Lady A~ enlightens readers of the history behind the Houses and Homes of Merits and Mercenaries
In Residence: Mr. (William) Halford, Mr. Edward Halford.
Summer House-party Guests: Mr. & Mrs. James Falstead, Miss Maria Beckett and Mr. John Danbury.
Just as there are two opposing ‘camps’ of characters in Merits and Mercenaries, representing two different sets of values, there are also two types of residence that uphold a similar divide. As detailed upon our marvelous Hampshire Map (drawn so skillfully by our gloriously talented neighborhood artiste, Ms. Bell), the houses and homes of this, my first Bath Novel, are physical representations of their owners’ mental and moral merits or demerits. As each of the different fonts, under each of the abodes on our map, aesthetically indicate there is something distinctively different about the residential realms of their disparate meritocratic and mercenary ‘keepers’.
Grander, Greener, Greater
Halford Manor is perhaps the most distinctive in its meritocratic ‘class’. Owned and managed by just and steady landlords over a goodly length of time, this house is a truly a Home. Clearly an ancestral seat of some consequence, it is also a true and undisguised reflection of its present owner’s seat of consciousness. As the standard bearer of the Halfords’ history of responsible landownership, William has elegantly and tastefully refurbished his family home to reflect, in measure, his own ‘well-disciplined restraint’ and the historic provenance supporting the ‘House of Halford’. In this way, the Manor not only becomes a monumental symbol of the Regency improvement trend (at its best) in Merits and Mercenaries, but it is also a physical monument of my hero’s noble character, moral rectitude and his pride in ‘dynasty’.
William has considered the true weight, influence and significance of his home’s history as both a custodian and a ‘reformer’. Not only has he restored Halford Manor ‘to all of its former glory’, but it is also ‘fitted up with every comfort of modern advancement’; suggesting that, as a contemporary landowner, he clearly apprehends the value of history as reflected in the light of progress. Certainly, as becomes evident, he is not wanting to wipe away everything ‘old’ with all things ‘new’, but rather maintains the worth of tradition by renewing it with fitting relevance.
But for all of William’s ‘just’ attention and meritorious actions, there appears to be something yet impeding the development of his character and it reflects back to the nature that has been nurtured in such a home, groomed (almost too perfectly there) as his father’s scion. None of the ‘idiosyncratic mementos’ that reveal the ‘oddities, or otherwise’ of the possessor’s character exists in this stylish residence, suggesting that William’s Achilles’ heel is in play, even amidst the stately comfort of his domestic milieu. That his ‘well-disciplined restraint’ is too ‘consummate in its purity’ suggests that somewhere there might exist an indiscernible imperfection that has been too-expertly ‘glossed over’ by rigid tradition and regime, in a seemingly unimpeachable character, in an apparently impeccable household.
This representation of William’s home as the ‘mirror image’ of the seat of his reason and emotion is, further, one of the earliest indicators that ‘something’ is indeed amiss with my foremost meritocrat. Just how this extends to the rest of the novel’s main players within and beyond Halford Manor, is what the house, as a home, begins to tellingly explore. Inside its great halls and impenetrable walls does the foreboding question of its owner’s unfathomable ‘flaw’ properly arise. It starts to reveal the intriguing ‘chink’ in both Halford’s ‘sense and sensibility’, which then extends to his public and private persona in both the town and country realms. And from such places of disparate dichotomies, does such inscrutable fault, then, begin to gradually and provocatively unveil the story’s pivotal and marvelously complex ‘love-triangle’ of rival values.
As the curtain lifts enigmatically over this stage first set in Halford Manor, and as the plot subsequently progresses through its grand chambers and lobbies, and out into the manor grounds and ‘wilder hinterland’ beyond, and thence to the London; ever more is steadily laid bare of my hero’s struggle of self-discovery. As William strives to ‘find himself’, amidst the scenes of idyll and metropolis, each of these stage sets are themselves adapting to the winds of ‘change’— prevailing forces of the English Regency, which begin to blow perversely, and the very vagaries of the period that Jane Austen so subtly and masterfully captured in all of her (finished and unfinished) adult work.
Discover for yourselves what such edifices as Halford Manor can further reveal of friend and foe alike.
PURCHASE & POSSESS the novel NEW edition of M&M.