페이지 이미지


from several stones, or 'à plusieurs teints,' is a most valuable discovery. The same may be said of chromo-lithography, which furnishes fac-simile studies of colouring, as well as design, in the various branches of decorative art. Although in itself no new invention, wood-engraving may be considered almost new process as regards its masterly application in recent years to architectural subjects, and which proves that in able hands it is not only capable of producing extreme fineness and sharpness, but great variety of tint, both of surface and shadow. How admirably it is adapted to book illustration we need not tell those who are acquainted with the specimens in Parker's Glossary of Architecture,' or Sharpe's Seven Periods of Church Architecture.' In the latter, indeed, the woodcuts are scarcely distinguishable from the steel-plates, except by being printed on the same page with the letterpress.

Nothing can be better calculated to render popular the study of architecture than publications like those of Parker and Sharpe. The needlessly expensive form in which superior works of the kind have been generally brought out limits their circulation to professional persons who are compelled to make use of them, and to the wealthy few who can afford to indulge in the luxury of magnificent show-books. In many instances their preposterous size renders them well-nigh worthless to anybody. They can only be kept in the compartments of library tables, or in cases especially provided for the purpose; and when thickness is added to overgrown dimensions of length and breadth, to lift them requires an arm that could almost fell an ox. To add to the inconvenience the letterpress is often associated with the plates, where to peruse it at all is next to impossible, and is a severe penance at best. By far the most judicious plan is to print the text in a smaller companion volume. It is not against costly works that we are arguing, nor is there much occasion to dissuade from a practice that is nearly abandoned in England; but we desire to see some substitutes of equal intrinsic worth, which, while less pretentious in form, will be more practically useful. A beginning was made by John Britton about half a century ago, and his Architectural Antiquities,' and his 'Cathedrals,' found their way into book-cases where people would as soon have thought of lodging an elephant in propriâ personâ, as of stabling the elephant paper folio Cathedrals' of the Society of Antiquaries. Independently of other considerations, convenience of size had no small share

qualities and exquisite beauty of execution. They were worthy of occupying a place in any gallery, and will bear comparison with the choicest productions of the kind. When water-colour paintings are prized as they deserve, these gems will be ranked among the treasures of art.

in recommending to general notice Mr. Britton's publications, and thus diffusing a feeling for the styles exemplified in the edifices he selected, and which, as far as they were represented, were illustrated most attractively by Mackenzie, Cattermole, and others, whose productions formed an epoch in the architectural drawing of England.

When we turn from the literature to the practice of architecture we see at once that it has to guard against two insidious influences -doting antiquarianism, with its superstitious reverence for whatever is old, no matter how inapplicable to actual requirements; and fashion, self-willed, and morbidly craving after change, to obtain which it will not only tolerate, but even welcome deformity. Fixity is the principle of the one, mutation of the other. Those who insist upon rigid adherence to precedent may be allowed to show some astuteness, because they are conscious that it is the only staff upon which they can lean. It is no difficult matter to tell whether their model has been copied or abandoned, and they wisely stand up for a test which is within the compass of their powers. But if the old masters of design had acted upon the pedantic principle of their modern scholars, architecture could never have advanced beyond its infancy. It was not by servilely copying, but by studying to improve upon their antiquity, that they attained to excellence. The modern practice of adopting in their integrity ready-made styles which are susceptible of considerable further development, and capable of adaptation to purposes never contemplated by those who originated them, gives us, instead of the diversified conceptions of individual minds, a monotonous repetition of the same hackneyed ideas. Denied the privilege of thinking for themselves, architects at last, for want of exercising the faculty, lose the power of invention. The style itself, after its brief turn of popularity, is suddenly exploded, for either it must grow with the growth of those who use it, or they outgrow it. The more it was adapted to the particular usages and social idiosyncrasy of the period in which it flourished, the more it must be unsuitable for present practice without considerable modifications. The greater, therefore, its elasticity or capacity of accommodating itself to altered circumstances, the longer it is likely to retain its hold upon the public. The call for innovation from the new demands of the age is an assistance to genius, by directing its efforts to definite points in which utility is to be made the instrument of beauty, and originality to arise out of commonplace wants. He extracted an ornament,' says Dr. Johnson of Pope, from an inconvenience, and vanity produced a grotto where necessity enforced a passage.' If for vanity' we read taste,' the aim of architecture could 2 A

[ocr errors]




not be better expressed. The brick channel which was to convey smoke from the house was at first a disfigurement, and remains so still in the vast majority of cases, but the Tudor designers set to work to turn it to account, and drew from it the most striking of all their effects.

No one can wonder, when these things are considered, that the ultra-Grecism affected in the earlier part of the present century, when little else was required to gain credit for classical design than handing over to the stonemason the copy of a plate in Stuart's 'Athens,' has passed away. Besides that the remaining examples are comparatively few, and all more or less imperfect, —so much so, indeed, that until of late years the traces of polychromy remained undetected,-Greek architecture goes but a very little way towards supplying what is now-a-days required, and is rather to be studied for its refined taste than to be literally copied. The borrowed features and members, in the works of its last revivers, were seldom assimilated to the rest of the design, and consistency of character, and harmony of composition, were almost disregarded. The spirit of the style evaporated in the very effort to retain the letter. What there was of Greek in such productions was 'done' out of the original into the baldest English, and was scarcely better-the strongest condemnation we can pass upon it-than the contemporary Gothic. The College of Surgeons in Lincoln's Inn Fields, as originally built about forty years ago, was, notwithstanding its Ilyssus Ionic columns, a pitiful abortion. There is a very common delusion on the subject which might lead us to suppose that people judged of buildings rather through their ears than by their eyes. The essential attributes of the style itself are imputed to all the edifices which nominally belong to it. Every species, however, of architecture comprehends productions of widely different degrees of merit; for there are good things in a poor style, and exceedingly poor things in the best. The generic name vouches nothing whatever for the quality of any individual work. As much depends upon an architect's own 'style'—that is to say, his treatment of the style he adopts-as on the style itself. It seems to have been imagined that each of the great divisions of architecture was endued with some wondrous automatic power, and that it worked of itself in every one's hands alike. Extraordinary indeed would be the art which could so readily dispense with artistic skill.

The reaction which has taken place since the beginning of

A term is much wanted which would perform the same office in the architectural as in the literary vocabulary, where style denotes the peculiar manner of the writer, and not the language in which he writes.



the century has not been confined to the buildings. affecting a plainness that might even be called ostentatious in our rooms and our furniture, in the days when insipidity went by the name of simplicity, we have now become smitten with a rage for decoration and polychromatic embellishment. The whilom grub has been transformed into a gaudy butterfly. The ultra-classic furniture of Thomas Hope has been banished to garrets, and their former contents been ransacked for antiquated gimcracks. Much of the furniture in the Great Exhibition of 1851 was only remarkable for wretched nonsensical conceits thrown into spasmodic contortions, without the poor merit of being original in its badness. The mingled extravagance and poverty of invention were none the less hideous on account of the excellence of the materials and workmanship, or rather they contributed to aggravate the deformity. In the Gore House exhibition of cabinet work, the egregious ugliness of most of the specimens was at least not secondhand.

It is no uncommon notion that ornament must of necessity be pleasing; whereas the effect may be damaged by the very means which is taken to heighten it. Örnament is one thing, the application of it another. Even the best specimens will not of themselves ensure a happy result; nor could any study of detached patterns teach the art of selecting and combining them. It is the same with furniture. Although every article in a room may be in itself unexceptionable, what should be an harmonious ensemble may prove a distracting jumble of ill-assorted objects. Many a modern drawing-room might be taken for a furniture bazaar, and the so-called men of taste who attend celebrated auctions, or hunt over the Continent for the purpose of purchasing what is rich and rare, often limit their consideration to the individual beauty of successive objects, which are absolutely unsightly when brought together. The most striking internal effects are generally found in those parts of a mansion where there is very little furniture of any description-such as vestibules, staircases, halls, corridors, and picture-galleries; and where, owing to the light being either admitted from above, or more sparingly than in sitting-rooms, there is a greater variety of light and shade. The better a room is in its plan and proportions, the less it stands in need of supplementary adornment. The majority, however, even of costly mansions, are merely cut up into a series of monotonous quadrangular spaces, and hardly exhibit more diversity than a chess-board. Hundreds of houses containing spacious apartments have not a single room that is architecturally remarkable. Everywhere we meet the same four flat walls, and, as the Greek painter reproached his pupil with



having tricked out Helen with finery, because he could not make her beautiful, so it is with us and our houses. Undoubtedly, the furniture ought to be worthy of the apartment, but the apartment itself should be superior to its equipments. In a word, the architect should, when possible, accomplish by his design a large part of what at present is left to the upholsterer. The wonderful charm of an intrinsically beautiful and well-appointed room will be felt by all who have ever had the good fortune to see the Library of Mr. Fergusson in Langham Place. To such epicures as ourselves it is truly delicious.

With all the imperfections which exist, we can still speak encouragingly of much that has been done of late. Destruction and renovation on a large scale have quite changed various quarters of the metropolis; and have given a cheerful look and civilized aspect to localities that a few years back were labyrinthine regions of noisome alleys-a terrible terra incognita, known only to its aborigines and the police. The broad lines of traffic which are cut through a pent-up mass of houses serve to ventilate a whole neighbourhood both physically and morally. A more respectable class of inhabitants are brought into the district, whose interest it is to maintain order and decency. The lurking-places of vice and crime are thinned out or swept away, and the poor are no longer crowded together in dens which were little better than so many Black Holes of Calcutta. Extensive improvements of the kind carry the spirit of improvement along with them, and diffuse the blessing on each side of their course. Adjacent streets catch the salutary infection, and, as occasions for repairs or rebuilding occur, the opportunity is taken to pay some attention to appearance and design. Although much very questionable taste is exhibited, there is a decided advance in this particular also, and some of the lately erected façades in New Cannon Street, and other parts of the City, are incontestably superior either to Regent Street or the Regent's Park Terraces, or to the prosaic style which has unaccountably prevailed in the aristocratic territory of Belgravia, where the houses are dull and insipid, and at the same time pretentious. With some exceptions such as these, we have broken through the systematic blankness of the Baker Street school of design, which used until the time of George IV. to be characteristic of all our streetarchitecture, patrician as well as plebeian, and which caused the wealthiest capital in Europe to be spoken of by foreigners as a wearisome succession of brick boxes. What few important mansions there were skulked sullenly behind dead walls, though how small was the loss from their being 'wall-veiled' may be judged from Marlborough House, now almost the last survivor


« 이전계속 »