Imagining the House

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.

  1. Curtis said:

    Are these inspirations and imaginings also contributors to the love of your present house, which seems to have much in alignment with what you seem to see as key to the house of you mind?

  2. Curtis,

    These imaginings would contribute to the love of any house where I lived, not because the physical house would be able to approximate the imagined house in reality, but because the physical house would take on its meaning from the imagined house. Though I have no table in my kitchen and no working fireplace, hough my gardens are just beginning, my library is scattered through several bedrooms, and I hardly ever use candles, this place where I live takes on the quality of my imagined house, at least for me, and this is part of what makes it home.

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