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The Pinecone: The Story of Sarah Losh, Forgotten Romantic Heroine--Antiquarian, Architect and Visionary.

The Pinecone: The Story of Sarah Losh, Forgotten Romantic Heroine--Antiquarian, Architect and Visionary. Jenny Uglow. Faber and Faber. [pounds sterling]20.00. xii + 332 pages. ISBN 978-0571-26950-1. In this charming biographical study the author returns to her native Cumberland, to the village of Wreay, near Carlisle. Here in the first half of the nineteenth century Sarah Losh (1786-1853), the eldest daughter of the local 'big family', built a new parish church. The building was unusual, an Italian Romanesque structure which Pevsner called 'a crazy building ... in some ways amazingly forward-pointing'. (The pulpit is a hollow tree trunk.) To Jenny Uglow there is 'something dark, troubled and visionary about Sarah's work, more like Coleridge than Wordsworth'. Sarah Losh also paid for cottages, schools and wells but there her similarity to most wealthy Victorians ended. She was not strictly speaking High Church or Evangelical because her family background was radical, intellectual and avant garde. To the author, Sarah Losh's story is that of 'a pioneering, imaginative woman' but her book extends out from its subject to become a village history which shows the effect the industrial revolution had on local life. It is also an insight into the intellectual ferment of the early Victorian period where ideas first appeared that would 'take off' in the decades to follow. Just as there is something a little bit quirky about Sarah Losh so there is about this book but this must be seen as a compliment, not a criticism. (P.P.F.)

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Publication:Contemporary Review
Article Type:Book review
Date:Dec 1, 2012
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