« PreviousContinue »
has been so little thought of since, that we have seen some of his designs lately brought forward as original conceptions.
We have taken this retrospective glance of London, in order to afford our readers better means of judging of the various suge gestions for the improvement of our modern city, which we now proceed to examine.
Mr. Croker, in his Letter to the Earl of Liverpool,' (1823,) warmly urges the completion of the eastern wing of Somerset House, and suggests that it might be advantageously dedicated to the purposes of a National Museum, instead of the ruinous old fabric in Great Russell-street. This plan is stated for the consideration of the premier with all the zeal and ingenuity for which the author is distinguished; but though we have the satisfaction to know that the government has consented to the erection of the deficient wing, we rather think it will be devoted to public offices. Indeed, it may be doubted whether the banks of the Thames afford a safe situation for books and pictures. The foggy exhalations from the river, and the tremendous volumes of smoke and soot which are wafted from the steam-engines, (daily increasing in number,) in its neighbourhood, are found highly injurious to such articles, even in private houses, and would still more seriously affect an extensive public collection. In the preface to the third edition the author states that when the Letter was first written, • the larger and more generous views. which the Country seems now inclined to take of this kind of questions' were not anticipated, and that his proposals referred not to what he thought desirable, but to what it seemed practicable to obtain. We, therefore, conclude, that subsequent events have altered some of his opinions given on a different state of the case. When this pamphlet was first circulated there was but little prospect of rescuing our great national collections from the risk and inconves nience to which they were exposed in old Montague House, Much is therefore due to its author as the first who directed the public attention to this very important object. The rebuilding of that edifice, on a scale correspondent to the dignity of a British Musæum, is now proceeding rapidly, and we agree (as has been already hinted*) in the more matured opinion of Mr. Croker, that it is the fittest depository for the great National Library, though the propriety of adding the library of his late Majesty to the existing collection seems more than doubtful. We should have preferred to see that library placed in a suitable separate building, nearer the Houses of Parliament. Thus accommodated, (perhaps on the site of Carlton-House,) it would stand as an Vide p. 157, ante.
honourable memorial of King George the Third, its founder, and of the munificence of his accomplished successor, by whom it was presented to the public. It is curious that the royal collector and his venerable librarian (Mr. Barnard) should have survived almost sixty years after commencing the formation of this, the most complete private library in Europe, steadily appropriating £2000 per annum to this object, and adhering with scrupulous attention to the instructions of Dr. Johnson, contaiủed in the admirable letter recently printed by order of the House of Commons.
We are inclined to believe a veteran diplomatist, who much frequents the Alfred, to be the author of the lively and sensible *Observations' which stand second on our list, and though we by no means concur in all his criticisms, we cordially recommend his pamphlet to those readers who, like ourselves, take an interest m the growing beauty of the metropolis.
The attractive project of Colonel Trench, illustrated by a series of lithographic views, comes next to be considered; but it need not long detain us,for, with a sincere desire to see it executed, we have long thought it hopeless. Our first opinion was that he began his canvass in the wrong quarter—that he should have sounded the wharfingers and coal-merchants, before he launched his summer-barge upon the Thames freighted with princes, lordings, and high dames, the patrons and protectresses of his scheme. But perhaps he might think that a committee of management, including ministers of state and other men of refined taste, would carry all before it. It was soon perceived that the plan would never pay, and that Parliament, however liberal, must reserve its funds for higher objects. Thus abandoned by his most powerful supporters, we think Colonel Trench will not have courage to proceed farther in this speculation, but as we observe a portion of his long lithographic plan proposes to open a noble Colonnade: from St. Paul's to the river Thames, we earnestly recommend him to coalesce as to that point with Sir Wm. Curtis. That worthy baronet, laudably anxious to commemorate himself as a benefactor to his own city, has long been tèeming with a similar project, and would, we cannot doubt, be very thankful for the Colonel's aid in giving it birth.
The pamphlet dedicated to the King by a ' Member of Parliament offers a magnificent design for a Palace in Hyde-Park near Stanhope-street gate. We have seen another plan, not published, which proposes the Regent's Park as a preferable site. The authors, who are brethren in taste as well as blood, have abundantly proved that an intimate acquaintance with the details of architecture is not incompatible with the more dignified acquirements
the Germanic empire, between the fruits of intellectual exertion and the amount of population, national wealth, and political power.
To Italy, after having dwelt with satisfaction on the days of her former greatness, it is painful to revert in the nineteenth century; however, she has not yet lost all her original brightness, and the Italians may still illustrate and confirm the truth of our preceding observations, as forcibly perhaps as their ancestors in the age
of the Medici. The political debility of this fair portion of Europe, arising from its subdivision into numerous states, has reduced a large part of the inhabitants to a condition no less unnatural than degrading; for the conquered are superior in genius and the highest intellectual acquirements to their conquerors. Such was the fate of Greece soon after the period of her history before alluded to. The Greeks and Italians were the victims of causes precisely similar in their nature. Both were incapable, from corresponding defects in their political organization, of forming firm confederations, and therefore of resisting the aggression of powerful foreigners. Both retained a high state of civilization after the loss of their independence, thus exemplifying the energy
of that impulse from whence their rapid improvement had been derived. The Italians are still entitled to consideration amongst the people of Europe both in polite literature and in art; and with respect to the physical and mathematical sciences, we have the testimony of Professor Playfair, who travelled there at the commencement of the present century and examined minutely into the state and the productions of the principal academies, that there were a greater number of scientific institutions in Italy, important from the regularity and value of their publications, than existed in any equal portion of territory in Europe. The emulation of the Italian states, though enfeebled by their subjection to foreign rulers, has never been utterly extinguished. This, and many other sources of intellectual excitement have been kept alive in a great degree by the numerous institutions for promoting science and the fine arts in all the principal and many of the inferior towns—advantages that originated in the former subdivision of the country.
But to pursue this subject farther would lead us into a lengthened digression, and we trust we have said enough to illustrate the position with which we started, that provincial feelings, if properly directed, are capable of exerting a constant and powerful influence over the public mind, disposing it to afford protection to merit. We have no wish to indulge sanguine * Edinb. Rev, vol. vi. p. 171.
speculations on the future success of the English counties in the career of honourable competition now opening to them, nor to exaggerate the present importance of the new provincial institutions. But we will not shrink from declaring our convićtion; that under the genius of our free constitution and in a country where wealth and intelligence are so widely diffused, the causes before-mentioned, if ever permitted to operate with full energy, would lead at once to splendid success in every department of Science and Art, and would carry our excellence in all those subjects for which we are at present distinguished to a much higher degree of perfection. The English counties present a field for the developement of rivalry without parallel in the internal organization of other European kingdoms. They liave never been wanting in a due sense of their own importance, having from time immemorial exercised independent civil and political rights. They have been accustomed to the residence of an hereditary aristocracy warm with feelings of local attachment, and deriving their power and influence from family connections, from the possession of property, or public services, and not merely from the favour of the crown. The Capital has never in England assumed an ascendancy over public opinion; it has never, as in France, drained the deserted provinces of native talent, and presented the only theatre where genius could aspire to distinction and hope to meet with due encouragement. In population no less than in the extension of education
many English counties surpass at present, what is ascribed to the most considerable of the ancient independent states of Greece and Italy-tó Attica, for instance, or Tuscany, the parents of so many illustrious citizens. If it be impossible to excite in the provinces of the same country quite so animated a competition in the noblest subjects of contention, as between different independent powers, it should also be remembered that in the foriner case evils and calamities most repugnant to the free growth of knowledge, yet inseparably incident to minute political subdivision, are happily avoided.
We shall take an early opportunity of attending more particularly to the Scientific Institutions of Scotland and Ireland.
Art. IX.-1. A Letter to the Earl of Liverpool, proposing to finish the East Wing of Somerset House for National Galleries,
By J. W. Croker, Esq. 1823. 2. Observations on the Buildings, Improvements, and Extension
of the Metropolis, of late Years ; with some Suggestions, &c. 8vo. pp. 150, 1825.
3. Sketch of the North Bank of the Thames, showing the proposed
Quay, and some other Improvements, suggested by Lieutenant
Colonel Trench. Folio. 1825. 4. Considerations upon the Expediency of Building a Metropolitan
Palace. By a Member of Parliament. 8vo. pp. 68. 1825. 5. A Letter to the Right Honourable Sir Charles Long, on the
Improvements proposed and now carrying on in the Western
Part of London. Svo. pp. 37. 1825. 6. Short Remarks and Suggestions upon the Improvements now
carrying on or under Consideration. 8vo. pp. 48. 1826. THE architectural growth and improvement of our capital may
well engage a few of our pages at this time, when not only every lounger through our streets speculates upon their embellishment, but the public attention in higher quarters is seriously directed to this object. Most of the pamphlets which we have -now before us were printed for private distribution, and on that account we are not perhaps entitled to treat them like more regular productions; but though not published, they were printed . to be read, and as they have already been largely circulated, their authors cannot, we think, be much offended by some notice of them here.
The capability of London for the display of architectural magnificence will not be disputed. The positions of other great cities may indeed exhibit more striking features; we cannot, for instance, command an Acropolis; but the situation of this Metropolis happily combines all which may contribute to its wealth and con
Seated on a gentle slope descending to the margin of a noble river, its plain is bounded on the north and south by two beautiful ranges of hills, affording at once easy access, facilities to cleanliness and ventilation, and that in which its rival Paris is so deficient, abundant springs of the purest water.
We have high authority for believing that ancient London (Lyn-din, the City on the Lake) overlooked an extensive basin, -whose waters washed the bases of the Surrey hills, though the Thames, now confined by embankments, flows within his pro
London was not occupied as a Roman station so early as Colchester and Verulam. It has been doubted if Julius Cæsar ever saw it. The walls were erected by Theodosius, governor of Britain, in the year 369. They were bounded on the east and west by the Fleet and the Wallbrook, on the south by the Thames, and on the north by a morass, beyond which lay an extensive forest, stretching also towards the eastern side of the city. Fitzstephen, who wrote in the time of Henry II: describes it as then filled with beasts of chase. The first bridge was thrown across the Thames about the year 1000, by the monks