Sir John Soane and London by Ptolemy Dean - review by David Watkin

David Watkin

Architectural Poetry

Sir John Soane and London


Lund Humphries 248pp £40

We think of Soane as a lonely genius, creating eccentric masterpieces of advanced spatial complexity with mysterious top lighting, as in his strange house and museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields. In this highly personal and romantic setting, which he formed for himself out of three houses in a curiously convoluted process between the 1790s and the 1820s, he designed his remarkable buildings at the same time as nursing his persecution complex. His wife and elder son predeceased him, and from 1815 he was totally estranged from his younger son, George, who had ridiculed his work and personality in print in that year. The shock of this, so Soane thought, had led to his wife’s premature death within a few weeks. 

Ptolemy Dean reveals a new Soane to us. This is the reliable, practical man who acted tirelessly as estate agent and surveyor to the nobility, gentry, and professional classes, gathering and arranging suitable properties for potential purchase, as well as preparing detailed surveys and valuations. An honest and dependable workaholic,

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