Browse Publications

The Romantic Interior:
The British Collector at Home, 1750-1850

Clive Wainwright

Publicaton Date
May 1989
Standard Number
Yale University Press
322 pages

The last decades of the eighteenth century and the early decades of the nineteenth century saw the emergence of a new fashion in Britain: the collection of mediaeval and Renaissance objects and the creation of Romantic interiors to house them. In this fascinating and beautiful book, Clive Wainwright presents an overview of the development of these great collections and their interiors. His book illuminates both the history of taste and the economics and mechanics of its application. 

Wainwright provides fascinating details about the beginnings of the modern antique trade in Britain and the unique opportunities that the Napoleonic Wars created for collectors to buy objects in Europe. He examines the collecting of stained glass, metalwork, ceramics, armour, furniture, and the carved wood and stone needed by collectors to decorate and furnish their homes. Focusing on five houses in Britain where some very well-known and some relatively obscure collections were kept, he provides contemporary prints and watercolours of the interiors as well as modern photographs of many of the remarkable objects that were collected. Through words and pictures he creates a sense of what life was like at Charlecote Park, Goodrich Court, Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill, Sir Walter Scott’s home, Abbotsford, and Fonthill Abbey, the grandest and most famous Gothic Revival house of its day. These houses, which exemplify many aspects of the Romantic interior, range from the 1740s to the 1840s and were all furnished by avid collectors. Their interiors – and others like them – represent a neglected but important aspect of the Romantic movement.