge in, but I can't help but dish about Chatsworth with you, it's one of my favourite places in the world! When I went to visit the first time, I was invited to keep warm in the security office rather than wait for the bus in the cold. On the table was an envelope addressed to the Duke of Devonshire and that's when it really hit me, "oh my goodness people - nay, peers, still live here!" Georgiana herself liked their home in London more and found Chatsworth more ugly and boring. It's hard to believe though, isn't it!

    I love the pics you took and am so jealous you made it for the Georgiana exhibit!


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