Sir Edward Lutyens

Posted by Tory Historian Saturday, March 29, 2008

Tory Historian is not the first person to note that there is something peculiarly and enchantingly English and conservative about Sir Edward Lutyens, whose birthday is March 29, 1869. That is not to say that there is only a conservative cultural tradition in England. There is a very separate radical one, though it, too, in many ways, is conservative in its outlook. But that is, perhaps, for another posting or for comments by readers.

He designed country houses, London houses, grandiose buildings in New Delhi and several war memorials including the Cenotaph in Whitehall. The one reproduced here is the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme at Thiepval, a structure that combines grandness of design with comfort of feeling. Could that be a definition of conservatism in culture?

There is something ineffably English about Sir Edward’s family life – the five children, born despite a less than happy marriage; the dottiness of his wife, Lady Emily Lutyens (later Lady Lutyens), who had actually proposed to him and insisted on the marriage and who later became fascinated by theosophy, Eastern religions (only some of them, one presumes) and Juddu Krishnamurti; the children, some of whom turned out to be completely conventional, some less so.

Mary Lutyens became a writer of biographies, including that of Krishnamurti. Elisabeth Lutyens is the most interesting offspring. A prolific and highly regarded composer, though something of a maverick, she has been lost to the general public through a double prejudice – against English and against women composers.


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