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Wharton, Edith, 1862-1937; Codman, Ogden / The decoration of houses
(1898)

I: The historical tradition,   pp. [1]-16


Page 2

2                 The Decoration of Houses
ceive two things that their French colleagues, among all the
modern vagaries of taste, have never quite lost sight of: first
that architecture and decoration, having wandered since i8oo in
a labyrinth of dubious eclecticism, can be set right only by a
close study of the best models; and secondly that, given the re-
quirements of modern life, these models are chiefly to be found
in buildings erected in italy after the beginning of the sixteenth
century, and in other European countries after the full assimila-
tion of the Italian influence.
  As the latter of these propositions may perhaps be questioned by
those who, in admiring the earlier styles, sometimes lose sight of
their relative unfitness for modern use, it must be understood at
the outset that it implies no disregard for the inherent beauties
of these styles.   It would be difficult, assuredly, to find buildings
better suited to their original purpose than some of the great feudal
castles, such as Warwick in England, or Langeais in France; and
as much might be said of the grim machicolated palaces of re-
publican Florence or Siena; but our whole mode of life has so
entirely changed since the days in which these buildings were
erected that they no longer answer to our needs.  It is only ne-
cessary to picture the lives led in those days to see how far re-
moved from them our present social conditions are.  Inside and
outside the house, all told of the unsettled condition of country
or town,   the danger of armed attack, the clumsy means of
defence, the insecurity of property, the few opportunities of
social intercourse as we understand it.  A man's house was
in very truth his castle in the middle ages, and in France and
England especially it remained so until the end of the sixteenth
century.
  Thus it was that many needs arose: the tall keep of masonry


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