"One of the imbalances, indeed injustices, of Country Life is that while authors on the staff have had their names at the top of country house articles since 1942, the staff photographers only started to receive acknowledgement at the end of the articles in 1970. As a result of this far too little is known about them. This is particularly unfortunate in the case of Charles Latham, who, as founder of the Country Life tradition of architectural photography, had an extraordinary wide influence on the way people in England were to look at buildings....
"Latham was a brilliant photographer, and took many of the photographs of City churches, country house and gardens for Country Life and for us. His talent went with a red beard and an entire absence of the letter H. Once he went to take photographs of a fine house which had been ruined inside by Victorian meddling. Latham hobbled into the room, stared around and said to the owner, " 'ateful and 'ideous. I'm glad I kept my cab." Then he stumped out."
It was the phrase "Victorian meddling" that first caught my eye in John Cornforth's marvelous The Search for a Style: Country Life and Architecture, 1897 - 1935. I'm still in the grip of a mini Lutyens enthusiasm, and it was that phrase that got me thinking about my ambivalence about the liming of the Deanery Garden woodwork: I know I like the effect, would not have had the courage to order it done. Where, I wonder, is the line between improvement and meddling?
I have no ambivalence about the alterations Lutyens made to the rooms you see here: a drawing room and bedroom belonging to Edward Hudson, the founder of Country Life, at 15 Queen Anne's Gate, an eighteenth-century house in London. Lutyens can be a bit grand and austere, though never forbidding, and in these understated rooms he is at his most intimate.
There is no way of knowing what the drawing room was like before the alterations: the original replaced by a convincing and aesthetically pleasing version of the eighteenth century, so perhaps it is this circumstance together with the fact they are Lutyens' amendments that prevents offence.
It seems that Lutyens based the design of the bed on that in Carpaccio's Dream of St. Ursula.
Photos of drawing room and bedroom from London Interiors: From the Archive of Country Life, John Cornforth, Aurum Press 2000, and The Search for a Style: Country Life and Architecture, John Cornforth, W. W. Norton and Company, 1988.
Quotation from The Search for a Style: Country Life and Architecture, John Cornforth, W. W. Norton and Company, 1988.