'The Heir', written in 1922 by Vita Sackville-West, is a story that has haunted me since reading it two weeks ago. I have a love of stories where someone inherits a country house; in many of those stories it is often a poor, orphaned young woman, like in Mary Stewart's 'Thornyhold', but that is not the case in this one, as the main character is a man, though not at all wealthy.
On the death of an aunt, Peregrine Chase (who works in an insurance company in the city of Wolverhampton) inherits an unspoilt, romantic Elizabethan manor house, with moat and lush gardens and various properties rented out to farm workers and such. At first it is assumed that he will want to just sell up right away, as there is much debt; and indeed he feels that he would be better to just rid himself of the place and the responsibility, but after spending more and more time there, and more and more time around the locals who immediately accept him as the lord of the manor, he undergoes a change and something hidden awakens inside. The house and landscape seem to almost be living characters, such is the prominence of their presence, their romantic atmosphere. The summer air seems to exert a sweet and fragrant allure, irresistibly luring him under their spell.
There is much in this that seems to reflect some of Vita Sackville-West's deep love for her childhood home of Knole, which she had to leave due to it being inherited by a relative, and which, I gather, she never got over; in her soul, Knole belonged to her. I was rather captivated reading this dreamy little, beautifully written book, and worried and anxious right before the end. I like to imagine what could have happened after it, I like to think that Peregrine found love and married a nice country girl.
|The Rose Garden, Balcaskie by George Samuel Elgood|