From Publishers Weekly
"If I am lonely in a foreign country," confesses Woodward, director of Britain's Holburne Museum of Art, " I search for ruins." Great houses and haunted ones, ruins of antiquity and of modern wars, suburban remnants and monastic shells form his terrain in this erudite, brisk and invigorating walk through lost domains. "Ruins do not speak," says Woodward, "we speak for them." In this compact but capacious book, Woodward brings forth the voices of architects, diarists, sculptors, eccentrics, archeologists, even a boxer. Woodward himself is present, sometimes traveling, sometimes reading, but never as an intrusive presence. Although Byron may have felt "the air of Greece" made him a poet, Woodward is certain that it was "the clammy mists of a ruined English abbey" and the effects are present in his own heightened, engaging prose, which often finds literary ghosts among the stones. From Virginia Water in Surrey, the largest artificial ruin in Britain, to Ninfa ("the loveliest lost city in Europe") and the real life inspirations for the abodes of Miss Havisham, the Ushers and Ozymandias, Woodward ventures to Ephesus (where St. Paul preached) and the magnificently over-designed John Soane's Museum, London (where he served as curator). The Roman Coliseum morphs from terrifying entertainment arena to cow pasture and stone quarry to major tourist attraction visited by, among the many, Hawthorne and Hardy. If "[a] ruin is a dialogue between an incomplete reality and the imagination of the spectator," this book listens in intently.-- ruin is a dialogue between an incomplete reality and the imagination of the spectator," this book listens in intently.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
The ruins of majestic buildings, monuments, or colossal figures have long been objects of contemplation and sources of creative inspiration. They are reminders of the vulnerability of empire, the fragility of artistic endeavor, and the transience of human ambition. Woodward, director of the Holburne Museum of Art (Bath, England), visits the remains of the Roman Colosseum, deteriorated English abbeys and monasteries, neglected mansions of Cuban sugar barons, and the abandoned palaces of the Moorish princes of Sicily and the sultans of Zanzibar, charting the impact of such decay on the literature and art of the 16th to 20th centuries. As images, symbols, or motifs, they have informed the canvases of Piranesi and Constable, the poetry of Shelley ("Ozymandias") and Byron ("Childe Harold"), and the fiction of Poe ("Fall of the House of Usher"), to cite only some of Woodward's many representations. In this penetrating study Woodward also elaborates on the 19th-century European gentry's fancy for commissioning landscape architects to create contemplative false ruins, or "follies," amid their woodland estates. Recommended for all libraries.Lonnie Weatherby, McGill Univ. Lib., Montreal
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.