Jane Austen & the Chiltern Hills of Hertfordshire

"Darcy professed
a great curiosity
to see
the view from the Mount"

"I advise Mr. Darcy, and Lizzy, and Kitty," said Mrs. Bennet, "to walk to Oakham Mount this morning. It is a nice long walk, and Mr. Darcy has never seen the view."

"It may do very well for the others,'' replied Mr. Bingley; "but I am sure it will be too much for Kitty. Won't it, Kitty?'' Kitty owned that she had rather stay at home. Darcy professed a great curiosity to see the view from the Mount, and Elizabeth silently consented. As she went up stairs to get ready, Mrs. Bennet followed her, saying,

"I am quite sorry, Lizzy, that you should be forced to have that disagreeable man all to yourself. But I hope you will not mind it: it is all for Jane's sake, you know; and there is no occasion for talking to him, except just now and then. So, do not put yourself to inconvenience."

--chapter 59 of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Most reader's guides to Pride and Prejudice dismiss Oakham Mount as a mere imaginary location, ignoring the very real Hertfordshire geographical features that almost certainly inspired Jane Austen to create the prominence. Isolated heights, like the one that offered the hero and heroine of Pride and Prejudice a destination with a lovely pastoral view and a chance to speak privately, fringe the Chiltern Hills. These Marilyns command panoramic views of the Hertfordshire countryside divided by hedges, dabbed with groves, sprinkled with manors and villages, and bisected by lanes and streams. When Lizzy accompanied Darcy to Oakham Mount, the couple speak privately, at last, and enjoy the view.

The Chiltern Hills extend some 70 miles diagonally across parts of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, and Hertfordshire. The chalk hills rear up from Hertfordshire arching upward until they reach their highest point, Haddington Hill in Buckinghamsire, only to slope away again in Oxfordshire in the Thames Valley. The range of hills hold ancient high-and-dry trails known as the Icknield Way and the Ridgeway. Not surprisingly, considerable tracts of the area are now cared for by the National Trust and provide popular walking tours. No wonder Lizzy, having grown up in the area, was fond of walking and scenery.

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