“Beautiful and ancient buildings which recall the life and customs of the past,” Lord Curzon wrote in his will, “are not only historical documents of supreme value but are part of the spiritual and aesthetic heritage of a nation, imbuing it with reverence and educating its taste.”
“To compare such a sentence with any utterance of any contemporary politician,” John Martin Robinson writes in The Spectator, “is shattering evidence of the absolute decline of English civilisation.” He’s reviewing a new book by Amicia de Moubray—I know, right?—on twentieth-century castles in Britain, which apparently includes major restorations of the kind that Curzon carried out (and bequeathed to the nation: not just Bodiam Castle, above, but Tattershall Castle in Lincolnshire too) as well as more recently-constructed piles like Corrour Lodge, built at the turn of the twenty-first century at the eastern end of Loch Ossian.
Curzon had cut his preservationist teeth as Viceroy of India—the Taj Mahal was one of the buildings he had restored—and the legislation he introduced there to protect historic buildings became the model for similar legislation in Britain. Unsurprisingly, the Spectator’s reviewer is less interested in Curzon’s inaction in the face of a famine that killed at least a million people; but Nehru himself praised Curzon “because he restored all that was beautiful in India.”
Bodiam Castle, East Sussex
(c) Antony McCallum, used under a Creative Commons licence
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