Architecture for General Students

Author Caroline W. Horton
Author Name Variants Caroline W. Horton
Publication New York: Hurd and Houghton, 1874.
Link to Text
Genres Textbook, History
Keywords Fine Arts, Architecture, Education
Contributing State Massachusetts
Research Notes  
Digital Source Notes  

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Nina Belzer

Tulane University, December 2015

            Caroline Horton’s Architecture for General Students, published in 1874, is a 327-page textbook that provides a general overview on the history of architecture, from ancient Babylon to late-nineteenth-century America. With accessible prose, copious illustrations, and strategic emphasis on particularly influential periods and styles, Horton’s book provides students of all disciplines with a concise but comprehensive chronological overview. Her contemporaries praised the work for these very qualities. In the words of a reviewer for The New York Tribune, it is “a book of solid worth and practical ability. It conveys in small compass more clear and various styles of architecture . . . than any similar work” (The New York Tribune in “Horton”).
            Architecture for General Students is organized chronologically, with early chapters on Assyria, Babylon, ancient Greece and Rome, and later sections on the Renaissance, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe, and America. Written in a conversational tone, with an opening section to define and discuss various technical terms, the book is clearly intended to instruct the beginner. That said, the text is never simplified or dumbed-down; its writing is intelligent and sharp, but never obscure. Although Horton’s book is primarily objective and informational, it offers her opinions in the opening and closing chapters. She states, for example, that she believes art is the “handmaiden of religion” (9), and that there can be no art or architecture without religious inspiration. Although this concept may seem dated to modern readers, it probably reflects a common reaction among those living at a point when architecture was serving secular needs rather than religious ones for the first time in history.
            Horton was born on January 29, 1829 in Manchester, Massachusetts (“Horton, Caroline W.”). She graduated from the Charlestown Female Seminary in 1848, and lived and studied in Europe from 1859 to 1860 (“Horton, Caroline W.”). Horton taught first in the South, then in Cincinnati and later in Boston, where she worked at the Gannett Institute for twelve years (“Horton, Caroline W.”). Her book’s dedication reads, “To former pupils, graduates of Gannett Institute, this little volume is affectionately inscribed by the author” (Horton). Horton died on March 4,1894, in Salem, Massachusetts. According to the city’s death registry, she died of “heart failure following cholera morbus” (Massachusetts Death Records).
            The erudition evinced by her book indicates that she was both ambitious and accomplished. Yet, Architecture for General Students represents the work of a woman historian who felt no need to flaunt her scholarly vocabulary and instead wrote to teach readers in the most understandable, pleasant way possible. In all of these respects, it was worthy of a place in the 1884 New Orleans World Fair.

Works Cited

Horton, Caroline W.. Architecture for General Students. New York: Hurd and Houghton, 1874.

“Horton, Caroline W.” A Catalogue of Authors Whose Works are Published by Houghton, Mifflin, and Company. Cambridge: The Riverside Press, 1899, p. 66.

“Horton.” A Catalogue of Books Published by Houghton, Mifflin and Company, Cambridge: The Riverside Press,1881, p. 100.

Massachusetts Death Records, 1841-1915. Deaths Registered in the City of Salem. Salem, 1895.,

“New Publications: A Brief and Clear Guide in Architecture.” New York Tribune, 31 Oct 1874, p.8. America’s Historical Newspapers