Pugin's Contrasts of 1836 was the book that marked the turning point of the Gothic Revival and the end of the Georgian age. It also launched its author's career as an apologist for the moral and religious value of architecture. The much modified second edition of 1841 has assumed a greater importance for historians. It was the first edition, however, that impressed contemporaries and made Pugin's name. This essay looks at the process by which the book as it appeared in 1836 was composed, including the first, previously unpublished, scheme of 1833. It also examines its social and intellectual context. It suggest that Contrasts marked the meeting of two currents of thought in which Pugin had been steeped since childhood: the English antiquarian tradition, which was, from the Reformation itself, deeply imbued with Catholic sympathy, and the Romantic millenarianism of the 1830s, which determined the form that Contrasts eventually took. It also suggests that Pugin's early life, his contact with the theories of the Picturesque, with the theater and popular journalism, as well as the influence of his mother, all played a greater part than has been thought in the composition of Contrasts.

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