Reading Houses and Building Books: Andrew Jackson Downing and the Architecture of Popular Antebellum Literature, 1835-1855

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UPNE, 1996 - 230 pages
Andrew Jackson Downing's reputation as architect, landscape designer, and author spread far beyond his native Hudson River Valley during the first half of the 19th century. But as Adam Sweeting suggests in this elegantly written, illustrated account, Downing's real legacy lies in the philosophical statement he created by melding the literary and building arts with an intensely moralistic outlook.

Along with such contemporaries as William Cullen Bryant, Washington Irving, and Frederick Law Olmsted, Downing pursued what Sweeting calls genteel romanticism, an ideal that viewed the confluence of polite literature and graceful dwellings as not just an aesthetic statement, but an ethical imperative. This study of a unique coalescence of literature, architecture, and gardening illuminates "the widely held belief that efforts to reform the world began at home, that beautiful and clean houses produced morally beautiful and spiritually clean people."

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About the author (1996)

Adam Sweeting is director of the writing program at Massachusetts School of Law in Andover.

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