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    Chapter 7

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    Chapter 7
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    THE VILLA QUARTERS.

    MR. RUSKIN'S denunciation of the New Town of
    Edinburgh includes, as I have heard it repeated, nearly
    all the stone and lime we have to show. Many however
    find a grand air and something settled and imposing in
    the better parts; and upon many, as I have said, the
    confusion of styles induces an agreeable stimulation of
    the mind. But upon the subject of our recent villa
    architecture, I am frankly ready to mingle my tears with
    Mr. Ruskin's, and it is a subject which makes one envious
    of his large declamatory and controversial eloquence.

    Day by day, one new villa, one new object of
    offence, is added to another; all around Newington and
    Morningside, the dismallest structures keep springing up
    like mushrooms; the pleasant hills are loaded with them,
    each impudently squatted in its garden, each roofed and
    carrying chimneys like a house. And yet a glance of an
    eye discovers their true character. They are not houses;
    for they were not designed with a view to human
    habitation, and the internal arrangements are, as they
    tell me, fantastically unsuited to the needs of man.
    They are not buildings; for you can scarcely say a thing
    is built where every measurement is in clamant
    disproportion with its neighbour. They belong to no
    style of art, only to a form of business much to be
    regretted.

    Why should it be cheaper to erect a structure where
    the size of the windows bears no rational relation to the
    size of the front? Is there any profit in a misplaced
    chimney-stalk? Does a hard-working, greedy builder gain
    more on a monstrosity than on a decent cottage of equal
    plainness? Frankly, we should say, No. Bricks may be
    omitted, and green timber employed, in the construction
    of even a very elegant design; and there is no reason why
    a chimney should be made to vent, because it is so
    situated as to look comely from without. On the other
    hand, there is a noble way of being ugly: a high-aspiring
    fiasco like the fall of Lucifer. There are daring and
    gaudy buildings that manage to be offensive, without
    being contemptible; and we know that 'fools rush in where
    angels fear to tread.' But to aim at making a common-
    place villa, and to make it insufferably ugly in each
    particular; to attempt the homeliest achievement, and to
    attain the bottom of derided failure; not to have any
    theory but profit and yet, at an equal expense, to
    outstrip all competitors in the art of conceiving and
    rendering permanent deformity; and to do all this in what
    is, by nature, one of the most agreeable neighbourhoods
    in Britain:- what are we to say, but that this also is a
    distinction, hard to earn although not greatly
    worshipful?

    Indifferent buildings give pain to the sensitive;
    but these things offend the plainest taste. It is a
    danger which threatens the amenity of the town; and as
    this eruption keeps spreading on our borders, we have
    ever the farther to walk among unpleasant sights, before
    we gain the country air. If the population of Edinburgh
    were a living, autonomous body, it would arise like one
    man and make night hideous with arson; the builders and
    their accomplices would be driven to work, like the Jews
    of yore, with the trowel in one hand and the defensive
    cutlass in the other; and as soon as one of these masonic
    wonders had been consummated, right-minded iconoclasts
    should fall thereon and make an end of it at once.

    Possibly these words may meet the eye of a builder
    or two. It is no use asking them to employ an architect;
    for that would be to touch them in a delicate quarter,
    and its use would largely depend on what architect they
    were minded to call in. But let them get any architect
    in the world to point out any reasonably well-
    proportioned villa, not his own design; and let them
    reproduce that model to satiety.
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