Robert Sackville-West: Inheritance II

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Waar daar voorheen ’n honderd en soms selfs meer as twee honderd mense op die landgoed gewoon het, is daar deesdae net dertig inwoners. Die onderhoudskoste is groot en die skuldlas van die eienaar het soms sulke afmetings aangeneem dat Knole verkoop en daarna aan die Sackvilles verhuur is. Of die eiendom is gesekwestreer en mettertyd met groot finansiële opoffering teruggekoop. Daar is ’n patroon in Knole se geskiedenis: "Periods of affluence alternating with austerity, residence with absenteeism, bursts of redecoration with decades of neglect" (p 110). Deur met ’n ryk vrou te trou, het dikwels geldelike nood verlig. Ierland is genoem "a country that is famous for furnishing rich widows with second husbands" (p 121). "Few people wou'd make a wife of a woman who had been the cast-off mistress of so many other men" (p 131). Van een Sackville is gesê: "He intended to marry the first heiress who would have him" (p 138). "Marriage was the single most important strategic decision a family made every generation" (p 76).

"How you capture the mood and concerns of a particular patch of the past depends entirely on what is left behind – the archives, portraits and monuments. But to a large extent, the survival of these scraps is a matter of chance. Some would have been destroyed by fire (the Great Fire of London destroyed Dorset House [die Sackvilles se stadswoning] and its family papers in 1666); others by ancestors in one of the great once-in-a-generation clear-outs. As a result, our vision of the past is skewed by the type of material that has been retained" (p 71).

"Edmund Burke [1729-1797] was absolutely right, Knole really is a grand repository of stuff: of statues and paintings, of scraps of paper, bills, letters, accounts, 'the succession of the several tastes of ages'. But the significance of these objects lies not just in the objects themselves, but also in the buried memories they recall, the fleeting moments, the fugitive figures" (p 141-142).

Talle vertrekke word nie gebruik nie en baie van hulle inhoud is onbekend en behoort in die meeste gevalle steeds aan die Sackvilles. Die Sackvilles is "a family obsessed with keys ... keys that might one day unlock no one knows which room, which chest or which moment in the house's secret history" (p 51). Die outeur het daarin geslaag om nie net baie besonderhede oor die Sackvilles te belig nie, maar ook interessante inligting oor bekendes as besoekers mee te deel en bowenal aan te toon hoe die geskiedenis van Knole oor eeue heen deur omstandighede, bv die tydgenootlike politiek, beïnvloed is. Volgende keer skryf ek oor ’n soortgelyke en boonop verwante landgoed, Sissinghurst.

Johannes Comestor

 

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