Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Baffled by Byron's Taste

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Baffled by Byron's Taste

Article excerpt


HARTWELL House is in the Relais and Chteaux guide, the crEme de la creme of hotel books. It is a part-Jacobean, part-Georgian stately home, in which Louis XVIII lived while in exile. When he returned to France, Byron wrote: "Why wouldst thou leave calm Hartwell's green abode ...

Apician table and Horatian ode?"

As a lover of history and an admirer of Byron's taste, I felt irresistibly drawn to the hotel. The brochure made Hartwell seem even more alluring, with its photograph of verdant gardens partially obscuring a house bathed in sunlight.

I decided to take my mother as a treat. As we drove up the gravel drive, our weary urban spirits were uplifted by sloping grounds and a crystalline river.

At the sight of the house, however, my mood was dampened. Even under blue skies it looked less welcoming than in the photograph. I found the faAade surprisingly darker than in the brochure.

Lovers of Jacobean architecture, indeed, many people, will do high kicks through its gargantuan front door, but as someone drawn to light and classicism, I found the faAade depressing. However, the Georgian rooms were exuberant. One drawing room in particular was a masterpiece of the delicate late 18th century style that makes the viewer feel that he or she has risen to the heavens.

The spa, too, with an indoor pool and beauty salon, was a cheering thing only 47 miles from London.

Feeling too tired to take advantage of its delights, however, we asked to be shown to our bedroom.

My historical musings were rudely interrupted by the sight of a Corby trouser press. Nor were the beds pleasing, aesthetically or otherwise.

The duvet covers were synthetic. On the underside of one I spotted small brown stains, while a corner had been torn revealing the stuffing. For two people, the bathroom was cramped.

A proliferation of notices told guests what not to do. One forbade us from "soaking" the bathroom floor with water. …

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