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THE

QUARTERLY REVIEW.

ART. I.-The House of Commons. By Charles R. Dod, Esq. London. 1832-53.

A GOOD many years have elapsed since the attention of the

country was very earnestly fixed upon the House of Commons, and during that period its place of meeting has been entirely changed, and some alterations have been introduced into its customs. As the generation which has arisen since 1832 is one which especially clamours for 'facts,' and is hardly satisfied to take a pin without being conducted through every room of the manufactory, and witnessing the process of wire-drawing, clipping, head-twisting, silvering, and sorting, let us so far fall into the habit of the day as to conduct Young England through the principal part of the Manufactory of Statute Law.

The manufactory itself, as is generally known, is situate on the left bank of the Thames, close to the foot of the now doomed Westminster Bridge. It is a magnificent pile, of enormous extent, covering in fact nearly eight acres, and was erected to replace the parliamentary buildings which were consumed by fire on the 16th of October, 1834. There are nearly as many opinions on the character of the edifice as there are in regard to what goes on within its walls. Its Gothic architecture delights those who see in it a stone embodiment of our Constitution-the slow, irregu lar, but picturesque growth of ages; but, on the contrary, excites the animadversion of others, who conceive that a national building should be the type of a national civilisation, or who, more probably rejecting any such sentimentality, simply prefer the comfortable apartments and well-fitting windows of our modern houses to the imposing chambers and obscuring lattices of our ancestors. The Earl of Ellenborough's proverbial simplicity of taste, which is conspicuous in the chaste and closely-reasoned speeches that have long made him a principal ornament of the distinguished assembly to which he belongs, recently induced his Lordship to say that he should have liked to have seen a more severe style of architecture adopted-one which would have been more fitting for the purpose to which it was to be devoted, and which should have had stamped upon it the appearance of that

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eternity

eternity which we all desire our institutions should possess.' And Lord Brougham, while paying a hearty tribute to the artistic skill displayed in the building, has always been of opinion that it was barbarous in the extreme to erect a Gothic structure for parliamentary purposes in the middle of the nineteenth century, and would infinitely have preferred some more sober style.' On both sides of this subject, as on every other, a great many strong and sensible things may be said. Those who have lost themselves in Sir Charles Barry's labyrinths

'Whose wandering ways and many a winding fold
Involve the weary feet, without redress,

In a round error, which denies recess '

who have shivered in his lofty chambers, and murmured at the early darkness of his cells, have often wished that the multifold magnificence of the New Palace had been exchanged for the convenience and comfort of a modern structure, where the feudal system had been less thought of than easy communication and practical accommodation. On the other hand, those whom Lord Willoughby d'Eresby's cards have admitted to the House of Lords on the day when her Majesty attends to open or to close the sitting, and who have witnessed the splendid and significant spectacle which is afforded upon such an occasion, warmly contend that no architectural arrangement could offer so fit a setting for the scene as the gilded and painted roof, the coloured windows gleaming with royal effigies, the illuminated heraldry, and the alternating glow and sparkle of that glittering chamber.

There are malcontents of another kind, who allow the propriety of Gothic, but who raise objections to the way in which the subject has been treated. They allege, for instance, that the river front of the manufactory is a mistake, inasmuch as it is a long unbroken frontage in a style which is beautiful chiefly from its breaks and variations, and that, seen from the Thames, the façade reminds the irreverent of a Birmingham steel fender, the small turrets at the corners doing duty for the places where the fire-irons repose. But, while admitting that there may be some force in various objections of detail which are urged to the edifice as seen at present, we must contend that no final judgment ought to be passed until the completion of the building permits the architect to say that, having at length done justice to himself, he demands it of the spectator. We believe that it is impossible to estimate by anticipation the effect of the grandest feature of the work, the colossal Victoria tower; and at the slow rate at which its richness creeps skyward, six or seven years must still elapse before the crowning stone is laid. This gigantic column, aided by the effect of the graceful clock-tower, may, and

probably

probably will, so dwarf details into insignificance, that faultfinders will thenceforth be ashamed of their vocation. Meantime, the only word for Sir Charles Barry is-excelsior.

But it is to a single chamber in this mighty pile that we have to conduct the young Englishman, who, having seen in the outside world innumerable specimens of the way his country's laws are broken, has a laudable curiosity to see how they are made. We might begin with a pleasant picture of that youthful inquirer himself, and imagine him to be an ingenuous youth, of agreeable countenance, and country education, who has a befitting veneration for the British Constitution, for patriotism, and for statesmanship, and who has committed to his plastic memory the best passages from Demosthenes, Cicero, and Chatham, and in whom not even the scenes at the elections for the borough near his own quiet home have been able to shake the abstract reverence in which he holds the collective wisdom of the nation. But an Ingenuus of this kind is not easily found in these days of precocity. There was a poor old woman, nearly blind, who used to wander about Smyrna, with one thought only to trouble her fast waning intellect, which was evinced in the ever-recurring moan: Where are all the children gone? There are no children now.' With much less melancholy note-for we believe the hearts of the youth of England to be as sound and as noble as ever—we may ask, 'Where are all the boys gone?' Railway communication, popular literature, and adventurous tailors do wonders for the rising generation, and there seem to be no boys. One day you are helping a flaxen-curled child to turn summersaults on a grass plot, or to put together a dissected puzzle of Joseph, and next time you meet, behold a young gentleman in an evening dress, with a faultless cravat, and a grave smile, who asks you, with some concern, whether it is really to be Madame Grisi's last season. So, if we take Ingenuus with us to the House, it is not in the hope that he will meet many of his kind in the galleries or the lobbies.

As Parliament usually meets at the end of January or the beginning of February, to rise about the second week in August (the accession and fall of the late Derby administration temporarily deranged the practice), it may be held to be an afternoon towards the middle of the session, some time in the month of May. We enter the Hall, remarking as we go that Barry's adaptation of his design to the purpose not only of preserving the glorious hall but of making it a grand feature of the Palace deserves all plaudit. There is a long curved line of idle people, drawn up from the door to the Members' entrance,' broken through the left side of the hall, and they stand there to see the members go

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in, while another detachment wait outside in the air to behold the senators come up in their carriages or on their horses. But we will not linger here, agreeable as it may be to gaze upon the notabilities of the House, or the graceful figures and pleasant faces of less known representatives, but will mount the steps at the upper end of Westminster Hall, and turn to the left. This is St. Stephen's porch; and it leads us into St. Stephen's Hall, of which we have only time to say as we traverse it that it stands upon the site of St. Stephen's Chapel, words so long the penny-a-liner's synonyme for the House of Commons. The statues are those of Hampden, Falkland, Clarendon, and Walpole, and eight other worthies are to share the proud distinction. Enter this noble central octagon hall, into which the electric telegraph is laid, with wires to the clubs, so that a man may save his dinner and his country too, by keeping his eye on the regularly transmitted messages: 9.30. Colonial Churches. Mr. Nimbus, still. Is reading a great number of extracts from Commissioners' Reports. House very empty.' Or, 11.45. Conduct of Ministers. Mr. Disraeli just up. Is taunting the Govern ment with having been beaten seven times in eight days. House crowded,' We are between two corridors. That to the right leads to the House of Lords, that to the left, along which we are to go, to the House of Commons. Thus, at a prorogation, the Queen on her throne and the Speaker in his chair face each other at a distance of some four hundred and fifty feet, and the eagerness of the Commons in their race from their own House to the bar of the Lords has more than once amused their Sovereign Lady. It used indeed to be an open race, but the start is now so managed that the Speaker and the parliamentary leaders first 'touch wood,' as schoolboys say.

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Through the corridor we enter the Commons' Lobby. Here Ingenuus will perceive considerable bustle. Members are perpetually coming in and out, and as the doors swing open he gets a momentary view of the Speaker actively presiding over the House. Of the people in the lobby some want orders for the gallery, some wish to know whether certain petitions have been presented, or certain questions asked, and those who are waiting for the Irish representatives are probably either gentlemen who correspond with the Dublin newspapers, and have come to get the latest political intelligence, or Hibernian adventurers who 'depend upon their friends to obtain them some place or other, and in the mane time to lind them a thrifle.' The good nature of the Irish members is sorely taxed by this class of hangers-on, who stand here fidgeting and smirking to catch the patron's eye while he is talking to more distinguished acquaintances; but, on the other

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