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facile rapidity which, while it puts you out of breath, is yet so strangely exhilarating, that old and young never fail to find pleasure in his
He may often wander, but he never sleeps. He has, however, far higher claims on our admiration than any arising from these merely literary merits. And in an age like this, of vehement desires and feeble wills, of so much conventionalism and so little courage,—when our favourite virtue is indulgence to others, and our commonest vice is indulgence to self,—when few things are heartily loved, and fewer still are heartily believed,—when we are slaves to what others think, and wish, and do—slaves to past creeds in which we have no longer faith, slaves to past habits in which we have no longer pleasure, slaves to past phrases from which all the meaning has died out, when the ablest and tenderest minds are afraid to think deeply, because they know not where deep thouglit might land them, and are afraid to act thoroughly, because they shrink from what thorough action might entail, -- when
lead life of conscious unworthiness and unreality, because surrounded by evils with which they dare not grapple, and by darkness which they dare not pierce;—in such an age, amid such wants and such shortcomings, we owe a deep debt of gratitude to a crusader like Mr. Kingsley, whose faith is undoubting, and whose courage is unflinching; who neither fears others, nor mistrusts himself; who hates with a destructive and aggressive animosity whatever is evil, mean, filthy, weak, hollow, and untrue; who has drawn his sword and girded up his loins for a work which cannot be passed by, and which must not be negligently done; whose practice himself, and whose exhortation to others, is, in the words of the great German,
“ Im halben zu entwöhnen,
ART. II.- THE FOREIGN OFFICE: CLASSIC OR GOTHIC.
Report from the Select Committee on Foreign-Office Reconstruction,
&c. "Ordered by the House of Commons to be printed, July 13, 1858. Remarks on Secular and Domestic Architecture, Present and Fu
ture. By George Gilbert Scott, A.R.A. London: 1857. Some Account of Domestic Architecture in England from the Con
quest to Henry VIII. By the Editor of the “Glossary of Archi
tecture.” Four volumes. Oxford and London : 1851-9. The subject of mediæval architecture has now for a good many years drawn to itself a large share of public attention. Its vo
taries have been very many and very diligent. They have even
. been numerous enough to form several distinct schools, who have sometimes regarded one another with rather more jealousy than was needed. There has been a purely antiquarian, an æsthetical, and an ecclesiastical school, all studying the same objects from three different points of view. All three have, in their several ways, added to our stock of knowledge upon the subject. All three, but the last two more directly, have contributed to that great practical revival of mediæval architecture which has gone hand-in-hand with its speculative study. All three, perhaps, but most certainly the ecclesiastical school, have done something to damage their own cause.
But the result of the whole has been, that the subject has made a most marvellous advance within the last thirty years. At the beginning of the century a few people tried to explain the history and principles of Gothic architecture, and a few people tried to reproduce Gothic buildings in stone and mortar. Both classes, especially the former, are to be held in respect as having paved the way for better things; but, viewing them from our present position, we cannot help pronouncing that the attempts of both were alike failures. Now we have one set of men who can explain the date and the purpose of every stone in an ancient building; we have another—the men are sometimes the same, but the office is different—who can explain equally well the successive development of successive styles, and the ruling principles of each ; and we have a third class, practical architects and their employers, who have learned first to imitate, and now, we think, - something more than to imitate,-really to reproduce, buildings worthy of the best days of mediæval' art. With Professor Willis to explain the history of particular buildings, with Mr. Petit to explain the characteristics of successive styles, and with Mr. Scott to embody their teaching in such glorious shapes as the new chapel of Exeter College, the progress of the present generation beyond the last is wonderful indeed.
In the ecclesiastical department Gothic architecture appears to have completely triumphed. Nearly every church, every Roman Catholic chapel, built for some years past is, in some form or other, Gothic. If there is a very small class which are otherwise, they are at once felt as exceptions to a common rule. But it is not merely Anglican and Roman-Catholic churches which exhibit the prevalent taste for Gothic; the style has begun to be largely employed-sometimes by no means unsuccessfully employed—for Dissenting chapels also. Mr. Spurgeon, indeed, thinks that Gothic architecture was invented by the devil; but he seems to be far from carrying the whole of his brethren with him. Gothic art has even made considerable
advances in a quarter where one would perhaps have still less expected it, in the Free Church of Scotland. In short, in the Established Church its triumph has been complete; and in other religious bodies its success has been very considerable. And from churches it has extended itself to that class of buildings which combine something of the ecclesiastical with the domestic character. Parsonages, schools, colleges, are now commonly Gothic: Anglican or Roman-Catholic foundations are almost universally so; those of other communions very frequently. In short, Gothic has become the recognised style for ecclesiastical purposes. We are not sure that this has not been something of a stumbling-block in the way of its becoming the recognised style for general purposes; still, the ecclesiastical triumph of Gothic architecture, its almost universal adoption, the perfection to which it carried in the best new churches, form a very
very remarkable success. The great question with regard to Gothic architecture just now is that practical one which the proposed rebuilding of the Foreign Office has brought before the mind of the nation at large: How far is Gothic architecture suited to modern civil and domestic purposes? Twenty years ago, indeed, the question might seem to have been decided in favour of Gothic by the adoption of that style for the new Houses of Parliament. This was a premature success, which has, in the long-run, damaged the Gothic cause. The new Houses of Parliament have many faults. We suspect that in certain quarters there is a disposition to exaggerate those faults. We believe that the official and parliamentary mind is sharper in discerning them than that of the general public. Still, in any case, the building is by no means faultless; and the mere fact that so many accusations are brought against it is itself a phenomenon to be explained. Certain it is that the new Houses are assailed from various quarters. Haters of Gothic object to them as being Gothic; lovers of Gothic object to them as not being good Gothic; economists say that they have been needlessly costly; and those who ought best to know say that they are practically inconvenient. Many minds have drawn from all this the not unnatural inference that the experiment of employing Gothic for a great national building has been fairly tried, and has failed. Not only its marked ecclesiastical success, but its premature civil success, has tender not a little to depreciate the value of secular Gothic architecture in the mind of a large body of those who do not stop to examine matters below the surface.
The whole question, in short, is one which is clouded over with misconceptions of all kinds—historical, artistic, and practical ; and it has had the further special misfortune to get mixed
up with political and theological controversies with which it has no sort of natural connection. We believe that the best service we can do, is to clear away these misconceptions one by one; and we hope our more thoughtful and well-informed readers will forgive us if we find it necessary to go back pretty much to first principles, and to take some trouble about propositions which are really hardly better than truisms. Some of the most prevalent and most mischievous misconceptions are grounded on such total ignorance of the subject, that one is almost ashamed gravely to answer them; but statements made within the walls of Parliament derive from the place of their promulgation a practical importance, which is increased a hundred-fold when they are made by the First Minister of the Crown. Had Lord Palmerston's anti-Gothic speeches come before us in the form of an anonymous pamphlet, we should certainly not have gone out of our way to write an article in answer to them. But when they appear as speeches made in the House of Commons by Lord Palmerston, though their strength as argument is in no way increased, yet they derive an adventitious importance which makes it impossible to pass them by.
First of all, the very names commonly given to the contending styles are altogether misleading. “Classic and Gothic,”-to
— not a few minds the two words convey some misty idea that the struggle is one between civilisation and barbarism, between night and darkness, almost between Ormuzd and Ahriman. Lord Palmerston is the champion of the pure and beautiful style of civilised Greeks and Romans; while Lord John Manners is the votary of the barbarous devices of savage Goths and Vandals. To one who knows any thing of the history of architecture, this seems rubbish not worth answering; but we must not let squeamishness of this sort let us in for a Foreign Office designed or approved by Mr. Tite. “Classic” architecture is not classic at all; nor is “Gothic” architecture Gothic in the sense in which people take it to be. People fancy Gothic architecture has something to do with the Goths, and they further fancy that the Goths were nothing but barbarians and destroyers. At the end of the last century it was commonly believed* that Gothic architecture was invented by the Goths when they had altogether "overrun the Roman empire ;” and there is no doubt that the belief has not died out even in the present generation. The word “Goth” has become a proverb for barbarism ;f Mr. Layard, even in the House of Commons, classes together
* For some curious references on this head see Freeman's History of Architecture, p. 298.
† We need hardly gather together instances, but there is one in Boswell's Life of Johnson (ii. 385, Oxf. ed. 1826) too good to be passed by:
" Johnson expressed his disapprobation of ornamental architecture, such as
“Goths, Huns, and Vandals.” Now it would be very hard to show that the Goths at all deserved the character popularly given them as despisers and destroyers of ancient art. We know of no evidence implicating any single Goth in any act of wanton destruction : on the contrary, they looked with the profoundest reverence on the great works which they found in Italy; their king, Theodoric, was the great preserver and restorer of the Roman monuments, which, but for him, would have gone to ruin. The real destroyers were the Italians themselves; the partisan warfare, sometimes the baser cupidity, of the popes, cardinals, and barons of much later times really did the work which is unfairly laid to the charge of Goths and Vandals. The Vandals, indeed, we do not undertake to defend; Genseric really did something in the way of destruction ; but what Genseric laid bare, Theodoric replaced: the real damage was done when Robert Guiscard burnt half Rome by way of delivering its pontiff; when the Orsini, the Colonna, and the Frangipani turned every ancient building into a fortress; and when papal nephews converted them to the still baser use of a quarry:
“Quod non fecere barbari, fecere Barberini.” In a word, Gothic architecture has nothing to do with the Goths; but we cannot see that it would be at all a disgraceful origin if it had.
And if Gothic architecture is not Gothic, Classic architecture is not classic. People, some of whom ought to know better, are fond of epigrammatic sayings about “the Greeks and Goths.” There are neither Greeks nor Goths in the business. The rival style is not Grecian, it is not even Roman; it is the Italian of the Renaissance. The essence of Grecian architecture is to be an architecture of the entablature, not of the arch. It is an architecture of porticos, of columns, and architraves; not an architecture of walls and windows. Perfect in its loveliness as a matter of art, perfect in its adaptation to its own uses, Greek temple architecture is simply impossible in England; you cannot apply it to modern English purposes without spoiling it. In fact, it has been tried and has failed; its utmost achievement has been to attach porticos, sometimes very beautiful in themselves, to buildings with which they had no possible connection. We do not remember whether pure Grecian was attempted in any of the designs sent in for the Foreign-Office competition; it certainly was not in any of those which have at all trod on the heels of Mr. magnificent columns supporting a portico, or expensive pilasters supporting merely their own capitals, . because it consumes labour disproportionate to its utility.''
Mr. Gwyn, an architect, it seems, was present; and, as Boswell says, “ the spirit of the artist rose against what he thought a Gothic attack.” Did either Johnson or Boswell know that they had very nearly stumbled between them upon the distinctive character of Gothic decoration as distinguished from Italian?