'Mowl is a much better, wittier and more exciting critic than the Punch and Judy history of his book might lead one to expect, and his accounts of actual buildings and gardens are full of subjective intensity as well as subtle observations. The truth is that much architectural experience is ambivalent - an unstable mixture of awe, delight, disappointment, puzzlement - and Mowl brings out just these qualities in his account of Holkham, the vast brick Palladian mansion-cum-art gallery on the edge of the Fens; the dismal monumentality of its exterior and the ravishment of Kent's great alabaster entrance-hall. The tour of nearby Houghton, Prime Minister Walpole's palace, where Kent again did the interiors, is thrillingly vivid and perhaps the best thing in the book'.

Alan Hollinghurst in The Guardian

 

'While far from a hagiography, the book opens one's eyes afresh to Kent's all-round genius. There are thrilling celebrations of such works as the State Bed ('invention and good taste pushed past their barriers into high campery') and the dramatic Stone Hall at Houghton; the pioneering Gothick of Esher Place, which predated Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill by 16 years and has never received the credit it deserves; the magnificent Marble Hall at Holkham ('one of the most exhilaratingly beautiful internal spaces, not just in England, but in Europe'); the sexy ceiling at 44 Berkeley Square (now the Clermont Club); the near-miraculous survival of his landscape garden at Rousham (dominated, in this fruity description, by Antinous's buttocks); and the ingenious Worcester Lodge at Badminton, 'unquestionably the greatest park gate lodge in Britain, a triumphant exercise in a normally tame Palladian style'. On behalf of Kent's old boss Burrell, one can only conclude, in footer parlance, that 'the boy done well'.'

Hugh Massingberd for The Spectator

 

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