It is difficult to give an effective summary of my slide-illustrated talk without the pictures and maps that accompanied it. Suffice it to say that Elizabeth Bennet and the Gardiners’ journey to Pemberley and tour of the house and grounds closely resembles what would have been encountered in 1812 (and is still encountered) in a tour of Chatsworth House and Park, and palatial seat of the Dukes of Devonshire in Derbyshire. Indeed, Jane Austen’s mentioning the town of Bakewell, the usual starting point for tours of Chatsworth, is strong prima facie evidence that she intended Pemberley to be identified as Chatsworth. Incidentally, Bakewell is not, as some have argued, a slip by Jane Austen for the fictitious “Lambton”: a careful reading of the novel leaves no doubt that they are different places. Indeed, “Lambton” may stand for the town of Brampton (now Old Brampton), five miles from Chatsworth in the direction of Chesterfield.
Instead of taking the direct route (now the A619) from Bakewell to Brampton, via Baslow, the travellers take a route not “more than a mile or two” longer in order to see the famous beauty spot – that is, they take what is now the A6 south to Rowsley, and then the B6012 north through Beeley and the park, still the best approach to Chatsworth. “They turned in at the lodge” – Beeley Lodge, still there. “They entered it [the park] at one of its lowest points”: since the terrain of the park follows the course of the River Derwent, flowing north to south, the southern entrance to the park is its lowest point. “They gradually ascended for half-a-mile”: after the B6012 enters the park, it rises 150 feet in one half-mile. They “then found themselves at the top of a considerable eminence, where the wood ceased,” and Pemberley came into view across the valley. This “eminence,” on the 500-foot level, still provides a magnificent first view of Chatsworth.
They descend, cross the bridge built by James Paine in 1762, and are shown round the house, where they view sights still part of the normal tour of Chatsworth – the “great stairs,” the “spacious lobby above,” the picture gallery (now the library). They are first taken to a “dining room” – easily identified in the floor plan of Chatsworth as the former “lower dining room” – and Elizabeth views the route over which they had come – “the hill, crowned with wood, from which they had descended … the river, the trees scattered on its banks, and the winding of the valley.” This is exactly what one still sees from this room. The travellers then leave the house for a tour of the grounds. They walk along the east side of the river, follow a path up into the hills, descend to Beeley Bridge, cross it, and return to the house along the west bank of the river. This route can still be easily followed on the Ordnance Survey map of the area (or indeed on the actual ground). The later view from the “saloon” in the north-east angle of the house – probably the present “ante-library” – shows the oaks and Spanish chestnuts that are still there. In addition, there are remarkable resemblances between Fitzwilliam Darcy and the actual owner of Chatsworth in 1812, the young, handsome, unmarried Spencer Cavendish, sixth Duke of Devonshire, the most eligible bachelor in England, who even had a sister named Georgiana.
The identification of Pemberley with Chatsworth has been made before, in local tourist publicity at Bakewell, with some ludicrous additions, which Elizabeth Jenkins has properly criticized. However, the baby – the astonishingly close correspondence of the topography of Pemberley to that of Chatsworth – should not be thrown out with the bathwater. I am preparing a detailed and fully documented article in support of the identification. There is at least one stumbling block to be got over: as Miss Jenkins rightly argues, Darcy’s annual income of £10,000 is far too small to maintain a princely estate like Chatsworth; indeed, the sixth Duke’s was at least thirteen times that. I think I can explain this discrepancy, but I’ll leave it as a little puzzle for members of the JASNA to try their hands at.