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THE SEVEN LAMPS OF ARCHITECTURE. THE STONES OF
VENICE. LAST THREE VOLUMES OF MODERN PAINTERS.
T I MIE second volume of Modern Painters was published in 1846. With its appearance closed what we may mark off as the first period of Ruskin's literary production and critical activity. The third volume was not issued until 1856, and in the ten intervening years he had completed very important undertakings in other departments.
In 1849—for the accuracy of this and of many other of the dates mentioned I depend upon Mr. R. H. Shepherd's Bibliography of Ruskin—appeared The Seven Lamps of Architecture. The volume contained " illustrations, drawn and etched by the author;" and from this time forward, Ruskin, the draughtsman, figured in his books almost as prominently as Ruskin, the critic. There are some who have viewed this circumstance with very qualified satisfaction, and I must own myself of the number. Though deriving much enjoyment from the products of his pencil, I have looked with jealousy on its encroachments upon the province of his pen. The title of the new work was also prophetic. It was one of the first of those symbolical designations which he has so frequently adopted for his books —The Stones of Venice, The Queen of the Air, Sesame and Lilies, The Crown of Wild Olive, Ethies of the Dust, Fors Clavigera. The "lamps" of architecture are the characteristies which good architecture should possess, the spirit in which good architecture is produced, the moral perfections which good architecture should illustrate; in short, the principles LAMPS OP ARCHITECTURE.
which are safeguards against error and sources of success in architectural art. A chapter is devoted to each lamp.
The first is the lamp of Sacrifice. Its light is shed chiefly upon buildings raised for devotional purposes. He maintains that, as the Hebrews were enjoined to honor God with their substance, so, in Christian churches, noble and costly workmanship ought to be one attestation of the sincerity of our worship. Better it is, indeed, to have poor churches than none; but the question is whether wealth shall be spent in the service of our own pride or in adorning the temple of God. "I do not understand the feeling which would arch our own gates and pave our own thresholds, and leave the church with its narrow door and foot-worn sill; the feeling which enriches our own chambers with all manner of costliness, and endures the bare wall and mean compass of the temple."
The second is the lamp of Truth. Its light burns and purges away all falsity and pretence in the use of materials, whether as to their quality or their quantity. Our architecture becomes mean through "petty dishonesties." The first step toward greatness is to discard these. "We may not be able to command good, or beautiful, or inventive architecture; but we can command honest architecture: the mcagreness of poverty may be pardoned, the sternness of utility respected; but what is there but scorn for the meanness of deception?"
The third is the lamp of Tower. It is opposed to puny precision and frivolous accuracy. Our streets are so poor and cramped that there is no hope for our cathedrals. "Until that street architecture of ours is bettered, until we give it some size and boldness, until we give our windows recess, and our walls thickness, I know not how we can blamo our architects for their feebleness in more important work; their eyes are inured to narrowness and slightness: can we expect them at a word to conceive, and deal with, breadth and solidity?"
The fourth is the lamp of Beauty, and in the chapter devoted to its illustration he maintains that, in architecture, " all most lovely forms and thoughts" are directly taken from natural objects. The fifth is the lamp of Life; and the gist of the chapter allotted to it is, that " to those who love architecture, the life and accent of the hand are everything." If there is vitality, a thousand shortcomings are venial; if there is mechanism, the utmost completeness and precision are but the formalism of death. This, of course, applies most obviously to the sculptured ornaments of buildings; but there may be dulness and deadness in an entire architectural design. Always there ought to be vivid life. The sixth is the lamp of Memory. He would have all public edifices to be records of national life; all ordinary dwelling-houses to be homes endeared to their owners by sacred and sweet associations. He suggests that blank stones might be left in places about the house, to be inscribed, after the occupant's death, with a summary of his life and experience. He is sorrowfully aware, however, that this proposal could not well be carried out in "the crowded tenements" of our "struggling and restless population." The seventh is the lamp of Obedience. This is a subject which has always stirred his enthusiasm to its depths. Obedience is, for him, that principle to which "polity owes its stability, life its happiness, faith its acceptance, creation its continuance." He pleads with passionate intensity for the enforcement of an established type of architecture "from the cottage to the palace, and from the chapel to the basilica, and from the garden fence to the fortress wall," declaring, in the most positive terms, that architecture must languish " in the very dust," until " a universal system of form and workmanship be everywhere adopted and enforced." If this is impossible for other arts as well as architecture, " English art is impossible."
In 1851 Mr. Ruskin came before the public in a character assumed for the first and—as seems probable—for the last time —that, namely, of an author of fiction. Written for a little THE EDINBURGH LECTURES.
girl, The King of the Golden River, or the Black Brothers, is one of the best children's books I know. It reads capitally as a story, and yet it has very deep meanings. The boy - hero, oppressed and beaten by his morally and physically swarthy brothers, encounters a series of adventures of a fantastic and entertaining kind, with due intermixture of the fairy element. The brothers arc much too economical farmers to let a blackbird exist on their land, and starve and kick their brother by way of curing him of the soft-heartedness that would allow a perishing wanderer to warm himself at the fire, or even—climax of atrocity—to eat a small slice of mutton. In the long run, the hard-hearted economy of the farmers does not make them rich, and the soft-hearted kindness of their brother does not make him poor; and my readers will probably surmise that the bullion commended in the tale is not that which comes to the mint, but that which glows in the fruit of autumn orchards, or rusties in the leaf-gold of the cornfield. The little volume is illustrated by Doyle with a genial piquancy, a bright and heart-felt felicity, which proves that he loved his work.
In 1851 he published the first volume, in 1853 the second and third volumes, of The Stones of Venice. The first had as sub-title, The Foundations; the second, The Sea Stories; the third, The Fall. These indicate sufficiently the contents of the volumes, which comprise an account not only of the architecture, but, to a considerable extent, of the history of Venice. In massive power, and in richness, vividness, and poetical expressiveness of description—in comprehensiveness of treatment and unity of effect — this work is one of the prose masterpieces of the century. In symmetry of workmanship it surpasses the Modern Painters, though not equalling it in variety and brilliance.
In November, 1853, ltuskin delivered in Edinburgh four Lectures on Architecture and Painting, which were soon after published in London. In them he still appears as the champion of Gothic architecture, the uncompromising denouncer of Greek. Gothic he represents as the architecture of commonsense and universal convenience, and gives one advice to the people of Edinburgh so simple, so comprehensive, so wise that, if it could be but boldly acted upon, all nonsense and affectation would be knocked out of our theories and our habits of building, and we should begin to have houses, churches, and public edifices that we could honestly call our own. "Find out what will make you comfortable, build that in the strongest and boldest way, and then set your fancy free in the decoration of it." In these lectures he extolled the pre-Raphaclites, prophesying that the young men would carry everything before them. "On their works such a school will be founded as shall justify the third age of the world's civilization, and render it as great in creation as it has been in discovery."
A notable characteristic of all these writings of Ruskin— stamped on them in strong relief until after the publication of the three volumes of The Stones of Venice—is the earnestness and Biblical simplicity of their religion. His father and mother, especially the latter, were fervently devout persons, of the Evangelical school, which in Ruskin's early days had not lost its intellectual prestige, or, to speak more strictly, had never been thought, by itself or by others, to stand in need of intellectual prestige. With the ingenuous passion of an affectionate, trustful, dutiful boy, whose home had been for him a temple, he accepted loyally, as beyond all dispute, the creed he learned at his mother's knee. The Bible was the very voice of God, infallible and alone infallible; the Church of Rome was the great and subtle apostasy; the honor, wealth, stability of England depended on her faithfulness to the principles of Protestantism. In books which carried his name throughout the world of culture, he quoted from Dr. Croly and from his own father passages in which the emancipation of the Roman Catholies was spoken of as fraught with ruin to Great Britain.