Hudson River Bracketed, Edith Wharton

 The house, which was painted a dark brown, stood at the end of a short grass-grown drive, its front so veiled in the gold-green foliage of two ancient weeping willows that Vance could only catch, here and there, a hint of a steep roof, a jutting balcony, an aspiring turret.  The facade, thus seen in trembling glimpses, as if it were as fluid as the trees, suggested vastness, fantasy, and secrecy.  Green slopes of unmowed grass, and heavy shrubberies of syringa and lilac surrounded it; and beyond the view was closed in on all sides by trees and more trees.  “An old house, this is the way an old house looks!” thought Vance. 

 Edith Wharton, Hudson River Bracketed, page 44.

Edith Wharton’s 1929 novel gave a name to the style.  A.J. Davis and A. J. Downing called it the “bracketed mode” or the “bracketed style” in their writings but in coining the term “Hudson River Bracketed” Edith Wharton created a far more encompassing and suggestive definition encompassing both the architecture and the social mores of the old Hudson River estates and their owners. And by Edith Wharton’s time, many of these estates were “old” and some of the once modern and impeccably maintained houses had fallen into disrepair.  Wharton captures something essential about their appeal to us today in their “as-found” time ravaged appearances.  In this respect, the Dr. Oliver Bronson house is “romantic” two different, but related, respects:  it is imbued with the Romanticism of its nineteenth century designer and the romance of its current ruinous state.


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