- Also check our best rated Biography reviews
The Grand Designer: Third Marquess of Bute Hardcover – 1 May 2012
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
'An exemplary biography' --Royal Institute of British Architects
'His [the Marquis of Bute's] biography by Rosemary Hannah has been one of the chief pleasures of my reading year' --Daily Telegraph
About the Author
Rosemary Hannah first became interested in the third Marquess of Bute when she lived on the island of Bute. Whilst working as a guide at Mount Stuart she gained exceptional first-hand knowledge of the building. In 2000 she was awarded a PhD degree from the University of Durham for a thesis on the third marquess. She is currently Church History co-ordinator for the Theological Institute of the Scottish Episcopal Church and lives in Ayrshire.
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
The buildings were what drew me to the biography, chiefly Burges's fantasy at Cardiff Castle. But the early death of Burges did not make Bute ease up. The results are depicted in excellent colour photographs.
To me, Bute's intermeddling in Catholic liturgy and pastoral care in Scotland is of the deepest interest historically. He had the oddest hobby-horses and must have been a pest at times.
Round this high Victorian life appear two stories that might come from some sensation novel of the times. At the beginning is the great suffering of Bute's orphaned childhood, accentuated by his uncompromising reaction. At the end is his slide towards death from the hereditary disease that dogged his family.
In the middle are his heroic wife, his liveliness, love of children, kindness to servants, humour, Mediterranean travels, and angular fit into the British aristocracy when it still held sway.
Rosemary Hannah is to be congratulated on an engrossing work of scholarship, balance and humanity.
Nor is there a great deal on the Bute wealth, much of which derived from the coal trade and the docks in South Wales. He must have been very rich: among other things he bought a whole island (Cumbrae) for his daughter.
But there is much of interest: the squabbles between his guardians after his mother died when he was 12; his travels; his work as Rector of the University of St Andrews, then under threat of extinction. The author is very interested in Bute's religious observances, but you have to say that liturgical controversies (he was quite a scholar, and a Roman Catholic convert) are among those topics where a little goes a long way. It is in areas such as this that the book betrays its origins in a PhD thesis.
Bute's upbringing, his family trees with their aristocratic connections (and royal slight), the kindness of the High Church Galloways, his introspective and ritualistic nature, his early literary and artistic creativity; all these form a pattern. Umberto Eco says about his plots that he simply establishes character and situation then knows precisely what such a character will do in such a situation. This is exactly what this comprehensive biography does so well: it comprehends the complexity of character of the grand designer. A good tour guide knows her audience and Hannah shows us she knows her way about Bute's buildings and knows when we want more information, when an anecdote is illustrative and when we need time to look out the windows. An example of her wordcraft is the description of the wooden staircase carved at Cardiff Castle, for Mount Stuart House, Isle of Bute, then moved to St John's Lodge, London:
"In among the formal, even pretentious swags, nestle little naturalistic carvings which neatly subvert the whole. A beetle feeds on the acanthus leaves. A pair of mice flirt in a swirl of foliage. A squirrel shins up some formalised berries."
I passed the Bute Medical Building almost every day of my Divinity degree at St Andrews and graduated as a Doctor of Philosophy in the Bute Hall of Glasgow University, never giving John Patrick Crichton Stuart one thought. I am very grateful to Dr Rosemary Hannah for this labour of love and heartily concur with other reviewers, who know far more about architecture than I, in calling it "splendid".
Also in several places quotations are included from Bute's letters or diaries and it is not at all clear what the meaning is or what point the author is trying to make.
The book is not without interest but the student of Victorian architecture should look elsewhere. ("William Burges and the High Victorian Dream" for starters!)
Would you like to see more reviews about this item?
Most recent customer reviews