A French noble’s view. However grand the English country houses seemed to Anglo-Saxon eyes, they made quite a different impression on a noble visitor from the Continent. The Comte de Mirabeau, who traveled to London in 1784, left this account of his journey. There is some snobbery involved, though France were considered the leaders of European fashion and sophistication in the eighteenth century:
“From Lewes,” he wrote, “we traversed the finest country in Europe, for variety and verdure, for beauty and richness, for rural neatness and elegance. It was a feast for the sight, a charm for the mind, which it is impossible to exaggerate….
“The approaches to London are through a country for which Holland affords no parallel (I should compare to it some of the values of Switzerland), for, and this remarkable observation seizes immediately an experienced mind, this sovereigns people are, above all, farmers in the bosom of their island; and that is what has so long saved it from its own convulsions. I felt my mind deeply and strongly interested as I travelled through this well cultivated and prosperous country, and I said to myself, whence this new emotion. Their castles, compared to ours, are but pigeon houses. Several cantons in France, even in the poorest provinces, and all Normandy, which I have just visited, are finer by nature than these fields. Here we find in this place, and that place, but every where in our country, fine edifices, proud buildings, great public works, the traces of the most wonderful works of man; and yet this contents me more than those things astonish me. It is that nature is here ameliorated and not forced . . . that the high state of cultivation here announces the respect for property; that this care and universal neatness is a living system of well being; that all this rural wealth is in nature, by nature, according to nature, and does not disclose that extreme inequality of fortune, source of so many evils, like the sumptuous edifice surrounded by cottages; it is that here every thing informs me that the people are something; that every man has the development and free exercise of his faculties, and that thus I am in a new order of things.”…
“…everywhere the English countryside had benefited by the planning of far-sighted landowners who, a hundred years earlier, had laid out parks and planted trees for their great grandchildren. It was a secure and orderly world, and foreign wars and changes of fashion made little difference to country life and country ways. While trees long planted grew to maturity, and arable land, cultivated by improved methods, yielded richer harvests, the growing towns of the Midlands and the North were year by year, invading the country. To those swollen towns increasing numbers of countrymen were attracted, year after year, for the industrial revolution was beginning, although nobody at the time suspected that any change was taking place. It was not thought of as a revolution at all, although it ultimately changed the face of the land, ruined most of the towns, and led to the building of thousands of hideous and insanitary homes, and was responsible for a vast increase in the wealth and population of the country. But in the last half of the eighteenth century the great landowners and their tenants were unaware of any threat to England’s “rural neatness and elegance”. Read More:http://www.finest-stair-parts.com/history/history-staircase-stair-parts-200.htm