In a comment on the previous post Courtney Barnes mentioned that the forlorn look of the orangery at Tyntesfield before its restoration reminded her of Miss Havisham, the tragic figure created by Charles Dickens in Great Expectations. An heiress who was jilted at the altar, Miss Havisham refused to have anything changed in her large mansion from that day onward, allowing it to decay around her.
This in turn reminded me of William Bankes (1786-1855), who created the sumptuous interiors at Kingston Lacy in Dorset: not because he tried to stop the clock, but because he was a kind of ‘anti-Havisham’, creating a beautiful house without actually being there.
Bankes was gay, and this was at a time when homosexuals were being increasingly persecuted in Britain. After one encounter too many with a guardsman in Green Park he was forced to flee the country. But he continued to develop the interiors at Kingston Lacy by sending back works of art and furnishings that he had purchased and commissioned in Italy, accompanied by detailed instructions on how they should be installed.
There is something not only very poignant but also rather poetic and intellectually fascinating about such a project of creating a Gesamtkunstwerk like Kingston Lacy entirely in the mind’s eye.
Bankes’s fastidious and connoisseurial imagination clearly enabled him to visualise the end result, but at that same time that imagination must have made it especially painful not being able to inhabit the actual house.
There are indications that Bankes may have visted Kingston Lacy in secret towards the end of his life, which presents yet another poignant image, of the exile returning briefly to gaze at his creation before rushing off again.