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|Ch.42. Donwell & Abbey Mill Farm – an English Idyll.
Written by Rachel G
(5/3/2008 9:01 a.m.)
JA was not much given to visual description, and yet she devotes almost a whole page of this tightly structured novel to painting a word-picture of the beautiful setting of Donwell Abbey and Abbey Mill Farm:
(Donwell Abbey's)”... suitable, becoming, characteristic situation, low and sheltered; its ample gardens stretching down to meadows washed by a stream, of which the Abbey, with all the old neglect of prospect, had scarcely a sight -- and its abundance of timber in rows and avenues, which neither fashion nor extravagance had rooted up.
“... the delicious shade of a broad short avenue of limes, which stretching beyond the garden at an equal distance from the river, seemed the finish of the pleasure grounds. It led to nothing; nothing but a view at the end over a low stone wall with high pillars, which seemed intended, in their erection, to give the appearance of an approach to the house, which never had been there. Disputable, however, as might be the taste of such a termination, it was in itself a charming walk, and the view which closed it extremely pretty. The considerable slope, at nearly the foot of which the Abbey stood, gradually acquired a steeper form beyond its grounds; and at half a mile distant was a bank of considerable abruptness and grandeur, well clothed with wood; and at the bottom of this bank, favourably placed and sheltered, rose the Abbey-Mill Farm, with meadows in front, and the river making a close and handsome curve around it.
“It was a sweet view -- sweet to the eye and the mind. English verdure, English culture, English comfort, seen under a sun bright, without being oppressive.
I care not that the apple orchard is blooming at midsummer. The blossom perfectly completes a picture which is utterly idyllic.
What was JA's purpose with this extended descriptive passage? It certainly brings into sharp focus Mr Knightley's fortunate position as principal landowner of the district and master of a beautiful house and grounds. Does Donwell Abbey, like Pemberley, tell us something important about its owner?
I'm also struck by the description of Abbey Mill Farm with “all its appendages of prosperity and beauty”. Is Abbey Mill Farm here simply as one of the beauties of the Donwell estate? To me it also seems to show very clearly all that Harriet has lost as a result of Emma's interference in her life.
I have the feeling that I am overlooking something important in all this. Any thoughts?
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