" 'You reside in Devonshire, I think,' was his next observation, 'in a cottage near Dawlish'.
Elinor set him to right as to it's situation, and it seemed rather surprising to him that anyone could live in Devonshire without living near Dawlish. He bestowed his hearty approbation, however, on their species of house.
'For my own part,' said he, 'I am excessively fond of a cottage, there is always so much comfort, so much elegance about them. ...I advise everybody who is going to build to build a cottage.' "
Robert Ferras discourses on the cottage as a dream home to Elinor.
Elinor's reserve may preserve her inner space- where experiences can be reflected on and feelings understood, judged, enjoyed or endured.
When Elinor reflected she was 'stronger alone', the private space of Barton cottage, though confined, allowed her to be 'at liberty to think and be wretched'. (ch. 22)
Romanticists who wished to obliterate the distinction between private and public may've endangered what they wish to celebrate- the pleasureable variety of and individuality of human feelings.
Sense may preserve Sensibility.
The spatial confinement of Barton Cottage should be recalled when Robert airly discourses on the pleasures of cottages.
Robert Ferras is fashionable. A feature of 1790s' taste was the Cult of Rusticity which had it's architectual expression in the cottage.
Such cottages were designed by architects. John Nash, one of the leading architects of the era built a little village of fanciful cottages round a green at Blaise Castle.
Robert's pleasure in a cottage was no doubt due to the amount of literture about them: one writer being James Malton, whose
' An Essay on British Cottage Architecture' was published in 1798 with a no. of plates showing dwellings for peasants and rustic retreats for gentlemen. All with small windows, and overhanging eaves.
Robert talks easily about an ideal rural retreat. Yet Barton Cottage is neither a retreat nor a whim; the Dashwoods have to live there with realities of it's narrow roooms 'and a kitchen that smokes'.
Nor is it picturesque; 'as a cottage it was defective, for the building was regular, the roof was not tiled,the shutters were were not painted green, nor were the walls covered in honeysuckle'. (ch.6)
I think Robert Ferras would've been quite disappointed with Barton Cottage. Neither so rustic nor a gentleman's retreat.
Barton may not accord with Romantic taste yet it has been a place where romance of a sort has blossomed. It is where Marieanne asked Willoughby about her favourite authors, Cowper, Scott and Pope, where they whispered together and sang.
Significantly, it is Willoughby who lived at Combe Magna who was eloquent on the cottage's delights.
'Not a stone must be added to it's walls, not an inch to it's size if my feelings are regarded.' (His feelings ?) He plays the man of sensibility when he learnt of Mrs Dashwood's plans for practical improvements.
The Dashwood ladies adapt to the cottage with their books and music, of course they also have a couple of servents.
Within the cottage, the geography of feeling is acutely felt- as within other houses.
Within the confined space of the cottage, Elinor managed to conduct both a private and a public life.
Jane Austen often visited museums and art galleries and may've viewed similar paintings of rustic cottages to Gainsborough's pictures below. 'Sensibility and the Cottage Door'.
Especially as she enjoyed the picturesque; though gently mocked it's excesses.
I doubt Robert Ferras had these rustic cottages in mind for a fashionable rural retreat though Marieanne may have found them charming.
Please scroll upwards till 'top of page' with Gainsborough painting. ( It wouldn't link !).