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Title: Lectures on Architecture and Painting, Delivered at Edinburgh in November 1853

Author: John Ruskin

Release date: November 22, 2007 [eBook #23593]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Constanze Hofmann and the
Online Distributed Proofreading Team at


Library Edition


Volume III



(A Joy Forever)





Facing page
Plate I. Figs. 1. 3. and 5. Illustrative diagrams 3
" II. " 2. Windows in Oakham Castle 5
" III. " 4. and 6. Spray of ash-tree, and improvement of the same on Greek principles 10
" IV. " 7. Window in Dunblane Cathedral 15
" V. " 8. Mediæval turret 20
" VI. " 9. and 10. Lombardic towers 22
" VII. " 11. and 12. Spires at Coutances and Rouen 25
" VIII. " 13. and 14. Illustrative diagrams 39
" IX. " 15. Sculpture at Lyons 40
" X. " 16. Niche at Amiens 41
" XI. " 17. and 18. Tiger's head, and improvement of the same on Greek principles 44
" XII. " 19. Garret window in Hotel de Bourgtheroude 51
" XIII. " 20. and 21. Trees, as drawn in the 13th century 81
" XIV. " 22. Rocks, as drawn by the school of Leonardo da Vinci 83
" XV. " 23. Boughs of trees, after Titian 84


The following Lectures are printed, as far as possible, just as they were delivered. Here and there a sentence which seemed obscure has been mended, and the passages which had not been previously written, have been, of course imperfectly, supplied from memory. But I am well assured that nothing of any substantial importance which was said in the lecture-room, is either omitted, or altered in its signification; with the exception only of a few sentences struck out from the notice of the works of Turner, in consequence of the impossibility of engraving the drawings by which they were illustrated, except at a cost which would have too much raised the price of the volume. Some elucidatory remarks have, however, been added at the close of the second and fourth Lectures, which I hope may be of more use than the passages which I was obliged to omit.

The drawings by which the Lectures on Architecture were illustrated have been carefully reduced, and well transferred to wood by Mr. Thurston Thompson. Those which were given in the course of the notices of schools of painting could not be so transferred, having been drawn in color; and I have therefore merely had a few lines, absolutely necessary to make the text intelligible, copied from engravings.

I forgot, in preparing the second Lecture for the press, to quote a passage from Lord Lindsay's "Christian Art," illustrative of what is said in that lecture (§ 52), respecting the energy of the mediæval republics. This passage, describing the circumstances under which the Campanile of the Duomo of Florence was built, is interesting also as noticing the universality of talent which was required of architects; and which, as I have asserted in the Addenda (§ 60), always ought to be required of them. I do not, however, now regret [vi] the omission, as I cannot easily imagine a better preface to an essay on civil architecture than this simple statement.

"In 1332, Giotto was chosen to erect it (the Campanile), on the ground, avowedly, of the universality of his talents, with the appointment of Capo Maestro, or chief Architect (chief Master I should rather write), of the Cathedral and its dependencies, a yearly salary of one hundred gold florins, and the privilege of citizenship, under the special understanding that he was not to quit Florence. His designs being approved of, the republic passed a decree in the spring of 1334, that the Campanile should be built so as to exceed in magnificence, height, and excellence of workmanship whatever in that time had been achieved by the Greeks and Romans in the time of their utmost power and greatness. The first stone was laid, accordingly, with great pomp, on the 18th of July following, and the work prosecuted with vigor, and with such costliness and utter disregard of expense, that a citizen of Verona, looking on, exclaimed that the republic was taxing her strength too far, that the united resources of two great monarchs would be insufficient to complete it; a criticism which the Signoria resented by confining him for two months in prison, and afterwards conducting him through the public treasury, to teach him that the Florentines could build their whole city of marble, and not one poor steeple only, were they so inclined."

I see that "The Builder," vol. xi. page 690, has been endeavoring to inspire the citizens of Leeds with some pride of this kind respecting their town-hall. The pride would be well, but I sincerely trust that the tower in question may not be built on the design there proposed. I am sorry to have to write a special criticism, but it must be remembered that the best works, by the best men living, are in this age abused without mercy by nameless critics; and it would be unjust to the public, if those who have given their names as guarantee for their sincerity never had the courage to enter a protest against the execution of designs which appear to them unworthy.

Denmark Hill, 16th April 1854.



Delivered November 1, 1853.

1. I think myself peculiarly happy in being permitted to address the citizens of Edinburgh on the subject of architecture, for it is one which, they cannot but feel, interests them nearly. Of all the cities in the British Islands, Edinburgh is the one which presents most advantages for the display of a noble building; and which, on the other hand, sustains most injury in the erection of a commonplace or unworthy one. You are all proud of your city; surely you must feel it a duty in some sort to justify your pride; that is to say, to give yourselves a right to be proud of it. That you were born under the shadow of its two fantastic mountains,—that you live where from your room windows you can trace the shores of its glittering Firth, are no rightful subjects of pride. You did not raise the mountains, nor shape the shores; and the historical houses of your Canongate, and the broad battlements of your castle, reflect honor upon you only through your ancestors. Before you boast of your city, before even you venture to call it yours, ought you not scrupulously to weigh the exact share you have had in adding to it or adorning it, to calculate seriously the influence upon its aspect which the work of your own hands has exercised? I do not say that, even when you regard your city in this scrupulous and testing spirit, you have not considerable ground for exultation. As far as I am acquainted with modern architecture, [2] I am aware of no streets which, in simplicity and manliness of style, or general breadth and brightness of effect, equal those of the New Town of Edinburgh. But yet I am well persuaded that as you traverse those streets, your feelings of pleasure and pride in them are much complicated with those which are excited entirely by the surrounding scenery. As you walk up or down George Street, for instance, do you not look eagerly for every opening to the north and south, which lets in the luster of the Firth of Forth, or the rugged outline of the Castle Rock? Take away the sea-waves, and the dark basalt, and I fear you would find little to interest you in George Street by itself. Now I remember a city, more nobly placed even than your Edinburgh, which, instead of the valley that you have now filled by lines of railroad, has a broad and rushing river of blue water sweeping through the heart of it; which, for the dark and solitary rock that bears your castle, has an amphitheater of cliffs crested with cypresses and olive; which, for the two masses of Arthur's Seat and the ranges of the Pentlands, has a chain of blue mountains higher than the haughtiest peaks of your Highlands; and which, for your far-away Ben Ledi and Ben More, has the great central chain of the St. Gothard Alps: and yet, as you go out of the gates, and walk in the suburban streets of that city—I mean Verona—the eye never seeks to rest on that external scenery, however gorgeous; it does not look for the gaps between the houses, as you do here; it may for a few moments follow the broken line of the great Alpine battlements; but it is only where they form a background for other battlements, built by the hand of man. There is no necessity felt to dwell on the blue river or the burning hills. The heart and eye have enough to do in the streets of the city itself; they are contented there; nay, they sometimes turn from the natural scenery, as if too savage and solitary, to dwell with a deeper interest on the palace walls that cast their shade upon the streets, and the crowd of towers that rise out of that shadow into the depth of the sky.

Fig. 1.

Fig. 3.

Fig. 5.

Plate I.

2. That is a city to be proud of, indeed; and it is this kind [3] of architectural dignity which you should aim at, in what you add to Edinburgh or rebuild in it. For remember, you must either help your scenery or destroy it; whatever you do has an effect of one kind or the other; it is never indifferent. But, above all, remember that it is chiefly by private, not by public, effort that your city must be adorned. It does not matter how many beautiful public buildings you possess, if they are not supported by, and in harmony with, the private houses of the town. Neither the mind nor the eye will accept a new college, or a new hospital, or a new institution, for a city. It is the Canongate, and the Princes Street, and the High Street that are Edinburgh. It is in your own private houses that the real majesty of Edinburgh must consist; and, what is more, it must be by your own personal interest that the style of the architecture which rises around you must be principally guided. Do not think that you can have good architecture merely by paying for it. It is not by subscribing liberally for a large building once in forty years that you can call up architects and inspiration. It is only by active and sympathetic attention to the domestic and every-day work which is done for each of you, that you can educate either yourselves to the feeling, or your builders to the doing, of what is truly great.

3. Well, but, you will answer, you cannot feel interested in architecture: you do not care about it, and cannot care about it. I know you cannot. About such architecture as is built nowadays, no mortal ever did or could care. You do not feel interested in hearing the same thing over and over again;—why do you suppose you can feel interested in seeing the same thing over and over again, were that thing even the best and most beautiful in the world? Now, you all know the kind of window which you usually build in Edinburgh: here is an example of the head of one (fig. 1), a massy lintel of a single stone, laid across from side to side, with bold square-cut jambs—in fact, the simplest form it is possible to build. It is by no means a bad form; on the contrary, it is very manly and vigorous, and has a certain dignity [4] in its utter refusal of ornament. But I cannot say it is entertaining. How many windows precisely of this form do you suppose there are in the New Town of Edinburgh? I have not counted them all through the town, but I counted them this morning along this very Queen Street, in which your Hall is; and on the one side of that street, there are of these windows, absolutely similar to this example, and altogether devoid of any relief by decoration, six hundred and seventy-eight.[1] And your decorations are just as monotonous as your simplicities. How many Corinthian and Doric columns do you think there are in your banks, and post-offices, institutions, and I know not what else, one exactly like another?—and yet you expect to be interested! Nay, but, you will answer me again, we see sunrises and sunsets, and violets and roses, over and over again, and we do not tire of them. What! did you ever see one sunrise like another? does not God vary His clouds for you every morning and every night? though, indeed, there is enough in the disappearing and appearing of the great orb above the rolling of the world, to interest all of us, one would think, for as many times as we shall see it; and yet the aspect of it is changed for us daily. You see violets and roses often, and are not tired of them. True! but you did not often see two roses alike, or, if you did, you took care not to put them beside each other in the same nosegay, for fear your nosegay should be uninteresting; and yet you think you can put 150,000 square windows side by side in the same streets, and still be interested by them. Why, if I were to say the same thing over and over again, for the single hour you are going to let me talk to you, would you listen to me? and yet you let your architects do the same thing over and over again for three centuries, and expect to be interested by their architecture; with a farther disadvantage on the side of the builder, as compared with the speaker, that my wasted words would cost you but little, but his wasted stones have cost you no small part of your incomes.

Fig. 2.


4. "Well, but," you still think within yourselves, "it is not right that architecture should be interesting. It is a very grand thing, this architecture, but essentially unentertaining. It is its duty to be dull, it is monotonous by law: it cannot be correct and yet amusing."

Believe me, it is not so. All things that are worth doing in art, are interesting and attractive when they are done. There is no law of right which consecrates dullness. The proof of a thing's being right is, that it has power over the heart; that it excites us, wins us, or helps us. I do not say that it has influence over all, but it has over a large class, one kind of art being fit for one class, and another for another; and there is no goodness in art which is independent of the power of pleasing. Yet, do not mistake me; I do not mean that there is no such thing as neglect of the best art, or delight in the worst, just as many men neglect nature, and feed upon what is artificial and base; but I mean, that all good art has the capacity of pleasing, if people will attend to it; that there is no law against its pleasing; but, on the contrary, something wrong either in the spectator or the art, when it ceases to please. Now, therefore, if you feel that your present school of architecture is unattractive to you, I say there is something wrong, either in the architecture or in you; and I trust you will not think I mean to flatter you when I tell you, that the wrong is not in you, but in the architecture. Look at this for a moment (fig. 2); it is a window actually existing—a window of an English domestic building[2]—a window built six hundred years ago. You will not tell me you have no pleasure in looking at this; or that you could not, by any possibility, become interested in the art which produced it; or that, if every window in your streets were of some such form, with perpetual change in their ornaments, you would pass up and down the street with as much indifference as now, when your windows are of this form (fig. 1). Can you for an instant suppose that the architect was a [6] greater or wiser man who built this, than he who built that? or that in the arrangement of these dull and monotonous stones there is more wit and sense than you can penetrate? Believe me, the wrong is not in you; you would all like the best things best, if you only saw them. What is wrong in you is your temper, not your taste; your patient and trustful temper, which lives in houses whose architecture it takes for granted, and subscribes to public edifices from which it derives no enjoyment.

5. "Well, but what are we to do?" you will say to me; "we cannot make architects of ourselves." Pardon me, you can—and you ought. Architecture is an art for all men to learn, because all are concerned with it; and it is so simple, that there is no excuse for not being acquainted with its primary rules, any more than for ignorance of grammar or of spelling, which are both of them far more difficult sciences. Far less trouble than is necessary to learn how to play chess, or whist, or golf, tolerably,—far less than a school-boy takes to win the meanest prize of the passing year, would acquaint you with all the main principles of the construction of a Gothic cathedral, and I believe you would hardly find the study less amusing. But be that as it may, there are one or two broad principles which need only be stated to be understood and accepted; and those I mean to lay before you, with your permission, before you leave this room.

6. You must all, of course, have observed that the principal distinctions between existing styles of architecture depend on their methods of roofing any space, as a window or door for instance, or a space between pillars; that is to say, that the character of Greek architecture, and of all that is derived from it, depends on its roofing a space with a single stone laid from side to side; the character of Roman architecture, and of all derived from it, depends on its roofing spaces with round arches; and the character of Gothic architecture depends on its roofing spaces with pointed arches, or gables. I need not, of course, in any way follow out for you the mode in which the Greek system of architecture is derived from [7] the horizontal lintel; but I ought perhaps to explain, that by Roman architecture I do not mean that spurious condition of temple form which was nothing more than a luscious imitation of the Greek; but I mean that architecture in which the Roman spirit truly manifested itself, the magnificent vaultings of the aqueduct and the bath, and the colossal heaping of the rough stones in the arches of the amphitheater; an architecture full of expression of gigantic power and strength of will, and from which are directly derived all our most impressive early buildings, called, as you know, by various antiquaries, Saxon, Norman, or Romanesque. Now the first point I wish to insist upon is, that the Greek system, considered merely as a piece of construction, is weak and barbarous compared with the two others. For instance, in the case of a large window or door, such as fig. 1, if you have at your disposal a single large and long stone you may indeed roof it in the Greek manner, as you have done here, with comparative security; but it is always expensive to obtain and to raise to their place stones of this large size, and in many places nearly impossible to obtain them at all: and if you have not such stones, and still insist upon roofing the space in the Greek way, that is to say, upon having a square window, you must do it by the miserably feeble adjustment of bricks, fig. 3.[3] You are well aware, of course, that this latter is the usual way in which such windows are now built in England; you are fortunate enough here in the north to be able to obtain single stones, and this circumstance alone gives a considerable degree of grandeur to your buildings. But in all cases, and however built, you cannot but see in a moment that this cross bar is weak and imperfect. It may be strong enough for all immediate intents and purposes, but it is not so strong as it might be: however well the house is built, it will still not stand so long as if it had been better constructed; and there is hardly a day passes but you may see some rent or flaw in bad buildings of this kind. You may see one whenever you choose, in one of your most costly, and most ugly [8] buildings, the great church with the dome, at the end of George Street. I think I never saw a building with a principal entrance so utterly ghastly and oppressive; and it is as weak as it is ghastly. The huge horizontal lintel above the door is already split right through. But you are not aware of a thousandth part of the evil: the pieces of building that you see are all carefully done; it is in the parts that are to be concealed by paint and plaster that the bad building of the day is thoroughly committed. The main mischief lies in the strange devices that are used to support the long horizontal cross beams of our larger apartments and shops, and the framework of unseen walls; girders and ties of cast iron, and props and wedges, and laths nailed and bolted together, on marvelously scientific principles; so scientific, that every now and then, when some tender reparation is undertaken by the unconscious householder, the whole house crashes into a heap of ruin, so total, that the jury which sits on the bodies of the inhabitants cannot tell what has been the matter with it, and returns a dim verdict of accidental death.

7. Did you read the account of the proceedings at the Crystal Palace at Sydenham the other day? Some dozen of men crushed up among the splinters of the scaffolding in an instant, nobody knew why. All the engineers declare the scaffolding to have been erected on the best principles,—that the fall of it is as much a mystery as if it had fallen from heaven, and were all meteoric stones. The jury go to Sydenham and look at the heap of shattered bolts and girders, and come back as wise as they went. Accidental death! Yes, verily; the lives of all those dozen of men had been hanging for months at the mercy of a flaw in an inch or two of cast iron. Very accidental indeed! Not the less pitiable. I grant it not to be an easy thing to raise scaffolding to the height of the Crystal Palace without incurring some danger, but that is no reason why your houses should all be nothing but scaffolding. The common system of support of walls over shops is now nothing but permanent scaffolding; part of iron, part of wood, part of brick; in its [9] skeleton state awful to behold; the weight of three or four stories of wall resting sometimes on two or three pillars of the size of gas pipes, sometimes on a single cross beam of wood, laid across from party wall to party wall in the Greek manner. I have a vivid recollection at this moment of a vast heap of splinters in the Borough Road, close to St. George's, Southwark, in the road between my own house and London. I had passed it the day before, a goodly shop front, and sufficient house above, with a few repairs undertaken in the shop before opening a new business. The master and mistress had found it dusty that afternoon, and went out to tea. When they came back in the evening, they found their whole house in the form of a heap of bricks blocking the roadway, with a party of men digging out their cook. But I do not insist on casualties like these, disgraceful to us as they are, for it is, of course, perfectly possible to build a perfectly secure house or a secure window in the Greek manner; but the simple fact is, that in order to obtain in the cross lintel the same amount of strength which you can obtain in a pointed arch, you must go to an immensely greater cost in stone or in labor. Stonehenge is strong enough, but it takes some trouble to build in the manner of Stonehenge: and Stonehenge itself is not so strong as an arch of the Colosseum. You could not raise a circle of four Stonehenges, one over the other, with safety; and as it is, more of the cross-stones are fallen upon the plain of Sarum than arches rent away, except by the hand of man, from the mighty circle of Rome. But I waste words;—your own common sense must show you in a moment that this is a weak form; and there is not at this instant a single street in London where some house could not be pointed out with a flaw running through its brickwork, and repairs rendered necessary in consequence, merely owing to the adoption of this bad form; and that our builders know so well, that in myriads of instances you find them actually throwing concealed arches above the horizontal lintels to take the weight off them; and the gabled decoration, at the top of some Palladian windows, [10] is merely the ornamental form resulting from a bold device of the old Roman builders to effect the same purpose.

8. But there is a farther reason for our adopting the pointed arch than its being the strongest form; it is also the most beautiful form in which a window or door-head can be built. Not the most beautiful because it is the strongest; but most beautiful, because its form is one of those which, as we know by its frequent occurrence in the work of Nature around us, has been appointed by the Deity to be an everlasting source of pleasure to the human mind.

Fig. 4.

Fig. 6.

Plate III.

Gather a branch from any of the trees or flowers to which the earth owes its principal beauty. You will find that every one of its leaves is terminated, more or less, in the form of the pointed arch; and to that form owes its grace and character. I will take, for instance, a spray of the tree which so gracefully adorns your Scottish glens and crags—there is no lovelier in the world—the common ash. Here is a sketch of the clusters of leaves which form the extremity of one of its young shoots (fig. 4); and, by the way, it will furnish us with an interesting illustration of another error in modern architectural systems. You know how fond modern architects, like foolish modern politicians, are of their equalities, and similarities; how necessary they think it that each part of a building should be like every other part. Now Nature abhors equality, and similitude, just as much as foolish men love them. You will find that the ends of the shoots of the ash are composed of four[4] green stalks bearing leaves, springing in the form of a cross, if seen from above, as in fig. 5, Plate I., and at first you will suppose the four arms of the cross are equal. But look more closely, and you will find that two opposite arms or stalks have only five leaves each, and the other two have seven; or else, two have seven, and the other two nine; but always one pair of stalks has two leaves more than the other pair. Sometimes the tree gets [11] a little puzzled, and forgets which is to be the longest stalk, and begins with a stem for seven leaves where it should have nine, and then recollects itself at the last minute, and puts on another leaf in a great hurry, and so produces a stalk with eight leaves; but all this care it takes merely to keep itself out of equalities; and all its grace and power of pleasing are owing to its doing so, together with the lovely curves in which its stalks, thus arranged, spring from the main bough. Fig. 5 is a plan of their arrangement merely, but fig. 4 is the way in which you are most likely to see them: and observe, they spring from the stalk precisely as a Gothic vaulted roof springs, each stalk representing a rib of the roof, and the leaves its crossing stones; and the beauty of each of those leaves is altogether owing to its terminating in the Gothic form, the pointed arch. Now do you think you would have liked your ash trees as well, if Nature had taught them Greek, and shown them how to grow according to the received Attic architectural rules of right? I will try you. Here is a cluster of ash leaves, which I have grown expressly for you on Greek principles (fig. 6, Plate III.) How do you like it?

9. Observe, I have played you no trick in this comparison. It is perfectly fair in all respects. I have merely substituted for the beautiful spring of the Gothic vaulting in the ash bough, a cross lintel; and then, in order to raise the leaves to the same height, I introduce vertical columns; and I make the leaves square-headed instead of pointed, and their lateral ribs at right angles with the central rib, instead of sloping from it. I have, indeed, only given you two boughs instead of four; because the perspective of the crossing ones could not have been given without confusing the figure; but I imagine you have quite enough of them as it is.

"Nay, but," some of you instantly answer, "if we had been as long accustomed to square-leaved ash trees as we have been to sharp-leaved ash trees, we should like them just as well." Do not think it. Are you not much more accustomed to gray whinstone and brown sandstone than you are to rubies or emeralds? and yet will you tell me you think them [12] as beautiful? Are you not more accustomed to the ordinary voices of men than to the perfect accents of sweet singing? yet do you not instantly declare the song to be loveliest? Examine well the channels of your admiration, and you will find that they are, in verity, as unchangeable as the channels of your heart's blood; that just as by the pressure of a bandage, or by unwholesome and perpetual action of some part of the body, that blood may be wasted or arrested, and in its stagnancy cease to nourish the frame, or in its disturbed flow affect it with incurable disease, so also admiration itself may, by the bandages of fashion, bound close over the eyes and the arteries of the soul, be arrested in its natural pulse and healthy flow; but that wherever the artificial pressure is removed, it will return into that bed which has been traced for it by the finger of God.

10. Consider this subject well, and you will find that custom has indeed no real influence upon our feelings of the beautiful, except in dulling and checking them; that is to say, it will and does, as we advance in years, deaden in some degree our enjoyment of all beauty, but it in no wise influences our determination of what is beautiful, and what is not. You see the broad blue sky every day over your heads; but you do not for that reason determine blue to be less or more beautiful than you did at first; you are unaccustomed to see stones as blue as the sapphire, but you do not for that reason think the sapphire less beautiful than other stones. The blue color is everlastingly appointed by the Deity to be a source of delight; and whether seen perpetually over your head, or crystallized once in a thousand years into a single and incomparable stone, your acknowledgment of its beauty is equally natural, simple, and instantaneous. Pardon me for engaging you in a metaphysical discussion; for it is necessary to the establishment of some of the greatest of all architectural principles that I should fully convince you of this great truth, and that I should quite do away with the various objections to it, which I suppose must arise in your minds. Of these there is one more which I must briefly meet. You [13] know how much confusion has been introduced into the subject of criticism, by reference to the power of Association over the human heart; you know how often it has been said that custom must have something to do with our ideas of beauty, because it endears so many objects to the affections. But, once for all, observe that the powers of association and of beauty are two entirely distinct powers,—as distinct, for instance, as the forces of gravitation and electricity. These forces may act together, or may neutralize one another, but are not for that reason to be supposed the same force; and the charm of association will sometimes enhance, and sometimes entirely overpower, that of beauty; but you must not confound the two together. You love many things because you are accustomed to them, and are pained by many things because they are strange to you; but that does not make the accustomed sight more beautiful, or the strange one less so. The well-known object may be dearer to you, or you may have discovered charms in it which others cannot; but the charm was there before you discovered it, only needing time and love to perceive it. You love your friends and relations more than all the world beside, and may perceive beauties in their faces which others cannot perceive; but you feel that you would be ridiculous in allowing yourselves to think them the most beautiful persons in the world: you acknowledge that the real beauty of the human countenance depends on fixed laws of form and expression, and not on the affection you bear to it, or the degree in which you are familiarized with it: and so does the beauty of all other existences.

11. Now, therefore, I think that, without the risk of any farther serious objection occurring to you, I may state what I believe to be the truth,—that beauty has been appointed by the Deity to be one of the elements by which the human soul is continually sustained; it is therefore to be found more or less in all natural objects, but in order that we may not satiate ourselves with it, and weary of it, it is rarely granted to us in its utmost degrees. When we see it in those utmost degrees, we are attracted to it strongly, and remember it [14] long, as in the case of singularly beautiful scenery or a beautiful countenance. On the other hand, absolute ugliness is admitted as rarely as perfect beauty; but degrees of it more or less distinct are associated with whatever has the nature of death and sin, just as beauty is associated with what has the nature of virtue and of life.

12. This being so, you see that when the relative beauty of any particular forms has to be examined, we may reason, from the forms of Nature around us, in this manner:—what Nature does generally, is sure to be more or less beautiful; what she does rarely, will either be very beautiful, or absolutely ugly. And we may again easily determine, if we are not willing in such a case to trust our feelings, which of these is indeed the case, by this simple rule, that if the rare occurrence is the result of the complete fulfillment of a natural law, it will be beautiful; if of the violation of a natural law, it will be ugly. For instance, a sapphire is the result of the complete and perfect fulfillment of the laws of aggregation in the earth of alumina, and it is therefore beautiful; more beautiful than clay, or any other of the conditions of that earth. But a square leaf on any tree would be ugly, being a violation of the laws of growth in trees,[5] and we ought to feel it so.

13. Now then, I proceed to argue in this manner from what we see in the woods and fields around us; that as they are evidently meant for our delight, and as we always feel them to be beautiful, we may assume that the forms into which their leaves are cast, are indeed types of beauty, not of extreme or perfect, but average beauty. And finding that they invariably terminate more or less in pointed arches, and are not square-headed, I assert the pointed arch to be one of the forms most fitted for perpetual contemplation by the human mind; that it is one of those which never weary, however [15] often repeated; and that therefore, being both the strongest in structure, and a beautiful form (while the square head is both weak in structure, and an ugly form), we are unwise ever to build in any other.

Fig. 7.


14. Here, however, I must anticipate another objection. It may be asked why we are to build only the tops of the windows pointed,—why not follow the leaves, and point them at the bottom also?

For this simple reason, that, while in architecture you are continually called upon to do what may be unnecessary for the sake of beauty, you are never called upon to do what is inconvenient for the sake of beauty. You want the level window sill to lean upon, or to allow the window to open on a balcony: the eye and the common sense of the beholder require this necessity to be met before any laws of beauty are thought of. And besides this, there is in the sill no necessity for the pointed arch as a bearing form; on the contrary, it would give an idea of weak support for the sides of the window, and therefore is at once rejected. Only I beg of you particularly to observe that the level sill, although useful, and therefore admitted, does not therefore become beautiful; the eye does not like it so well as the top of the window, nor does the sculptor like to attract the eye to it; his richest moldings, traceries, and sculptures are all reserved for the top of the window; they are sparingly granted to its horizontal base. And farther, observe, that when neither the convenience of the sill, nor the support of the structure, are any more of moment, as in small windows and traceries, you instantly have the point given to the bottom of the window. Do you recollect the west window of your own Dunblane Abbey? If you look in any common guide-book, you will find it pointed out as peculiarly beautiful,—it is acknowledged to be beautiful by the most careless observer. And why beautiful? Look at it (fig. 7). Simply because in its great contours it has the form of a forest leaf, and because in its decoration it has used nothing but forest leaves. The sharp and expressive molding which surrounds it is a very interesting example [16] of one used to an enormous extent by the builders of the early English Gothic, usually in the form seen in fig. 2, Plate II., composed of clusters of four sharp leaves each, originally produced by sculpturing the sides of a four-sided pyramid, and afterwards brought more or less into a true image of leaves, but deriving all its beauty from the botanical form. In the present instance only two leaves are set in each cluster; and the architect has been determined that the naturalism should be perfect. For he was no common man who designed that cathedral of Dunblane. I know not anything so perfect in its simplicity, and so beautiful, as far as it reaches, in all the Gothic with which I am acquainted. And just in proportion to his power of mind, that man was content to work under Nature's teaching; and instead of putting a merely formal dogtooth, as everybody else did at the time, he went down to the woody bank of the sweet river beneath the rocks on which he was building, and he took up a few of the fallen leaves that lay by it, and he set them in his arch, side by side, forever. And, look—that he might show you he had done this,—he has made them all of different sizes, just as they lay; and that you might not by any chance miss noticing the variety, he has put a great broad one at the top, and then a little one turned the wrong way, next to it, so that you must be blind indeed if you do not understand his meaning. And the healthy change and playfulness of this just does in the stone-work what it does on the tree boughs, and is a perpetual refreshment and invigoration; so that, however long you gaze at this simple ornament—and none can be simpler, a village mason could carve it all round the window in a few hours—you are never weary of it, it seems always new.

15. It is true that oval windows of this form are comparatively rare in Gothic work, but, as you well know, circular or wheel windows are used constantly, and in most traceries the apertures are curved and pointed as much at the bottom as the top. So that I believe you will now allow me to proceed upon the assumption, that the pointed arch is indeed the best form into which the head either of door or window can be [17] thrown, considered as a means of sustaining weight above it. How these pointed arches ought to be grouped and decorated, I shall endeavor to show you in my next lecture. Meantime I must beg of you to consider farther some of the general points connected with the structure of the roof.

16. I am sure that all of you must readily acknowledge the charm which is imparted to any landscape by the presence of cottages; and you must over and over again have paused at the wicket gate of some cottage garden, delighted by the simple beauty of the honeysuckle porch and latticed window. Has it ever occurred to you to ask the question, what effect the cottage would have upon your feelings if it had no roof? no visible roof, I mean;—if instead of the thatched slope, in which the little upper windows are buried deep, as in a nest of straw—or the rough shelter of its mountain shales—or warm coloring of russet tiles—there were nothing but a flat leaden top to it, making it look like a large packing-case with windows in it? I don't think the rarity of such a sight would make you feel it to be beautiful; on the contrary, if you think over the matter, you will find that you actually do owe, and ought to owe, a great part of your pleasure in all cottage scenery, and in all the inexhaustible imagery of literature which is founded upon it, to the conspicuousness of the cottage roof—to the subordination of the cottage itself to its covering, which leaves, in nine cases out of ten, really more roof than anything else. It is, indeed, not so much the whitewashed walls—nor the flowery garden—nor the rude fragments of stones set for steps at the door—nor any other picturesqueness of the building which interest you, so much as the gray bank of its heavy eaves, deep-cushioned with green moss and golden stone-crop. And there is a profound, yet evident, reason for this feeling. The very soul of the cottage—the essence and meaning of it—are in its roof; it is that, mainly, wherein consists its shelter; that, wherein it differs most completely from a cleft in rocks or bower in woods. It is in its thick impenetrable coverlet of close thatch that its whole heart and hospitality are concentrated. [18] Consider the difference, in sound, of the expressions "beneath my roof" and "within my walls,"—consider whether you would be best sheltered, in a shed, with a stout roof sustained on corner posts, or in an inclosure of four walls without a roof at all,—and you will quickly see how important a part of the cottage the roof must always be to the mind as well as to the eye, and how, from seeing it, the greatest part of our pleasure must continually arise.

17. Now, do you suppose that which is so all-important in a cottage, can be of small importance in your own dwelling-house? Do you think that by any splendor of architecture—any height of stories—you can atone to the mind for the loss of the aspect of the roof? It is vain to say you take the roof for granted. You may as well say you take a man's kindness for granted, though he neither looks nor speaks kindly. You may know him to be kind in reality, but you will not like him so well as if he spoke and looked kindly also. And whatever external splendor you may give your houses, you will always feel there is something wanting, unless you see their roofs plainly. And this especially in the north. In southern architecture the roof is of far less importance; but here the soul of domestic building is in the largeness and conspicuousness of the protection against the ponderous snow and driving sleet. You may make the façade of the square pile, if the roof be not seen, as handsome as you please,—you may cover it with decoration,—but there will always be a heartlessness about it, which you will not know how to conquer; above all, a perpetual difficulty in finishing the wall at top, which will require all kinds of strange inventions in parapets and pinnacles for its decoration, and yet will never look right.

Now, I need not tell you that, as it is desirable, for the sake of the effect upon the mind, that the roof should be visible, so the best and most natural form of roof in the north is that which will render it most visible, namely, the steep gable: the best and most natural, I say, because this form not only throws off snow and rain most completely, and [19] dries fastest, but obtains the greatest interior space within walls of a given height, removes the heat of the sun most effectually from the upper rooms, and affords most space for ventilation.

18. You have then, observed, two great principles, as far as northern architecture is concerned; first, that the pointed arch is to be the means by which the weight of the wall or roof is to be sustained; secondly, that the steep gable is the form most proper for the roof itself. And now observe this most interesting fact, that all the loveliest Gothic architecture in the world is based on the group of lines composed of the pointed arch and the gable. If you look at the beautiful apse of Amiens Cathedral—a work justly celebrated over all Europe—you will find it formed merely of a series of windows surmounted by pure gables of open work. If you look at the transept porches of Rouen, or at the great and celebrated porch of the Cathedral of Rheims, or that of Strasbourg, Bayeux, Amiens, or Peterborough, still you will see that these lovely compositions are nothing more than richly decorated forms of gable over pointed arch. But more than this, you must be all well aware how fond our best architectural artists are of the street effects of foreign cities; and even those now present who have not personally visited any of the continental towns must remember, I should think, some of the many interesting drawings by Mr. Prout, Mr. Nash, and other excellent draughtsmen, which have for many years adorned our exhibitions. Now, the principal charm of all those continental street effects is dependent on the houses having high-pitched gable roofs. In the Netherlands, and Northern France, where the material for building is brick or stone, the fronts of the stone gables are raised above the roofs, and you have magnificent and grotesque ranges of steps or curves decorated with various ornaments, succeeding one another in endless perspective along the streets of Antwerp, Ghent, or Brussels. In Picardy and Normandy, again, and many towns of Germany, where the material for building is principally wood, the roof is made to project over the [20] gables, fringed with a beautifully carved cornice, and casting a broad shadow down the house front. This is principally seen at Abbeville, Rouen, Lisieux, and others of the older towns of France. But, in all cases, the effect of the whole street depends on the prominence of the gables; not only of the fronts towards the streets, but of the sides also, set with small garret or dormer windows, each of the most fantastic and beautiful form, and crowned with a little spire or pinnacle. Wherever there is a little winding stair, or projecting bow window, or any other irregularity of form, the steep ridges shoot into turrets and small spires, as in fig. 8,[6] each in its turn crowned by a fantastic ornament, covered with curiously shaped slates or shingles, or crested with long fringes of rich ironwork, so that, seen from above and from a distance, the intricate grouping of the roofs of a French city is no less interesting than its actual streets; and in the streets themselves, the masses of broad shadow which the roofs form against the sky, are a most important background to the bright and sculptured surfaces of the walls.

19. Finally, I need not remind you of the effect upon the northern mind which has always been produced by the heaven-pointing spire, nor of the theory which has been founded upon it of the general meaning of Gothic architecture as expressive of religious aspiration. In a few minutes, you may ascertain the exact value of that theory, and the degree in which it is true.

Fig. 8.


The first tower of which we hear as built upon the earth, was certainly built in a species of aspiration; but I do not suppose that any one here will think it was a religious one. "Go to now. Let us build a tower whose top may reach unto heaven." From that day to this, whenever men have become skillful architects at all, there has been a tendency in them to build high; not in any religious feeling, but in mere exuberance of spirit and power—as they dance or sing—with a certain mingling of vanity—like the feeling in which a child builds a tower of cards; and, in nobler instances, [21] with also a strong sense of, and delight in the majesty, height, and strength of the building itself, such as we have in that of a lofty tree or a peaked mountain. Add to this instinct the frequent necessity of points of elevation for watch-towers, or of points of offense, as in towers built on the ramparts of cities, and, finally, the need of elevations for the transmission of sound, as in the Turkish minaret and Christian belfry, and you have, I think, a sufficient explanation of the tower-building of the world in general. Look through your Bibles only, and collect the various expressions with reference to tower-building there, and you will have a very complete idea of the spirit in which it is for the most part undertaken. You begin with that of Babel; then you remember Gideon beating down the tower of Penuel, in order more completely to humble the pride of the men of the city; you remember the defense of the tower of Shechem against Abimelech, and the death of Abimelech by the casting of a stone from it by a woman's hand; you recollect the husbandman building a tower in his vineyard, and the beautiful expressions in Solomon's song,—"The tower of Lebanon, which looketh towards Damascus;" "I am a wall, and my breasts like towers;"—you recollect the Psalmist's expressions of love and delight, "Go ye round about Jerusalem; tell the towers thereof: mark ye well her bulwarks; consider her palaces, that ye may tell it to the generation following." You see in all these cases how completely the tower is a subject of human pride, or delight, or defense, not in any wise associated with religious sentiment; the towers of Jerusalem being named in the same sentence, not with her temple, but with her bulwarks and palaces. And thus, when the tower is in reality connected with a place of worship, it was generally done to add to its magnificence, but not to add to its religious expression. And over the whole of the world, you have various species of elevated buildings, the Egyptian pyramid, the Indian and Chinese pagoda, the Turkish minaret, and the Christian belfry,—all of them raised either to make a show from a distance, or to cry from, or swing bells [22] in, or hang them round, or for some other very human reason. Thus, when the good people of Beauvais were building their cathedral, that of Amiens, then just completed, had excited the admiration of all France; and the people of Beauvais, in their jealousy and determination to beat the people of Amiens, set to work to build a tower to their own cathedral as high as they possibly could. They built it so high that it tumbled down, and they were never able to finish their cathedral at all—it stands a wreck to this day. But you will not, I should think, imagine this to have been done in heavenward aspiration. Mind, however, I don't blame the people of Beauvais, except for their bad building. I think their desire to beat the citizens of Amiens a most amiable weakness, and only wish I could see the citizens of Edinburgh and Glasgow inflamed with the same emulation, building Gothic towers[7] instead of manufactory chimneys. Only do not confound a feeling which, though healthy and right, may be nearly analogous to that in which you play a cricket-match, with any feeling allied to your hope of heaven.

20. Such being the state of the case with respect to tower-building in general, let me follow for a few minutes the changes which occur in the towers of northern and southern architects.

Many of us are familiar with the ordinary form of the Italian bell-tower or campanile. From the eighth century to the thirteenth there was little change in that form:[8] four-square, rising high and without tapering into the air, story above story, they stood like giants in the quiet fields beside the piles of the basilica or the Lombardic church, in this form (fig. 9), tiled at the top in a flat gable, with open arches below, and fewer and fewer arches on each inferior story, [23] down to the bottom. It is worth while noting the difference in form between these and the towers built for military service. The latter were built as in fig. 10, projecting vigorously at the top over a series of brackets or machicolations, with very small windows, and no decoration below. Such towers as these were attached to every important palace in the cities of Italy, and stood in great circles—troops of towers—around their external walls: their ruins still frown along the crests of every promontory of the Apennines, and are seen from far away in the great Lombardic plain, from distances of half-a-day's journey, dark against the amber sky of the horizon. These are of course now built no more, the changed methods of modern warfare having cast them into entire disuse; but the belfry or campanile has had a very different influence on European architecture. Its form in the plains of Italy and South France being that just shown you, the moment we enter the valleys of the Alps, where there is snow to be sustained, we find its form of roof altered by the substitution of a steep gable for a flat one.[9] There are probably few in the room who have not been in some parts of South Switzerland, and who do not remember the beautiful effect of the gray mountain churches, many of them hardly changed since the tenth and eleventh centuries, whose pointed towers stand up through the green level of the vines, or crown the jutting rocks that border the valley.

Fig. 10.

Fig. 9.


21. From this form to the true spire the change is slight, and consists in little more than various decoration; generally in putting small pinnacles at the angles, and piercing the central pyramid with traceried windows; sometimes, as at Fribourg and Burgos, throwing it into tracery altogether: but to do this is invariably the sign of a vicious style, as it takes away from the spire its character of a true roof, and turns it nearly into an ornamental excrescence. At Antwerp and Brussels, the celebrated towers (one, observe, ecclesiastical, [24] being the tower of the cathedral, and the other secular), are formed by successions of diminishing towers, set one above the other, and each supported by buttresses thrown to the angles of the one beneath. At the English cathedrals of Lichfield and Salisbury, the spire is seen in great purity, only decorated by sculpture; but I am aware of no example so striking in its entire simplicity as that of the towers of the cathedral of Coutances in Normandy. There is a dispute between French and English antiquaries as to the date of the building, the English being unwilling to admit its complete priority to all their own Gothic. I have no doubt of this priority myself; and I hope that the time will soon come when men will cease to confound vanity with patriotism, and will think the honor of their nation more advanced by their own sincerity and courtesy, than by claims, however learnedly contested, to the invention of pinnacles and arches. I believe the French nation was, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the greatest in the world; and that the French not only invented Gothic architecture, but carried it to a perfection which no other nation has approached, then or since: but, however this may be, there can be no doubt that the towers of Coutances, if not the earliest, are among the very earliest, examples of the fully developed spire. I have drawn one of them carefully for you (fig. 11), and you will see immediately that they are literally domestic roofs, with garret windows, executed on a large scale, and in stone. Their only ornament is a kind of scaly mail, which is nothing more than the copying in stone of the common wooden shingles of the house-roof; and their security is provided for by strong gabled dormer windows, of massy masonry, which, though supported on detached shafts, have weight enough completely to balance the lateral thrusts of the spires. Nothing can surpass the boldness or the simplicity of the plan; and yet, in spite of this simplicity, the clear detaching of the shafts from the slope of the spire, and their great height, strengthened by rude cross-bars of stone, carried back to the wall behind, occasion so great a complexity and play of cast [25] shadows, that I remember no architectural composition of which the aspect is so completely varied at different hours of the day.[10] But the main thing I wish you to observe is, the complete domesticity of the work; the evident treatment of the church spire merely as a magnified house-roof; and the proof herein of the great truth of which I have been endeavoring to persuade you, that all good architecture rises out of good and simple domestic work; and that, therefore, before you attempt to build great churches and palaces, you must build good house doors and garret windows.

Fig. 11.

Fig. 12.


22. Nor is the spire the only ecclesiastical form deducible from domestic architecture. The spires of France and Germany are associated with other towers, even simpler and more straightforward in confession of their nature, in which, though the walls of the tower are covered with sculpture, there is an ordinary ridged gable roof on the top. The finest example I know of this kind of tower, is that on the north-west angle of Rouen Cathedral (fig. 12); but they occur in multitudes in the older towns of Germany; and the backgrounds of Albert Dürer are full of them, and owe to them a great part of their interest: all these great and magnificent masses of architecture being repeated on a smaller scale by the little turret roofs and pinnacles of every house in the town; and the whole system of them being expressive, not by any means of religious feeling,[11] but merely of joyfulness [26] and exhilaration of spirit in the inhabitants of such cities, leading them to throw their roofs high into the sky, and therefore giving to the style of architecture with which these grotesque roofs are associated, a certain charm like that of cheerfulness in a human face; besides a power of interesting the beholder which is testified, not only by the artist in his constant search after such forms as the elements of his landscape, but by every phrase of our language and literature bearing on such topics. Have not these words, Pinnacle, Turret, Belfry, Spire, Tower, a pleasant sound in all your ears? I do not speak of your scenery, I do not ask you how much you feel that it owes to the gray battlements that frown through the woods of Craigmillar, to the pointed turrets that flank the front of Holyrood, or to the massy keeps of your Crichtoun and Borthwick and other border towers. But look merely through your poetry and romances; take away out of your border ballads the word tower wherever it occurs, and the ideas connected with it, and what will become of the ballads? See how Sir Walter Scott cannot [27] even get through a description of Highland scenery without help from the idea:—

"Each purple peak, each flinty spire,
Was bathed in floods of living fire."

Take away from Scott's romances the word and idea turret, and see how much you would lose. Suppose, for instance, when young Osbaldistone is leaving Osbaldistone Hall, instead of saying "The old clock struck two from a turret adjoining my bedchamber," he had said, "The old clock struck two from the landing at the top of the stair," what would become of the passage? And can you really suppose that what has so much power over you in words has no power over you in reality? Do you think there is any group of words which would thus interest you, when the things expressed by them are uninteresting?

23. For instance, you know that, for an immense time back, all your public buildings have been built with a row of pillars supporting a triangular thing called a pediment. You see this form every day in your banks and clubhouses, and churches and chapels; you are told that it is the perfection of architectural beauty; and yet suppose Sir Walter Scott, instead of writing, "Each purple peak, each flinty spire," had written, "Each purple peak, each flinty 'pediment.'"[12] Would you have thought the poem improved? [28] And if not, why would it be spoiled? Simply because the idea is no longer of any value to you; the thing spoken of is a nonentity. These pediments, and stylobates, and architraves never excited a single pleasurable feeling in you—never will, to the end of time. They are evermore dead, lifeless, and useless, in art as in poetry, and though you built as many of them as there are slates on your house-roofs, you will never care for them. They will only remain to later ages as monuments of the patience and pliability with which the people of the nineteenth century sacrificed their feelings to fashions, and their intellects to forms. But on the other hand, that strange and thrilling interest with which such words strike you as are in any wise connected with Gothic architecture—as for instance, Vault, Arch, Spire, Pinnacle, Battlement, Barbican, Porch, and myriads of such others, words everlastingly poetical and powerful whenever they occur,—is a most true and certain index that the things themselves are delightful to you, and will ever continue to be so. Believe me, you do indeed love these things, so far as you care about art at all, so far as you are not ashamed to confess what you feel about them.

24. In your public capacities, as bank directors, and charity overseers, and administrators of this and that other undertaking or institution, you cannot express your feelings at all. You form committees to decide upon the style of the new building, and as you have never been in the habit of trusting to your own taste in such matters, you inquire who is the most celebrated, that is to say, the most employed, architect of the day. And you send for the great Mr. Blank, and the Great Blank sends you a plan of a great long marble box with half-a-dozen pillars at one end of it, and the same at the other; and you look at the Great Blank's great plan in a grave manner, and you dare say it will be very handsome; and you ask the Great Blank what sort of a blank check must be filled up before the great plan can be realized; and you subscribe in a generous "burst of confidence" whatever is wanted; and when it is all done, and the great white marble [29] box is set up in your streets, you contemplate it, not knowing what to make of it exactly, but hoping it is all right; and then there is a dinner given to the Great Blank, and the morning papers say that the new and handsome building, erected by the great Mr. Blank, is one of Mr. Blank's happiest efforts, and reflects the greatest credit upon the intelligent inhabitants of the city of so-and-so; and the building keeps the rain out as well as another, and you remain in a placid state of impoverished satisfaction therewith; but as for having any real pleasure out of it, you never hoped for such a thing. If you really make up a party of pleasure, and get rid of the forms and fashion of public propriety for an hour or two, where do you go for it? Where do you go to eat strawberries and cream? To Roslin Chapel, I believe; not to the portico of the last-built institution. What do you see your children doing, obeying their own natural and true instincts? What are your daughters drawing upon their cardboard screens as soon as they can use a pencil? Not Parthenon fronts, I think, but the ruins of Melrose Abbey, or Linlithgow Palace, or Lochleven Castle, their own pure Scotch hearts leading them straight to the right things, in spite of all that they are told to the contrary. You perhaps call this romantic, and youthful, and foolish. I am pressed for time now, and I cannot ask you to consider the meaning of the word "Romance." I will do that, if you please, in next lecture, for it is a word of greater weight and authority than we commonly believe. In the meantime, I will endeavor, lastly, to show you, not the romantic, but the plain and practical conclusions which should follow from the facts I have laid before you.

25. I have endeavored briefly to point out to you the propriety and naturalness of the two great Gothic forms, the pointed arch and gable roof. I wish now to tell you in what way they ought to be introduced into modern domestic architecture.

You will all admit that there is neither romance nor comfort in waiting at your own or at any one else's door on a [30] windy and rainy day, till the servant comes from the end of the house to open it. You all know the critical nature of that opening—the drift of wind into the passage, the impossibility of putting down the umbrella at the proper moment without getting a cupful of water dropped down the back of your neck from the top of the door-way; and you know how little these inconveniences are abated by the common Greek portico at the top of the steps. You know how the east winds blow through those unlucky couples of pillars, which are all that your architects find consistent with due observance of the Doric order. Then, away with these absurdities; and the next house you build, insist upon having the pure old Gothic porch, walled in on both sides, with its pointed arch entrance and gable roof above. Under that, you can put down your umbrella at your leisure, and, if you will, stop a moment to talk with your friend as you give him the parting shake of the hand. And if now and then a wayfarer found a moment's rest on a stone seat on each side of it, I believe you would find the insides of your houses not one whit the less comfortable; and, if you answer me, that were such refuges built in the open streets, they would become mere nests of filthy vagrants, I reply that I do not despair of such a change in the administration of the poor laws of this country, as shall no longer leave any of our fellow creatures in a state in which they would pollute the steps of our houses by resting upon them for a night. But if not, the command to all of us is strict and straight, "When thou seest the naked, that thou cover him, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house."[13] Not to the work-house, observe, but to thy house: and I say it would be better a thousandfold, that our doors should be beset by the poor day by day, than that it should be written of any one of us, "They reap every one his corn in the field, and they gather the vintage of the wicked. They cause the naked to lodge without shelter, that they have no covering in the cold. They are wet with the showers of the mountains, and embrace the rock, for want of a shelter."[14]


26. This, then, is the first use to which your pointed arches and gable roofs are to be put. The second is of more personal pleasurableness. You surely must all of you feel and admit the delightfulness of a bow window; I can hardly fancy a room can be perfect without one. Now you have nothing to do but to resolve that every one of your principal rooms shall have a bow window, either large or small. Sustain the projection of it on a bracket, crown it above with a little peaked roof, and give a massy piece of stone sculpture to the pointed arch in each of its casements, and you will have as inexhaustible a source of quaint richness in your street architecture, as of additional comfort and delight in the interiors of your rooms.

27. Thirdly, as respects windows which do not project. You will find that the proposal to build them with pointed arches is met by an objection on the part of your architects, that you cannot fit them with comfortable sashes. I beg leave to tell you that such an objection is utterly futile and ridiculous. I have lived for months in Gothic palaces, with pointed windows of the most complicated forms, fitted with modern sashes; and with the most perfect comfort. But granting that the objection were a true one—and I suppose it is true to just this extent, that it may cost some few shillings more per window in the first instance to set the fittings to a pointed arch than to a square one—there is not the smallest necessity for the aperture of the window being of the pointed shape. Make the uppermost or bearing arch pointed only, and make the top of the window square, filling the interval with a stone shield, and you may have a perfect school of architecture, not only consistent with, but eminently conducive to, every comfort of your daily life. The window in Oakham Castle (fig. 2) is an example of such a form as actually employed in the thirteenth century; and I shall have to notice another in the course of next lecture.

28. Meanwhile, I have but one word to say, in conclusion. Whatever has been advanced in the course of this evening, has rested on the assumption that all architecture was to be of [32] brick and stone; and may meet with some hesitation in its acceptance, on account of the probable use of iron, glass, and such other materials in our future edifices. I cannot now enter into any statement of the possible uses of iron or glass, but I will give you one reason, which I think will weigh strongly with most here, why it is not likely that they will ever become important elements in architectural effect. I know that I am speaking to a company of philosophers, but you are not philosophers of the kind who suppose that the Bible is a superannuated book; neither are you of those who think the Bible is dishonored by being referred to for judgment in small matters. The very divinity of the Book seems to me, on the contrary, to justify us in referring every thing to it, with respect to which any conclusion can be gathered from its pages. Assuming then that the Bible is neither superannuated now, nor ever likely to be so, it will follow that the illustrations which the Bible employs are likely to be clear and intelligible illustrations to the end of time. I do not mean that everything spoken of in the Bible histories must continue to endure for all time, but that the things which the Bible uses for illustration of eternal truths are likely to remain eternally intelligible illustrations. Now, I find that iron architecture is indeed spoken of in the Bible. You know how it is said to Jeremiah, "Behold, I have made thee this day a defensed city, and an iron pillar, and brazen walls, against the whole land." But I do not find that iron building is ever alluded to as likely to become familiar to the minds of men; but, on the contrary, that an architecture of carved stone is continually employed as a source of the most important illustrations. A simple instance must occur to all of you at once. The force of the image of the Corner Stone, as used throughout Scripture, would completely be lost, if the Christian and civilized world were ever extensively to employ any other material than earth and rock in their domestic buildings: I firmly believe that they never will; but that as the laws of beauty are more perfectly established, we shall be content still to build as our forefathers built, and still to receive the [33] same great lessons which such building is calculated to convey; of which one is indeed never to be forgotten. Among the questions respecting towers which were laid before you to-night, one has been omitted: "What man is there of you intending to build a tower, that sitteth not down first and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?" I have pressed upon you, this evening, the building of domestic towers. You may think it right to dismiss the subject at once from your thoughts; but let us not do so, without considering, each of us, how far that tower has been built, and how truly its cost has been counted.


[1] Including York Place, and Picardy Place, but not counting any window which has moldings.

[2] Oakham Castle. I have enlarged this illustration from Mr. Hudson Turner's admirable work on the domestic architecture of England.

[3] Plate I. On this subject, see "The Builder," vol. xi. p. 709.

[4] Sometimes of six; that is to say, they spring in pairs; only the two uppermost pairs, sometimes the three uppermost, spring so close together as to appear one cluster.

[5] I am at present aware only of one tree, the tulip tree, which has an exceptional form, and which, I doubt not, every one will admit, loses much beauty in consequence. All other leaves, as far as I know, have the round or pointed arch in the form of the extremities of their foils.

[6] This figure is copied from Prout.

[7] I did not, at the time of the delivery of these lectures, know how many Gothic towers the worthy Glaswegians have lately built: that of St. Peter's, in particular, being a most meritorious effort.

[8] There is a good abstract of the forms of the Italian campanile, by Mr. Papworth, in the Journal of the Archæological Institute, March 1850.

[9] The form establishes itself afterwards in the plains, in sympathy with other Gothic conditions, as in the campanile of St. Mark's at Venice.

[10] The sketch was made about ten o'clock on a September morning.

[11] Among the various modes in which the architects, against whose practice my writings are directed, have endeavored to oppose them, no charge has been made more frequently than that of their self-contradiction; the fact being, that there are few people in the world who are capable of seeing the two sides of any subject, or of conceiving how the statements of its opposite aspects can possibly be reconcilable. For instance, in a recent review, though for the most part both fair and intelligent, it is remarked, on this very subject of the domestic origin of the northern Gothic, that "Mr. Ruskin is evidently possessed by a fixed idea, that the Venetian architects were devout men, and that their devotion was expressed in their buildings; while he will not allow our own cathedrals to have been built by any but worldly men, who had no thoughts of heaven, but only vague ideas of keeping out of hell, by erecting costly places of worship." If this writer had compared the two passages with the care which such a subject necessarily demands, he would have found that I was not opposing Venetian to English piety; but that in the one case I was speaking of the spirit manifested in the entire architecture of the nation, and in the other of occasional efforts of superstition as distinguished from that spirit; and, farther, that in the one case, I was speaking of decorative features, which are ordinarily the results of feelings, in the other of structural features, which are ordinarily the results of necessity or convenience. Thus it is rational and just that we should attribute the decoration of the arches of St. Mark's with scriptural mosaics to a religious sentiment; but it would be a strange absurdity to regard as an effort of piety the invention of the form of the arch itself, of which one of the earliest and most perfect instances is in the Cloaca Maxima. And thus in the case of spires and towers, it is just to ascribe to the devotion of their designers that dignity which was bestowed upon forms derived from the simplest domestic buildings; but it is ridiculous to attribute any great refinement of religious feeling, or height of religious aspiration, to those who furnished the funds for the erection of the loveliest tower in North France, by paying for permission to eat butter in Lent.

[12] It has been objected to this comparison that the form of the pediment does not properly represent that of the rocks of the Trossachs. The objection is utterly futile, for there is not a single spire or pinnacle from one end of the Trossachs to the other. All their rocks are heavily rounded, and the introduction of the word "spire" is a piece of inaccuracy in description, ventured merely for the sake of the Gothic image. Farther: it has been said that if I had substituted the word "gable," it would have spoiled the line just as much as the word "pediment," though "gable" is a Gothic word. Of course it would; but why? Because "gable" is a term of vulgar domestic architecture, and therefore destructive of the tone of the heroic description; whereas "pediment" and "spire" are precisely correlative terms, being each the crowning feature in ecclesiastical edifices, and the comparison of their effects in the verse is therefore absolutely accurate, logical, and just.

[13] Isa. lviii. 7.

[14] Job xxiv. 6-8.


Delivered November 4, 1853.

29. Before proceeding to the principal subject of this evening, I wish to anticipate one or two objections which may arise in your minds to what I must lay before you. It may perhaps have been felt by you last evening, that some things I proposed to you were either romantic or Utopian. Let us think for a few moments what romance and Utopianism mean.

First, romance. In consequence of the many absurd fictions which long formed the elements of romance writing, the word romance is sometimes taken as synonymous with falsehood. Thus the French talk of Des Romans, and thus the English use the word Romancing.

But in this sense we had much better use the word falsehood at once. It is far plainer and clearer. And if in this sense I put anything romantic before you, pray pay no attention to it, or to me.

30. In the second place. Because young people are particularly apt to indulge in reverie, and imaginative pleasures, and to neglect their plain and practical duties, the word romantic has come to signify weak, foolish, speculative, unpractical, unprincipled. In all these cases it would be much better to say weak, foolish, unpractical, unprincipled. The words are clearer. If in this sense, also, I put anything romantic before you, pray pay no attention to me.

31. But in the third and last place. The real and proper use of the word romantic is simply to characterize an improbable or unaccustomed degree of beauty, sublimity, or virtue. For instance, in matters of history, is not the Retreat of the [35] Ten Thousand romantic? Is not the death of Leonidas? of the Horatii? On the other hand, you find nothing romantic, though much that is monstrous, in the excesses of Tiberius or Commodus. So again, the battle of Agincourt is romantic, and of Bannockburn, simply because there was an extraordinary display of human virtue in both these battles. But there is no romance in the battles of the last Italian campaign, in which mere feebleness and distrust were on one side, mere physical force on the other. And even in fiction, the opponents of virtue, in order to be romantic, must have sublimity mingled with their vice. It is not the knave, not the ruffian, that are romantic, but the giant and the dragon; and these, not because they are false, but because they are majestic. So again as to beauty. You feel that armor is romantic, because it is a beautiful dress, and you are not used to it. You do not feel there is anything romantic in the paint and shells of a Sandwich Islander, for these are not beautiful.

32. So, then, observe, this feeling which you are accustomed to despise—this secret and poetical enthusiasm in all your hearts, which, as practical men, you try to restrain—is indeed one of the holiest parts of your being. It is the instinctive delight in, and admiration for, sublimity, beauty, and virtue, unusually manifested. And so far from being a dangerous guide, it is the truest part of your being. It is even truer than your consciences. A man's conscience may be utterly perverted and led astray; but so long as the feelings of romance endure within us, they are unerring,—they are as true to what is right and lovely as the needle to the north; and all that you have to do is to add to the enthusiastic sentiment, the majestic judgment—to mingle prudence and foresight with imagination and admiration, and you have the perfect human soul. But the great evil of these days is that we try to destroy the romantic feeling, instead of bridling and directing it. Mark what Young says of the men of the world:—

"They, who think nought so strong of the romance,
So rank knight-errant, as a real friend."

And they are right. True friendship is romantic, to the men of the world—true affection is romantic—true religion is romantic; and if you were to ask me who of all powerful and popular writers in the cause of error had wrought most harm to their race, I should hesitate in reply whether to name Voltaire, or Byron, or the last most ingenious and most venomous of the degraded philosophers of Germany, or rather Cervantes, for he cast scorn upon the holiest principles of humanity—he, of all men, most helped forward the terrible change in the soldiers of Europe, from the spirit of Bayard to the spirit of Bonaparte,[15] helped to change loyalty into license, protection into plunder, truth into treachery, chivalry into selfishness; and, since his time, the purest impulses and the noblest purposes have perhaps been oftener stayed by the devil, under the name of Quixotism, than under any other base name or false allegation.

33. Quixotism, or Utopianism; that is another of the devil's pet words. I believe the quiet admission which we are all of us so ready to make, that, because things have long been wrong, it is impossible they should ever be right, is one of the most fatal sources of misery and crime from which this world suffers. Whenever you hear a man dissuading you from attempting to do well, on the ground that perfection is "Utopian;" beware of that man. Cast the word out of your dictionary altogether. There is no need for it. Things are either possible or impossible—you can easily determine which, in any given state of human science. If the thing is impossible, you need not trouble yourselves about it; if possible, try for it. It is very Utopian to hope for the entire doing away with drunkenness and misery out of the Canongate; but the Utopianism is not our business—the work is. It is Utopian to hope to give every child in this kingdom the [37] knowledge of God from its youth; but the Utopianism is not our business—the work is.

34. I have delayed you by the consideration of these two words, only in the fear that they might be inaccurately applied to the plans I am going to lay before you; for, though they were Utopian, and though they were romantic, they might be none the worse for that. But they are neither. Utopian they are not; for they are merely a proposal to do again what has been done for hundreds of years by people whose wealth and power were as nothing compared to ours;—and romantic they are not, in the sense of self-sacrificing or eminently virtuous, for they are merely the proposal to each of you that he should live in a handsomer house than he does at present, by substituting a cheap mode of ornamentation for a costly one. You perhaps fancied that architectural beauty was a very costly thing. Far from it. It is architectural ugliness that is costly. In the modern system of architecture, decoration is immoderately expensive, because it is both wrongly placed and wrongly finished. I say first, wrongly placed. Modern architects decorate the tops of their buildings. Mediæval ones decorated the bottom.[16] That makes all the difference between seeing the ornament and not seeing it. If you bought some pictures to decorate such a room as this, where would you put them? On a level with the eye, I suppose, or nearly so? Not on a level with the chandelier? If you were determined to put them up there, round the cornice, it would be better for you not to buy them at all. You would merely throw your money away. And the fact is, that your money is being thrown away continually, by wholesale; and while you are dissuaded, on the ground of expense, from building beautiful windows and beautiful doors, you are continually made to pay for ornaments at the tops of your houses, which, for all the use they are of, might as well be in the moon. For instance, there is not, on the whole, a more studied piece of domestic architecture in Edinburgh than the [38] street in which so many of your excellent physicians live—Rutland Street. I do not know if you have observed its architecture; but if you will look at it to-morrow, you will see that a heavy and close balustrade is put all along the eaves of the houses. Your physicians are not, I suppose, in the habit of taking academic and meditative walks on the roofs of their houses; and, if not, this balustrade is altogether useless,—nor merely useless, for you will find it runs directly in front of all the garret windows, thus interfering with their light, and blocking out their view of the street. All that the parapet is meant to do, is to give some finish to the façades, and the inhabitants have thus been made to pay a large sum for a piece of mere decoration. Whether it does finish the façades satisfactorily, or whether the physicians resident in the street, or their patients, are in anywise edified by the succession of pear-shaped knobs of stone on their house-tops, I leave them to tell you; only do not fancy that the design, whatever its success, is an economical one.

35. But this is a very slight waste of money, compared to the constant habit of putting careful sculpture at the tops of houses. A temple of luxury has just been built in London for the Army and Navy Club. It cost £40,000, exclusive of purchase of ground. It has upon it an enormous quantity of sculpture, representing the gentlemen of the navy as little boys riding upon dolphins, and the gentlemen of the army—I couldn't see as what—nor can anybody; for all this sculpture is put up at the top of the house, where the gutter should be, under the cornice. I know that this was a Greek way of doing things. I can't help it; that does not make it a wise one. Greeks might be willing to pay for what they couldn't see, but Scotchmen and Englishmen shouldn't.

36. Not that the Greeks threw their work away as we do. As far as I know Greek buildings, their ornamentation, though often bad, is always bold enough and large enough to be visible in its place. It is not putting ornament high that is wrong; but it is cutting it too fine to be seen, wherever it is. This is the great modern mistake: you are actually at twice [39] the cost which would produce an impressive ornament, to produce a contemptible one; you increase the price of your buildings by one-half, in order to mince their decoration into invisibility. Walk through your streets, and try to make out the ornaments on the upper parts of your fine buildings—(there are none at the bottoms of them). Don't do it long, or you will all come home with inflamed eyes, but you will soon discover that you can see nothing but confusion in ornaments that have cost you ten or twelve shillings a foot.

Fig. 13.

Fig. 14.

Plate VIII.

37. Now, the Gothic builders placed their decoration on a precisely contrary principle, and on the only rational principle. All their best and most delicate work they put on the foundation of the building, close to the spectator, and on the upper parts of the walls they put ornaments large, bold, and capable of being plainly seen at the necessary distance. A single example will enable you to understand this method of adaptation perfectly. The lower part of the façade of the cathedral of Lyons, built either late in the thirteenth or early in the fourteenth century, is decorated with a series of niches, filled by statues of considerable size, which are supported upon pedestals within about eight feet of the ground. In general, pedestals of this kind are supported on some projecting portion of the basement; but at Lyons, owing to other arrangements of the architecture into which I have no time to enter, they are merely projecting tablets, or flat-bottomed brackets of stone, projecting from the wall. Each bracket is about a foot and a half square, and is shaped thus (fig. 13), showing to the spectator, as he walks beneath, the flat bottom of each bracket, quite in the shade, but within a couple of feet of the eye, and lighted by the reflected light from the pavement. The whole of the surface of the wall round the great entrance is covered with bas-relief, as a matter of course; but the architect appears to have been jealous of the smallest space which was well within the range of sight; and the bottom of every bracket is decorated also—nor that slightly, but decorated with no fewer than six figures each, besides a flower border, in a space, as I said, not quite a foot and a half square. [40] The shape of the field to be decorated being a kind of quatre-foil, as shown in fig. 13, four small figures are placed, one in each foil, and two larger ones in the center. I had only time, in passing through the town, to make a drawing of one of the angles of these pedestals; that sketch I have enlarged, in order that you may have some idea of the character of the sculpture. Here is the enlargement of it (fig. 15). Now observe, this is one of the angles of the bottom of a pedestal, not two feet broad, on the outside of a Gothic building; it contains only one of the four little figures which form those angles; and it shows you the head only of one of the larger figures in the center. Yet just observe how much design, how much wonderful composition, there is in this mere fragment of a building of the great times; a fragment, literally no larger than a school-boy could strike off in wantonness with a stick: and yet I cannot tell you how much care has been spent—not so much on the execution, for it does not take much trouble to execute well on so small a scale—but on the design, of this minute fragment. You see it is composed of a branch of wild roses, which switches round at the angle, embracing the minute figure of the bishop, and terminates in a spray reaching nearly to the head of the large figure. You will observe how beautifully that figure is thus pointed to by the spray of rose, and how all the leaves around it in the same manner are subservient to the grace of its action. Look, if I hide one line, or one rosebud, how the whole is injured, and how much there is to study in the detail of it. Look at this little diamond crown, with a lock of the hair escaping from beneath it; and at the beautiful way in which the tiny leaf at a, is set in the angle to prevent its harshness; and having examined this well, consider what a treasure of thought there is in a cathedral front, a hundred feet wide, every inch of which is wrought with sculpture like this! And every front of our thirteenth century cathedrals is inwrought with sculpture of this quality! And yet you quietly allow yourselves to be told that the men who thus wrought were barbarians, [41] and that your architects are wiser and better in covering your walls with sculpture of this kind (fig. 14, Plate VIII.)

Fig. 15.


Fig. 16.


38. Walk round your Edinburgh buildings, and look at the height of your eye, what you will get from them. Nothing but square-cut stone—square-cut stone—a wilderness of square-cut stone forever and forever; so that your houses look like prisons, and truly are so; for the worst feature of Greek architecture is, indeed, not its costliness, but its tyranny. These square stones are not prisons of the body, but graves of the soul; for the very men who could do sculpture like this of Lyons for you are here! still here, in your despised workmen: the race has not degenerated, it is you who have bound them down, and buried them beneath your Greek stones. There would be a resurrection of them, as of renewed souls, if you would only lift the weight of these weary walls from off their hearts.[17]

39. But I am leaving the point immediately in question, which, you will remember, was the proper adaptation of ornament to its distance from the eye. I have given you one example of Gothic ornament, meant to be seen close; now let me give you one of Gothic ornament intended to be seen far off. Here (fig. 16) is a sketch of a niche at Amiens Cathedral, some fifty or sixty feet high on the façade, and seven or eight feet wide. Now observe, in the ornament close to the eye, you had six figures and a whole wreath of roses in the space of a foot and a half square; but in the ornament sixty feet from the eye, you have now only ten or twelve large leaves in a space of eight feet square! and note also that now there is no attempt whatsoever at the refinement of line and finish of edge which there was in the other example. The sculptor knew that, at the height of this niche, people would not attend to the delicate lines, and that the broad shadows would catch the eye instead. He has therefore left, as you see, rude square edges to his niche, and carved his leaves as massively and broadly as possible: and yet, observe how dexterously [42] he has given you a sense of delicacy and minuteness in the work, by mingling these small leaves among the large ones. I made this sketch from a photograph, and the spot in which these leaves occurred was obscure; I have, therefore, used those of the Oxalis acetosella, of which the quaint form is always interesting.

40. And you see by this example also what I meant just now by saying, that our own ornament was not only wrongly placed, but wrongly FINISHED. The very qualities which fit this leaf-decoration for due effect upon the eye, are those which would conduce to economy in its execution. A more expensive ornament would be less effective; and it is the very price we pay for finishing our decorations which spoils our architecture. And the curious thing is, that while you all appreciate, and that far too highly, what is called "the bold style" in painting, you cannot appreciate it in sculpture. You like a hurried, broad, dashing manner of execution in a water-color drawing, though that may be seen as near as you choose, and yet you refuse to admit the nobleness of a bold, simple, and dashing stroke of the chisel in work which is to be seen forty fathoms off. Be assured that "handling" is as great a thing in marble as in paint, and that the power of producing a masterly effect with few touches is as essential in an architect as in a draughtsman; though indeed that power is never perfectly attained except by those who possess the power of giving the highest finish when there is occasion.

41. But there is yet another and a weightier charge to be brought against our modern Pseudo-Greek ornamentation. It is, first, wrongly placed; secondly, wrongly finished; and, thirdly, utterly without meaning. Observe in these two Gothic ornaments, and in every other ornament that ever was carved in the great Gothic times, there is a definite aim at the representation of some natural object. In fig. 15 you have an exquisite group of rose-stems, with the flowers and buds; in fig. 16, various wild weeds, especially the Geranium pratense; in every case you have an approximation to a natural form, and an unceasing variety of suggestion. But how [43] much of Nature have you in your Greek buildings? I will show you, taking for an example the best you have lately built; and, in doing so, I trust that nothing that I say will be thought to have any personal purpose, and that the architect of the building in question will forgive me; for it is just because it is a good example of the style that I think it more fair to use it for an example. If the building were a bad one of the kind, it would not be a fair instance; and I hope, therefore, that in speaking of the institution on the Mound, just in progress, I shall be understood as meaning rather a compliment to its architect than otherwise. It is not his fault that we force him to build in the Greek manner.

42. Now, according to the orthodox practice in modern architecture, the most delicate and minute pieces of sculpture on that building are at the very top of it, just under its gutter. You cannot see them in a dark day, and perhaps may never, to this hour, have noticed them at all. But there they are: sixty-six finished heads of lions, all exactly the same; and, therefore, I suppose, executed on some noble Greek type, too noble to allow any modest Modern to think of improving upon it. But whether executed on a Greek type or no, it is to be presumed that, as there are sixty-six of them alike, and on so important a building as that which is to contain your school of design, and which is the principal example of the Athenian style in modern Athens, there must be something especially admirable in them, and deserving your most attentive contemplation. In order, therefore, that you might have a fair opportunity of estimating their beauty, I was desirous of getting a sketch of a real lion's head to compare with them, and my friend Mr. Millais kindly offered to draw both the one and the other for me. You have not, however, at present, a lion in your zoological collection; and it being, as you are probably aware, the first principle of Pre-Raphaelitism, as well as essential to my object in the present instance, that no drawing should be made except from Nature itself, I was obliged to be content with a tiger's head, which, however, will answer my purpose just as well, in enabling you to compare [44] a piece of true, faithful, and natural work with modern architectural sculpture. Here, in the first place, is Mr. Millais' drawing from the living beast (fig. 17, frontispiece). I have not the least fear but that you will at once acknowledge its truth and feel its power. Prepare yourselves next for the Grecian sublimity of the ideal beast, from the cornice of your schools of design. Behold it (fig. 18).

43. Now we call ourselves civilized and refined in matters of art, but I assure you it is seldom that, in the very basest and coarsest grotesques of the inferior Gothic workmen, anything so contemptible as this head can be ever found. They only sink into such a failure accidentally, and in a single instance; and we, in our civilization, repeat this noble piece of work threescore and six times over, as not being able to invent anything else so good! Do not think Mr. Millais has caricatured it. It is drawn with the strictest fidelity; photograph one of the heads to-morrow, and you will find the photograph tell you the same tale. Neither imagine that this is an unusual example of modern work. Your banks and public offices are covered with ideal lions' heads in every direction, and you will find them all just as bad as this. And, farther, note that the admission of such barbarous types of sculpture is not merely ridiculous; it is seriously harmful to your powers of perceiving truth or beauty of any kind or at any time. Imagine the effect on the minds of your children of having such representations of a lion's head as this thrust upon them perpetually; and consider what a different effect might be produced upon them if, instead of this barren and insipid absurdity, every boss on your buildings were, according to the workman's best ability, a faithful rendering of the form of some existing animal, so that all their walls were so many pages of natural history. And, finally, consider the difference, with respect to the mind of the workman himself, between being kept all his life carving, by sixties, and forties, and thirties, repetitions of one false and futile model,—and being sent, for every piece of work he had to execute, to make a stern and faithful study from some living creature of God.

Fig. 17.

Fig. 18.

Plate XI.

[45]44. And this last consideration enables me to press this subject on you on far higher grounds than I have done yet.

I have hitherto appealed only to your national pride, or to your common sense; but surely I should treat a Scottish audience with indignity if I appealed not finally to something higher than either of them,—to their religious principles.

You know how often it is difficult to be wisely charitable, to do good without multiplying the sources of evil. You know that to give alms is nothing unless you give thought also; and that therefore it is written, not "blessed is he that feedeth the poor," but, "blessed is he that considereth the poor." And you know that a little thought and a little kindness are often worth more than a great deal of money.

45. Now this charity of thought is not merely to be exercised towards the poor; it is to be exercised towards all men. There is assuredly no action of our social life, however unimportant, which, by kindly thought, may not be made to have a beneficial influence upon others; and it is impossible to spend the smallest sum of money, for any not absolutely necessary purpose, without a grave responsibility attaching to the manner of spending it. The object we ourselves covet may, indeed, be desirable and harmless, so far as we are concerned, but the providing us with it may, perhaps, be a very prejudicial occupation to some one else. And then it becomes instantly a moral question, whether we are to indulge ourselves or not. Whatever we wish to buy, we ought first to consider not only if the thing be fit for us, but if the manufacture of it be a wholesome and happy one; and if, on the whole, the sum we are going to spend will do as much good spent in this way as it would if spent in any other way. It may be said that we have not time to consider all this before we make a purchase. But no time could be spent in a more important duty; and God never imposes a duty without giving the time to do it. Let us, however, only acknowledge the principle;—once make up your mind to allow the consideration of the effect of your purchases to regulate the kind of your purchase, and you will soon easily find grounds enough to decide upon. The plea of [46] ignorance will never take away our responsibilities. It is written, "If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not He that pondereth the heart consider it? and He that keepeth thy soul, doth not He know it?"

46. I could press this on you at length, but I hasten to apply the principle to the subject of art. I will do so broadly at first, and then come to architecture. Enormous sums are spent annually by this country in what is called patronage of art, but in what is for the most part merely buying what strikes our fancies. True and judicious patronage there is indeed; many a work of art is bought by those who do not care for its possession, to assist the struggling artist, or relieve the unsuccessful one. But for the most part, I fear we are too much in the habit of buying simply what we like best, wholly irrespective of any good to be done, either to the artist or to the schools of the country. Now let us remember, that every farthing we spend on objects of art has influence over men's minds and spirits, far more than over their bodies. By the purchase of every print which hangs on your walls, of every cup out of which you drink, and every table off which you eat your bread, you are educating a mass of men in one way or another. You are either employing them healthily or unwholesomely; you are making them lead happy or unhappy lives; you are leading them to look at Nature, and to love her—to think, to feel, to enjoy,—or you are blinding them to Nature, and keeping them bound, like beasts of burden, in mechanical and monotonous employments. We shall all be asked one day, why we did not think more of this.

47. "Well, but," you will say, "how can we decide what we ought to buy, but by our likings? You would not have us buy what we don't like?" No, but I would have you thoroughly sure that there is an absolute right and wrong in all art, and try to find out the right, and like that; and, secondly, sometimes to sacrifice a careless preference or fancy, to what you know is for the good of your fellow-creatures. For instance, when you spend a guinea upon an engraving, what have you done? You have paid a man for a certain [47] number of hours to sit at a dirty table, in a dirty room, inhaling the fumes of nitric acid, stooping over a steel plate, on which, by the help of a magnifying glass, he is, one by one, laboriously cutting out certain notches and scratches, of which the effect is to be the copy of another man's work. You cannot suppose you have done a very charitable thing in this! On the other hand, whenever you buy a small water-color drawing, you have employed a man happily and healthily, working in a clean room (if he likes), or more probably still, out in the pure country and fresh air, thinking about something, and learning something every moment; not straining his eyesight, nor breaking his back, but working in ease and happiness. Therefore if you can like a modest water-color better than an elaborate engraving, do. There may indeed be engravings which are worth the suffering it costs to produce them; but at all events, engravings of public dinners and laying of foundation-stones, and such things, might be dispensed with. The engraving ought to be a first-rate picture of a first-rate subject to be worth buying.

48. Farther, I know that many conscientious persons are desirous of encouraging art, but feel at the same time that their judgment is not certain enough to secure their choice of the best kind of art. To such persons I would now especially address myself, fully admitting the greatness of their difficulty. It is not an easy thing to acquire a knowledge of painting; and it is by no means a desirable thing to encourage bad painting. One bad painter makes another, and one bad painting will often spoil a great many healthy judgments. I could name popular painters now living, who have retarded the taste of their generation by twenty years. Unless, therefore, we are certain not merely that we like a painting, but that we are right in liking it, we should never buy it. For there is one way of spending money which is perfectly safe, and in which we may be absolutely sure of doing good. I mean, by paying for simple sculpture of natural objects, chiefly flowers and animals. You are aware that the possibilities of error in sculpture are much less than in painting; [48] it is altogether an easier and simpler art, invariably attaining perfection long before painting, in the progress of a national mind. It may indeed be corrupted by false taste, or thrown into erroneous forms; but for the most part, the feebleness of a sculptor is shown in imperfection and rudeness, rather than in definite error. He does not reach the fineness of the forms of Nature; but he approaches them truly up to a certain point, or, if not so, at all events an honest effort will continually improve him: so that if we set a simple natural form before him, and tell him to copy it, we are sure we have given him a wholesome and useful piece of education; but if we told him to paint it, he might, with all the honesty in the world, paint it wrongly and falsely, to the end of his days.

49. So much for the workman. But the workman is not the only person concerned. Observe farther, that when you buy a print, the enjoyment of it is confined to yourself and to your friends. But if you carve a piece of stone, and put it on the outside of your house, it will give pleasure to every person who passes along the street—to an innumerable multitude, instead of a few.

Nay, but, you say, we ourselves shall not be benefited by the sculpture on the outsides of our houses. Yes, you will, and in an extraordinary degree; for, observe farther, that architecture differs from painting peculiarly in being an art of accumulation. The prints bought by your friends, and hung up in their houses, have no collateral effect with yours: they must be separately examined, and if ever they were hung side by side, they would rather injure than assist each other's effect. But the sculpture on your friend's house unites in effect with that on your own. The two houses form one grand mass—far grander than either separately; much more if a third be added—and a fourth; much more if the whole street—if the whole city—join in the solemn harmony of sculpture. Your separate possessions of pictures and prints are to you as if you sang pieces of music with your single voices in your own houses. But your architecture would be as if you all sang together in one mighty choir. In the [49] separate picture, it is rare that there exists any very high source of sublime emotion; but the great concerted music of the streets of the city, when turret rises over turret, and casement frowns beyond casement, and tower succeeds to tower along the farthest ridges of the inhabited hills,—this is a sublimity of which you can at present form no conception; and capable, I believe, of exciting almost the deepest emotion that art can ever strike from the bosoms of men.

And justly the deepest: for it is a law of God and of Nature, that your pleasures—as your virtues—shall be enhanced by mutual aid. As, by joining hand in hand, you can sustain each other best, so, hand in hand, you can delight each other best. And there is indeed a charm and sacredness in street architecture which must be wanting even to that of the temple: it is a little thing for men to unite in the forms of a religious service, but it is much for them to unite, like true brethren, in the arts and offices of their daily lives.

50. And now, I can conceive only of one objection as likely still to arise in your minds, which I must briefly meet. Your pictures, and other smaller works of art, you can carry with you, wherever you live; your house must be left behind. Indeed, I believe that the wandering habits which have now become almost necessary to our existence, lie more at the root of our bad architecture than any other character of modern times. We always look upon our houses as mere temporary lodgings. We are always hoping to get larger and finer ones, or are forced, in some way or other, to live where we do not choose, and in continual expectation of changing our place of abode. In the present state of society, this is in a great measure unavoidable; but let us remember it is an evil; and that so far as it is avoidable, it becomes our duty to check the impulse. It is not for me to lead you at present into any consideration of a matter so closely touching your private interests and feelings; but it surely is a subject for serious thought, whether it might not be better for many of us, if, on attaining a certain position in life, we determined, with God's permission, to choose a home in which to live and die,—a [50] home not to be increased by adding stone to stone and field to field, but which, being enough for all our wishes at that period, we should resolve to be satisfied with forever. Consider this; and also, whether we ought not to be more in the habit of seeking honor from our descendants than our ancestors; thinking it better to be nobly remembered than nobly born; and striving so to live, that our sons, and our sons' sons, for ages to come, might still lead their children reverently to the doors out of which we had been carried to the grave, saying, "Look: This was his house: This was his chamber."

51. I believe that you can bring forward no other serious objection to the principles for which I am pleading. They are so simple, and, it seems to me, so incontrovertible, that I trust you will not leave this room, without determining, as you have opportunity, to do something to advance this long-neglected art of domestic architecture. The reasons I have laid before you would have weight, even were I to ask you to go to some considerable expenditure beyond what you at present are accustomed to devote to such purposes; but nothing more would be needed than the diversion of expenditures, at present scattered and unconsidered, into a single and effective channel. Nay, the mere interest of the money which we are accustomed to keep dormant by us in the form of plate and jewelry, would alone be enough to sustain a school of magnificent architecture. And although, in highly wrought plate, and in finely designed jewelry, noble art may occasionally exist, yet in general both jewels and services of silver are matters of ostentation, much more than sources of intellectual pleasure. There are also many evils connected with them—they are a care to their possessors, a temptation to the dishonest, and a trouble and bitterness to the poor. So that I cannot but think that part of the wealth which now lies buried in these doubtful luxuries, might most wisely and kindly be thrown into a form which would give perpetual pleasure, not to its possessor only, but to thousands besides, and neither tempt the unprincipled, nor inflame the envious, [51] nor mortify the poor; while, supposing that your own dignity was dear to you, this, you may rely upon it, would be more impressed upon others by the nobleness of your house-walls than by the glistening of your sideboards.

Fig. 19.


52. And even supposing that some additional expenditure were required for this purpose, are we indeed so much poorer than our ancestors, that we cannot now, in all the power of Britain, afford to do what was done by every small republic, by every independent city, in the Middle Ages, throughout France, Italy, and Germany? I am not aware of a vestige of domestic architecture, belonging to the great mediæval periods, which, according to its material and character, is not richly decorated. But look here (fig. 19), look to what an extent decoration has been carried in the domestic edifices of a city, I suppose not much superior in importance, commercially speaking, to Manchester, Liverpool, or Birmingham—namely, Rouen, in Normandy. This is a garret window, still existing there,—a garret window built by William de Bourgtheroude in the early part of the sixteenth century. I show it you, first, as a proof of what may be made of the features of domestic buildings we are apt to disdain; and secondly, as another example of a beautiful use of the pointed arch, filled by the solid shield of stone, and inclosing a square casement. It is indeed a peculiarly rich and beautiful instance, but it is a type of which many examples still exist in France, and of which many once existed in your own Scotland, of ruder work indeed, but admirable always in the effect upon the outline of the building.[18]

53. I do not, however, hope that you will often be able to go as far as this in decoration; in fact I would rather recommend a simpler style to you, founded on earlier examples; but, if possible, aided by color, introduced in various kinds of [52] naturally colored stones. I have observed that your Scottish lapidaries have admirable taste and skill in the disposition of the pebbles of your brooches and other ornaments of dress; and I have not the least doubt that the genius of your country would, if directed to this particular style of architecture, produce works as beautiful as they would be thoroughly national. The Gothic of Florence, which owes at least the half of its beauty to the art of inlaying, would furnish you with exquisite examples; its sculpture is indeed the most perfect which was ever produced by the Gothic schools; but, besides this rich sculpture, all its flat surfaces are inlaid with colored stones, much being done with a green serpentine, which forms the greater part of the coast of Genoa. You have, I believe, large beds of this rock in Scotland, and other stones besides, peculiarly Scottish, calculated to form as noble a school of color as ever existed.[19]

54. And, now, I have but two things more to say to you in conclusion.

Most of the lecturers whom you allow to address you, lay before you views of the sciences they profess, which are either generally received, or incontrovertible. I come before you at a disadvantage; for I cannot conscientiously tell you anything about architecture but what is at variance with all commonly received views upon the subject. I come before you, professedly to speak of things forgotten or things disputed; and I lay before you, not accepted principles, but questions at issue. Of those questions you are to be the judges, and to you I appeal. You must not, when you leave this room, if you feel doubtful of the truth of what I have said, refer yourselves to some architect of established reputation, and ask him whether I am right or not. You might as well, had you lived in the sixteenth century, have asked a Roman Catholic archbishop his opinion of the first reformer. [53] I deny his jurisdiction; I refuse his decision. I call upon you to be Bereans in architecture, as you are in religion, and to search into these things for yourselves. Remember that, however candid a man may be, it is too much to expect of him when his career in life has been successful, to turn suddenly on the highway, and to declare that all he has learned has been false, and all he has done, worthless; yet nothing less than such a declaration as this must be made by nearly every existing architect, before he admitted the truth of one word that I have said to you this evening. You must be prepared, therefore, to hear my opinions attacked with all the virulence of established interest, and all the pertinacity of confirmed prejudice; you will hear them made the subjects of every species of satire and invective; but one kind of opposition to them you will never hear; you will never hear them met by quiet, steady, rational argument; for that is the one way in which they cannot be met. You will constantly hear me accused—you yourselves may be the first to accuse me—of presumption in speaking thus confidently against the established authority of ages. Presumption! Yes, if I had spoken on my own authority; but I have appealed to two incontrovertible and irrefragable witnesses—to the nature that is around you—to the reason that is within you. And if you are willing in this matter to take the voice of authority against that of nature and of reason, take it in other things also. Take it in religion, as you do in architecture. It is not by a Scottish audience—not by the descendants of the Reformer and the Covenanter—that I expected to be met with a refusal to believe that the world might possibly have been wrong for three hundred years, in their ways of carving stones and setting up of pillars, when they know that they were wrong for twelve hundred years, in their marking how the roads divided, that led to Hell and Heaven.

55. You must expect at first that there will be difficulties and inconsistencies in carrying out the new style; but they will soon be conquered if you attempt not too much at once. Do not be afraid of incongruities—do not think of unities of [54] effect. Introduce your Gothic line by line and stone by stone; never mind mixing it with your present architecture; your existing houses will be none the worse for having little bits of better work fitted to them; build a porch, or point a window, if you can do nothing else; and remember that it is the glory of Gothic architecture that it can do anything. Whatever you really and seriously want, Gothic will do for you; but it must be an earnest want. It is its pride to accommodate itself to your needs; and the one general law under which it acts is simply this,—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. Don't do anything to imitate this cathedral or that, however beautiful. Do what is convenient; and if the form be a new one, so much the better; then set your mason's wits to work, to find out some new way of treating it. Only be steadily determined that, even if you cannot get the best Gothic, at least you will have no Greek; and in a few years' time—in less time than you could learn a new science or a new language thoroughly—the whole art of your native country will be reanimated.

56. And, now, lastly. When this shall be accomplished, do not think it will make little difference to you, and that you will be little the happier, or little the better for it. You have at present no conception, and can have none, how much you would enjoy a truly beautiful architecture; but I can give you a proof of it which none of you will be able to deny. You will all assuredly admit this principle,—that whatever temporal things are spoken of in the Bible as emblems of the highest spiritual blessings, must be good things in themselves. You would allow that bread, for instance, would not have been used as an emblem of the word of life, unless it had been good, and necessary for man; nor water used as the emblem of sanctification, unless it also had been good and necessary for man. You will allow that oil, and honey, and balm are good, when David says, "Let the righteous reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil;" or, "How sweet are thy words unto my taste; yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth;" [55] or, when Jeremiah cries out in his weeping, "Is there no balm in Gilead? is there no physician there?" You would admit at once that the man who said there was no taste in the literal honey, and no healing in the literal balm, must be of distorted judgment, since God had used them as emblems of spiritual sweetness and healing. And how, then, will you evade the conclusion, that there must be joy, and comfort, and instruction in the literal beauty of architecture, when God, descending in His utmost love to the distressed Jerusalem, and addressing to her His most precious and solemn promises, speaks to her in such words as these: "Oh, thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted,"—What shall be done to her?—What brightest emblem of blessing will God set before her? "Behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colors, and thy foundations with sapphires; and I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones." Nor is this merely an emblem of spiritual blessing; for that blessing is added in the concluding words, "And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord, and great shall be the peace of thy children."


[15] I mean no scandal against the present Emperor of the French, whose truth has, I believe, been as conspicuous in the late political negotiations, as his decision and prudence have been throughout the whole course of his government.

[16] For farther confirmation of this statement see the Addenda at the end of this Lecture.

[17] This subject is farther pursued in the Addenda at the end of this Lecture.

[18] One of the most beautiful instances I know of this kind of window is in the ancient house of the Maxwells, on the estate of Sir John Maxwell of Polloc. I had not seen it when I gave this lecture, or I should have preferred it, as an example, to that of Rouen, with reference to modern possibilities of imitation.

[19] A series of four examples of designs for windows was exhibited at this point of the lecture, but I have not engraved them, as they were hastily made for the purposes of momentary illustration, and are not such as I choose to publish or perpetuate.


57. The delivery of the foregoing lectures excited, as it may be imagined, considerable indignation among the architects who happened to hear them, and elicited various attempts at reply. As it seemed to have been expected by the writers of these replies, that in two lectures, each of them lasting not much more than an hour, I should have been able completely to discuss the philosophy and history of the architecture of the world, besides meeting every objection, and reconciling every apparent contradiction, which might suggest itself to the minds of hearers with whom, probably, from first to last, I had not a single exactly correspondent idea relating to the matters under discussion, it seems unnecessary to notice any of them in particular. But as this volume may perhaps fall into the hands of readers who have not time to refer to the works in which my views have been expressed more at large, and as I shall now not be able to write or to say anything more about architecture for some time to come, it may be useful to state here, and explain in the shortest possible compass, the main gist of the propositions which I desire to maintain respecting that art; and also to note and answer, once for all, such arguments as are ordinarily used by the architects of the modern school to controvert these propositions. They may be reduced under six heads.

  1. That Gothic or Romanesque construction is nobler than Greek construction. [57]
  2. That ornamentation is the principal part of architecture.
  3. That ornamentation should be visible.
  4. That ornamentation should be natural.
  5. That ornamentation should be thoughtful.
  6. And that therefore Gothic ornamentation is nobler than Greek ornamentation, and Gothic architecture the only architecture which should now be built.

58. Proposition 1st.—Gothic or Romanesque construction is nobler than Greek construction.[20] That is to say, building an arch, vault, or dome, is a nobler and more ingenious work than laying a flat stone or beam over the space to be covered. It is, for instance, a nobler and more ingenious thing to build an arched bridge over a stream, than to lay two pine-trunks across from bank to bank; and, in like manner, it is a nobler and more ingenious thing to build an arch over a window, door, or room, than to lay a single flat stone over the same space.

No architects have ever attempted seriously to controvert this proposition. Sometimes, however, they say that "of two ways of doing a thing, the best and most perfect is not always to be adopted, for there may be particular reasons for employing an inferior one." This I am perfectly ready to grant, only let them show their reasons in each particular case. Sometimes also they say, that there is a charm in the simple construction which is lost in the scientific one. This I am [58] also perfectly ready to grant. There is a charm in Stonehenge which there is not in Amiens Cathedral, and a charm in an Alpine pine bridge which there is not in the Ponte della Trinità at Florence, and, in general, a charm in savageness which there is not in science. But do not let it be said, therefore, that savageness is science.

59. Proposition 2d.—Ornamentation is the principal part of architecture. That is to say, the highest nobility of a building does not consist in its being well built, but in its being nobly sculptured or painted.

This is always, and at the first hearing of it, very naturally, considered one of my most heretical propositions. It is also one of the most important I have to maintain; and it must be permitted me to explain it at some length. The first thing to be required of a building—not, observe, the highest thing, but the first thing—is that it shall answer its purposes completely, permanently, and at the smallest expense. If it is a house, it should be just of the size convenient for its owner, containing exactly the kind and number of rooms that he wants, with exactly the number of windows he wants, put in the places that he wants. If it is a church, it should be just large enough for its congregation, and of such shape and disposition as shall make them comfortable in it and let them hear well in it. If it be a public office, it should be so disposed as is most convenient for the clerks in their daily avocations; and so on; all this being utterly irrespective of external appearance or æsthetic considerations of any kind, and all being done solidly, securely, and at the smallest necessary cost.

The sacrifice of any of these first requirements to external appearance is a futility and absurdity. Rooms must not be darkened to make the ranges of windows symmetrical. Useless wings must not be added on one side, to balance useful wings on the other, but the house built with one wing, if the owner has no need of two; and so on.

60. But observe, in doing all this, there is no High, or as it is commonly called, Fine Art, required at all. There [59] may be much science, together with the lower form of art, or "handicraft," but there is as yet no Fine Art. House-building, on these terms, is no higher thing than ship-building. It indeed will generally be found that the edifice designed with this masculine reference to utility, will have a charm about it, otherwise unattainable, just as a ship, constructed with simple reference to its service against powers of wind and wave, turns out one of the loveliest things that human hands produce. Still, we do not, and properly do not, hold ship-building to be a fine art, nor preserve in our memories the names of immortal ship-builders; neither, so long as the mere utility and constructive merit of the building are regarded, is architecture to be held a fine art, or are the names of architects to be remembered immortally. For any one may at any time be taught to build the ship, or (thus far) the house, and there is nothing deserving of immortality in doing what any one may be taught to do.

But when the house, or church, or other building is thus far designed, and the forms of its dead walls and dead roofs are up to this point determined, comes the divine part of the work—namely, to turn these dead walls into living ones. Only Deity, that is to say, those who are taught by Deity, can do that.

And that is to be done by painting and sculpture, that is to say, by ornamentation. Ornamentation is therefore the principal part of architecture, considered as a subject of fine art.

61. Now observe. It will at once follow from this principle, that a great architect must be a great sculptor or painter.

This is a universal law. No person who is not a great sculptor or painter can be an architect. If he is not a sculptor or painter, he can only be a builder.

The three greatest architects hitherto known in the world were Phidias, Giotto, and Michael Angelo; with all of whom, architecture was only their play, sculpture and painting their [60] work. All great works of architecture in existence are either the work of single sculptors or painters, or of societies of sculptors and painters, acting collectively for a series of years. A Gothic cathedral is properly to be defined as a piece of the most magnificent associative sculpture, arranged on the noblest principles of building, for the service and delight of multitudes; and the proper definition of architecture, as distinguished from sculpture, is merely "the art of designing sculpture for a particular place, and placing it there on the best principles of building."

Hence it clearly follows, that in modern days we have no architects. The term "architecture" is not so much as understood by us. I am very sorry to be compelled to the discourtesy of stating this fact, but a fact it is, and a fact which it is necessary to state strongly.

Hence also it will follow, that the first thing necessary to the possession of a school of architecture is the formation of a school of able sculptors, and that till we have that, nothing we do can be called architecture at all.

62. This, then, being my second proposition, the so-called "architects" of the day, as the reader will imagine, are not willing to admit it, or to admit any statement which at all involves it; and every statement, tending in this direction, which I have hitherto made, has of course been met by eager opposition; opposition which perhaps would have been still more energetic, but that architects have not, I think, till lately, been quite aware of the lengths to which I was prepared to carry the principle.

The arguments, or assertions, which they generally employ against this second proposition and its consequences, are the following:

First. That the true nobility of architecture consists, not in decoration (or sculpture), but in the "disposition of masses," and that architecture is, in fact, the "art of proportion."

63. It is difficult to overstate the enormity of the ignorance which this popular statement implies. For the fact is, that [61] all art, and all nature, depend on the "disposition of masses." Painting, sculpture, music, and poetry depend all equally on the "proportion," whether of colors, stones, notes, or words. Proportion is a principle, not of architecture, but of existence. It is by the laws of proportion that stars shine, that mountains stand, and rivers flow. Man can hardly perform any act of his life, can hardly utter two words of innocent speech, or move his hand in accordance with those words, without involving some reference, whether taught or instinctive, to the laws of proportion. And in the fine arts, it is impossible to move a single step, or to execute the smallest and simplest piece of work, without involving all those laws of proportion in their full complexity. To arrange (by invention) the folds of a piece of drapery, or dispose the locks of hair on the head of a statue, requires as much sense and knowledge of the laws of proportion, as to dispose the masses of a cathedral. The one are indeed smaller than the other, but the relations between 1, 2, 4, and 8, are precisely the same as the relations between 6, 12, 24, and 48. So that the assertion that "architecture is par excellence the art of proportion," could never be made except by persons who know nothing of art in general; and, in fact, never is made except by those architects, who, not being artists, fancy that the one poor æsthetic principle of which they are cognizant is the whole of art. They find that the "disposition of masses" is the only thing of importance in the art with which they are acquainted, and fancy therefore that it is peculiar to that art; whereas the fact is, that all great art begins exactly where theirs ends, with the "disposition of masses." The assertion that Greek architecture, as opposed to Gothic architecture, is the "architecture of proportion," is another of the results of the same broad ignorance. First, it is a calumny of the old Greek style itself, which, like every other good architecture that ever existed, depends more on its grand figure sculpture, than on its proportions of parts; so that to copy the form of the Parthenon without its friezes and frontal statuary, is like copying the figure of a human [62] being without its eyes and mouth; and, in the second place, so far as modern Pseudo-Greek work does depend on its proportions more than Gothic work, it does so, not because it is better proportioned, but because it has nothing but proportion to depend upon. Gesture is in like manner of more importance to a pantomime actor than to a tragedian, not because his gesture is more refined, but because he has no tongue. And the proportions of our common Greek work are important to it undoubtedly, but not because they are or even can be more subtile than Gothic proportion, but because that work has no sculpture, nor color, nor imagination, nor sacredness, nor any other quality whatsoever in it, but ratios of measures. And it is difficult to express with sufficient force the absurdity of the supposition that there is more room for refinements of proportion in the relations of seven or eight equal pillars, with the triangular end of a roof above them, than between the shafts, and buttresses, and porches, and pinnacles, and vaultings, and towers, and all other doubly and trebly multiplied magnificences of membership which form the framework of a Gothic temple.

64. Second reply.—It is often said, with some appearance of plausibility, that I dwell in all my writings on little things and contemptible details; and not on essential and large things. Now, in the first place, as soon as our architects become capable of doing and managing little and contemptible things, it will be time to talk about larger ones; at present I do not see that they can design so much as a niche or a bracket, and therefore they need not as yet think about anything larger. For although, as both just now, and always, I have said, there is as much science of arrangement needed in the designing of a small group of parts as of a large one, yet assuredly designing the larger one is not the easier work of the two. For the eye and mind can embrace the smaller object more completely, and if the powers of conception are feeble, they get embarrassed by the inferior members which fall within the divisions of the larger design.[21] [63] So that, of course, the best way is to begin with the smaller features; for most assuredly, those who cannot design small things cannot design large ones; and yet, on the other hand, whoever can design small things perfectly, can design whatever he chooses. The man who, without copying, and by his own true and original power, can arrange a cluster of rose-leaves nobly, can design anything. He may fail from want of taste or feeling, but not from want of power.

And the real reason why architects are so eager in protesting against my close examination of details, is simply that they know they dare not meet me on that ground. Being, as I have said, in reality not architects, but builders, they can indeed raise a large building, with copied ornaments, which, being huge and white, they hope the public may pronounce "handsome." But they cannot design a cluster of oak-leaves—no, nor a single human figure—no, nor so much as a beast, or a bird, or a bird's nest! Let them first learn to invent as much as will fill a quatre-foil, or point a pinnacle, and then it will be time enough to reason with them on the principles of the sublime.

65. But farther. The things that I have dwelt upon in examining buildings, though often their least parts, are always in reality their principal parts. That is the principal part of a building in which its mind is contained, and that, as I have just shown, is its sculpture—and painting. I do with a building as I do with a man, watch the eye and the lips: when they are bright and eloquent, the form of the body is of little consequence.

Whatever other objections have been made to this second proposition, arise, as far as I remember, merely from a confusion of the idea of essentialness or primariness with the idea of nobleness. The essential thing in a building,—its [64] first virtue,—is that it be strongly built, and fit for its uses. The noblest thing in a building, and its highest virtue, is that it be nobly sculptured or painted.[22]

66. One or two important corollaries yet remain to be stated. It has just been said that to sacrifice the convenience of a building to its external appearance is a futility and absurdity, and that convenience and stability are to be attained at the smallest cost. But when that convenience has been attained, the adding the noble characters of life by painting and sculpture, is a work in which all possible cost may be wisely admitted. There is great difficulty in fully explaining the various bearings of this proposition, so as to do away with the chances of its being erroneously understood and applied. For although, in the first designing of the building, nothing is to be admitted but what is wanted, and no useless wings are to be added to balance useful ones, yet in its ultimate designing, when its sculpture and color become precious, it may be that actual room is wanted to display them, or richer symmetry wanted to deserve them; and in such cases even a useless wall may be built to bear the sculpture, as at San Michele of Lucca, or a useless portion added to complete the cadences, as at St. Mark's of Venice, or useless height admitted in order to increase the impressiveness, as in nearly every noble building in the world. But the right to do this is dependent upon the actual purpose of the building becoming no longer one of utility merely; as the purpose of a cathedral is not so much to shelter the congregation as to awe them. In such cases even some sacrifice of convenience may occasionally be admitted, as in the case of certain forms of pillared churches. But for the most part, the great law is, convenience first, and then the noblest decoration possible; and this is peculiarly the case in domestic buildings, and such public ones as are constantly to be used for practical purposes.

67. Proposition 3d.—Ornamentation should be visible. [65]

The reader may imagine this to be an indisputable position; but, practically, it is one of the last which modern architects are likely to admit; for it involves much more than appears at first sight. To render ornamentation, with all its qualities, clearly and entirely visible in its appointed place on the building, requires a knowledge of effect and a power of design which few even of the best artists possess, and which modern architects, so far from possessing, do not so much as comprehend the existence of. But, without dwelling on this highest manner of rendering ornament "visible," I desire only at present to convince the reader thoroughly of the main fact asserted in the text, that while modern builders decorate the tops of buildings, mediæval builders decorated the bottom. So singular is the ignorance yet prevailing of the first principles of Gothic architecture, that I saw this assertion marked with notes of interrogation in several of the reports of these Lectures; although, at Edinburgh, it was only necessary for those who doubted it to have walked to Holyrood Chapel, in order to convince themselves of the truth of it, so far as their own city was concerned; and although, most assuredly, the cathedrals of Europe have now been drawn often enough to establish the very simple fact that their best sculpture is in their porches, not in their steeples. However, as this great Gothic principle seems yet unacknowledged, let me state it here, once for all, namely, that the whole building is decorated, in all pure and fine examples, with the most exactly studied respect to the powers of the eye; the richest and most delicate sculpture being put on the walls of the porches, or on the façade of the building, just high enough above the ground to secure it from accidental (not from wanton[23]) injury. The decoration, as it rises, becomes always bolder, and in the buildings of the greatest times, generally simpler. Thus at San Zeno [66] and the duomo of Verona, the only delicate decorations are on the porches and lower walls of the façades, the rest of the buildings being left comparatively plain; in the ducal palace of Venice the only very careful work is in the lowest capitals; and so also the richness of the work diminishes upwards in the transepts of Rouen, and façades of Bayeux, Rheims, Amiens, Abbeville,[24] Lyons, and Nôtre Dame of Paris. But in the middle and later Gothic the tendency is to produce an equal richness of effect over the whole building, or even to increase the richness towards the top; but this is done so skillfully that no fine work is wasted; and when the spectator ascends to the higher points of the building, which he thought were of the most consummate delicacy, he finds them Herculean in strength and rough-hewn in style, the really delicate work being all put at the base. The general treatment of Romanesque work is to increase the number of arches at the top, which at once enriches and lightens the mass, and to put the finest sculpture of the arches at the bottom. In towers of all kinds and periods the effective enrichment is towards the top, and most rightly, since their dignity is in their height; but they are never made the recipients of fine sculpture, with, as far as I know, the single exception of Giotto's campanile, which indeed has fine sculpture, but it is at the bottom.

The façade of Wells Cathedral seems to be an exception to the general rule, in having its principal decoration at the top; but it is on a scale of perfect power and effectiveness; while in the base modern Gothic of Milan Cathedral the statues are cut delicately everywhere, and the builders think it a merit that the visitor must climb to the roof before he can see them; and our modern Greek and Italian architecture reaches the utmost pitch of absurdity by placing its fine work at the top only. So that the general condition of the thing may be stated boldly, as in the text; the principal [67] ornaments of Gothic buildings being in their porches, and of modern buildings, in their parapets.

68. Proposition 4th.—Ornamentation should be natural,—that is to say, should in some degree express or adopt the beauty of natural objects. This law, together with its ultimate reason, is expressed in the statement given in the "Stones of Venice," vol. i. p. 211: "All noble ornament is the expression of man's delight in God's work."

Observe, it does not hence follow that it should be an exact imitation of, or endeavor in anywise to supersede, God's work. It may consist only in a partial adoption of, and compliance with, the usual forms of natural things, without at all going to the point of imitation; and it is possible that the point of imitation may be closely reached by ornaments, which nevertheless are entirely unfit for their place, and are the signs only of a degraded ambition and an ignorant dexterity. Bad decorators err as easily on the side of imitating nature, as of forgetting her; and the question of the exact degree in which imitation should be attempted under given circumstances, is one of the most subtle and difficult in the whole range of criticism. I have elsewhere examined it at some length, and have yet much to say about it; but here I can only state briefly that the modes in which ornamentation ought to fall short of pure representation or imitation are in the main three, namely:—

  1. Conventionalism by cause of color.
  2. Conventionalism by cause of inferiority.
  3. Conventionalism by cause of means.

69. A. Conventionalism by cause of color.—Abstract color is not an imitation of nature, but is nature itself; that is to say, the pleasure taken in blue or red, as such, considered as hues merely, is the same, so long as the brilliancy of the hue is equal, whether it be produced by the chemistry of man, or the chemistry of flowers, or the chemistry of skies. We deal with color as with sound—so far ruling the power of the light, as we rule the power of the air, producing beauty not necessarily imitative, but sufficient in itself, so that, wherever [68] color is introduced, ornamentation may cease to represent natural objects, and may consist in mere spots, or bands, or flamings, or any other condition of arrangement favorable to the color.

70. B. Conventionalism by cause of inferiority.—In general, ornamentation is set upon certain services, subjected to certain systems, and confined within certain limits; so that its forms require to be lowered or limited in accordance with the required relations. It cannot be allowed to assume the free outlines, or to rise to the perfection of imitation. Whole banks of flowers, for instance, cannot be carved on cathedral fronts, but only narrow moldings, having some of the characters of banks of flowers. Also, some ornaments require to be subdued in value, that they may not interfere with the effect of others; and all these necessary inferiorities are attained by means of departing from natural forms—it being an established law of human admiration that what is most representative of nature shall, cæteris paribus, be most attractive.

All the various kinds of ornamentation, consisting of spots, points, twisted bands, abstract curves, and other such, owe their peculiar character to this conventionalism "by cause of inferiority."

71. C. Conventionalism by cause of means.—In every branch of art, only so much imitation of nature is to be admitted as is consistent with the ease of the workman and the capacities of the material. Whatever shortcomings are appointed (for they are more than permitted, they are in such cases appointed, and meritorious) on account of the untractableness of the material, come under the head of "conventionalism by cause of means."

These conventionalities, then, being duly understood and accepted, in modification of the general law, that law will be, that the glory of all ornamentation consists in the adoption or imitation of the beauties of natural objects, and that no work can be of high value which is not full of this beauty. To this fourth proposition, modern architects have not ventured to [69] make any serious resistance. On the contrary, they seem to be, little by little, gliding into an obscure perception of the fact, that architecture, in most periods of the world, had sculpture upon it, and that the said sculpture generally did represent something intelligible. For instance, we find Mr. Huggins, of Liverpool, lately lecturing upon architecture "in its relations to nature and the intellect,"[25] and gravely informing his hearers, that "in the Middle Ages angels were human figures;" that "some of the richest ornaments of Solomon's temple were imitated from the palm and pomegranate," and that "the Greeks followed the example of the Egyptians in selecting their ornaments from the plants of their own country." It is to be presumed that the lecturer has never been in the Elgin or Egyptian room of the British Museum, or it might have occurred to him that the Egyptians and Greeks sometimes also selected their ornaments from the men of their own country. But we must not expect too much illumination at once; and as we are told that, in conclusion, Mr. Huggins glanced at "the error of architects in neglecting the fountain of wisdom thus open to them in nature," we may expect in due time large results from the discovery of a source of wisdom so unimagined.

72. Proposition 5th.—Ornamentation should be thoughtful. That is to say, whenever you put a chisel or a pencil into a man's hand for the purpose of enabling him to produce beauty, you are to expect of him that he will think about what he is doing, and feel something about it, and that the expression of this thought or feeling will be the most noble quality in what he produces with his chisel or brush, inasmuch as the power of thinking and feeling is the most noble thing in the man. It will hence follow that as men do not commonly think the same thoughts twice, you are not to require of them that they shall do the same thing twice. You are to expect another and a different thought of them, as soon as one thought has been well expressed. [70]

73. Hence, therefore, it follows also that all noble ornamentation is perpetually varied ornamentation, and that the moment you find ornamentation unchanging, you may know that it is of a degraded kind or degraded school. To this law, the only exceptions arise out of the uses of monotony, as a contrast to change. Many subordinate architectural moldings are severely alike in their various parts (though never unless they are thoroughly subordinate, for monotony is always deathful according to the degree of it), in order to set off change in others; and a certain monotony or similarity must be introduced among the most changeful ornaments in order to enhance and exhibit their own changes.

The truth of this proposition is self-evident; for no art can be noble which is incapable of expressing thought, and no art is capable of expressing thought which does not change. To require of an artist that he should always reproduce the same picture, would be not one whit more base than to require of a carver that he should always reproduce the same sculpture.

The principle is perfectly clear and altogether incontrovertible. Apply it to modern Greek architecture, and that architecture must cease to exist; for it depends absolutely on copyism.

74. The sixth proposition above stated, that Gothic ornamentation is nobler than Greek ornamentation, etc., is therefore sufficiently proved by the acceptance of this one principle, no less important than unassailable. Of all that I have to bring forward respecting architecture, this is the one I have most at heart; for on the acceptance of this depends the determination whether the workman shall be a living, progressive, and happy human being, or whether he shall be a mere machine, with its valves smoothed by heart's blood instead of oil,—the most pitiable form of slave.

And it is with especial reference to the denial of this principle in modern and Renaissance architecture, that I speak of that architecture with a bitterness which appears to many readers extreme, while in reality, so far from exaggerating, [71] I have not grasp enough of thought to embrace, the evils which have resulted among all the orders of European society from the introduction of the Renaissance schools of building, in turning away the eyes of the beholder from natural beauty, and reducing the workman to the level of a machine. In the Gothic times, writing, painting, carving, casting,—it mattered not what,—were all works done by thoughtful and happy men; and the illumination of the volume, and the carving and casting of wall and gate, employed, not thousands, but millions, of true and noble artists over all Christian lands. Men in the same position are now left utterly without intellectual power or pursuit, and, being unhappy in their work, they rebel against it: hence one of the worst forms of Unchristian Socialism. So again, there being now no nature or variety in architecture, the multitude are not interested in it; therefore, for the present, they have lost their taste for art altogether, so that you can no longer trust sculpture within their reach. Consider the innumerable forms of evil involved in the temper and taste of the existing populace of London or Paris, as compared with the temper of the populace of Florence, when the quarter of Santa Maria Novella received its title of "Joyful Quarter," from the rejoicings of the multitude at getting a new picture into their church, better than the old ones;—all this difference being exclusively chargeable on the Renaissance architecture. And then, farther, if we remember, not only the revolutionary ravage of sacred architecture, but the immeasurably greater destruction effected by the Renaissance builders and their satellites, wherever they came, destruction so wide-spread that there is not a town in France or Italy but it has to deplore the deliberate overthrow of more than half its noblest monuments, in order to put up Greek porticoes or palaces in their stead; adding also all the blame of the ignorance of the meaner kind of men, operating in thousands of miserable abuses upon the frescoes, books, and pictures, as the architects' hammers did on the carved work, of the Middle Ages;[26] and, [72] finally, if we examine the influence which the luxury, and, still more, the heathenism, joined with the essential dullness of these schools, have had on the upper class of society, it will ultimately be found that no expressions are energetic enough to describe, nor broad enough to embrace, the enormous moral evils which have risen from them.

75. I omitted, in preparing the preceding lecture for the press, a passage referring to this subject, because it appeared to me, in its place, hardly explained by preceding statements. But I give it here unaltered, as being, in sober earnest, but too weak to characterize the tendencies of the "accursed" architecture of which it speaks.

"Accursed, I call it, with deliberate purpose. It needed but the gathering up of a Babylonish garment to trouble Israel;—these marble garments of the ancient idols of the Gentiles, how many have they troubled! Gathered out of their ruins by the second Babylon,—gathered by the Papal Church in the extremity of her sin;—raised up by her, not when she was sending forth her champions to preach in the highway, and pine in the desert, and perish in the fire, but in the very scarlet fruitage and fullness of her guilt, when her priests vested themselves not with purple only, but with blood, and bade the cups of their feasting foam not with wine only, but with hemlock;—raised by the hands of the Leos and the Borgias, raised first into that mighty temple [73] where the seven hills slope to the Tiber, that marks by its massy dome the central spot, where Rome has reversed the words of Christ, and, as He vivified the stone to the apostleship, she petrifies the apostleship into the stumbling stone;—exalted there first as if to mark what work it had to do, it went forth to paralyze or to pollute, and wherever it came, the luster faded from the streets of our cities, the gray towers and glorious arches of our abbeys fell by the river sides, the love of nature was uprooted from the hearts of men, base luxuries and cruel formalisms were festered and frozen into them from their youth; and at last, where, from his fair Gothic chapel beside the Seine, the king St. Louis had gone forth, followed by his thousands in the cause of Christ, another king was dragged forth from the gates of his Renaissance palace,[27] to die, by the hands of the thousands of his people gathered in another crusade; or what shall that be called—whose sign was not the cross, but the guillotine?"

76. I have not space here to pursue the subject farther, nor shall I be able to write anything more respecting architecture for some time to come. But in the meanwhile, I would most earnestly desire to leave with the reader this one subject of thought—"The Life of the Workman." For it is singular, and far more than singular, that among all the writers who have attempted to examine the principles stated [74] in the "Stones of Venice," not one[28] has as yet made a single comment on what was precisely and accurately the most important chapter in the whole book; namely, the description of the nature of Gothic architecture, as involving the liberty of the workman (vol. ii. ch. vi.). I had hoped that whatever might be the prejudices of modern architects, there would have been found some among them quicksighted enough to see the bearings of this principle, and generous enough to support it. There has hitherto stood forward not one.

But my purpose must at last be accomplished for all this. The laborer among the gravestones of our modern architecture must yet be raised up, and become a living soul. Before he can be thus raised, the whole system of Greek architecture, as practiced in the present day, must be annihilated; but it will be annihilated, and that speedily. For truth and judgment are its declared opposites, and against these nothing ever finally prevailed, or shall prevail.


[20] The constructive value of Gothic architecture is, however, far greater than that of Romanesque, as the pointed arch is not only susceptible of an infinite variety of forms and applications to the weight to be sustained, but it possesses, in the outline given to its masonry at its perfect periods, the means of self-sustainment to a far greater degree than the round arch. I pointed out, for, I believe, the first time, the meaning and constructive value of the Gothic cusp, in page 129 of the first volume of the "Stones of Venice." That statement was first denied, and then taken advantage of, by modern architects; and considering how often it has been alleged that I have no practical knowledge of architecture, it cannot but be matter of some triumph to me, to find "The Builder," of the 21st January, 1854, describing as a new invention, the successful application to a church in Carlow of the principle which I laid down in the year 1851.

[21] Thus, in speaking of Pugin's designs, I said, "Expect no cathedrals of him; but no one, at present, can design a better finial, though he will never design even a finial perfectly." But even this I said less with reference to powers of arrangement, than to materials of fancy; for many men have store enough to last them through a boss or a bracket, but not to last them through a church front.

[22] Of course I use the term painting as including every mode of applying color.

[23] Nothing is more notable in good Gothic than the confidence of its builders in the respect of the people for their work. A great school of architecture cannot exist when this respect cannot be calculated upon, as it would be vain to put fine sculpture within the reach of a population whose only pleasure would be in defacing it.

[24] The church to Abbeville is late flamboyant, but well deserves, for the exquisite beauty of its porches, to be named even with the great works of the thirteenth century.

[25] See "The Builder," for January 12, 1854.

[26] Nothing appears to me much more wonderful, than the remorseless way in which the educated ignorance, even of the present day, will sweep away an ancient monument, if its preservation be not absolutely consistent with immediate convenience or economy. Putting aside all antiquarian considerations, and all artistical ones, I wish that people would only consider the steps and the weight of the following very simple argument. You allow it is wrong to waste time, that is, your own time; but then it must be still more wrong to waste other people's; for you have some right to your own time, but none to theirs. Well, then, if it is thus wrong to waste the time of the living, it must be still more wrong to waste the time of the dead; for the living can redeem their time, the dead cannot. But you waste the best of the time of the dead when you destroy the works they have left you; for to those works they gave the best of their time, intending them for immortality.

[27] The character of Renaissance architecture, and the spirit which dictated its adoption, may be remembered as having been centered and symbolized in the palace of Versailles; whose site was chosen by Louis the Fourteenth, in order that from thence he might not see St. Denis, the burial-place of his family. The cost of the palace in twenty-seven years is stated in "The Builder," for March 18th, 1854, to have been £3,246,000 money of that period, equal to about seven millions now (£900,000 having been expended in the year 1686 alone). The building is thus notably illustrative of the two feelings which were stated in the "Stones of Venice," to be peculiarly characteristic of the Renaissance spirit, the Pride of State and Fear of Death. Compare the horror of Louis the Fourteenth at the sight of the tower of St. Denis, with the feeling which prompted the Scaligeri at Verona to set their tombs within fifteen feet of their palace walls.

[28] An article in Fraser's Magazine, which has appeared since these sheets were sent to press, forms a solitary exception.


Delivered November 15, 1853.

77. My object this evening is not so much to give you any account of the works or the genius of the great painter whom we have so lately lost (which it would require rather a year than an hour to do), as to give you some idea of the position which his works hold with respect to the landscape of other periods, and of the general condition and prospects of the landscape art of the present day. I will not lose time in prefatory remarks, as I have little enough at any rate, but will enter abruptly on my subject.

78. You are all of you well aware that landscape seems hardly to have exercised any strong influence, as such, on any pagan nation or pagan artist. I have no time to enter into any details on this, of course, most intricate and difficult subject; but I will only ask you to observe, that wherever natural scenery is alluded to by the ancients, it is either agriculturally, with the kind of feeling that a good Scotch farmer has; sensually, in the enjoyment of sun or shade, cool winds or sweet scents; fearfully, in a mere vulgar dread of rocks and desolate places, as compared with the comfort of cities; or, finally, superstitiously, in the personification or deification of natural powers, generally with much degradation of their impressiveness, as in the paltry fables of Ulysses receiving the winds in bags from Æolus, and of the Cyclops hammering lightning sharp at the ends, on an anvil.[29] Of [76] course, you will here and there find feeble evidences of a higher sensibility, chiefly, I think, in Plato, Æschylus, Aristophanes, and Virgil. Homer, though in the epithets he applies to landscape always thoroughly graphic, uses the same epithet for rocks, seas, and trees, from one end of his poem to the other, evidently without the smallest interest in anything of the kind; and in the mass of heathen writers, the absence of sensation on these subjects is singularly painful. For instance, in that, to my mind, most disgusting of all so-called poems, the Journey to Brundusium, you remember that Horace takes exactly as much interest in the scenery he is passing through as Sancho Panza would have done.

79. You will find, on the other hand, that the language of the Bible is specifically distinguished from all other early literature, by its delight in natural imagery; and that the dealings of God with His people are calculated peculiarly to awaken this sensibility within them. Out of the monotonous valley of Egypt they are instantly taken into the midst of the mightiest mountain scenery in the peninsula of Arabia; and that scenery is associated in their minds with the immediate manifestation and presence of the Divine Power; so that mountains forever afterwards become invested with a peculiar sacredness in their minds: while their descendants being placed in what was then one of the loveliest districts upon the earth, full of glorious vegetation, bounded on one side by the sea, on the north by "that goodly mountain" Lebanon, on the south and east by deserts, whose barrenness enhanced by their contrast the sense of the perfection of beauty in their own land, they became, by these means, and by the touch of God's own hand upon their hearts, sensible to the appeal of natural scenery in a way in which no other people were at the time. And their literature is full of expressions, not only [77] testifying a vivid sense of the power of nature over man, but showing that sympathy with natural things themselves, as if they had human souls, which is the especial characteristic of true love of the works of God. I intended to have insisted on this sympathy at greater length, but I found, only two or three days ago, much of what I had to say to you anticipated in a little book, unpretending, but full of interest, "The Lamp and the Lantern," by Dr. James Hamilton; and I will therefore only ask you to consider such expressions as that tender and glorious verse in Isaiah, speaking of the cedars on the mountains as rejoicing over the fall of the king of Assyria: "Yea, the fir trees rejoice at thee, and the cedars of Lebanon, saying, Since thou art gone down to the grave, no feller is come up against us." See what sympathy there is here, as if with the very hearts of the trees themselves. So also in the words of Christ, in His personification of the lilies: "They toil not, neither do they spin." Consider such expressions as, "The sea saw that, and fled. Jordan was driven back. The mountains skipped like rams; and the little hills like lambs." Try to find anything in profane writing like this; and note farther that the whole book of Job appears to have been chiefly written and placed in the inspired volume in order to show the value of natural history, and its power on the human heart. I cannot pass by it without pointing out the evidences of the beauty of the country that Job inhabited.[30] Observe, first, it was an arable country. "The oxen were plowing and the asses feeding beside them." It was a pastoral country: his substance, besides camels and asses, was 7,000 sheep. It was a mountain country, fed by streams descending from the high snows. "My brethren have dealt deceitfully as a brook, and as the stream of brooks they pass away; which are blackish by reason of the ice, and wherein the snow is hid: What time they wax warm they vanish: when it is hot they are consumed out of their place." Again: "If I wash myself with snow water, and make my [78] hands never so clean." Again: "Drought and heat consume the snow waters." It was a rocky country, with forests and verdure rooted in the rocks. "His branch shooteth forth in his garden; his roots are wrapped about the heap, and seeth the place of stones." Again: "Thou shalt be in league with the stones of the field." It was a place visited, like the valleys of Switzerland, by convulsions and falls of mountains. "Surely the mountain falling cometh to nought, and the rock is removed out of his place. The waters wear the stones; thou washest away the things which grow out of the dust of the earth." "He removeth the mountains and they know not: he overturneth them in his anger." "He putteth forth his hand upon the rock: he overturneth the mountains by the roots: he cutteth out rivers among the rocks." I have not time to go farther into this; but you see Job's country was one like your own, full of pleasant brooks and rivers, rushing among the rocks, and of all other sweet and noble elements of landscape. The magnificent allusions to natural scenery throughout the book are therefore calculated to touch the heart to the end of time.

80. Then at the central point of Jewish prosperity, you have the first great naturalist the world ever saw, Solomon; not permitted, indeed, to anticipate, in writing, the discoveries of modern times, but so gifted as to show us that heavenly wisdom is manifested as much in the knowledge of the hyssop that springeth out of the wall as in political and philosophical speculation.

The books of the Old Testament, as distinguished from all other early writings, are thus prepared for an everlasting influence over humanity; and, finally, Christ himself, setting the concluding example to the conduct and thoughts of men, spends nearly His whole life in the fields, the mountains, or the small country villages of Judea; and in the very closing scenes of His life, will not so much as sleep within the walls of Jerusalem, but rests at the little village of Bethphage, walking in the morning, and returning in the evening, through the [79] peaceful avenues of the Mount of Olives, to and from His work of teaching in the temple.

81. It would thus naturally follow, both from the general tone and teaching of the Scriptures, and from the example of our Lord himself, that wherever Christianity was preached and accepted, there would be an immediate interest awakened in the works of God, as seen in the natural world: and, accordingly, this is the second universal and distinctive character of Christian art, as distinguished from all pagan work; the first being a peculiar spirituality in its conception of the human form, preferring holiness of expression and strength of character, to beauty of features or of body; and the second, as I say, its intense fondness for natural objects—animals, leaves, and flowers,—inducing an immediate transformation of the cold and lifeless pagan ornamentation into vivid imagery of nature. Of course this manifestation of feeling was at first checked by the circumstances under which the Christian religion was disseminated. The art of the first three centuries is entirely subordinate,—restrained partly by persecution, partly by a high spirituality, which cared much more about preaching than painting; and then when, under Constantine, Christianity became the religion of the Roman empire, myriads of persons gave the aid of their wealth and of their art to the new religion, who were Christians in nothing but the name, and who decorated a Christian temple just as they would have decorated a pagan one, merely because the new religion had become Imperial. Then, just as the new art was beginning to assume a distinctive form, down came the northern barbarians upon it; and all their superstitions had to be leavened with it, and all their hard hands and hearts softened by it, before their art could appear in anything like a characteristic form. The warfare in which Europe was perpetually plunged retarded this development for ages; but it steadily and gradually prevailed, working from the eighth to the eleventh century like a seed in the ground, showing little signs of life, but still, if carefully examined, changing essentially every day and every hour: at last, in the twelfth [80] century the blade appears above the black earth; in the thirteenth, the plant is in full leaf.

82. I begin, then, with the thirteenth century, and must now make to you a general assertion, which, if you will note down and examine at your leisure, you will find true and useful, though I have not time at present to give you full demonstration of it.

I say, then, that the art of the thirteenth century is the foundation of all art—nor merely the foundation, but the root of it; that is to say, succeeding art is not merely built upon it, but was all comprehended in it, and is developed out of it. Passing this great century, we find three successive branches developed from it, in each of the three following centuries. The fourteenth century is pre-eminently the age of Thought, the fifteenth the age of Drawing, and the sixteenth the age of Painting.

83. Observe, first, the fourteenth century is pre-eminently the age of thought. It begins with the first words of the poem of Dante; and all the great pictorial poems—the mighty series of works in which everything is done to relate, but nothing to imitate—belong to this century. I should only confuse you by giving you the names of marvelous artists, most of them little familiar to British ears, who adorned this century in Italy; but you will easily remember it as the age of Dante and Giotto—the age of Thought.

The men of the succeeding century (the fifteenth) felt that they could not rival their predecessors in invention, but might excel them in execution. Original thoughts belonging to this century are comparatively rare; even Raphael and Michael Angelo themselves borrowed all their principal ideas and plans of pictures from their predecessors; but they executed them with a precision up to that time unseen. You must understand by the word "drawing," the perfect rendering of forms, whether in sculpture or painting; and then remember the fifteenth century as the age of Leonardo, Michael Angelo, Lorenzo Ghiberti, and Raphael—pre-eminently the age of Drawing.

Fig. 20.

Fig. 21.

Plate XIII.

[81]The sixteenth century produced the four greatest Painters, that is to say, managers of color, whom the world has seen; namely, Tintoret, Paul Veronese, Titian, and Correggio. I need not say more to justify my calling it the age of Painting.

84. This, then, being the state of things respecting art in general, let us next trace the career of landscape through these centuries.

It was only towards the close of the thirteenth century that figure painting began to assume so perfect a condition as to require some elaborate suggestion of landscape background. Up to that time, if any natural object had to be represented, it was done in an entirely conventional way, as you see it upon Greek vases, or in a Chinese porcelain pattern; an independent tree or flower being set upon the white ground, or ground of any color, wherever there was a vacant space for it, without the smallest attempt to imitate the real colors and relations of the earth and sky about it. But at the close of the thirteenth century, Giotto, and in the course of the fourteenth, Orcagna, sought, for the first time, to give some resemblance to nature in their backgrounds, and introduced behind their figures pieces of true landscape, formal enough still, but complete in intention, having foregrounds and distances, sky and water, forests and mountains, carefully delineated, not exactly in their true color, but yet in color approximating to the truth. The system which they introduced (for though in many points enriched above the work of earlier ages, the Orcagna and Giotto landscape was a very complete piece of recipe) was observed for a long period by their pupils, and may be thus briefly described:—The sky is always pure blue, paler at the horizon, and with a few streaky white clouds in it, the ground is green even to the extreme distance, with brown rocks projecting from it; water is blue streaked with white. The trees are nearly always composed of clusters of their proper leaves relieved on a black or dark ground, thus (fig. 20).[31] And observe carefully, with respect to the complete [82] drawing of the leaves on this tree, and the smallness of their number, the real distinction between noble conventionalism and false conventionalism. You will often hear modern architects defending their monstrous ornamentation on the ground that it is "conventional," and that architectural ornament ought to be conventionalized. Remember, when you hear this, that noble conventionalism is not an agreement between the artist and spectator that the one shall misrepresent nature sixty times over, and the other believe the misrepresentation sixty times over, but it is an agreement that certain means and limitations being prescribed, only that kind of truth is to be expected which is consistent with those means. For instance, if Sir Joshua Reynolds had been talking to a friend about the character of a face, and there had been nothing in the room but a deal table and an inkbottle—and no pens—Sir Joshua would have dipped his finger in the ink, and painted a portrait on the table with his finger, and a noble portrait too; certainly not delicate in outline, nor representing any of the qualities of the face dependent on rich outline, but getting as much of the face as in that manner was attainable. That is noble conventionalism, and Egyptian work on granite, or illuminator's work in glass, is all conventional in the same sense, but not conventionally false. The two noblest and truest carved lions I have ever seen, are the two granite ones in the Egyptian room of the British Museum, and yet in them, the lions' manes and beards are represented by rings of solid rock, as smooth as a mirror!

85. There are indeed one or two other conditions of noble conventionalism, notice more fully in the Addenda (§§ 68-71); but you will find that they always consist in stopping short of nature, not in falsifying nature; and thus in Giotto's foliage, he stops short of the quantity of leaves on the real tree, but he gives you the form of the leaves represented with perfect truth. His foreground also is nearly always occupied [83] by flowers and herbage, carefully and individually painted from nature; while, although thus simple in plan, the arrangements of line in these landscapes of course show the influence of the master-mind, and sometimes, where the story requires it, we find the usual formulæ overleaped, and Giotto at Avignon painting the breakers of the sea on a steep shore with great care, while Orcagna, in his Triumph of Death, has painted a thicket of brambles mixed with teazles, in a manner worthy of the best days of landscape art.

Fig. 22.


86. Now from the landscape of these two men to the landscape of Raphael, Leonardo, and Perugino, the advance consists principally in two great steps: The first, that distant objects were more or less invested with a blue color,—the second, that trees were no longer painted with a black ground, but with a rich dark brown, or deep green. From Giotto's old age, to the youth of Raphael, the advance in, and knowledge of, landscape, consisted of no more than these two simple steps; but the execution of landscape became infinitely more perfect and elaborate. All the flowers and leaves in the foreground were worked out with the same perfection as the features of the figures; in the middle distance the brown trees were most delicately defined against the sky; the blue mountains in the extreme distance were exquisitely thrown into aërial gradations, and the sky and clouds were perfect in transparency and softness. But still there is no real advance in knowledge of natural objects. The leaves and flowers are, indeed, admirably painted, and thrown into various intricate groupings, such as Giotto could not have attempted, but the rocks and water are still as conventional and imperfect as ever, except only in color: the forms of rock in Leonardo's celebrated "Vierge aux Rochers" are literally no better than those on a china plate. Fig. 22 shows a portion of them in mere outline, with one cluster of the leaves above, and the distant "ideal" mountains. On the whole, the most satisfactory work of the period is that which most resembles missal painting, that is to say, which is fullest of beautiful flowers and animals scattered among the landscape, in the old independent [84] way, like the birds upon a screen. The landscape of Benozzo Gozzoli is exquisitely rich in incident of this kind.

87. The first man who entirely broke through the conventionality of his time, and painted pure landscape, was Masaccio, but he died too young to effect the revolution of which his genius was capable. It was left for other men to accomplish, namely, for Correggio and Titian. These two painters were the first who relieved the foregrounds of their landscape from the grotesque, quaint, and crowded formalism of the early painters; and gave a close approximation to the forms of nature in all things; retaining, however, thus much of the old system, that the distances were for the most part painted in deep ultramarine blue, the foregrounds in rich green and brown; there were no effects of sunshine and shadow, but a generally quiet glow over the whole scene; and the clouds, though now rolling in irregular masses, and sometimes richly involved among the hills, were never varied in conception, or studied from nature. There were no changes of weather in them, no rain clouds or fair-weather clouds, nothing but various shapes of the cumulus or cirrus, introduced for the sake of light on the deep blue sky. Tintoret and Bonifazio introduced more natural effects into this monotonous landscape: in their works we meet with showers of rain, with rainbows, sunsets, bright reflections in water, and so on; but still very subordinate, and carelessly worked out, so as not to justify us in considering their landscape as forming a class by itself.

Fig. 23.


88. Fig. 23, which is a branch of a tree from the background of Titian's "St. Jerome," at Milan, compared with fig. 20, will give you a distinct idea of the kind of change which took place from the time of Giotto to that of Titian, and you will find that this whole range of landscape may be conveniently classed in three divisions, namely, Giottesque, Leonardesque, and Titianesque; the Giottesque embracing nearly all the work of the fourteenth, the Leonardesque that of the fifteenth, and the Titianesque that of the sixteenth century. Now you see there remained a fourth step to be [85] taken,—the doing away with conventionalism altogether, so as to create the perfect art of landscape painting. The course of the mind of Europe was to do this; but at the very moment when it ought to have been done, the art of all civilized nations was paralyzed at once by the operation of the poisonous elements of infidelity and classical learning together, as I have endeavored to show elsewhere. In this paralysis, like a soldier shot as he is just gaining an eminence, the art of the seventeenth century struggled forward, and sank upon the spot it had been endeavoring to attain. The step which should have freed landscape from conventionalism was actually taken by Claude and Salvator Rosa, but taken in a state of palsy,—taken so as to lose far more than was gained. For up to this time, no painter ever had thought of drawing anything, pebble or blade of grass, or tree or mountain, but as well and distinctly as he could; and if he could not draw it completely, he drew it at least in a way which should thoroughly show his knowledge and feeling of it. For instance, you saw in the oak tree of the Giottesque period, that the main points of the tree, the true shape of leaf and acorn, were all there, perfectly and carefully articulated, and so they continued to be down to the time of Tintoret; both he and Titian working out the separate leaves of their foliage with the most exquisite botanical care. But now observe: as Christianity had brought this love of nature into Paganism, the return of Paganism in the shape of classical learning at once destroyed this love of nature; and at the moment when Claude and Salvator made the final effort to paint the effects of nature faithfully, the objects of nature had ceased to be regarded with affection; so that, while people were amused and interested by the new effects of sunsets over green seas, and of tempests bursting on rocky mountains, which were introduced by the rising school, they entirely ceased to require on the one side, or bestow on the other, that care and thought by which alone the beauty of nature can be understood. The older painting had resembled a careful and deeply studied diagram, illustrative of the most important facts; it was not [86] to be understood or relished without application of serious thought; on the contrary, it developed and addressed the highest powers of mind belonging to the human race; while the Claude and Salvator painting was like a scene in a theater, viciously and falsely painted throughout, and presenting a deceptive appearance of truth to nature; understood, as far as it went, in a moment, but conveying no accurate knowledge of anything, and, in all its operations on the mind, unhealthy, hopeless, and profitless.

89. It was, however, received with avidity; for this main reason, that the architecture, domestic life, and manners of the period were gradually getting more and more artificial; as I showed you last evening, all natural beauty had ceased to be permitted in architectural decoration, while the habits of society led them more and more to live, if possible, in cities; and the dress, language, and manners of men in general were approximating to that horrible and lifeless condition in which you find them just before the outbreak of the French Revolution.

Now, observe: exactly as hoops, and starch, and false hair, and all that in mind and heart these things typify and betray, as these, I say, gained upon men, there was a necessary reaction in favor of the natural. Men had never lived so utterly in defiance of the laws of nature before; but they could not do this without feeling a strange charm in that which they defied; and, accordingly, we find this reactionary sentiment expressing itself in a base school of what was called pastoral poetry; that is to say, poetry written in praise of the country, by men who lived in coffee-houses and on the Mall. The essence of pastoral poetry is the sense of strange delightfulness in grass, which is occasionally felt by a man who has seldom set his foot on it; it is essentially the poetry of the cockney, and for the most part corresponds in its aim and rank, as compared with other literature, to the porcelain shepherds and shepherdesses on a chimney-piece as compared with great works of sculpture.

90. Of course all good poetry, descriptive of rural life, is [87] essentially pastoral, or has the effect of the pastoral on the minds of men living in cities; but the class of poetry which I mean, and which you probably understand by the term pastoral, is that in which a farmer's girl is spoken of as a "nymph," and a farmer's boy as a "swain," and in which, throughout, a ridiculous and unnatural refinement is supposed to exist in rural life, merely because the poet himself has neither had the courage to endure its hardships, nor the wit to conceive its realities. If you examine the literature of the 17th and 18th centuries you will find that nearly all its expressions, having reference to the country, show something of this kind; either a foolish sentimentality, or a morbid fear, both of course coupled with the most curious ignorance. You will find all its descriptive expressions at once vague and monotonous. Brooks are always "purling;" birds always "warbling;" mountains always "lift their horrid peaks above the clouds;" vales always "are lost in the shadow of gloomy woods;" a few more distinct ideas about hay-making and curds and cream, acquired in the neighborhood of Richmond Bridge, serving to give an occasional appearance of freshness to the catalogue of the sublime and beautiful which descended from poet to poet; while a few true pieces of pastoral, like the "Vicar of Wakefield," and Walton's "Angler," relieved the general waste of dullness. Even in these better productions, nothing is more remarkable than the general conception of the country merely as a series of green fields, and the combined ignorance and dread of more sublime scenery; of which the mysteries and dangers were enhanced by the difficulties of traveling at the period. Thus in Walton's "Angler," you have a meeting of two friends, one a Derbyshire man, the other a lowland traveler, who is as much alarmed, and uses nearly as many expressions of astonishment, at having to go down a steep hill and ford a brook, as a traveler uses now at crossing the glacier of the Col du Géant. I am not sure whether the difficulties which, until late years, have lain in the way of peaceful and convenient traveling, ought not to have great weight assigned to them [88] among the other causes of the temper of the period; but be that as it may, if you will examine the whole range of its literature—keeping this point in view—I am well persuaded that you will be struck most forcibly by the strange deadness to the higher sources of landscape sublimity which is mingled with the morbid pastoralism. The love of fresh air and green grass forced itself upon the animal natures of men; but that of the sublimer features of scenery had no place in minds whose chief powers had been repressed by the formalisms of the age. And although in the second-rate writers continually, and in the first-rate ones occasionally, you find an affectation of interest in mountains, clouds, and forests, yet whenever they write from their heart, you will find an utter absence of feeling respecting anything beyond gardens and grass. Examine, for instance, the novels of Smollett, Fielding, and Sterne, the comedies of Molière, and the writings of Johnson and Addison, and I do not think you will find a single expression of true delight in sublime nature in any one of them. Perhaps Sterne's "Sentimental Journey," in its total absence of sentiment on any subject but humanity, and its entire want of notice of anything at Geneva, which might not as well have been seen at Coxwold, is the most striking instance I could give you; and if you compare with this negation of feeling on one side, the interludes of Molière, in which shepherds and shepherdesses are introduced in court dress, you will have a very accurate conception of the general spirit of the age.

91. It was in such a state of society that the landscape of Claude, Gaspar Poussin, and Salvator Rosa attained its reputation. It is the complete expression on canvas of the spirit of the time. Claude embodies the foolish pastoralism, Salvator the ignorant terror, and Gaspar the dull and affected erudition.

It was, however, altogether impossible that this state of things could long continue. The age which had buried itself in formalism grew weary at last of the restraint; and the approach of a new era was marked by the appearance, and [89] the enthusiastic reception, of writers who took true delight in those wild scenes of nature which had so long been despised.

92. I think the first two writers in whom the symptoms of a change are strongly manifested are Mrs. Radcliffe and Rousseau; in both of whom the love of natural scenery, though mingled in the one case with what was merely dramatic, and in the other with much that was pitifully morbid or vicious, was still itself genuine, and intense, differing altogether in character from any sentiments previously traceable in literature. And then rapidly followed a group of writers, who expressed, in various ways, the more powerful or more pure feeling which had now become one of the strongest instincts of the age. Of these, the principal is your own Walter Scott. Many writers, indeed, describe nature more minutely and more profoundly; but none show in higher intensity the peculiar passion for what is majestic or lovely in wild nature, to which I am now referring. The whole of the poem of the "Lady of the Lake" is written with almost a boyish enthusiasm for rocks, and lakes, and cataracts; the early novels show the same instinct in equal strength wherever he approaches Highland scenery; and the feeling is mingled, observe, with a most touching and affectionate appreciation of the Gothic architecture, in which alone he found the elements of natural beauty seized by art; so that, to this day, his descriptions of Melrose and Holy Island Cathedral, in the "Lay of the Last Minstrel" and "Marmion," as well as of the ideal abbeys in the "Monastery" and "Antiquary," together with those of Caerlaverock and Lochleven Castles in "Guy Mannering" and "The Abbot," remain the staple possessions and text-books of all travelers, not so much for their beauty or accuracy, as for their exactly expressing that degree of feeling with which most men in this century can sympathize.

Together with Scott appeared the group of poets—Byron, Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, and, finally, Tennyson—differing widely in moral principles and spiritual temper, but all agreeing more or less in this love for natural scenery.

93. Now, you will ask me—and you will ask me most [90] reasonably—how this love of nature in modern days can be connected with Christianity, seeing it is as strong in the infidel Shelley as in the sacred Wordsworth. Yes, and it is found in far worse men than Shelley. Shelley was an honest unbeliever, and a man of warm affections; but this new love of nature is found in the most reckless and unprincipled of the French novelists—in Eugène Sue, in Dumas, in George Sand—and that intensely. How is this? Simply because the feeling is reactionary; and, in this phase of it, common to the diseased mind as well as to the healthy one. A man dying in the fever of intemperance will cry out for water, and that with a bitterer thirst than a man whose healthy frame naturally delights in the mountain spring more than in the wine cup. The water is not dishonored by that thirst of the diseased, nor is nature dishonored by the love of the unworthy. That love is, perhaps, the only saving element in their minds; and it still remains an indisputable truth that the love of nature is a characteristic of the Christian heart, just as the hunger for healthy food is characteristic of the healthy frame.

In order to meet this new feeling for nature, there necessarily arose a new school of landscape painting. That school, like the literature to which it corresponded, had many weak and vicious elements mixed with its noble ones; it had its Mrs. Radcliffes and Rousseaus, as well as its Wordsworths; but, on the whole, the feeling with which Robson drew mountains, and Prout architecture, with which Fielding draws moors, and Stanfield sea—is altogether pure, true, and precious, as compared with that which suggested the landscape of the seventeenth century.

94. Now observe, how simple the whole subject becomes. You have, first, your great ancient landscape divided into its three periods—Giottesque, Leonardesque, Titianesque. Then you have a great gap, full of nonentities and abortions; a gulf of foolishness, into the bottom of which you may throw Claude and Salvator, neither of them deserving to give a name to anything. Call it "pastoral" landscape, "guarda e passa," and then you have, lastly, the pure, wholesome, simple, [91] modern landscape. You want a name for that: I will give you one in a moment; for the whole character and power of that landscape is originally based on the work of one man.

95. Joseph Mallord William Turner was born in Maiden Lane, London, about eighty years ago. The register of his birth was burned, and his age at his death could only be arrived at by conjecture. He was the son of a barber; and his father intended him, very properly, for his own profession. The bent of the boy was, however, soon manifested, as is always the case in children of extraordinary genius, too strongly to be resisted; and a sketch of a coat of arms on a silver salver, made while his father was shaving a customer, obtained for him, in reluctant compliance with the admiring customer's advice, the permission to follow art as a profession.

He had, of course, the usual difficulties of young artists to encounter, and they were then far greater than they are now. But Turner differed from most men in this,—that he was always willing to take anything to do that came in his way. He did not shut himself up in a garret to produce unsalable works of "high art," and starve, or lose his senses. He hired himself out every evening to wash in skies in Indian ink, on other people's drawings, as many as he could, at half-a-crown a-night, getting his supper into the bargain. "What could I have done better?" he said afterwards: "it was first-rate practice." Then he took to illustrating guide-books and almanacs, and anything that wanted cheap frontispieces. The Oxford Almanack, published on a single sheet, with a copper-plate at the top of it, consisting of a "View"—you perhaps, some of you, know the kind of print characteristic of the last century, under which the word "View" is always printed in large letters, with a dedication, obsequious to the very dust, to the Grand Signior of the neighborhood. Well, this Almanack had always such a view of some Oxford College at the top of it, dedicated, I think, always to the head of the College; and it owed this, its principal decoration, to Turner for many years. I have myself two careful drawings of some old seals, made by him for a local book on the antiquities of Whalley [92] Abbey. And there was hardly a gentleman's seat of any importance in England, towards the close of the last century, of which you will not find some rude engraving in the local publications of the time, inscribed with the simple name "W. Turner."

96. There was another great difference between Turner and other men. In doing these drawings for the commonest publications of the day, and for a remuneration altogether contemptible, he never did his work badly because he thought it beneath him, or because he was ill-paid. There does not exist such a thing as a slovenly drawing by Turner. With what people were willing to give him for his work he was content; but he considered that work in its relation to himself, not in its relation to the purchaser. He took a poor price, that he might live; but he made noble drawings, that he might learn. Of course some are slighter than others, and they vary in their materials; those executed with pencil and Indian ink being never finished to the degree of those which are executed in color. But he is never careless. According to the time and means at his disposal, he always did his best. He never let a drawing leave his hands without having made a step in advance, and having done better in it than he had ever done before; and there is no important drawing of the period which is not executed with a total disregard of time and price, and which was not, even then, worth four or five times what Turner received for it.

Even without genius, a man who thus felt and thus labored was sure to do great things; though it is seldom that, without great genius, men either thus feel or thus labor. Turner was as far beyond all other men in intellect as in industry; and his advance in power and grasp of thought was as steady as the increasing light of sunrise.

97. His reputation was soon so far established that he was able to devote himself to more consistent study. He never appears literally to have copied any picture; but whenever any master interested him, or was of so established a reputation that he thought it necessary to study him, he painted [93] pictures of his own subjects in the style of that master, until he felt himself able to rival his excellencies, whatever they were. There are thus multitudes of pictures by Turner which are direct imitations of other masters; especially of Claude, Wilson, Loutherbourg, Gaspar Poussin, Vandevelde, Cuyp, and Rembrandt. It has been argued by Mr. Leslie that, because Turner thus in his early years imitated many of the old masters, therefore he must to the end of his life have considered them greater than himself. The non sequitur is obvious. I trust there are few men so unhappy as never to have learned anything from their inferiors; and I fear there are few men so wise as never to have imitated anything but what was deserving of imitation. The young Turner, indeed, would have been more than mortal if, in a period utterly devoid of all healthy examples of landscape art, he had been able at once to see his way to the attainment of his ultimate ends; or if, seeing it, he had felt himself at once strong enough to defy the authority of every painter and connoisseur whose style had formed the taste of the public, or whose dicta directed their patronage.

98. But the period when he both felt and resolved to assert his own superiority was indicated with perfect clearness, by his publishing a series of engravings, which were nothing else than direct challenges to Claude—then the landscape painter supposed to be the greatest in the world—upon his own ground and his own terms. You are probably all aware that the studies made by Claude for his pictures, and kept by him under the name of the "Liber Veritatis," were for the most part made with pen and ink, washed over with a brown tint; and that these drawings have been carefully facsimiled and published in the form of mezzotint engravings, long supposed to be models of taste in landscape composition. In order to provoke comparison between Claude and himself, Turner published a series of engravings, called the "Liber Studiorum," executed in exactly the same manner as these drawings of Claude,—an etching representing what was done with the pen, while mezzotint stood for color. You see the [94] notable publicity of this challenge. Had he confined himself to pictures in his trial of skill with Claude, it would only have been in the gallery or the palace that the comparison could have been instituted; but now it is in the power of all who are interested in the matter to make it at their ease.[32]

99. Now, what Turner did in contest with Claude, he did with every other then-known master of landscape, each in his turn. He challenged, and vanquished, each in his own peculiar field, Vandevelde on the sea, Salvator among rocks, and Cuyp on Lowland rivers; and, having done this, set himself to paint the natural scenery of skies, mountains, and lakes, which, until his time, had never been so much as attempted.

He thus, in the extent of his sphere, far surpassed even Titian and Leonardo, the great men of the earlier schools. In their foreground work neither Titian nor Leonardo could be excelled; but Titian and Leonardo were throughly conventional in all but their foregrounds. Turner was equally great in all the elements of landscape, and it is on him, and on his daring additions to the received schemes of landscape art, that all modern landscape has been founded. You will never meet any truly great living landscape painter who will not at once frankly confess his obligations to Turner, not, observe, as having copied him, but as having been led by Turner to look in nature for what he would otherwise either not have discerned, or discerning, not have dared to represent.

100. Turner, therefore, was the first man who presented [95] us with the type of perfect landscape art: and the richness of that art, with which you are at present surrounded, and which enables you to open your walls as it were into so many windows, through which you can see whatever has charmed you in the fairest scenery of your country, you will do well to remember as Turneresque.

So then you have these five periods to recollect—you will have no difficulty, I trust, in doing so,—the periods of Giotto, Leonardo, Titian, pastoralism, and Turner.

101. But Turner's work is yet only begun. His greatness is, as yet, altogether denied by many; and to the full, felt by very few. But every day that he lies in his grave will bring some new acknowledgment of his power; and through those eyes, now filled with dust, generations yet unborn will learn to behold the light of nature.

You have some ground to-night to accuse me of dogmatism. I can bring no proof before you of what I so boldly assert. But I would not have accepted your invitation to address you, unless I had felt that I had a right to be, in this matter, dogmatic. I did not come here to tell you of my beliefs or my conjectures; I came to tell you the truth which I have given fifteen years of my life to ascertain, that this man, this Turner, of whom you have known so little while he was living among you, will one day take his place beside Shakespeare and Verulam, in the annals of the light of England.

Yes: beside Shakespeare and Verulam, a third star in that central constellation, round which, in the astronomy of intellect, all other stars make their circuit. By Shakespeare, humanity was unsealed to you; by Verulam the principles of nature; and by Turner, her aspect. All these were sent to unlock one of the gates of light, and to unlock it for the first time. But of all the three, though not the greatest, Turner was the most unprecedented in his work. Bacon did what Aristotle had attempted; Shakespeare did perfectly what Æschylus did partially; but none before Turner had lifted the veil from the face of nature; the majesty of the hills and forests had received no interpretation, and the clouds passed [96] unrecorded from the face of the heaven which they adorned, and of the earth to which they ministered.

102. And now let me tell you something of his personal character. You have heard him spoken of as ill-natured, and jealous of his brother artists. I will tell you how jealous he was. I knew him for ten years, and during that time had much familiar intercourse with him. I never once heard him say an unkind thing of a brother artist, and I never once heard him find a fault with another man's work. I could say this of no other artist whom I have ever known.

But I will add a piece of evidence on this matter of peculiar force. Probably many here have read a book which has been lately published, to my mind one of extreme interest and value, the life of the unhappy artist, Benjamin Haydon. Whatever may have been his faults, I believe no person can read his journal without coming to the conclusion that his heart was honest, and that he does not willfully misrepresent any fact, or any person. Even supposing otherwise, the expression I am going to quote to you would have all the more force, because, as you know, Haydon passed his whole life in war with the Royal Academy, of which Turner was one of the most influential members. Yet in the midst of one of his most violent expressions of exultation at one of his victories over the Academy, he draws back suddenly with these words:—"But Turner behaved well, and did me justice."

103. I will give you however besides, two plain facts illustrative of Turner's "jealousy."

You have, perhaps not many of you, heard of a painter of the name of Bird: I do not myself know his works, but Turner saw some merit in them: and when Bird first sent a picture to the Academy, for exhibition, Turner was on the hanging committee. Bird's picture had great merit; but no place for it could be found. Turner pleaded hard for it. No, the thing was impossible. Turner sat down and looked at Bird's picture a long time; then insisted that a place must be found for it. He was still met by the assertion of [97] impracticability. He said no more, but took down one of his own pictures, sent it out of the Academy, and hung Bird's in its place.

Match that, if you can, among the annals of hanging committees. But he could do nobler things than this.

104. When Turner's picture of Cologne was exhibited in the year 1826, it was hung between two portraits, by Sir Thomas Lawrence, of Lady Wallscourt and Lady Robert Manners.

The sky of Turner's picture was exceedingly bright, and it had a most injurious effect on the color of the two portraits. Lawrence naturally felt mortified, and complained openly of the position of his pictures. You are aware that artists were at that time permitted to retouch their pictures on the walls of the Academy. On the morning of the opening of the exhibition, at the private view, a friend of Turner's who had seen the Cologne in all its splendor, led a group of expectant critics up to the picture. He started back from it in consternation. The golden sky had changed to a dun color. He ran up to Turner, who was in another part of the room. "Turner, what have you been doing to your picture?" "Oh," muttered Turner, in a low voice, "poor Lawrence was so unhappy. It's only lamp-black. It'll all wash off after the exhibition!" He had actually passed a wash of lamp-black in water-color over the whole sky, and utterly spoiled his picture for the time, and so left it through the exhibition, lest it should hurt Lawrence's.

You may easily find instances of self-sacrifice where men have strong motives, and where large benefits are to be conferred by the effort, or general admiration obtained by it; but of pure, unselfish, and perfect generosity, showing itself in a matter of minor interest, and when few could be aware of the sacrifice made, you will not easily find such another example as this.

105. Thus much for his jealousy of his brother-artists. You have also heard much of his niggardliness in money transactions. A great part of what you have heard is perfectly [98] true, allowing for the exaggeration which always takes place in the accounts of an eccentric character. But there are other parts of Turner's conduct of which you have never heard; and which, if truly reported, would set his niggardliness in a very different light. Every person from whom Turner exacted a due shilling, proclaimed the exaction far and wide; but the persons to whom Turner gave hundreds of pounds were prevented, by their "delicacy," from reporting the kindness of their benefactor. I may, however, perhaps, be permitted to acquaint you with one circumstance of this nature, creditable alike to both parties concerned.

At the death of a poor drawing master, Mr. Wells,[33] whom Turner had long known, he was deeply affected, and lent money to the widow until a large sum had accumulated. She was both honest and grateful, and after a long period was happy enough to be able to return to her benefactor the whole sum she had received from him. She waited on him with it; but Turner kept his hands in his pockets. "Keep it," he said, "and send your children to school, and to church." He said this in bitterness; he had himself been sent to neither.

106. "Well, but," you will answer to me, "we have heard Turner all our lives stigmatized as brutal, and uncharitable, and selfish, and miserly. How are we to understand these opposing statements?"

Easily. I have told you truly what Turner was. You have often heard what to most people he appeared to be. Imagine what it was for a man to live seventy years in this hard world, with the kindest heart, and the noblest intellect of his time, and never to meet with a single word or ray of sympathy, until he felt himself sinking into the grave. From the time he knew his true greatness all the world was turned against him: he held his own; but it could not be without [99] roughness of bearing, and hardening of the temper, if not of the heart. No one understood him, no one trusted him, and every one cried out against him. Imagine, any of you, the effect upon your own minds, if every voice that you heard from the human beings around you were raised, year after year, through all your lives, only in condemnation of your efforts, and denial of your success. This may be borne, and borne easily, by men who have fixed religious principles, or supporting domestic ties. But Turner had no one to teach him in his youth, and no one to love him in his old age. Respect and affection, if they came at all, came unbelieved, or came too late. Naturally irritable, though kind—naturally suspicious, though generous—the gold gradually became dim, and the most fine gold changed, or, if not changed, overcast and clouded. The deep heart was still beating, but it was beneath a dark and melancholy mail, between whose joints, however, sometimes the slightest arrows found entrance, and power of giving pain. He received no consolation in his last years, nor in his death. Cut off in great part from all society—first, by labor, and at last by sickness—hunted to his grave by the malignities of small critics, and the jealousies of hopeless rivalry, he died in the house of a stranger—one companion of his life, and one only, staying with him to the last. The window of his death-chamber was turned towards the west, and the sun shone upon his face in its setting, and rested there, as he expired.


[29] Of course I do not mean by calling these fables "paltry," to dispute their neatness, ingenuity, or moral depth; but only their want of apprehension of the extent and awfulness of the phenomena introduced. So also, in denying Homer's interest in nature, I do not mean to deny his accuracy of observation, or his power of seizing on the main points of landscape, but I deny the power of landscape over his heart, unless when closely associated with, and altogether subordinate to, some human interest.

[30] This passage, respecting the book of Job, was omitted in the delivery of the Lecture, for want of time.

[31] Having no memoranda of my own, taken from Giotto's landscape, I had this tree copied from an engraving; but I imagine the rude termination of the stems to be a misrepresentation. Fig. 21 is accurately copied from a MS., certainly executed between 1250 and 1270, and is more truly characteristic of the early manner.

[32] When this lecture was delivered, an enlarged copy of a portion of one of these studies by Claude was set beside a similarly magnified portion of one by Turner. It was impossible, without much increasing the cost of the publication, to prepare two mezzotint engravings with the care requisite for this purpose; and the portion of the Lecture relating to these examples is therefore omitted. It is, however, in the power of every reader to procure one or more plates of each series; and to judge for himself whether the conclusion of Turner's superiority, which is assumed in the next sentence of the text, be a just one or not.

[33] Not the Mr. Wells who taught drawing at Addiscombe. It appears that Turner knew two persons of the same name, and in the same profession. I am not permitted to name my authority for the anecdote; various egotistic "delicacies," even in this case, preventing useful truth from being clearly assured to the public.


Delivered November 18, 1853.

107. The subject on which I would desire to engage your attention this evening, is the nature and probable result of a certain schism which took place a few years ago among our British artists.

This schism, or rather the heresy which led to it, as you are probably aware, was introduced by a small number of very young men; and consists mainly in the assertion that the principles on which art has been taught for these three hundred years back are essentially wrong, and that the principles which ought to guide us are those which prevailed before the time of Raphael; in adopting which, therefore, as their guides, these young men, as a sort of bond of unity among themselves, took the unfortunate and somewhat ludicrous name of "Pre-Raphaelite Brethren."

108. You must also be aware that this heresy has been opposed with all the influence and all the bitterness of art and criticism; but that in spite of these the heresy has gained ground, and the pictures painted on these new principles have obtained a most extensive popularity. These circumstances are sufficiently singular, but their importance is greater even than their singularity; and your time will certainly not be wasted in devoting an hour to an inquiry into the true nature of this movement.

I shall first, therefore, endeavor to state to you what the real difference is between the principles of art before and after Raphael's time, and then to ascertain, with you, how far these young men truly have understood the difference, and [101] what may be hoped or feared from the effort they are making.

109. First, then, What is the real difference between the principles on which art has been pursued before and since Raphael? You must be aware, that the principal ground on which the Pre-Raphaelites have been attacked, is the charge that they wish to bring us back to a time of darkness and ignorance, when the principles of drawing, and of art in general, were comparatively unknown; and this attack, therefore, is entirely founded on the assumption that, although for some unaccountable reason we cannot at present produce artists altogether equal to Raphael, yet that we are on the whole in a state of greater illumination than, at all events, any artists who preceded Raphael; so that we consider ourselves entitled to look down upon them, and to say that, all things considered, they did some wonderful things for their time; but that, as for comparing the art of Giotto to that of Wilkie or Edwin Landseer, it would be perfectly ridiculous,—the one being a mere infant in his profession, and the others accomplished workmen.

Now, that this progress has in some things taken place is perfectly true; but it is true also that this progress is by no means the main thing to be noticed respecting ancient and modern art; that there are other circumstances, connected with the change from one to the other, immeasurably more important, and which, until very lately, have been altogether lost sight of.

110. The fact is, that modern art is not so much distinguished from old art by greater skill, as by a radical change in temper. The art of this day is not merely a more knowing art than that of the thirteenth century,—it is altogether another art. Between the two there is a great gulf, a distinction forever ineffaceable. The change from one to the other was not that of the child into the man, as we usually consider it; it was that of the chrysalis into the butterfly. There was an entire change in the habits, food, method of existence, and heart of the whole creature. That we know [102] more than thirteenth century people is perfectly true; but that is not the essential difference between us and them. We are different kind of creatures from them,—as different as moths are different from caterpillars; and different in a certain broad and vast sense, which I shall try this evening to explain and prove to you;—different not merely in this or that result of minor circumstances,—not as you are different from people who never saw a locomotive engine, or a Highlander of this century from a Highlander of 1745;—different in a far broader and mightier sense than that; in a sense so great and clear, that we are enabled to separate all the Christian nations and tongues of the early time from those of the latter time, and speak of them in one group as the kingdoms of the Middle Ages. There is an infinite significance in that term, which I want you to dwell upon and work out; it is a term which we use in a dim consciousness of the truth, but without fully penetrating into that of which we are conscious. I want to deepen and make clear to you this consciousness that the world has had essentially a Trinity of ages—the Classical Age, the Middle Age, the Modern Age; each of these embracing races and individuals of apparently enormous separation in kind, but united in the spirit of their age,—the Classical Age having its Egyptians and Ninevites, Greeks and Romans,—the Middle Age having its Goths and Franks, Lombards and Italians,—the Modern Age having its French and English, Spaniards and Germans; but all these distinctions being in each case subordinate to the mightier and broader distinction, between Classicalism, Mediævalism, and Modernism.

111. Now our object to-night is indeed only to inquire into a matter of art; but we cannot do so properly until we consider this art in its relation to the inner spirit of the age in which it exists; and by doing so we shall not only arrive at the most just conclusions respecting our present subject, but we shall obtain the means of arriving at just conclusions respecting many other things.

Now the division of time which the Pre-Raphaelites have [103] adopted, in choosing Raphael as the man whose works mark the separation between Mediævalism and Modernism, is perfectly accurate. It has been accepted as such by all their opponents.

You have, then, the three periods: Classicalism, extending to the fall of the Roman empire; Mediævalism, extending from that fall to the close of the fifteenth century; and Modernism thenceforward to our days.

112. And in examining into the spirit of these three epochs, observe, I don't mean to compare their bad men,—I don't mean to take Tiberius as a type of Classicalism, nor Ezzelin as a type of Mediævalism, nor Robespierre as a type of Modernism. Bad men are like each other in all epochs; and in the Roman, the Paduan, or the Parisian, sensuality and cruelty admit of little distinction in the manners of their manifestation. But among men comparatively virtuous, it is important to study the phases of character; and it is into these only that it is necessary for us to inquire. Consider therefore, first, the essential difference in character between three of the most devoted military heroes whom the three great epochs of the world have produced,—all three devoted to the service of their country,—all of them dying therein. I mean, Leonidas in the Classical period, St. Louis in the Mediæval period, and Lord Nelson in the Modern period.

Leonidas had the most rigid sense of duty, and died with the most perfect faith in the gods of his country, fulfilling the accepted prophecy of his death. St. Louis had the most rigid sense of duty, and the most perfect faith in Christ. Nelson had the most rigid sense of duty, and——

You must supply my pause with your charity.

Now you do not suppose that the main difference between Leonidas and Nelson lay in the modern inventions at the command of the one, as compared with the imperfect military instruments possessed by the other. They were not essentially different, in that the one fought with lances and the other with guns. But they were essentially different in the whole tone of their religious belief. [104]

113. By this instance you may be partially prepared for the bold statement I am going to make to you, as to the change which constitutes Modernism. I said just now that it was like that of the worm to the butterfly. But the changes which God causes in His lower creatures are almost always from worse to better, while the changes which God allows man to make in himself are very often quite the other way; like Adam's new arrangement of his nature. And in saying that this last change was like that of a chrysalis, I meant only in the completeness of it, not in the tendency of it. Instead of from the worm to the butterfly, it is very possible it may have been from the butterfly to the worm.

Have patience with me for a moment after I tell you what I believe it to have been, and give me a little time to justify my words.

114. I say that Classicalism began, wherever civilization began, with Pagan Faith. Mediævalism began, and continued, wherever civilization began and continued to confess Christ. And, lastly, Modernism began and continues, wherever civilization began and continues to deny Christ.

You are startled, but give me a moment to explain. What, you would say to me, do you mean to tell us that we deny Christ? we who are essentially modern in every one of our principles and feelings, and yet all of us professing believers in Christ, and we trust most of us true ones? I answer, So far as we are believers indeed, we are one with the faithful of all times,—one with the classical believer of Athens and Ephesus, and one with the mediæval believer of the banks of the Rhone and the valleys of the Monte Viso. But so far as, in various strange ways, some in great and some in small things, we deny this belief, in so far we are essentially infected with this spirit, which I call Modernism.

115. For observe, the change of which I speak has nothing whatever to do with the Reformation, or with any of its effects. It is a far broader thing than the Reformation. It is a change which has taken place, not only in reformed England, and reformed Scotland; but in unreformed France, [105] in unreformed Italy, in unreformed Austria. I class honest Protestants and honest Roman Catholics for the present together, under the general term Christians: if you object to their being so classed together, I pray your pardon, but allow me to do so at present, for the sake of perspicuity, if for nothing else; and so classing them, I say that a change took place, about the time of Raphael, in the spirit of Roman Catholics and Protestants both; and that change consisted in the denial of their religious belief, at least in the external and trivial affairs of life, and often in far more serious things.

116. For instance, hear this direction to an upholsterer of the early thirteenth century. Under the commands of the Sheriff of Wiltshire, he is thus ordered to make some alterations in a room for Henry the Third. He is to "wainscot the King's lower chamber, and to paint that wainscot of a green color, and to put a border to it, and to cause the heads of kings and queens to be painted on the borders; and to paint on the walls of the King's upper chamber the story of St. Margaret, Virgin, and the four Evangelists, and to paint the wainscot of the same chamber of a green color, spotted with gold."[34]

Again, the Sheriff of Wiltshire is ordered to "put two small glass windows in the chamber of Edward the King's son; and put a glass window in the chamber of our Queen at Clarendon; and in the same window cause to be painted a Mary with her Child, and at the feet of the said Mary, a queen with clasped hands."

Again, the Sheriff of Southampton is ordered to "paint the tablet beside the King's bed, with the figures of the guards of the bed of Solomon, and to glaze with white glass the windows in the King's great Hall at Northampton, and cause the history of Lazarus and Dives to be painted in the same."

117. And so on; I need not multiply instances. You see that in all these cases, the furniture of the King's house is made to confess his Christianity. It may be imperfect and [106] impure Christianity, but such as it might be, it was all that men had then to live and die by; and you see there was not a pane of glass in their windows, nor a pallet by their bedside that did not confess and proclaim it. Now, when you go home to your own rooms, supposing them to be richly decorated at all, examine what that decoration consists of. You will find Cupids, Graces, Floras, Dianas, Jupiters, Junos. But you will not find, except in the form of an engraving, bought principally for its artistic beauty, either Christ, or the Virgin, or Lazarus and Dives. And if a thousand years hence, any curious investigator were to dig up the ruins of Edinburgh, and not know your history, he would think you had all been born heathens. Now that, so far as it goes, is denying Christ; it is pure Modernism.

"No," you will answer me, "you misunderstand and calumniate us. We do not, indeed, choose to have Dives and Lazarus on our windows; but that is not because we are moderns, but because we are Protestants, and do not like religious imagery." Pardon me: that is not the reason. Go into any fashionable lady's boudoir in Paris, and see if you will find Dives and Lazarus there. You will find, indeed, either that she has her private chapel, or that she has a crucifix in her dressing-room; but for the general decoration of the house, it is all composed of Apollos and Muses, just as it is here.

118. Again. What do you suppose was the substance of good education, the education of a knight, in the Middle Ages? What was taught to a boy as soon as he was able to learn anything? First, to keep under his body, and bring it into subjection and perfect strength; then to take Christ for his captain, to live as always in His presence, and finally, to do his devoir—mark the word—to all men. Now consider, first, the difference in their influence over the armies of France, between the ancient word "devoir," and modern word "gloire." And, again, ask yourselves what you expect your own children to be taught at your great schools and universities. Is it Christian history, or the histories of Pan and [107] Silenus? Your present education, to all intents and purposes, denies Christ, and that is intensely and peculiarly Modernism.

119. Or, again, what do you suppose was the proclaimed and understood principle of all Christian governments in the Middle Ages? I do not say it was a principle acted up to, or that the cunning and violence of wicked men had not too often their full sway then as now; but on what principles were that cunning and violence, so far as was possible, restrained? By the confessed fear of God, and confessed authority of His law. You will find that all treaties, laws, transactions whatsoever, in the Middle Ages, are based on a confession of Christianity as the leading rule of life; that a text of Scripture is held, in all public assemblies, strong enough to be set against an appearance of expediency; and although, in the end, the expediency might triumph, yet it was never without a distinct allowance of Christian principle, as an efficient element in the consultation. Whatever error might be committed, at least Christ was openly confessed. Now what is the custom of your British Parliament in these days? You know that nothing would excite greater manifestations of contempt and disgust than the slightest attempt to introduce the authority of Scripture in a political consultation. That is denying Christ. It is intensely and peculiarly Modernism.

120. It would be easy to go on showing you this same thing in many more instances; but my business to-night is to show you its full effect in one thing only, namely, in art, and I must come straightway to that, as I have little enough time. This, then, is the great and broad fact which distinguishes modern art from old art; that all ancient art was religious, and all modern art is profane. Once more, your patience for an instant. I say, all ancient art was religious; that is to say, religion was its first object; private luxury or pleasure its second. I say all modern art is profane; that is, private luxury or pleasure is its first object; religion its second. Now you all know, that anything which makes religion its second [108] object, makes religion no object. God will put up with a great many things in the human heart, but there is one thing He will not put up with in it—a second place. He who offers God a second place, offers Him no place. And there is another mighty truth which you all know, that he who makes religion his first object, makes it his whole object; he has no other work in the world than God's work. Therefore I do not say that ancient art was more religious than modern art. There is no question of degree in this matter. Ancient art was religious art; modern art is profane art; and between the two the distinction is as firm as between light and darkness.

121. Now, do not let what I say be encumbered in your minds with the objection, that you think art ought not to be brought into the service of religion. That is not the question at present—do not agitate it. The simple fact is, that old art was brought into that service, and received therein a peculiar form; that modern art is not brought into that service, and has received in consequence another form; that this is the great distinction between mediæval and modern art; and from that are clearly deducible all other essential differences between them. That is the point I wish to show you, and of that there can be no dispute. Whether or not Christianity be the purer for lacking the service of art, is disputable—and I do not mean now to begin the dispute; but that art is the impurer for not being in the service of Christianity, is indisputable, and that is the main point I have now to do with.

122. Perhaps there are some of you here who would not allow that the religion of the thirteenth century was Christianity. Be it so; still is the statement true, which is all that is necessary for me now to prove, that art was great because it was devoted to such religion as then existed. Grant that Roman Catholicism was not Christianity—grant it, if you will, to be the same thing as old heathenism—and still I say to you, whatever it was, men lived and died by it, the ruling thought of all their thoughts; and just as classical [109] art was greatest in building to its gods, so mediæval art was great in building to its gods, and modern art is not great, because it builds to no God. You have, for instance, in your Edinburgh Library, a Bible of the thirteenth century, the Latin Bible, commonly known as the Vulgate. It contains the Old and New Testaments, complete, besides the books of Maccabees, the Wisdom of Solomon, the books of Judith, Baruch, and Tobit. The whole is written in the most beautiful black-letter hand, and each book begins with an illuminated letter, containing three or four figures, illustrative of the book which it begins. Now, whether this were done in the service of true Christianity or not, the simple fact is, that here is a man's life-time taken up in writing and ornamenting a Bible, as the sole end of his art; and that doing this, either in a book or on a wall, was the common artist's life at the time; that the constant Bible reading and Bible thinking which this work involved, made a man serious and thoughtful, and a good workman, because he was always expressing those feelings which, whether right or wrong, were the groundwork of his whole being. Now, about the year 1500, this entire system was changed. Instead of the life of Christ, men had, for the most part, to paint the lives of Bacchus and Venus; and if you walk through any public gallery of pictures by the "great masters," as they are called, you will indeed find here and there what is called a Holy Family, painted for the sake of drawing pretty children, or a pretty woman; but for the most part you will find nothing but Floras, Pomonas, Satyrs, Graces, Bacchanals, and Banditti. Now, you will not declare—you cannot believe—that Angelico painting the life of Christ, Benozzo painting the life of Abraham, Ghirlandajo painting the life of the Virgin, Giotto painting the life of St. Francis, were worse employed, or likely to produce a less healthy art, than Titian painting the loves of Venus and Adonis, than Correggio painting the naked Antiope, than Salvator painting the slaughters of the thirty years' war? If you will not let me call the one kind of labor Christian, and the other unchristian, [110] at least you will let me call the one moral, and the other immoral, and that is all I ask you to admit.

123. Now observe, hitherto I have been telling you what you may feel inclined to doubt or dispute; and I must leave you to consider the subject at your leisure. But henceforward I tell you plain facts, which admit neither of doubt nor dispute by any one who will take the pains to acquaint himself with their subject-matter.

When the entire purpose of art was moral teaching, it naturally took truth for its first object, and beauty, and the pleasure resulting from beauty, only for its second. But when it lost all purpose of moral teaching, it as naturally took beauty for its first object, and truth for its second.

That is to say, in all they did, the old artists endeavored, in one way or another, to express the real facts of the subject or event, this being their chief business: and the question they first asked themselves was always, how would this thing, or that, actually have occurred? what would this person, or that, have done under the circumstances? and then, having formed their conception, they work it out with only a secondary regard to grace or beauty, while a modern painter invariably thinks of the grace and beauty of his work first, and unites afterwards as much truth as he can with its conventional graces. I will give you a single strong instance to make my meaning plainer. In Orcagna's great fresco of the Triumph of Death, one of the incidents is that three kings,[35] [111] when out hunting, are met by a spirit, which, desiring them to follow it, leads them to a churchyard, and points out to them, in open coffins, three bodies of kings such as themselves, in the last stages of corruption. Now a modern artist, representing this, would have endeavored dimly and faintly to suggest the appearance of the dead bodies, and would have made, or attempted to make, the countenances of the three kings variously and solemnly expressive of thought. This would be in his, or our, view, a poetical and tasteful treatment of the subject. But Orcagna disdains both poetry and taste; he wants the facts only; he wishes to give the spectator the same lesson that the kings had; and therefore, instead of concealing the dead bodies, he paints them with the most fearful detail. And then, he does not consider what the three kings might most gracefully do. He considers only what they actually in all probability would have done. He makes them looking at the coffins with a startled stare, and one holding his nose. This is an extreme instance; but you are not to suppose it is because Orcagna had naturally a coarse or prosaic mind. Where he felt that thoughtfulness and beauty could properly be introduced, as in his circles of saints and prophets, no painter of the Middle Ages is so grand. I can give you no better proof of this, than the one fact that Michael Angelo borrowed from him openly—borrowed from him in the principal work which he ever executed, the Last Judgment, and borrowed from him the principal figure in that work. But it is just because Orcagna was so firmly and unscrupulously true, that he had the power of being so great when he chose. His arrow went straight to the mark. It was not that he did not love beauty, but he loved truth first.

124. So it was with all the men of that time. No painters ever had more power of conceiving graceful form, or more profound [112] devotion to the beautiful; but all these gifts and affections are kept sternly subordinate to their moral purpose; and, so far as their powers and knowledge went, they either painted from nature things as they were, or from imagination things as they must have been.

I do not mean that they reached any imitative resemblance to nature. They had neither skill to do it, nor care to do it. Their art was conventional and imperfect, but they considered it only as a language wherein to convey the knowledge of certain facts; it was perfect enough for that; and though always reaching on to greater attainments, they never suffered their imperfections to disturb and check them in their immediate purposes. And this mode of treating all subjects was persisted in by the greatest men until the close of the fifteenth century.

125. Now so justly have the Pre-Raphaelites chosen their time and name, that the great change which clouds the career of mediæval art was affected, not only in Raphael's time, but by Raphael's own practice, and by his practice in the very center of his available life.

You remember, doubtless, what high ground we have for placing the beginning of human intellectual strength at about the age of twelve years.[36] Assume, therefore, this period for the beginning of Raphael's strength. He died at thirty-seven. And in his twenty-fifth year, one half-year only past the precise center of his available life, he was sent for to Rome, to decorate the Vatican for Pope Julius II., and having until that time worked exclusively in the ancient and stern mediæval manner, he, in the first chamber which he decorated in that palace, wrote upon its walls the Mene, Tekel, Upharsin of the Arts of Christianity.

And he wrote it thus: On one wall of that chamber he placed a picture of the World or Kingdom of Theology, presided over by Christ. And on the side wall of that same chamber he placed the World or Kingdom of Poetry, presided over by Apollo. And from that spot, and from that [113] hour, the intellect and the art of Italy date their degradation.

126. Observe, however, the significance of this fact is not in the mere use of the figure of the heathen god to indicate the domain of poetry. Such a symbolical use had been made of the figures of heathen deities in the best times of Christian art. But it is in the fact, that being called to Rome especially to adorn the palace of the so-called head of the Church, and called as the chief representative of the Christian artists of his time, Raphael had neither religion nor originality enough to trace the spirit of poetry and the spirit of philosophy to the inspiration of the true God, as well as that of theology; but that, on the contrary, he elevated the creations of fancy on the one wall, to the same rank as the objects of faith upon the other; that in deliberate, balanced opposition to the Rock of the Mount Zion, he reared the rock of Parnassus, and the rock of the Acropolis; that, among the masters of poetry we find him enthroning Petrarch and Pindar, but not Isaiah nor David, and for lords over the domain of philosophy we find the masters of the school of Athens, but neither of those greater masters by the last of whom that school was rebuked,—those who received their wisdom from heaven itself, in the vision of Gibeon,[37] and the lightning of Damascus.

127. The doom of the arts of Europe went forth from that chamber, and it was brought about in great part by the very excellencies of the man who had thus marked the commencement of decline. The perfection of execution and the beauty of feature which were attained in his works, and in those of his great contemporaries, rendered finish of execution and beauty of form the chief objects of all artists; and thenceforward execution was looked for rather than thought, and beauty rather than veracity.

And as I told you, these are the two secondary causes of the decline of art; the first being the loss of moral purpose. Pray note them clearly. In mediæval art, thought is the [114] first thing, execution the second; in modern art execution is the first thing, and thought the second. And again, in mediæval art, truth is first, beauty second; in modern art, beauty is first, truth second. The mediæval principles led up to Raphael, and the modern principles lead down from him.

128. Now, first, let me give you a familiar illustration of the difference with respect to execution. Suppose you have to teach two children drawing, one thoroughly clever and active-minded, the other dull and slow; and you put before them Jullien's chalk studies of heads—études à deux crayons—and desire them to be copied. The dull child will slowly do your bidding, blacken his paper and rub it white again, and patiently and painfully, in the course of three or four years, attain to the performance of a chalk head, not much worse than his original, but still of less value than the paper it is drawn upon. But the clever child will not, or will only by force, consent to this discipline. He finds other means of expressing himself with his pencil somehow or another; and presently you find his paper covered with sketches of his grandfather and grandmother, and uncles, and cousins—sketches of the room, and the house, and the cat, and the dog, and the country outside, and everything in the world he can set his eyes on; and he gets on, and even his child's work has a value in it—a truth which makes it worth keeping; no one knows how precious, perhaps, that portrait of his grandfather may be, if any one has but the sense to keep it till the time when the old man can be seen no more up the lawn, nor by the wood. That child is working in the Middle-Age spirit—the other in the modern spirit.

129. But there is something still more striking in the evils which have resulted from the modern regardlessness of truth. Consider, for instance, its effect on what is called historical painting. What do you at present mean by historical painting? Now-a-days it means the endeavoring, by the power of imagination, to portray some historical event of past days. But in the Middle Ages, it meant representing [115] the acts of their own days; and that is the only historical painting worth a straw. Of all the wastes of time and sense which Modernism has invented—and they are many—none are so ridiculous as this endeavor to represent past history. What do you suppose our descendants will care for our imaginations of the events of former days? Suppose the Greeks, instead of representing their own warriors as they fought at Marathon, had left us nothing but their imaginations of Egyptian battles; and suppose the Italians, in like manner, instead of portraits of Can Grande and Dante, or of Leo the Tenth and Raphael, had left us nothing but imaginary portraits of Pericles and Miltiades? What fools we should have thought them! how bitterly we should have been provoked with their folly! And that is precisely what our descendants will feel towards us, so far as our grand historical and classical schools are concerned. What do we care, they will say, what those nineteenth century people fancied about Greek and Roman history! If they had left us a few plain and rational sculptures and pictures of their own battles, and their own men, in their every-day dress, we should have thanked them. "Well, but," you will say, "we have left them portraits of our great men, and paintings of our great battles." Yes, you have indeed, and that is the only historical painting that you either have, or can have; but you don't call that historical painting. You don't thank the men who do it; you look down upon them and dissuade them from it, and tell them they don't belong to the grand schools. And yet they are the only true historical painters, and the only men who will produce any effect on their own generation, or on any other. Wilkie was a historical painter, Chantrey a historical sculptor, because they painted, or carved, the veritable things and men they saw, not men and things as they believed they might have been, or should have been. But no one tells such men they are historical painters, and they are discontented with what they do; and poor Wilkie must needs travel to see the grand school, and imitate the grand school, and [116] ruin himself. And you have had multitudes of other painters ruined, from the beginning, by that grand school. There was Etty, naturally as good a painter as ever lived, but no one told him what to paint, and he studied the antique, and the grand schools, and painted dances of nymphs in red and yellow shawls to the end of his days. Much good may they do you! He is gone to the grave, a lost mind. There was Flaxman, another naturally great man, with as true an eye for nature as Raphael,—he stumbles over the blocks of the antique statues—wanders in the dark valley of their ruins to the end of his days. He has left you a few outlines of muscular men straddling and frowning behind round shields. Much good may they do you! Another lost mind. And of those who are lost namelessly, who have not strength enough even to make themselves known, the poor pale students who lie buried forever in the abysses of the great schools, no account can be rendered; they are numberless.

130. And the wonderful thing is, that of all these men whom you now have come to call the great masters, there was not one who confessedly did not paint his own present world, plainly and truly. Homer sang of what he saw; Phidias carved what he saw; Raphael painted the men of his own time in their own caps and mantles; and every man who has arisen to eminence in modern times has done so altogether by his working in their way, and doing the things he saw. How did Reynolds rise? Not by painting Greek women, but by painting the glorious little living Ladies this, and Ladies that, of his own time. How did Hogarth rise? Not by painting Athenian follies, but London follies. Who are the men who have made an impression upon you yourselves—upon your own age? I suppose the most popular painter of the day is Landseer. Do you suppose he studied dogs and eagles out of the Elgin Marbles? And yet in the very face of these plain, incontrovertible, all-visible facts, we go on from year to year with the base system of Academy teaching, in spite of which every one of these men has risen: I say in spite of the entire method and aim of our art-teaching. [117] It destroys the greater number of its pupils altogether; it hinders and paralyzes the greatest. There is not a living painter whose eminence is not in spite of everything he has been taught from his youth upwards, and who, whatever his eminence may be, has not suffered much injury in the course of his victory. For observe: this love of what is called ideality or beauty in preference to truth, operates not only in making us choose the past rather than the present for our subjects, but it makes us falsify the present when we do take it for our subject. I said just now that portrait-painters were historical painters;—so they are; but not good ones, because not faithful ones. The beginning and end of modern portraiture is adulation. The painters cannot live but by flattery; we should desert them if they spoke honestly. And therefore we can have no good portraiture; for in the striving after that which is not in their model, they lose the inner and deeper nobleness which is in their model. I saw not long ago, for the first time, the portrait of a man whom I knew well—a young man, but a religious man—and one who had suffered much from sickness. The whole dignity of his features and person depended upon the expression of serene, yet solemn, purpose sustaining a feeble frame; and the painter, by way of flattering him, strengthened him, and made him athletic in body, gay in countenance, idle in gesture; and the whole power and being of the man himself were lost. And this is still more the case with our public portraits. You have a portrait, for instance, of the Duke of Wellington at the end of the North Bridge—one of the thousand equestrian statues of Modernism—studied from the show-riders of the amphitheater, with their horses on their hind-legs in the saw-dust.[38] [118] Do you suppose that was the way the Duke sat when your destinies depended on him? when the foam hung from the lips of his tired horse, and its wet limbs were dashed with the bloody slime of the battle-field, and he himself sat anxious in his quietness, grieved in his fearlessness, as he watched, scythe-stroke by scythe-stroke, the gathering in of the harvest of death? You would have done something had you thus left his image in the enduring iron, but nothing now.

131. But the time has at last come for all this to be put an end to; and nothing can well be more extraordinary than the way in which the men have risen who are to do it. Pupils in the same schools, receiving precisely the same instruction which for so long a time has paralyzed every one of our painters,—these boys agree in disliking to copy the antique statues set before them. They copy them as they are bid, and they copy them better than any one else; they carry off prize after prize, and yet they hate their work. At last they are admitted to study from the life; they find the life very different from the antique, and say so. Their teachers tell them the antique is the best, and they mustn't copy the life. They [119] agree among themselves that they like the life, and that copy it they will. They do copy it faithfully, and their masters forthwith declare them to be lost men. Their fellow-students hiss them whenever they enter the room. They can't help it; they join hands and tacitly resist both the hissing and the instruction. Accidentally, a few prints of the works of Giotto, a few casts from those of Ghiberti, fall into their hands, and they see in these something they never saw before—something intensely and everlastingly true. They examine farther into the matter; they discover for themselves the greater part of what I have laid before you to-night; they form themselves into a body, and enter upon that crusade which has hitherto been victorious. And which will be absolutely and triumphantly victorious. The great mistake which has hitherto prevented the public mind from fully going with them must soon be corrected. That mistake was the supposition that, instead of wishing to recur to the principles of the early ages, these men wished to bring back the ignorance of the early ages. This notion, grounded first on some hardness in their earlier works, which resulted—as it must always result—from the downright and earnest effort to paint nature as in a looking-glass, was fostered partly by the jealousy of their beaten competitors, and partly by the pure, perverse, and hopeless ignorance of the whole body of art-critics, so called, connected with the press. No notion was ever more baseless or more ridiculous. It was asserted that the Pre-Raphaelites did not draw well, in the face of the fact, that the principal member of their body, from the time he entered the schools of the Academy, had literally encumbered himself with the medals given as prizes for drawing. It was asserted that they did not draw in perspective, by men who themselves knew no more of perspective than they did of astrology; it was asserted that they sinned against the appearances of nature, by men who had never drawn so much as a leaf or a blossom from nature in their lives. And, lastly, when all these calumnies or absurdities would tell no more, and it began to be forced upon men's unwilling belief that the style of the Pre-Raphaelites was true [120] and was according to nature, the last forgery invented respecting them is, that they copy photographs. You observe how completely this last piece of malice defeats all the rest. It admits they are true to nature, though only that it may deprive them of all merit in being so. But it may itself be at once refuted by the bold challenge to their opponents to produce a Pre-Raphaelite picture, or anything like one, by themselves copying a photograph.

132. Let me at once clear your minds from all these doubts, and at once contradict all these calumnies.

Pre-Raphaelitism has but one principle, that of absolute, uncompromising truth in all that it does, obtained by working everything, down to the most minute detail, from nature, and from nature only.[39] Every Pre-Raphaelite landscape background is painted to the last touch, in the open air, from the thing itself. Every Pre-Raphaelite figure, however studied in expression, is a true portrait of some living person. Every minute accessory is painted in the same manner. And one of the chief reasons for the violent opposition with which the school has been attacked by other artists, is the enormous cost of care and labor which such a system demands from those who adopt it, in contradistinction to the present slovenly and imperfect style.

133. This is the main Pre-Raphaelite principle. But the battle which its supporters have to fight is a hard one; and for that battle they have been fitted by a very peculiar character.

You perceive that the principal resistance they have to make is to that spurious beauty, whose attractiveness had tempted men to forget, or to despise, the more noble quality of sincerity: and in order at once to put them beyond the [121] power of temptation from this beauty, they are, as a body, characterized by a total absence of sensibility to the ordinary and popular forms of artistic gracefulness; while, to all that still lower kind of prettiness, which regulates the disposition of our scenes upon the stage, and which appears in our lower art, as in our annuals, our commonplace portraits, and statuary, the Pre-Raphaelites are not only dead, but they regard it with a contempt and aversion approaching to disgust. This character is absolutely necessary to them in the present time; but it, of course, occasionally renders their work comparatively unpleasing. As the school becomes less aggressive, and more authoritative—which it will do—they will enlist into their ranks men who will work, mainly, upon their principles, and yet embrace more of those characters which are generally attractive, and this great ground of offense will be removed.

134. Again: you observe that as landscape painters, their principles must, in great part, confine them to mere foreground work; and singularly enough, that they may not be tempted away from this work, they have been born with comparatively little enjoyment of those evanescent effects and distant sublimities which nothing but the memory can arrest, and nothing but a daring conventionalism portray. But for this work they are not now needed. Turner, the first and greatest of the Pre-Raphaelites, has done it already; he, though his capacity embraced everything, and though he would sometimes, in his foregrounds, paint the spots upon a dead trout, and the dyes upon a butterfly's wing, yet for the most part delighted to begin at that very point where the other branches of Pre-Raphaelitism become powerless.

135. Lastly. The habit of constantly carrying everything up to the utmost point of completion deadens the Pre-Raphaelites in general to the merits of men who, with an equal love of truth up to a certain point, yet express themselves habitually with speed and power, rather than with finish, and give abstracts of truth rather than total truth. Probably to the end of time artists will more or less be divided into these classes, and it will be impossible to make men like Millais [122] understand the merits of men like Tintoret; but this is the more to be regretted because the Pre-Raphaelites have enormous powers of imagination, as well as of realization, and do not yet themselves know of how much they would be capable, if they sometimes worked on a larger scale, and with a less laborious finish.

136. With all their faults, their pictures are, since Turner's death, the best—incomparably the best—on the walls of the Royal Academy; and such works as Mr. Hunt's "Claudio and Isabella" have never been rivaled, in some respects never approached, at any other period of art.

This I believe to be a most candid statement of all their faults and all their deficiencies; not such, you perceive, as are likely to arrest their progress. The "magna est veritas" was never more sure of accomplishment than by these men. Their adversaries have no chance with them. They will gradually unite their influence with whatever is true or powerful in the reactionary art of other countries; and 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.

137. And now let me remind you but of one thing more. As you examine into the career of historical painting, you will be more and more struck with the fact I have this evening stated to you,—that none was ever truly great but that which represented the living forms and daily deeds of the people among whom it arose;—that all precious historical work records, not the past, but the present. Remember, therefore, that it is not so much in buying pictures, as in being pictures, that you can encourage a noble school. The best patronage of art is not that which seeks for the pleasures of sentiment in a vague ideality, nor for beauty of form in a marble image; but that which educates your children into living heroes, and binds down the flights and the fondnesses of the heart into practical duty and faithful devotion.


[34] Liberate Rolls, preserved in the Tower of London, and quoted by Mr. Turner in his History of the Domestic Architecture of England.

[35] This incident is not of Orcagna's invention, it is variously represented in much earlier art. There is a curious and graphic drawing of it, circa 1300, in the MS. Arundel 83, Brit. Mus., in which the three dead persons are walking, and are met by three queens, who severally utter the sentences,

"Ich am aferd."
"Lo, whet ich se?"
"Me thinketh hit beth develes thre."

To which the dead bodies answer—

"Ich wes wel fair."
"Such scheltou be."
"For Godes love, be wer by me."

It is curious, that though the dresses of the living persons, and the "I was well fair" of the first dead speaker, seem to mark them distinctly to be women, some longer legends below are headed "primus rex mortuus," etc.

[36] Luke ii. 42, 49.

[37] 1 Kings iii. 5.

[38] I intended this last sentence of course to apply to the thousand statues, not definitely to the one in immediate question, which, though tainted with the modern affectation, and the nearest example of it to which I could refer an Edinburgh audience, is the work of a most promising sculptor; and was indeed so far executed on the principles asserted in the text, that the Duke gave Mr. Steele a sitting on horse-back, in order that his mode of riding might be accurately represented. This, however, does not render the following remarks in the text nugatory, as it may easily be imagined that the action of the Duke, exhibiting his riding in his own grounds, would be different from his action, or inaction, when watching the course of a battle.

I must also make a most definite exception in favor of Marochetti, who seems to me a thoroughly great sculptor; and whose statue of Cœur de Lion, though, according to the principle just stated, not to be considered a historical work, is an ideal work of the highest beauty and value. Its erection in front of Westminster Hall will tend more to educate the public eye and mind with respect to art, than anything we have done in London for centuries.

April 21st, 1854.—I stop the press in order to insert the following paragraph from to-day's Times:—"The Statue of Cœur De Lion.—Yesterday morning a number of workmen were engaged in pulling down the cast which was placed in New Palace Yard of the colossal equestrian statue of Richard Cœur de Lion. Sir C. Barry was, we believe, opposed to the cast remaining there any longer, and to the putting up of the statue itself on the same site, because it did not harmonize with the building. During the day the horse and figure were removed, and before night the pedestal was demolished and taken away."

[39] Or, where imagination is necessarily trusted to, by always endeavoring to conceive a fact as it really was likely to have happened, rather than as it most prettily might have happened. The various members of the school are not all equally severe in carrying out its principles, some of them trusting their memory or fancy very far; only all agreeing in the effort to make their memories so accurate as to seem like portraiture, and their fancy so probable as to seem like memory.


138. I could not enter, in a popular lecture, upon one intricate and difficult question, closely connected with the subject of Pre-Raphaelitism—namely, the relation of invention to observation; and composition to imitation. It is still less a question to be discussed in the compass of a note; and I must defer all careful examination of it to a future opportunity. Nevertheless, it is impossible to leave altogether unanswered the first objection which is now most commonly made to the Pre-Raphaelite work, namely, that the principle of it seems adverse to all exertion of imaginative power. Indeed, such an objection sounds strangely on the lips of a public who have been in the habit of purchasing, for hundreds of pounds, small squares of Dutch canvas, containing only servile imitations of the coarsest nature. It is strange that an imitation of a cow's head by Paul Potter, or of an old woman's by Ostade, or of a scene of tavern debauchery by Teniers, should be purchased and proclaimed for high art, while the rendering of the most noble expressions of human feeling in Hunt's "Isabella," or of the loveliest English landscape, haunted by sorrow, in Millais' "Ophelia," should be declared "puerile." But, strange though the utterance of it be, there is some weight in the objection. It is true that so long as the Pre-Raphaelites only paint from nature, however carefully selected and grouped, their pictures can never have the characters of the highest class of compositions. But, on the other hand, the shallow and conventional arrangements commonly [124] called "compositions" by the artists of the present day, are infinitely farther from great art than the most patient work of the Pre-Raphaelites. That work is, even in its humblest form, a secure foundation, capable of infinite superstructure; a reality of true value, as far as it reaches, while the common artistical effects and groupings are a vain effort at superstructure without foundation—utter negation and fallacy from beginning to end.

139. But more than this, the very faithfulness of the Pre-Raphaelites arises from the redundance of their imaginative power. Not only can all the members of the school compose a thousand times better than the men who pretend to look down upon them, but I question whether even the greatest men of old times possessed more exhaustless invention than either Millais or Rossetti; and it is partly the very ease with which they invent which leads them to despise invention. Men who have no imagination, but have learned merely to produce a spurious resemblance of its results by the recipes of composition, are apt to value themselves mightily on their concoctive science; but the man whose mind a thousand living imaginations haunt, every hour, is apt to care too little for them; and to long for the perfect truth which he finds is not to be come at so easily. And though I may perhaps hesitatingly admit that it is possible to love this truth of reality too intensely, yet I have no hesitation in declaring that there is no hope for those who despise it, and that the painter, whoever he be, who despises the pictures already produced by the Pre-Raphaelites, has himself no capacity of becoming a great painter of any kind. Paul Veronese and Tintoret themselves, without desiring to imitate the Pre-Raphaelite work, would have looked upon it with deep respect, as John Bellini looked on that of Albert Dürer; none but the ignorant could be unconscious of its truth, and none but the insincere regardless of it.

140. How far it is possible for men educated on the severest Pre-Raphaelite principles to advance from their present style into that of the great schools of composition, I do not [125] care to inquire, for at this period such an advance is certainly not desirable. Of great compositions we have enough, and more than enough, and it would be well for the world if it were willing to take some care of those it has. Of pure and manly truth, of stern statement of the things done and seen around us daily, we have hitherto had nothing. And in art, as in all other things, besides the literature of which it speaks, that sentence of Carlyle is inevitably and irreversibly true:—"Day after day, looking at the high destinies which yet await literature, which literature will ere long address herself with more decisiveness than ever to fulfill, it grows clearer to us that the proper task of literature lies in the domain of Belief, within which, poetic fiction, as it is charitably named, will have to take a quite new figure, if allowed a settlement there. Whereby were it not reasonable to prophesy that this exceeding great multitude of novel writers and such like, must, in a new generation, gradually do one of two things, either retire into nurseries, and work for children, minors, and semifatuous persons of both sexes, or else, what were far better, sweep their novel fabric into the dust cart, and betake them, with such faculty as they have, to understand and record what is true, of which surely there is and forever will be a whole infinitude unknown to us, of infinite importance to us? Poetry will more and more come to be understood as nothing but higher knowledge, and the only genuine Romance for grown persons, Reality."

141. As I was copying this sentence, a pamphlet was put into my hand, written by a clergyman, denouncing "Woe, woe, woe! to exceedingly young men of stubborn instincts, calling themselves Pre-Raphaelites."[40]

I thank God that the Pre-Raphaelites are young, and that strength is still with them, and life, with all the war of it, still in front of them. Yet Everett Millais is this year of [126] the exact age at which Raphael painted the "Disputa," his greatest work; Rossetti and Hunt are both of them older still—nor is there one member of the body so young as Giotto, when he was chosen from among the painters of Italy to decorate the Vatican. But Italy, in her great period, knew her great men, and did not "despise their youth." It is reserved for England to insult the strength of her noblest children—to wither their warm enthusiasm early into the bitterness of patient battle, and leave to those whom she should have cherished and aided, no hope but in resolution, no refuge but in disdain.

142. Indeed it is woful, when the young usurp the place, or despise the wisdom, of the aged; and among the many dark signs of these times, the disobedience and insolence of youth are among the darkest. But with whom is the fault? Youth never yet lost its modesty where age had not lost its honor; nor did childhood ever refuse its reverence, except where age had forgotten correction. The cry, "Go up, thou bald head," will never be heard in the land which remembers the precept, "See that ye despise not one of these little ones;" and although indeed youth may become despicable, when its eager hope is changed into presumption, and its progressive power into arrested pride, there is something more despicable still, in the old age which has learned neither judgment nor gentleness, which is weak without charity, and cold without discretion.


[40] Art, its Constitution and Capacities, etc. By the Rev. Edward Young, M.A. The phrase "exceedingly young men of stubborn instincts," being twice quoted (carefully excluding the context) from my pamphlet on Pre-Raphaelitism.

Transcriber's Note:
While obvious printer's errors have been corrected, inconsistencies and unusual spelling were preserved as in the original.