Friday, December 29, 2006

Architecture of the Imagination

"'If you look to your left,' [Colin] said, 'you should be able to see the house.'

I caught a brief , tantalizing glimpse of crenellated battlements looming above the trees like a lost set from a Frankenstein movie before the car swung around a curve, bringing us into full view of the house.  Built of a creamy-colored stone, the house was what the papers might call 'a stately pile,' a square central section with the usual classical adornments, with a smaller wing sticking out on either side of the central block.  It was a perfectly normal eighteenth-century gentleman's residence, and exactly what one would expect the Purple Gentian to have lived in.  There were no battlements.

[The battlements were on an ancient keep nearby.]

...'So this is the library.'

...never had a room so resembled popular preconception.  The walls were panelled in rich, dark wood....  A whimsical iron staircase curved to the balcony, ...  sheer number of books, row upon row....

Downstairs, where I stood with Colin, the shelves made way for four tall windows, ..., all hung with rich red draperies checked with blue, in the obverse of the red-flecked blue carpet.  On the west wall, the bookshelves surrendered pride of place to a massive fireplace, topped with a carved hood to make Ivanhoe proud, and large enough to roast a serf.

In short, the library was a Gothic fantasy.

My face fell.

'It's not original.'

'No, ...,' said Colin.  'The entire house was gutted not long before the turn of the century. ...'"

From The Masque of the Black Tulip by Lauren Willig 

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