Imágenes de página



As the construction and arrangement of the honey-comb manifest the instinctive sagacity of its uneducated builder—as the position and formation of the dwelling of the beaver evince a degree of skill and foresight almost rational--as the geometric symmetry of the spider's suspended and outstretched web shews the cunning of its wily weaver-so does the house of the Architect, the gallery of the Painter, and the library of the Author, exhibit some prominent characteristic trait of its respective

Instead of vainly attempting to prognosticate the ruling passion and character by phrenological bumps, or craniological organs, we shall find a better and surer criterion of judging man, by referring to his domestic habits and associations. “ Tell me your company, and I'll tell you what you are,” is an old proverb, full of truth and meaning: it is a better motto to a man's biography than either phrenology, or physiognomy, ever furnished. It is not, however, by his fellow associates only, that we are to estimate the character of an individual : his books, pictures, statues, curiosities, horses, dogs, living animals, and quiescent chattels, are so many outward signs of predilections and partialities. To the Artist and to the Author, works of art and of literature are indispensable: they are necessary monitors, companions, friends. They are the depositories of wisdom; the legacies bequeathed by genius and talent to advance science and perpetuate information. By these we hold converse with Raffaelle, Michael Angelo, Vitruvius, Shakspeare. We consult them for information : we associate with them for pleasure. In what they have said, we recognise the progress and effect of their studies : in what they have done, we behold evidences of their own experience engrafted on-acquired knowledge. Hence libraries, and collections of works of art, are of inestimable value. They bring to “ our own homes and bosoms” the learning, the talent, and the taste of distant nations and of distant ages.

National Museums, as well as national libraries, are of incalculable worth. They not only serve to rescue many important and valuable objects from oblivion, but give them a permanent abode, protection, and interest. When we survey the contents of the British Museum, for instance, we are both astonished and delighted at the number, variety, and value of the articles there concentrated. In seeing what has thus been done, we cannot be too grateful to the individual who laid the foundation—who formed the nucleus—which has at length attained such magnitude and interest. Before the time of Sir Hans Sloane, i. e. about eighty years ago only, there was no public museum in England; but that enlightened and zealous collector having expended about fifty thousand pounds in accumulating a mass of natural and artificial articles of rarity and value, directed, by his will, that the same should be offered to the Government for twenty thousand pounds, for the purpose of founding a national repository. This offer was fortunately acceded to, and, by the generosity of individuals and the liberality of the nation, the collection has since been augmented to its present extent. It is, however, a singular fact, that the original Museum did not contain one architectural fragment; no specimen either of Egyptian, Grecian, or Roman building : nor does it appear, by the printed list, that it ever included any examples of fine sculpture. It was not, indeed, till very lately that this establishment acquired any architectural specimens. The late Mr. Henry Holland offered it a collection of this class, but it appears that the Trustees did not understand or appreciate the value of the articles; as they were refused. A better taste dawns on our own times; for the Townley and Elgin marbles, now deposited there, are highly estimable, both as objects of antiquity and of beauty. It does not appear that either Inigo Jones, Sir Christopher Wren, Vanbrugh, or the other architects of that age, thought it necessary to collect real specimens, or fragments of Grecian or Roman architecture. The illustrated publications of Wood and Dawkins, in their “ Ruins of Palmyra and Balbeck,” fol. 1753, made the English architect familiar with some noble specimens of Roman art, but the delineations of Grecian works, before the time of Stuart, were imperfectly and unsatisfactorily executed. The valuable exertions of that artist and Revett, in their “ Antiquities of Athens,” gave a new impulse to the architecture of this country, and even to that of France.

Whatever has been effected by those, and by other architects, is very inconsiderable, when compared with the acquirements and labours of the Gentleman whose museum and collection are briefly noticed, and imperfectly illustrated, in the ensuing pages. With that enthusiasm, which belongs only to real genius, he visited Rome in his youthful days, and having measured and drawn many of its antient buildings, returned home with his mind enlarged, and his portfolios well stored : he also imported fragments of, and casts from, some of the finest works of art in that classic capital. The collection, once commenced, soon augmented, and has now attained an extent and value, perhaps unrivalled by any private gallery in the universe. Though of a miscellaneous nature, and embracing specimens from nearly all the civilized nations of Europe, the whole has an immediate reference, either to architecture or to some other branch of the fine arts. From Egypt, Greece, and Italy,-from France, Germany, Russia, and Great Britain, selections have been made, and we shall here find evidences of the arts or literature belonging to, or characteristic of, each of those nations.

Many years' intimacy with Mr. Soane, and more years' partiality for architecture in particular, and for the fine arts generally, may be adduced as motives for undertaking the Essay which is at length submitted to public candour and criticism. Aware of the difficulty and delicacy of commenting on the professional designs of a living artist, and a friend—of the seeming impracticability of being strictly impartial, and unreservedly candid, I have often questioned my own judgment, scrutinised my own feelings and opinions, and have therefore sought the approving sanction of those confidential friends, in whose kindness and candour I could confide. In this class is Mr. W. H. LEEDS, whose lucubrations form a large portion of the ensuing pages; and who has bestowed much attention on the subject of architecture, by studying it with a devotedness not very common in an amateur, nor, unfortunately so general as could be wished, in the members of the profession.

The mind is commonly prejudiced in favour of those forms and features of design with which it has acquired familiarity. Hence have arisen schools, systems, styles, or peculiarities which distinguish the scholars of certain masters, and the artists of a particular age or place. These prejudices occasion continual differences of opinion on all the productions of fancy. An article, or form, unequivocally approved, and even highly praised by one person, will be censured by another. There is no criterion of taste. Inigo Jones, Wren, Vanbrugh, and even Batty Langley, have had their panegyrists and their censors: the works of each have been as harshly condemned by some as they have been indiscriminately praised by others. Varied and conflicting criticism will ever follow novelty in art and literature; and in proportion as an artist or author manifests originality and independence of thinking and invention, will he be assailed with critical animadversion and even satire. Although all eagerly seek for novelty, and the want of it is harshly condemned, yet when produced, it is generally assailed as innovation, or as arrogance. The public,


i. e. the great bulk of mankind, cannot comprehend or properly appreciate it. Every small remove in the high and beaten track of improvement is understood and applauded; but the man of daring and original genius, who invents something truly new, and even truly fine, will be surrounded by swarms of the wasps

and hornets of criticism. Should his nerves and skin be as strong as his genius is original, he may defy the stings of the buzzing tribe ; but it too frequently happens that the bodily as well as the mental feelings of men of genius are, like the sensitive leaf, all irritability. Animated and highly excited by hope, and the prospect of fame, they are not merely depressed, but some of them are almost driven to madness by the censure of the public press. The aspiring architect is peculiarly circumstanced, in his professional career: he is required to produce something original, and yet, by the same authority, is required to have classic precedent for all his designs; he is expected to manifest the genius of the accomplished artist, and also expected to imitate the standard works of either the Grecian, the Roman, or the Christian architects of former ages. Nothing can be more absurd, and nothing can be more hostile to novelty, originality, and merit. It is therefore the duty of every true lover of art, and of every literary character, to oppose this system, —to contend for the independence of genius—to advocate the cause of English professional men, and endeavour to inculcate maxims of wisdom and good taste in their employers.

Let us briefly narrate the travels, or adventures, of Architecture. It will embrace, in its annals, the history of civilization and the revolutions of art. In the olden times it may be said to have grown from infancy to strong, sturdy, and solemn manhood, in Egypt: whence it emigrated to Greece, and there assumed a brighter and more elegant aspect, corresponding with, and congenial to, the climate and country. Thence, attached to the triumphal car of conquest, it was conveyed to the imperial city of Rome, where, after breaking the bonds of thraldom, it became more gay and fanciful.

It alternately directed its talents and powers to aqueducts, bridges, temples, theatres, and villas; was solemn or gay, grand or pretty, as judgment or caprice directed. Forsaking its heathen tenets and habits, it travelled over the western part of the world, and seemed to have acquired an inherent caprice and restlessness of character, by a perpetual change of scene. Entering a monastery, it turned Christian, assumed the cowl or the mitre, the pilgrim's scrip and cockle hat, or the crusader's shield and lance, as time and place demanded :---raised churches, abbeys, and castles with almost the rapidity of enchantment, and nearly with as much fancy and variety. Meeting with a tyrannic and murderous monarch in England, it was paralysed for a long series of years, and was shifted about from prisons to hospitals, and thence to workhouses. After being oppressed and degraded, it may be said to have revived in Italy, if not in all its pristine grandeur and purity, at least in a form still retaining much beauty, and in other respects well adapted to the wants and habits of modern times. The system then formed has, with more or less modification, since prevailed in the rest of Europe; yet, at the present day, Italy, although still attractive both from its remains of antiquity, and from the structures erected by its Buonarottis and Palladios, must yield the palm to transalpine countries. During the present century more has been done for architecture in England, France, Germany, and Russia, than in the south of Europe. Content with their former treasures and the fame acquired by them, the Italians do not appear very ambitious of fresh laurels in this art; while London, Paris, various cities in Germany, and the two capitals of the Russian empire, daily exhibit new and magnificent structures rising up within them,--edifices uniting classical elegance, or richness of detail, with infinitely greater variety of design, than those even of antiquity exhibit. Berlin and Munich may both be specified for the noble and extensive buildings, either recently completed, or still in progress; and which will confer lasting honour on the names of Schinkel and Klenze. If, too, we may credit report, a colossal church has been commenced at Moscow on a scale of stupendous, nay, almost incredible magnitude, it being asserted that its height, when completed, will be seven hundred and seventy feet!

It cannot be irrelevant to our present subject to make a few remarks on the mutual obligations that art and exalted patronage owe to each other; and to point out some eminent instances wherein a reciprocity of glory has resulted from the union. Wherever the latter has been exercised with kindness and discrimination, the former has repaid the obligation by conveying part of its own reputation to the patron. The names and characteristics of Pericles and Phidias, of Southampton and Shakspeare, are ever associated ; and whilst the head and heart are delighted and instructed by the mental attributes of the immortal artist and the author, they are equally ready to yield their full share of gratitude to the monarch and to the nobleman who patronize and appreciate genius.

The art, as well as the science, of architecture, is an exhaustless subject for study and admiration : it is susceptible of perpetual improvement. It has exercised the inventive faculties of men of pre-eminent talents, both in antient and in modern

« AnteriorContinuar »