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It is well that they should be recorded before they too pass away.Rural Tenements, Capel, Surrey Old houses of both peer and peasant and their contents are sooner or later doomed to destruction.Life is for ever changing, and doubtless everything is for the best in this best of possible worlds; but the antiquary may be forgiven for mourning over the destruction of many of the picturesque features of bygone times and revelling in the recollections of the past.The half-educated and the progressive—I attach no political meaning to the term—delight in their present environment, and care not to inquire too deeply into the origin of things; the study of evolution and development is outside their sphere; but yet, as Dean Church once wisely said, "In our eagerness for improvement it concerns us to be on our guard against the temptation of thinking that we can have the fruit or the flower, and yet destroy the root....I remember attending at Oxford a lecture delivered by the late Mr. He produced a charming drawing by Turner of a beautiful old bridge spanning a clear stream, the banks of which were clad with trees and foliage.The sun shone brightly, and the sky was blue, with fleeting clouds.
A stone here, a buttress there—it matters not; these are of no consequence to the innovator or the iconoclast.Historic mansions full of priceless treasures amassed by succeeding generations of old families fall a prey to relentless fire.Old panelled rooms and the ancient floor-timbers understand not the latest experiments in electric lighting, and yield themselves to the flames with scarce a struggle."That what you are doing with your scenery," concluded Mr.Ruskin—a true picture of the penalty we pay for trade, progress, and the pursuit of wealth.
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It will be our endeavour to tell of the old country houses that Time has spared, the cottages that grace the village green, the stern grey walls that still guard some few of our towns, the old moot halls and public buildings. The spirit of progress is in the air, and lures its votaries on to higher flights.