Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/209

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ARCHITECTURE AND THE ENVIRONMENT.

and both lie exposed to the sun. Through the folding-doors you see the opposite chamber, and from the window is a prospect of the inclosed portico.

"On that side next the sea, and opposite to the middle wall, stands a little elegant recess, which, by means of a glass door and a curtain, is either laid into the adjoining room, or separated from it. It contains a couch and two chairs. As you lie upon this couch, from the feet you have a prospect of the sea; if you look behind, you see the neighboring villas; and from the head you have a view of the woods; these three views may be seen either distinctly from so many different windows in the room, or blended together in one confused prospect. Adjoining this is a bedchamber, which neither the voice of the servants, the murmuring of the sea, nor even the roaring of a tempest can reach; not lightning, nor the day itself, can penetrate it, unless you open the windows. This profound tranquillity is occasioned by a passage which separates the wall of this chamber from that of the garden; and thus, by means of that intervening space, every noise is precluded. Annexed to this is a small stove-room, which, by opening a little window, warms the bedchamber to the degree of heat required. Beyond this lie a chamber and antechamber, which enjoy the sun, though obliquely indeed, from the time it rises till the afternoon. When I retire to this garden apartment, I fancy myself a hundred miles from my own house, and take particular pleasure in it at the feast of the Saturnalia, when, by the license of that season of festivity, every other part of my villa resounds with the mirth of my domestics; thus I neither interrupt their diversions nor they my studies."

This remarkable letter was written in a civilization different from ours, when society and culture were developed in another spirit; yet the principles it so clearly illustrates are as much in force to-day as they were then, and the lessons it teaches as important to us as they were interesting and profitable to the friend to whom they were addressed. It matters not that the description is of a building erected more than eighteen hundred years ago, which has long since passed from the face of the earth. The truths involved in its construction are as real to-day as when the letter was freshly written, and, great as is its archaeological interest, its chief merit is the admirable way in which it describes the model dwelling. Pliny was not an architect, but he was a man of keen observation, a student of nature, and possessed of sound common sense, which he never exercised to better advantage than in the erection of this building. His description shows us that utility is the chief consideration, first, last, and all the time, that should be observed in constructing a house. Coupled with this are the conditions imposed by the environment, the taking