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THE REVIVAL OF POINTED ARCHITECTURE VIEWED IN ITS
BEARING UPON DOMESTIC BUILDINGS.
TT is now about fifteen years a since we took in hand I in good earnest the great cause of the revival of our own national architecture. About an equal time had previously elapsed during which slight, faint, irresolute attempts had been made, but without shewing any strong or decided feeling for the greatness or the nobleness of the work. Let it not be believed that this great work has been the result of fashion b. It has, on the contrary, arisen from one of those revolutions in the human mind which from time to time occur, as if from some overruling guidance, and affect at once and simultaneously the minds of persons having no communication with each other, nor perhaps any previous knowledge of the subject in question, but who, from some unknown cause, are unconsciously
a It is two years since this was written.
b Nothing seems so much to gratify our opponents as to hear our great movement styled a “fashion,”—as if they were doing honour to the noblest of arts by degrading it to the level of the trades of the tailor and the mantua-maker! Let them know that what they are pleased to style a “fashion,” has been the result of the most powerful and enthusiastic feelings; that our work has originated in intense love for what we are engaged upon; that our labour has been to overthrow the fashions (if such they must needs be called) in which we were educated; and that if ours is a fashion, it is not one we have followed, but one which we have had the honour of ourselves establishing.
all drawn individually and separately into the same line of thought and to the same mental cravings, which only wait for an external impulse to awaken them into actual energy.
We are taunted by our opponents as mere followers of a fashion, mere panderers to the caprices of public taste. For myself, I can assert that I commenced to sketch with delight from Gothic buildings before I knew one style of architecture from another, or hardly knew that there was such a profession as that to which I now belong; that, after joining that profession as a pupil, I followed up my old bias at a time when there was nothing to encourage it, devoting to it every holiday I could get and every spare hour I could obtain, without a thought of ever having an opportunity of turning it to practical account; and I am convinced that the same has been very much the case with all who have zealously followed what has since become so energetic a movement as to go far towards revolutionizing the popular taste in architecture. That movement, then, is not a mere fashion,-it is no popular caprice; it is a deep-seated, earnest, and energetic revolution in the human mind, and one which is not peculiar to our own country or our own Church, but which, in a greater or less degree, pervades all the countries where Gothic architecture once flourished o. It is a craving after the resumption of our national architecture, the only genuine exponent of the civilization of the modern as distinguished from the ancient world, of the Northern as distinguished from the
c Even in Italy a strong feeling for pointed architecture has arisen, and in one, at least, of her schools of art it excites greater enthusiasm than the works of the so-called “ revival.”
Southern races, and, in some degree, of Christian as distinguished from Pagan art.
How far has our movement been successful ?
To this question almost every town and village supplies an answer. We everywhere see that ancient churches are more respected, and in innumerable instances restored to a state of seemly reparation. But the great fact is this; that whereas forty years ago no one dreamed, if a new church were to be built, of attempting to assimilate it in style to those bequeathed to us by our forefathers, the reverse is now the case: no one ever now entertains the idea of building one in any style but those of our old churches. This (let alone the question of whether we do it well or ill) is a great fact, a great and signal revolution.
It is true that many of our so-called restorations would have been far better left undone ; that both in repairing and building we have done much which we would gladly undo: true, that our new churches are often very far from carrying out the spirit of the style we aim at; still the aim is a great point gained. The change of style (so far as concerns our churches) is practically acknowledged, and is often carried out in a way which emulates, without servilely copying, our ancient churches, and which, taking up their spirit, accommodates it to the altered requirements of the present day.
So far we may safely chronicle our success,—that we have thoroughly revolutionized our ecclesiastical architecture, and have brought it back to our true national type .
d Let it not be imagined that I mean by this that the ecclesiastical branch of our work is anything like complete. On the con
There remains, however, a great work before us,our civil architecture is as yet unrevolutionized. We cannot, however, say that we are, in civil and domestic architecture, in precisely the same position in which we were as concerns church architecture fifteen years ago, for we have been all this time laying in stores of knowledge on the subject. We have put out our feelers. We have made many feeble and irresolute essays, not to mention many miserable failures. We have made our reconnaissances, but the real brunt of the attack is still to come. Let us gird on our harness for this new contest. It may seem at first sight hopeless, but let us look back at what we have already achieved, and our courage need not fail us.
The first thing in preparing for more energetic exertion is to form a just estimate of our present position.
As I said before, our course hitherto has been purely experimental; we have been foraging in detached parties, in different directions, and with varied success; but we have not been wasting our time. We have learned by our failures where our weak points lie; we have by thought and experiment learned to appreciate our difficulties, and have found out what are the tough points to be mastered; we have by a series of feints learned from our opponents what is to be their line of defence; we know their arguments, and how to meet them; we know their weak points, and how to assail them; we have also laid in a great store of facts, and have deeply thought over the best
trary, I think that one great effort is still before us; we have still to make our style thoroughly our own, and, divesting ourselves of the shackles, though not of the aid, of precedent, to strike out boldly and fearlessly for ourselves.
ways of using them; so that, on the whole, we are now in an excellent position for systematic and successful action.
One of the most necessary steps to ensure success is to investigate carefully the causes of the partial failures of our own experimental endeavours, as well as of the more glaring errors of earlier attempts.
These may, I think, be classed under the following heads :
1st. The tendency to masquerading, or dressing up our buildings in characters which do not belong to them.
2ndly. The want of unity of purpose as to the style to be taken as our leading type.
3rdly. Our want of boldness in fearlessly adapting the style chosen to the requirements, the appliances, and the feelings of the present day; and importing into it every hint which we may gather from other styles, and every aid to be obtained from modern inventions, so as to render it, not an antiquarian matter, but strictly our own.
4thly. The absurd and growing error of considering ecclesiastical and secular architecture as so distinct, that the same person cannot practise both.
The first of these causes of failure—the practice of architectural masquerading—is a vice so obvious and so absurd, that one would imagine it would only have to be once exposed to ensure its abandonment!
The practice of building abbeys for gentlemen's residences is, we may hope, gone by ;—the memory of such folly has, however, given an air of frivolity to the idea of Gothic domestic work, from which we have hardly yet recovered. The equally monstrous practice of castle-building is, unhappily, not yet extinct. The