WALTHAM, Mass. - Ever wonder what a Jane Austen heroine like Lizzie Bennet felt during a dinner party at a grand country estate?
Ever wonder what a Jane Austen heroine like Lizzie Bennet felt during a dinner party at a grand country estate?
Enjoy a moonlit evening amid 19th century splendor at Gore Place in Waltham and see for yourself. You just might end up exchanging smoldering glances with a fabulous catch like Mr. Darcy.
No matter what, visitors will see how one of the Bay State's great families lived in their fabulous mansion after returning from an eight-year stay in England, about the time Austen was writing "Pride and Prejudice."
Starting at 6:30 p.m. Friday, costumed guides will escort visitors on "Jane Austen by Moonlight: A Full Moon Tour of the Gore Place Mansion."
Executive Director Susan Robertson designed the tour to use the house's rich history to illuminate the 19th century world of Austen's popular novels.
An avid reader, she hopes the literary tour encourages new visitors and reminds old friends to enjoy a house rich in history.
"If Jane Austen came to Gore Place she would've instantly felt comfortable in this home," she said. "People who enjoy her novels will find them more meaningful once they've seen the house."
Often described as the "Monticello of the North," the Gore house is one of New England's most elegantly furnished and best-preserved Federal era mansions. Full moon tours are held every month. Throughout the evening, guide Prentice Crosier will lead guests in small groups through the 20-room home built by Christopher Gore in 1806 after a fire destroyed an earlier building.
Depending on the number of visitors, Robertson, Michelle Caruso and program director Thom Roach are also prepared to lead tours.
The Bay State's seventh governor, Gore used the house as his summer residence where he entertained luminaries including Daniel Webster, James Madison and the Marquis de Lafayette.
Using a script written by Robertson, guides will read passages from Austen's books and from the Gore family archives that cast light on country life on both sides of the Atlantic.
For example, in the great hall guides will read from "Pride and Prejudice": "They were admitted into the hall ... As they passed into other rooms ... from every window there were beauties to be seen. The rooms were lofty and handsome and their furniture suitable to the fortune of their proprietor; but Elizabeth saw with admiration of his taste, that it was neither gaudy nor uselessly fine; with less of splendor and more real elegance."
The tour includes stops in the house's lobby, great hall, dining parlor, billiard room, library, bathing chamber, drawing room, breakfast parlor, servants' chambers, upstairs chambers and other rooms. It concludes with light refreshments in the laundry room.
Of Austen's six novels, Robertson said "Mansfield Park" from 1814 provides the most passages that suggest how various rooms in mansions like the Gore House were used.
Roach expressed hopes visitors might "imagine themselves as our guests" and wear clothes reminiscent of 19th century dress in keeping with the tour's theme. "The more fun people can have the better," he said.
While they are not known to have met, Gore and his wife, Rebecca, lived in England while Austen was at the height of her creative powers.
Born in 1775, Austen died at the age of 41 in 1817 from unknown causes. A successful merchant and lawyer, Gore lived in England from 1796 to 1804 after President Washington appointed him to a commission settling claims for ships seized or destroyed by Britain during the Revolutionary War.
"While in England, the Gores would've visited country manor houses just like the ones Jane Austen wrote about," said Roach.
Guides will encourage visitors to help solve the "puzzle" about how the principal rooms in the Gore house were used, he said.
"Our big question is how was this house used," said Roach. "This is a chance for our guests to share their speculations."
These days, Roach said visitors' No. 1 question is whether the Gores of Massachusetts were related to former Vice President Al Gore. "We've traced back Christopher Gore's lineage to the 15th century in England and have found no connection to Al Gore's family line," he said.
Crosier, who has served as a guide for 10 years, observed the Gore family and Austen enjoyed similarly comfortable lifestyles on country estates during England's Regency period. "Most of the action in her novels took place in that environment," he said.
During the tour, Crosier plans to point out similarities between how the Gores dressed and furnished their home with their social counterparts in England.
And he likes to remind visitors early 19th century people on both sides of the Atlantic regarded informed and witty conversation as an important social skill as can be seen in most Austen novels. "I guess the emphasis on interesting conversation was one of their big things. Lively conversation was a form of entertainment," said Crosier. "After all, they didn't live in the time of electronic media."
Crosier said he sometimes dissuades visitors from the mistaken belief that early 19th century life "was more primitive than it really was."
The Gore house had an early version of a flush toilet and a shower to relieve Christopher Gore's arthritis, he said. Neither article can be seen today.
Crosier said one of his job's challenges is helping visitors understand that Gore Place, which is only 10 minutes from downtown Waltham, was originally built in a rural part of town like the estates Austen wrote about.
"I think people should keep in mind the setting for a Jane Austen country estate. I think it's difficult for (Gore Place) visitors to imagine that back then this wasn't in the suburbs but a grand home in the real countryside."
Gore Place is located at 52 Gore St., Waltham, just off Rte. 20, Main Street, near the Waltham/Watertown line.
Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and the tour begins at 7 p.m. Admission is $12; $8 for children. WGBH and AAA discounts available.
For more information about Full Moon tours or to reserve tickets, contact Thom Roach at 781-894-2798, ext. 12, or visit the Web site, www.Goreplace.org.