Standing Proof of the Degeneracy of Modern Times”: Architecture, Society, and the Medievalism of A. W. N. Pugin

  • Corinna M. Wagner

Abstract

Architect, artist, antiquary, designer, and critic A. W. N. Pugin was not always an agreeable man. In private and in public, he lashed out mercilessly, often venomously, at the “degraded” state of architecture, at contemporary culture, and at religious and political figures, past and present. “I as you know,” he stated unequivocally in one letter, “abominate the world & fashions & the emptiness of Society.”1 His personal correspondence catalogues the various religious denominations and political associations that he held responsible for the deplorable state of modern culture and society. Among them were Pagans, “hereticks,” infidels, “Mahometans,” Puritans, Calvinists, Methodists, Lutherans, Dissenters, deists, Baptists, “Westleyans,” Anglican “schismaticks,” and also rationalists, republicans, socialists, democrats, liberals, “Levellers,” and “revolutionary radicals.”2 As these competing sects “struggle for superiority,” they obliterate any semblance of cultural unity and religious concord, thus rendering the nation a house divided that must necessarily fall.3

Keywords

Europe Germinate Gall Smoke Dine 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    A. W. N. Pugin, The Collected Letters of A. W N. Pugin, vol. 2, ed. Margaret Belcher (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 379.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Pugin’s treatises and correspondence are littered with criticism of various sects and denominations. In just one example, he writes to register his disapproval of the practice of placing benches in churches, and comments contentiously that even “the Anglicans[,] schismaticks as they are, hereticks as they are have never dared to substitute a bench for a font. [S]uch an idea has only been put in force by the puritans & Calvinists” (Letters 1:310). The catalogue of examples I have given here are culled from A. W. N. Pugin, The Collected Letters of A.W.N. Pugin, vol. 1, ed. Margaret Belcher (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 169, 316, 261, 276, 336, 171, 310, and 41 and A. W. N. Pugin, Collected Letters, vol. 2, 92.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Benjamin Ferrey, Recollections of A. W N. Pugin and his Father, Augustus Pugin; With Notices of their Works (1862) (New York: Benjamin Blom, 1972), 142.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    A. W. N. Pugin, Contrasts: or, A Parallel between the Noble Edifices of the Middle Ages, and Corresponding Buildings of the Present Day; Shewing the Present Decay of Taste, 2nd ed. (1841) (Leicester and New York: Humanities Press, 1969), 42–43.Google Scholar
  5. 12.
    A. W. N. Pugin, An Apology for the Revival of Christian Architecture in England (1843) (London: John Weale, 1969), 50.Google Scholar
  6. 13.
    “Pugin’s Christian Architecture,” Artizan 4 (April 30, 1843): 90–91; “Our Library Table,” Athenœm (January 14, 1837): 32. To gain a sense of the heated debate that Pugin inspired and for a survey of the language of these articles see Margaret Belchers invaluable A. W. N. Pugin: An Annotated Critical Bibliography (London: Mansell, 1987).Google Scholar
  7. 15.
    [W. H. Leeds], “A Batch of Architects,” Fraser’s Magazine 15 (March 1837): 324–339, 329.Google Scholar
  8. 19.
    On Pugin’s religiosity: David Watkin, Morality and Architecture: The Development of a Theme in Architectural History and Theory fom the Gothic Revival to the Modern Movement (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), 3. See also Richard Davenport-Hines’s comment that Pugin was a nineteenth-century crusader who “sought salvation in gothic design” in his Gothic: Four Hundred Years of Excess, Horror, Evil and Ruin (London: 4th Estate, 1998), 223–224.Google Scholar
  9. On Pugin as a romantic: Roderick O’Donnell, “Pugin as a Church Architect,” in Pugin: A Gothic Passion, ed. Paul Atterbury and Clive Wainwright (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1994), 63–89, 64;Google Scholar
  10. A. L. Drummond, “Augustus Welby Pugin: Art and Vocation,” Church Quarterly Review 153 (July 1952): 335–349, 342.Google Scholar
  11. See also Megan Aldrich, “Gothic Sensibility: The Early Years of the Gothic Revival,” in A. W. N. Pugin: Master of Gothic Revival, ed. Paul Atterbury (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1995), 13–29, esp. 13–14.Google Scholar
  12. 23.
    A. W N. Pugin, The Present State of Ecclesiastical Architecture in England (1843) (Frome, Somerset: Butler and Tanner, 1969), 42.Google Scholar
  13. 25.
    As Kenneth Clarke puts it, until Pugin began writing his architectural treatises, style was not understood as “something which springs inevitably from a way of life,” in Raymond Williams, Culture and Society, 1780–1950 (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1971), 137.Google Scholar
  14. 70.
    Patrick R. M. Conner, “Pugin and Ruskin,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 41 (1978): 344–350, 349.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 73.
    Jeremy Bentham, “Panopticon; or The Inspection-House” (1787) The Panopticon Writings, ed. Miran Bozovic (London: Verso, 1995), 29–95.Google Scholar
  16. 74.
    Bentham, Panopticon, 39; See Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (New York: Vintage, 1995), 205.Google Scholar
  17. 81.
    Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991), 59.Google Scholar

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© Lorretta M. Holloway and Jennifer A. Palmgren 2005

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  • Corinna M. Wagner

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