Capt. Aubrey’s dad’s home

Station Street, in Woolhampton, Britain, circa 1965. (

Here’s a Could 2016 put up, quoting from the late Patrick O’Brian’s The Surgeon’s Mate, written in 1979. His novels are – and I really hate to say this, because it verges on sacrilege – pretty much as good as these of Jane Austen, with whom he has been in contrast by literary critics. I’m now starting quantity 5 of the sequence, Desolation Island, on my fifth “circumnavigation” of the saga. O’Brian died in 2000. As a author, I’m usually requested what I believe individuals ought to learn. My reply is Patrick O’Brian.

I republish this put up conscious of the onset of the gift-giving season.


I’m on the seventh quantity of my fourth circumnavigation of Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin sequence of 21 novels, set through the Napoleonic Period. A lot of it happens between bouts of naval warfare and stints at residence as an half-pay officer with spouse Sophie and their youngsters. In The Surgeon’s Mate, Capt. Jack Aubrey visits his father, a former normal and now a radical member of Parliament, and on this passage, already dismayed by his stepmother, a former milkmaid youthful than Jack, he rues what the outdated man is doing to Woolcombe, the home the place he grew up in Woolhampton, which lies on the street from Tub to London:

[Aubrey senior] had just lately set about altering Woolcombe on an bold scale. It was maybe that which had saddened Jack most. The home by which he was born had little question been a uncooked and staring edifice when it was first constructed 200 years in the past [circa 1614] – extremely ornamented crimson brick with a large number of gables and bays and excessive corkscrew chimneys – however no Aubrey since James’s time had sprung up with Palladian tastes or certainly with any tastes in any respect within the architectural line, and the place had mellowed splendidly. Now it was starting to stare once more, with false turrets and incongruous sash-windows, as if the vulgarity of his new associates had contaminated the Normal’s thoughts. Inside it was even worse; the panelling, outdated, darkish, and inconvenient to make certain, however identified for ever, had been torn out and wallpaper and gilt mirrors had taken its place. Jack’s personal room had already vanished; and solely the unused library, with its solemn rows of unopened books and its noble carved plaster ceiling, had escaped; he had spent some hours there, trying, amongst different issues, at a primary folio Shakespeare, borrowed by an earlier Jack Aubrey in 1623, by no means learn and by no means returned: however even the library was doomed. The intention gave the impression to be to make the home false – historic exterior and gimcrack fashionable inside: on the high of the hill, the place he had all the time taken a final look again (for Woolcombe lay in a dank hole, going through north), he directed his gaze steadily down on the opposite aspect, to Woolhampton.

Was {that a} fling at modernism? Sure and no. Modernism as we all know it at this time didn’t exist within the early nineteenth century, in fact. However the tendency towards the garish new was already effectively established by then. It’s that tendency that has the fashionable period by the throat, most sadly in structure. At the moment we glance again with envy on the architectural disputes of prior eras. How may anyone so vociferously favor, say, both Gothic or Classical over the opposite? With modernism having wreaked havoc on the constructed setting of the West for closing in on a century, and on the remainder of the world for half a century, they each appear, together with each different pressure of conventional and vernacular structure, heaven despatched.

Aware of O’Brian’s description, it has been mentioned that preservationists usually work too arduous to revive outdated homes to their unique look and sheen, peeling away the sensibility of time that enhances lovability. The final annual assembly of the Windfall Preservation Society, in January, featured a keynote by Adele Chatfield-Taylor, the early preservationist chief and former longtime head of the American Academy in Rome, who had this to say:

A unbroken fear for a few of us was that after a constructing was rescued, these in cost seldom thought-about something however a full-blown, multi-million-dollar restoration or reconstruction as a solution to protect it. And to this present day it’s, roughly, our favourite mannequin of what to do.

However a minimum of preservationists of that period wished to avoid wasting lovely structure. Now they primarily need to save Brutalist structure and different errors. The Twentieth-century battle (or give up) that noticed modernism routing custom in structure is a tragic saga that awaits its Patrick O’Brian.


In gentle of the passage from Fortune of Conflict*, I be part of Chatfield-Taylor in wishing preservationists, at any time when they handle to avoid wasting an outdated constructing, restore it the place vital, however depart its aesthetic – together with that provided by Nature – alone!

[*Actually not Fortune of War , as stated in the original post and in this reposting, but the following or seventh volume of the Aubrey-Maturin series, called The Surgeon’s Mate. I apologize for any confusion resulting.]

About David Brussat

This weblog was begun in 2009 as a characteristic of the Windfall Journal, the place I used to be on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of structure criticism for 3 a long time. Structure Right here and There fights the type wars for classical structure and towards fashionable structure, no holds barred.

Historical past Press requested me to jot down and in August 2017 revealed my first guide, “Misplaced Windfall.” I’m now writing my second guide.

My freelance writing on structure and different matters addresses problems with design and tradition regionally and globally.

I’m a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Structure & Artwork, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002.

I work from Windfall, R.I., the place I reside with my spouse Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato.

If you want to make use of my writing and modifying to enhance your work, please electronic mail me at my consultancy,, or name 401.351.0457.

Testimonial: “Your work is so fantastic – you now enter my thoughts and write what I
would have written.”

– Nikos Salingaros, mathematician on the College of Texas, architectural theorist and creator of many books.

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