In The Poetics of Space, Gaston Bachelard relates an anecdote about the dramatist and poet Jean-Francois Ducis. Apparently, at the age of seventy, having wanted a country house all of his life, Ducis decided to construct one for himself in his imagination. He even went so far as to write poems about this place, and he is said to have taken pleasure in it as if it actually existed.
I have myself imagined houses in this way more than once, have dreamed of them also, until I could find my way through their rooms and their corridors as well as my own home. The houses of my imagination are always stone, old stone, and they are always larger within than they are without. When they are approached from the road, they seem the merest cottages, with small lighted windows and thatched roofs, but their doors always open onto vastness, long hallways and stretching staircases, dark corners and grand halls. There are always gardens around them and libraries within them. They are always warmed by fireplaces and lit by candles. Their centre is always a broad, rough, wooden, kitchen table.
I found many of these elements in Bachelard’s description of the home, just as I have found them in other houses in other books over the years: Vane’s house in George MacDonald’s Lilith, Badger’s house in Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, the professor’s house in C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the Athelny house in Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage, among others. These houses resonate with the houses of my imagination. They are the houses where I feel at home.