The Rise of the Nouveaux Riches: Style and Status in Victorian and Edwardian Architecture

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9780719560507: The Rise of the Nouveaux Riches: Style and Status in Victorian and Edwardian Architecture
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. 1999 rep, crease to front cover clean bright copy

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From Kirkus Reviews:

Mordaunt Crook, historian of British building (U. of London), takes a sociological approach to the houses of rich Victorians and Edwardians who rose to the beau monde without the decided advantages of ancient family lineage (see Trollope, Disraeli, or Ruskin). Wealth earned after the Industrial Revolution made the arriviste a gentleman, the parvenu gentry. (The subject calls for much French.) Forget primogeniture or entailment as keys to status. These newly minted grandees simply built or refurbished country seats, town houses, and shooting boxes on a monumental scale. Columned and crenelated, gaudy Palladian or French style, the huge buildings were massively ugly, and universally scorned by the Establishment. In his catalogue of these heaps, Mordaunt Crook adopts the same attitude, sniffing discreetly at their proprietors as well. Name after name, each linked with house and source of money, passes before the bemused reader. The parade includes millionaire brewers, financiers, and railroaders, as well as the malted milk magnate, the funerary crepe king, the sewing thread tycoon, the guano czar, and the inventor of the sugar cube. As they were at the time, affluent Jews are especially noted, from Barney Barnato to the Sassoons and their ilk. Nor does the roll call neglect the Crawshays of Cyfartha, Sir Algernon Borthwick, or ``Walsinghamthe man who shot 1,070 grouse in a single day at Blubberhouse Moor in 1888,together with the rest of Debrett's, and their clubs, yachts, sporting rituals, and profitable marriages. It would all be very Merchant-Ivory or, more likely, very Gilbert and Sullivan if (despite rare shafts like ``Louis Chintz decor'' or blue in tooth and claw'') it weren't so soporific, especially for Americans who might not be so willing to tut-tut over the excesses of new money. How many, after all, would mind having Bill Gates' new digs? Sporadically ironic, generally tedious embroidery makes a dull job of a potentially lively subject. (134 b&w photos). -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

This is an account of how the new men of industry and finance in the 19th and early 20th centuries turned their miraculous wealth into architecture and, by extension, social standing. Along the pleasing if winding and anecdotal way, veteran British architectural historian Crook makes some fascinating observations about the efforts of the nouveaux riches to use English country houses, Lake District villas and London townhouses to build their way into social and political power. He also shows how it was not the nouveaux riches who pioneered the Gothic, Tudor or Jacobean revival styles, but the old landed aristocracy. The newly rich looked further back, to the Classical vocabulary, to find a style that suited their aims. Finally, he argues that the early 20th century brought a "democratization of wealth" as the small club of British aristocracy was redefined as a "self-renewing plutocracy." Despite these suggestive findings, the effect of the study as a whole is disappointing. Readers interested in social history will find little beyond the sources of various families' wealth and the names of their architects; readers seeking a careful look into the design and life of the homes of the nouveaux riches will find only cursory descriptions (and small black and white photographs) of the homes and the styles in which they were cloaked. Given the current creation of a new generation of nouveaux riches with its own approaches to philanthropy and architectural patronage, Crook's exploration of how last century's millionaires constructed their ideals is attractive reading. But it may prove more useful for its footnotes than for its text. 81 pages of photos. (Dec.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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