National Geographic : 1935 Apr
SUMMERING IN AN ENGLISH COTTAGE* Quiet and Loveliness Invite Contemplation in the Extra "Room," the Garden of the Thatched House BY HELEN CHURCHILL CANDEE AUTHOR OF "LIFE'S PATTERN ON THE RIVIERA," IN THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE WE ARE a sizable crowd, we who dream of summering in England in a quaint vine-clad house "hundreds of years old, my dear." The big houses of the age of house parties, houses which can lock off one or two wings without missing the 20 or 30 rooms, are not wanted much now. The tale of their dimin ishing glory is a sad one; we will not review it. They represented a romantic phase of English life, and although most of them are now clubhouses, boarding schools, or con vents, they conjure sentimental thoughts of the life once led there. Our personal dreams are not of these. What the American of adventurous spirit asks of England for the summer is a smallish house, even a cottage. But it must be under a style name like Tudor, or more romanti cally Elizabethan, or, perhaps, Queen Anne and the Georgian, either late or early. Mayfair is full of fascinating real-estate offices, most of them seeming like private homes, with their open fires, Chippendale chairs, and bookcase desks. MUCH IS IN THE NAME "Mr. Upperton and Partners" is the di verting and reticent sign over the door of one of these. Lovely way of expressing it; Upperton, Stoggs, Chait and Jones is out done by the dignity of "and Partners." Any of these gentlemen can teach the eager American client new uses of English words and phrases in real-estate jargon, whether or not he offers the ideal ancient house and romantic garden. And it is here that we learn that the rent of unfur nished houses is denoted in pounds sterling, while the furnished house smartly demands guineas-an extra shilling on each pound. * See, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, "A Vacation in a Fifteenth-Century English Manor House," by George Alden Sanford, May, 1928; "Vagabonding in England," by John McWilliams, March, 1934; "England's Sun Trap Isle of Wight," by J. R. Hildebrand, January, 1935; "Down Devon Lanes," by Herbert Corey, May, 1929; "Through the Heart of England in a Canadian Canoe," by R. J. Evans, May, 1922; etc., etc. We also learn that Company's water "laid on" merely means that domestic water flows from taps instead of being pumped up from well or cistern. Indeed, one must not vis ibly shudder to learn that for 200 years houses have been occupied by gentry, mod ern smart people among them, who have had no running water, no lights except kerosene lamps, no telephone. Incredible! Without the tireless English servant, the English gentry must have died out for lack of comforts. THE QUESTION OF "DILAPIDATIONS" It was the Partners who dropped odd words from time to time, and from whom we were obliged to ask their meaning. One of the Partners asked a strange question. "Are you prepared to pay dilapidations?" It was disconcerting. "But we don't want a house that is actu ally in a state of decay." The Partner patiently explained that any sort of damage or breakage must be re stored by the tenant. Let me leap ahead of the story and say that my bill for dilapi dations was four shillings, about one dollar, for a flower holder. But it often happens that one must assume the dilapidations of the previous tenant, which may include re pairs and decorations of importance. So it is a word to excite suspicion. We also learned another phrase. We selected a house which we thought a per fect gem, only to be told that it was not available for "instant possession." The present tenant had the place for four years longer. Rent days are not the prosaic first of the month. They come four times a year. Their names are full of suggestion; Lady Day, Midsummer, Michaelmas, Christmas. It makes a romantic pleasure of paying rent. Our Lady seems the spiritual recipient of the first; Midsummer has its night of Shakespeare's Dream; at Michaelmas life's ways are brightened with purple daisies; and at Christmas, is not everyone glad to be loving and giving?