that he or she knows the relevant history. The picture of Locke that emerges is of a private, clever, careful, occasionally timid man but with essentially generous intellectual attitudes, as his writings on toleration and government show. In this connection he figures as the architect of liberalism, and as a high priest of empiricism in philosophy and the natural sciences. It is these two aspects of his work which place him so high in the chronicles of the modern Western mind. No doubt some critics of Woolhouse’s biography will say that it is too uniformly chronological, giving as many pages to the less eventful stretches of Locke’s life as to the significant parts; he gives too much of the wrong kind of detail – numbers of shirts packed in the luggage, having a hat cleaned – when the pages given to this ought instead to have been reserved for further detail on ideas, events and people, for example on the allegation that much of Locke’s epistemology in the Essaycame (some say, plagiarised) directly from Hobbes, and on his posthumous reputation in France. And they will say that the exclusive focus on the years between Locke’s birth and death leaves out any account of the larger story, which is Locke’s influence on what happened after his death, in the impact of his writings on the Enlightenment and beyond, this being a major – perhaps the major – part of his biography. It has to be conceded that such critics will have a point. But with the exception of the last charge I think Woolhouse merits defence, because his thorough relation of the minutiae of Locke’s life – an almost daily account, which Woolhouse has painstakingly reconstructed from every shred of available evidence – results in a richly textured portrait that brings the quotidian realities of life in the late seventeenth century into clear outline. That sense of lived quality – Locke painfully and asthmatically choking in the London smog; the rain and cold wind of summer in Essex – is one of the services biography is required to do, for a life is not just a list of publications and an itinerary of travels. Nor is it a criticism that Woolhouse is so cautious in his surmises about the degree to which Locke was party to the conspiracies that deposed James II and brought William and Mary to the throne, and about Locke’s private life, which on a couple of occasions brought him into the orbit of marital possibilities, and invited a contemporary charge of living in a méénage àà trois. Woolhouse’s caution is squarely based on the lack of conclusiveness in the evidence; but we can make up our own minds on the basis of what he tells us. This is the definitive Locke biography. Short of a surprising cache of papers coming to light there will not be need of another, unless it aims to argue an interpretation of Locke’s doings that Woolhouse himself has not found the evidence to support. To order this book at £20, see LR Bookshop on page 37
Atoncechillinganddeliriously funny, Harold Pinter’s The Hothouse was written in 1958 just before The Caretaker.
‘Arichveinofblackcomedy... abeautifullyactedproduction.’ Independent
JOHNMARTINROBINSON BY RELIGIOUS DESIGN
GOD’S ARCHITECT: PUGINANDTHE BUILDINGOFROMANTICBRITAIN
★By Rosemary Hill (Allen Lane / The Penguin Press 601pp £30)
Pugin was an astonishing figure, and the most astonishing thing about him, considering the scale of his achievement, was the shortness of his life. By the time he was twentyone he had been shipwrecked, bankrupted and widowed. He then became an architect, using his youthful training as draughtsman and stage designer to recreate the Middle Ages. In the next nineteen years, he transformed British architecture, became a Catholic, designed twenty-two churches, three cathedrals, numerous houses, a Cistercian monastery and the interior of the Palace of Westminster – down to inkwells and coat stands. Even by the standards of Victorian achievers, his was a barely credible story. Then he died insane, thrice married, disillusioned, and aged only forty. Nobody was more disappointed by Pugin than Pugin himself. ‘Those who have found themselves at his churches in Dudley or Stockton on a winter afternoon will fully sympathise’, writes Rosemary Hill. And yet how brilliant, too, in the House of Lords or St Giles’s, Cheadle. It is a riveting story and has attracted many biographers, but none has captured so well the fully-rounded Pugin – his family background, his Catholicism, his architecture, his role as a visionary and polemicist – until now. This book is by far the best biography of Pugin. It is packed with new information, drawn from unpublished letters and documents. Moreover it is sympathetically and wittily written, full of insight and delightful turns of phrase – ‘as a pattern designer Pugin had a Mozartian facility’; he lived ‘a long life in a short time’; he fell in love ‘easily and often, somewhat more often than was in accordance with his ideal of Christian married life’. Pugin’s career is firmly rooted in his family background, as the precocious, much-loved and spoilt son of an artistic family with French connections on his father’s side and established landed cousinage on his mother’s. Hill has produced here many new records about Pugin’s antecedents and his upbringing in Islington and Bloomsbury. His father was of a French Swiss family descended from mercenary soldiers and had come to England from Paris at the Revolution. His mother was a Welby, daughter of a lawyer related to the Welbys of Denton in Lincolnshire. His childhood was pampered, affectionate, and responsible for his precociousness, his self-confidence, and his natural authority, but also for a lifelong innocence and vulnerability.
Pugin senior was an artist and engraver who also ran a drawing school in the family home. Pugin learnt more from his father than from his brief schooling at Christ’s Hospital, which he found ‘dry’ – a Pugin term for things he did not like. At the age of fifteen, he designed the furniture for the gothic rooms at Windsor Castle for George IV’s decorators, Morel & Seddon, and then designed stage scenery. He married his first wife, Ann, as a teenager but she, and his parents, died when he was twenty-one, and this sad change of life sent him into new streams, towards the interrelated worlds of Catholicism and Gothic Revival architecture which everybody now recognises as ‘Puginian’. He made the decision in twelve months, which took Newman twelve years. He wrote to his friend Osmund, the Salisbury builder: ‘I can assure you after a most close and impartial investigation, I feel perfectly convinced the Roman Catholick Church is the only true one – and the only one in which the grand sublime style of church architecture can ever be restored.’ The consequences are visible in history. The greatness of Pugin, as this book so well demonstrates, was however not merely architectural. His vision was not just about buildings but was social. He pointed to the Middle Ages as a model for architecture but also for society, for a coherent Christian civic order where the poor and sick were cared for and fed, and children educated. He had been born in the Georgian Age, ‘the England of Miss Austen’, and in the 1830s and 1840s saw the world transformed by railways and Free Trade. His response was his famous polemical publication Contrasts. St Cross Winchester was better than the Workhouse. All this prefigured Ruskin and William Morris, and much that was good in late nineteenthcentury and early twentieth-century England, as well as setting the main architectural trend of the Victorian era. Looking back from an England with a huge, uneducated underclass, hideous cities and moral and social breakdown, Pugin’s response is hauntingly relevant. That, too, makes this perceptive and brilliant biography particularly worth reading. Pugin himself saw no distinction between his life and art. His importance is that he inspired, transformed and reinvigorated architecture and design, and stimulated social views that led in time both to the preservation of historic buildings and towards the Welfare State. This book depicts the whole man – ‘tremendously hearty’ yet dejected, writer, architect, Catholic. It will not easily be superseded. To order this book at £20, see LR Bookshop on page 37
LITERARY REVIEW August 2007