rejectomorph (flying_blind) wrote,

Vanished Worlds

Since I don't feel like reading, I have been looking at the color plates in a book titled The Cottage Homes of England by by Helen Allingham and Stewart Dick. I own a 1984 reprint of the original 1909 edition. The plates are romantic watercolors of the style popular in the early 20th century; rather pale colors, very slightly blurred lines, somewhat similar to the effect in advertising photographs of our own time when the photographer softens everything by putting a bit of petroleum jelly on the camera lens. The pictures look as though they were intended to seem nostalgic even when they were new.

Although they are pictures of houses, and a few of village streets or of fields of flowers, there is always a great deal of nature in them. The settings are as important as the structures. There are also people in most of them, and frequently animals as well, particularly cats. They convey an impression of a tranquil and idyllic life that must have aroused great longing in the Edwardian breast. Even in those years before western civilization dealt itself what may yet prove to have been a mortal blow in the form of the first world war, those who could afford to buy books were apparently nostalgic for what they imagined was a somehow superior way of life which had been lost.

I must admit that the allure of these scenes is great, even for this admirer of the city. Doves perched on thatch roofs, cats washing themselves on rough stoops, half-wild beds of flowers by inviting doorways, hedgerows, picket gates swinging open, cobbled lanes free of traffic, ancient trees shading half-timbered wall, translucent wisps of smoke rising from brick chimneys; I am drawn in to that vanished world which never truly existed outside the early modern imagination. Nostalgia was certainly one of the greatest inventions of the industrial age, and one which remains, to this day, very much a part of the public domain.

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