>Having A Good Clear-Out

>When this scrivener, dear reader (or perhaps you, yourself), starts searching about the manse for places to store some of the newly washed-in flotsam and jetsam of life, he finds that the items contained within the cupboards and bureaux have seemingly reproduced themselves while he was not looking – and without his entirely understanding why. It seemed only a few months ago that when he switched the closets over from cold to warm weather, that The Courtier managed to pull together two enormous parcels of clothing and other items to be donated to the Georgetown Homeless Ministries Center. Now he finds that doors and drawers are so filled to bursting that he will have to go through the process yet again. While there is always a fleeting sense of accomplishment after doing so, at the same time there is this nagging sense that material possessions have taken too great a hold on both one’s soul and residence.

And then of course, there are the great country houses.

Chatsworth House, the residence of the Dukes of Devonshire since the 16th century (although both the present building and their title is later), is a very great country house indeed. It boasts, inter alia, 126 rooms and a 1,000-acre garden designed by the great English landscape architect Capability Brown in the 18th century. It is filled with important Old Master paintings and decorative arts, and has been the location of many important events in English history. It is also, albeit on a considerably larger scale, similarly packed to the rafters with all sorts of odds and ends which the Ducal family no longer requires.

Naturally His Grace cannot set up a yard sale on the South Lawn to rid himself of such items. Well, of course he could, but this would be something of an awkward undertaking, to say the least. Instead, more than 20,000 items are being put up for auction by Sotheby’s from October 5th-7th; interested bidders can request a catalogue here, or purchase one by attending the preview at Chatsworth House between October 1st-4th. One imagines that the resulting volume will be the size of a city telephone directory, and an interesting reference work in and of itself.

Among the many items to be offered for bid, that reproduced below is particularly striking. William Cavendish, the 6th Duke of Devonshire, served as the British Ambassador to the Russian Imperial Court between 1826-1827, and the sale will include the Regency-style sleigh which the Duke used during his tenure in St. Petersburg. A sale estimate of £2,000-3,000 is certainly reasonable for such a beautiful piece of workmanship, and The Courtier’s more northerly-based readers ought to consider this as a highly useful item for mushing through the snows of Scandinavia, the prairie provinces, etc. And admittedly: who does not want to own a magnificent sleigh, practical or not?

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