chapter  10
Homes and Haunts: Austen’s and Mitford’s English Idylls
ByDeidre Lynch
Pages 12

Reflecting in 1928 on how best to engage the topic of women and fiction, Virginia Woolf from the outset prohibits one approach to cherishing books from the past: A Room of One’s Own certainly will not encompass, Woolf states, “a tribute to the Brontës and a sketch of Haworth Parsonage under snow.” The catalogue of exclusions that inaugurates A Room of One’s Own is, in fact, extensive, and Woolf also suggests a ban on “remarks” about Jane Austen as well as on “witticisms … about Miss Mitford.”1 But for the purposes of the present essay it is important that Woolf so quickly singles out for sneers the mode of paracanonical writing that the nineteenth century had dedicated to commemorating the so-called Homes and Haunts of the English authors. (“I should not mind,” Woolf declares in a subsequent passage, repeating her opening jibes, “if the homes and haunts of Mary Russell Mitford were closed to the public for a century at least.”)2 In this essay I am interested in the familiarity occasioning Woolf’s contempt, interested in what was commonplace about the numerous travelogues, topographical essays, picture albums, maps, and itineraries that sent readers on real and armchair travels through rural scenery that they were learning to re-see, in conformity with new protocols of cultural nationalism and of cultural heritage, as a “literary landscape.”