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The Great Good Place: the Country House and English Literature

by Kelsall, Malcolm

The Great Good Place: The Country House and English Literature cover
  • ISBN: 9780231081467
  • ISBN10: 0231081464

The Great Good Place: the Country House and English Literature

by Kelsall, Malcolm

  • List Price: $75.00
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publish date: 03/04/1993
  • ISBN: 9780231081467
  • ISBN10: 0231081464
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Description: In The Great Good Place, Malcolm Kelsall examines how the ideal of the English country house has grown and changed over the centuries. Kelsall looks at the great house as an ideal that persisted long after the social and political arrangements that the manor represented had ceased to exist, and as a reality, providing detailed descriptions of particular homes. Kelsall tells the story of a conservative tradition that, rooted in classical antiquity, was first made distinctively English by the poets of the Renaissance. This tradition was shaped further by the novelists of the eighteenth century who depicted the country home as the locus of "the good life". Today, the country manor is an ideal under stress. Originally challenged by the ideological implications of the French Revolution, English manor society and its subsequent literary representations have increasingly become things of spirit. For writers late in this tradition like Virginia Woolf and T. S. Eliot, "the great good place" was no longer the center of the social community but rather an imaginative idea communicated between appreciative minds. The Great Good Place shows us how our ways of seeing are shaped by reading. Kelsall looks at houses made famous by writers, such as Penshurst, Stowe, and Kelmscott, and investigates them in light of those writings. He provides detailed and original analyses of works by Jonson, Marvell, Pope, Byron, Fielding, and Austen - all of which feature great country houses as major "characters". Seen in terms of the literature of the age, Van Dyck's family portrait acquires new meaning, and even the decoration on a stove at Kedleston accrues resonances which carry the reader back to the classical age.In this eminently readable study, there is no division between the visual arts and literature, or between high culture and the commonplace. A novel or a travel guidebook, a great landscape garden or the design of a dormer window, all form part of the spectrum of meaning. Illustrated with a delightful selection of more than thirty photographs, this work is much more than a conventional piece of literary criticism. Malcolm Kelsall shows us how English society is still pervaded by a sense of what Henry James called "the great good place".
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