Saturday, 30 March 2013

Favourite period of English history

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I don't really have a favourite period of English history nowadays - tending to like specific bits and pieces from different eras and places - but for the formative years in my middle and late teens, I liked best the 18th century.

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This brought together my favourite architecture (such as that of Bath), the craftsmanship of Chippendale and other great cabinetmakers, art of the likes of Gainsborough and Joseph Wright, baroque music such as that of Handel, and the plays of Sheridan and Goldsmith, also Goldsmith's Vicar of Wakefield - and an idealized picture of coffee houses simulated by Cawardines coffee shops in Bristol (which vented their coffee roasters onto the streets outside, to draw customers in with the aroma).

This was also the period of the English Agrarian Revolution with its major advances in technology, new crops and rotations, enclosure, and animal breeding - a still grossly neglected business without which the Industrial revolution would have been impossible. I liked the earliest types of industry such as the Ironbridge settlement and - especially - the canals.  

However, I was never keen on the mainstream poetry of that era - the likes of Pope and Dryden; and it was only later I become extremely fond of Samuel Johnson - the man and his work.

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I now find this era less attractive, and am aware of how much of the meaning of life and spiritual depth was lost from the 17th to 18th centuries; how the surface elegance of that era - its unmatched air of clear classicism - was bought at a heavy price in secularization.

Since that time of my life, I have never settled upon a particular era of English life the totality of which attracted me in the same way.

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