Page images

have reflected, that this is in fact a compliment to the celebrity of his hero, more especially as he tells us that he himself found it very comfortable to have a glass of beer at the conclusion of his pilgrimage to Longwood. He adds :

• Napoleon's sitting-room is at present a stable; and in a garden which he himself laid out before his window, the English sheep thrive and fatten so well that they are set apart for the table of the governor. The new residence, which was built for Napoleon, lies some hundred paces from the old house. The governor of the island occupies it at present; the best proof that the air there is not so unhealthy as the emperor described it.'

We suppose Dr. Meyen would wish us to keep up Longwood in the style of one of the temple-tombs of the Grand Moguls; but we suspect, the Prussian government, which so strenuously insisted on the living man's incarceration, would not volunteer to defray any part of the cost of such an establishment.

In conclusion, we think it right to add, that although Dr. Meyen has professedly reserved his scientific discoveries for his forthcoming volumes, a great quantity of curious botanical, zoological, and geological information is contained in the two now before us. The work when completed will, we have no doubt, be generally considered as a valuable addition to the German library; and we hope in due time to see it in an English dress.

Art. III.- A History of Architecture. By Thomas Hope, Esq.

2 vols. 8vo. London. 1835. OW is it that the English gentry, so many of whom are

possessed of wealth, leisure, and cultivated minds, have hitherto displayed so little real attachment to that branch of the refined arts which is the subject of Mr. Hope's book? The question is not easily answered, though the fact must be universally admitted. It is the more remarkable, because our national habit of travelling furnishes opportunities of acquiring architectural knowledge beyond those enjoyed by any other people. Not only have a large proportion of our educated classes possessed extraordinary facilities for the acquisition of such knowledge, but the general diffusion of wealth throughout the country has enabled them to exemplify their skill in practice. In no part of the modern world has so extended a demand for buildings, public and private—whether for utility or embellishment—at any time arisen. Has the effect corresponded with the means ?-Has the exercise of the art evinced a general acquaintance with its principles ?— Among the numberless structures which have sprung up in every

corner from

corner of the kingdom, is there one in a hundred which, for purity of design, harmony of parts, or becoming effect, at all indicates a judicious application of the sums expended? The most slender acquaintance with the structures recently reared on the Continent can leave no doubt on the mind of any rational man that, as compared with some of our neighbours, our success has been in the inverse ratio to our means. We observe nowhere any fixed or acknowledged maxims of taste-no received standard of excellence; nor do we discover anywhere a body of men sufficiently able and united to make their opinions heard or respected. To help to rectify this state of things, we cannot do better than recommend the example of the laborious and accomplished author of the present History. Mr. Eustace, in enumerating the most essential acquirements of a traveller, long ago said,

• No art deserves more attention than architecture, because no art is so often called into action, tends so much to the embellishment, or contributes more to the reputation of a country. It ought therefore to occupy some portion of time in a liberal education. Had such a method of instruction been adopted a century ago, the streets of London would not present so many shapeless buildings, raised at an enormous cost, as if designed for eternal monuments of the opulence and of the bad taste of the British nation.'

General taste has assuredly not improved since the time when these sentiments were recorded. It is impossible to speak of the architecture of Brighton, or of some of the new quarters of London and Edinburgh, with too much reprobation. Such an exhibition as these present is a positive disgrace to the country and to the age in which they have been reared. Mr. Eustace wrote feelingly, and perhaps under consciousness of his own scanty stock of the science which he so strongly recommends to others. The same deficiency has been felt by hundreds of his countrymen in that land, whereof the history, ancient and modern, is so indissolubly connected with the triumphs of art. To those peaceful triumphs, the recollections, the literature, and conversation of the inhabitants perpetually recur. A scientific acquaintance with art becomes thus a necessary preparation for every gentleman who would travel in Italy—even if for no other object than that of social gratification.

• In the works of ancient authors,' observes Mr. Hope, 'allusions to the productions of ancient artists are so frequent; so much do the productions of Greek painters and sculptors explain and illustrate the speculations of Greek orators and poets ; so much do the same history, mythology, and philosophy furnish the subjects for both,—that it seems almost impossible for the love of ancient letters anywhere to acquire great strength, and the love of ancient art to be restrained z 2

from following immediately on its footsteps. If such is not the case in England—if those same persons who in our schools receive instruction limited to the ancient classics, yet afterwards in the world show a remarkable ignorance of, and indifference to the fine artswe must suppose that, even with respect to the former, their attention has been directed to the form rather than to the substance ; to the language--the mere clothing and vehicle--rather than to the beauties displayed by the subject, or the genius which animated the author.'—pp. 516, 517.

None can traverse staly without feeling or feigning some admiration for the noble remains of antiquity spread over its soil; nor is it possible for any one, who is not altogether dull anid incurious, to remain dead to all pleasing impressions when he observes those grand historical piles of more recent erection which adorn every province and town of that delightful region. If he be, as the majority of travellers are, unlearned in the arts, occasions will occur, and that frequently, when he must be humiliated by huis ignorance, and feel himself totally excluded from one of the porest and most abundant sources of gratification. Forsyth,* Woods, and a few other writers, who have confined their labours to particular spots of Italy, are the only exceptions to that total ignorance of architecture that is displayed in the numberless tours with which our countrymen have of late inundated the world.

But there is a higher consideration than that of mere private satisfaction, which ought to lead us to a well-directed study of architecture. In the strange changes of political life which occur in this country, a gentleman may find himself suddenly transformed into a trustee of some public institution, or director of public works, without being furnished by education or study with a single requisite for such offices. A survey of the recentlyraised editices of London, sacred and domestic, will amply testify how judiciously the public purse has been intrusted to such hands. Failure upon failure has been the result, and they will never cease to follow one after another, until a real knowledge of the principles of the art is more generally diffused among us.t As individual fortunes are transmitted or amassed, as corporate bodies become rich, as the population of towns increases, the erection of guildhalls, churches, and great mansions is sure to follow; upon these fortunes have been lavislied, more than sufficient to have made England a second Italy-replete with noble structures, models of taste to its inhabitants, and a theme of admiration to surrounding nations. It is not the architect of an ugly building who is alone blameable; equally so is he at whose expense it is raised; the projector of deformity is a public offender. In former times, in some of the states of Italy, even private taste was controlled by the authorities. In Mantua, at one period, 110 building could be raised till the design had been sanctioned by the approbation of Giulio Romano. But where no restraint existed, the whole Italian people had more or less a feeling for the arts of retinement, as will be abundantly evident on surveying the palaces, villas, and halls of commerce in Genoa, Venice, and Florence.


* The epigrammatic force of this writer's sentences conceals from the general reader the fact, that his criticism sometimes proceeds from impulse, rather than from the staid dictates of his better judgment. Mr. Woods is a fairer critic, and on the whole his book is the best architectural manual on Italy; but his dates are not always correct, and his omissions are unpardonable.

+ Our ministers will rarely take the trouble to appreciate any superior acquire. ments in architecture; witness the mode in which various public bodies have fur.

These present enduring monuments of the retined taste of their merchant-princes, when in their turn they possessed that commercial wealth which now in ours we enjoy. Since such arbitrary laws are out of the question in a free country, the necessity becomes more imperative to elevate national taste by multiplying the number of those who can observe and judge with discrimination. In no other way can the brood of monsters be stopped which are sure to be engendered by incompetent and ill-directed patronage.

Though we believe the seeds of good taste are sown in every part of Europe, unfortunately, in England the maturity of the fruit is retarded by, among other causes, one that does not act, or at least very partially acts, on the Continent. Whether it is to be attributed to the force of fashion—to a foolish opinion that the architecture of the middle ages, and of the period immediately preceding the full establishment of the classical, is best suited to our climate-or to some unaccountable perversion of taste—there is a decided inclination to adopt a disordered in preference to a beautiful and an orderly system of architecture. As well might the sculptor take, as a pattern of forin, the dry, inanimate, wiredrawn figures of saints, kings, and martyrs, which line the porches of our cathedrals. Whatever favour jutting oriels, quaint gables, and fantastic chimney stacks may find in our eyes, they are, when stripped of the respect which antiquity commands, objects of ridicule and astonishment to the people of other countries. It seems to us that the reproduction of such forms in modern times is nowise more reasonable than to prefer the appearance of an

nished themselves with architects: witness the Report on the Post-Office, where it was stated that, since much ornament was not required, it mattered little whom they einployed as architect. As if an edifice, because it did not pretend to magnificence, was to be entirely devoid of character; as if good proportions, and a graceful distribution of parts, did not form a most essential part of the study of the architect; and were not even more rare and more important qualifications than the employment of ornament; and as if convenience, solidity, and economy were not more securely obtained under a skilful artist,'-Woods' Travels of an Architect, &c., vol. ii. p. 157.

old old lady of the last century, powdered and dressed in a fardingale, to that of a graceful maiden—such as, tradition says, was the type of symmetry for the most delicate of the orders of architecture.

Most unquestionably, the great edifices of the middle ages ought to be reverently preserved, and, when necessary, restored or completed in the same style. Apart from the deep interest which antiquity and religion, throw around these venerable Gothic piles, they are always valuable as records of the age in which they were built; and in all that regards constructive excellence, their superiority over modern science has been maintained by very competent authorities. In the feeble attempts of modern practice, we look in vain for all this mystery of construction, the infinite resources which the artificers of former days knew so well to employ, and that solemnity of character which they could impart to their works. Nor, perhaps, are these attributes of the style to be expected, when neither artist nor employer is any longer inbued with the same feelings, nor actuated by the same spirit, as when Gothic was the legitimate architecture of Europe. A recent writer well says :

• The churches lately erected on this model have been eminently infelicitous ; we have never seen any that would entirely satisfy the least fastidious critic; the wretched, ill-fated objects, testifying a total absence of the Gothic spirit in our builders, have no profile, no projection, and are as unlike the buildings which they profess to imitate, of the workmanship of better times, as the dry, colourless, shapeless specimens, pressed flat in a “ hortus siccus," are to the living plants.'

With equal justice we may animadvert on the habit of closely copying the misshapen forms, human and animal, which in the middle ages formed part of the system of decoration. It is as puerile as it is unnecessary. Defective design is not essential to any ornamental additions worthy to be practised in the present day; and yet our pseudo-Gothic is more remarkable for the faithfulness of a blind imitation of what is a blemish-not a beauty in the originals—than for a just comprehension of the spirit wherewith the architects of former days were inspired. Had the taste of our ancestors been more retined, they would have infallibly improved their method of design ; as we see in the church of St. Petronio at Bologna, and in other Gothic monuments of Italy, where the ornaments and imagery are invariably completed with the utmost perfection to which the art of sculpture, then reviving, had attained.

We observe, certainly, a strong inclination among many to estimate our own taste in England higher than the other enlightened countries in Europe are willing to do. Turning to France, we have


« PreviousContinue »