Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Lamb House

From the Times Online.

You might think a yearly rental fee of £11,500 for the grand Georgian former home of Henry James in Rye, East Sussex, is something of a bargain – but tenancy of Grade II*-listed Lamb House isn’t simply a matter of reclining in the oak-panelled parlour and contemplating the American-born writer’s work.

Living there means taking on responsibilities that include greeting at least 7,000 members of the general public a year, on two afternoons a week between March and October – James fans descend on the house, at the top of cobbled West Street, in droves – as well as taking the entrance money and keeping records of visitor numbers. You’ll also need to be well acquainted with the writer’s life and works: many of your visitors will be James scholars from across the Atlantic.

The four-storey, brick-fronted five-bedroom house was donated to the National Trust in 1948 by the widow of James’s nephew and heir, “as a symbol of ties that unite the British and American peoples”, and became part of the trust’s long-term tenancy scheme. The most recent occupants, Sarah Philo, 30, and her boyfriend, John Senior, 59, both educational writers, moved out two weeks ago, and it is now in need of tenants.

. . .

In the oak-panelled parlour, you can stand on the rug that Edith Wharton – James’s dazzling protégée, who later outstripped him in popularity – once trod, and admire his library of first editions.

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