Abbildungen der Seite


[ocr errors]

of a Gothic edifice, it imparts an air of splendid solemnity, which can be attained in no other way. Human invention could not add another feature so imposing as this to the dignity of the sacred structure, and few of the finer examples among the ancient buildings were wanting in all the attractions which it could be made to produce.

“ Color and form alike their powers engage

In trophies of the proud baronial aga;
Azure and crimson, green and gold unite;
Friezes and chapiters, in glory dight,
Blaze with imposing splendor o'er the sight.
Enamelled flowers their graceful foliage twine,
And pictured mouldings thread the golden vine ;
Fair in their form, and glorious in their hue,

They blend harmonious, and the mind subdue." - Edmeston. The Decorated style commenced about the beginning, and continued nearly to the close, of the next century. It chiefly flourished during the reigns of Edward the Second and Édward the Third, “in the latter of which," says Mr. Bloxam, “it attained a degree of perfection unequalled by preceding or subsequent ages. There is a greater redundancy of chaste ornament in this than any other style, and it has, with great propriety, been generally considered by the critics as the most beautiful style of English architecture, not exhibiting the daring flights of constructive talent so much as the next period, but certainly reaching the acme of beauty in design. Some of the essays of our own builders in the Gothic style have been made in professed imitation of this period, not unmixed, however, with a bad attempt at the features of all the rest. We fear that the antiquaries of a future age will be sadly confused in referring these buildings to their proper date, by a comparison of the distinctive points which they exhibit. In this way, indeed, the date of the structures of antiquity is determined, but it will scarcely hold good when we come to the consideration of our own.

The Masonic temple, which was the first Gothic structure of any pretension in Boston, has before been noticed at such length in this Journal,* that it is unnecessary to do more than allude to it at present. We are glad, however, to be thus relieved from going into a full analysis of its claims, which, we are assured, would be no very pleasing


* See North American Review, Vol. XLIII., p. 364.

[ocr errors]

task to our readers or ourselves. Not much more favorable is our idea of the new Library at Cambridge. It is another unfortunate instance of unsupported pretension. The longer arm of the cross, did it stand alone, would be too low, flat, and heavy to produce any agreeable or consistent impression. But in addition to this, the architect has very injudiciously added transepts, extending laterally to such a distance as to aggravate this defect, and effectually to destroy the vertical proportions of the edifice. There is nothing light or spiry in the whole composition, and when we recollect that it has been extolled as “presenting a favorable specimen of the ecclesiastical style of the fourteenth century," we shall consider this defect as a very serious objection to the validity of so high a claim. The material of which it is built is scarcely suited to this style. It is of so hard and unyielding a texture, that it is worked with great difficulty, and could not be brought into the pliant forms of decorative detail, unless at a very great expense. Nor do we believe that, when thus elaborated, it would produce the intended result. The mouldings of this period are undercut, and present that infinite variety of light and shade, which can only arise from the aërial tints being most carefully studied. But the more this material is hammered and brought to a smooth surface, the stiffer becomes its effect ; because the parts cut are rendered lighter, instead of darker, than the natural surface, as split from the quarry, and the intended effect of relief and shadow is thus counteracted and lost. The chocolate colored freestone of Connecticut and New Jersey is a far better material, being much softer and darker than granite ; and it is with great pleasure that we have learned, that it is intended to make use of this stone in the construction of a new church in Hanover street. If a chapel is to be erected at Mount Auburn, it should be of this material, and no other. We shall then have an opportunity to compare the glaring uniformity of the one with the shadowy repose of the other ; and when these different results are fairly brought into contrast, we have some room to hope for the future adoption of the better and cheaper material. The monastic architects were too wise to waste their time and labor upon an unsuitable stone, and, dissatisfied in many instances with that which England afforded, they crossed the British Channel, and brought the rich Caen stone from the shores of Normandy to their workmen at Canterbury and Westminster. Communication among us is now so rapid, cheap, and easy, that little excuse should be conceded to our architects for an oversight in this important particular.

The details of this building, so far as it has any, are decidedly unpleasing. The ends of the transepts, in particular, are very offensive, being made up of slight buttresses and large trefoil windows, thrown together en applique, effectually disturbing the uniformity of the longitudinal perspective, and causing a want of harmony, rather than an effect of variety and proper distribution. We have repeatedly looked at it in vain, to discover any beauty in its whole conception. The architect has evidently been playing with an edge tool, that has sadly wounded his inexperienced fingers. We believe we are correct in saying, that the general opinion respecting his performance, among persons of taste, is far from being favorable.

Worse and worse, for the credit of Boston, is the nondescript pile of stone in Bowdoin square. It occupies a fine situation, which ought to have been well improved. But we cannot so far rely upon our powers of moderation as to proceed with a specific critique. We only think with Candidus, in his note-book, that “it is the consummation of all that is beggarly and miserable, and I think, that, if the architect had any spirit, he would have hanged himself as soon as it was completed.” How is it possible, that such a structure as this can be planned and erected by a professional man, at a time when our public and private libraries contain so many lucid works on the subject of the Gothic style? It must be, that the more opportunity such a person possesses, the less he troubles himself to comprehend. Dr. Southey speaks of an admirable print among George Withers's emblems, having for its motto, “ Cæcus nil luce juvatur.It represents an owl, standing in broad sunshine, with a pair of spectacles on his beak, a lighted candle on each side of him, and a blazing torch in each claw; and the more light there is, the less is the owl able to see. No happier emblem, we think, could be imagined to typify that school of builders, who rear such enduring evidences of their powers of observation. The spirit of the pointed style requires the intensest study, and can never be acquired without a great degree of con amore application. A great Gothic building is a glorious VOL. LVIII. - NO. 123.


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

epic, and he who cannot see poetry in the aisles of York minster would be sorely puzzled to find any in “ Paradise Lost ” ; but it requires, in either case, some degree of taste to appreciate these beauties, and some study to understand them. Tried by this balance, how many of our builders will be found wanting ?

Trinity church, in Boston, is the largest Gothic structure in the city, and where all are so bad, this, in some respects, must be allowed to be the best.

« In this world,” says Sir William Temple, “whatever is called good, is so comparatively with other things of this kind." We are surprised, whenever we enter it, that the interior should be so imposing as it is, and that it produces something akin to a very good effect, while nearly all the details are so objectionable. The piers are too slight, the galleries too heavy, the chancel too small, the nave too wide, and the roof too low. The tone of color, however, is well chosen, and, were less light admitted, would be still more effective. But the organ and organ-loft are perfectly exquisite ; they were designed, and the former executed, in England, and were placed in their present position about six years ago. We do not believe there is, at present, another so fine a piece of Gothic panelling and tracery in America. A very great improvement has recently been effected in this church, by dismissing the pulpit and desk from the chancel, where they should never have been placed, and erecting others of a more appropriate form in the space in front of the altar railing. The chancel has also been enriched with additional decoration, and a fine mural tablet in alto-relievo, to the memory of the late Bishop Griswold, is now in the hands of the able sculptor, Mr. Brackett, intended to be placed between the two large windows at the east corner of the southern aisle. Whatever this interior now possesses of pleasing effect has been acquired since the time when some allusion was made to it in this Journal, and is entirely due to subsequent alterations and decorations. These have been so thoroughly carried out, that the church presents a very different, and certainly a much improved, appearance. But there is still a great weakness throughout the whole, arising from defects which are inherent in the construction of the building, and can never be got rid of in any other way than by a total renovation of the whole design.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

The inertness and inanity of this building very well illustrate a point upon which we had determined to speak. They afford a fair example of the mischief which is done by interfering with the completeness of an architect's intentions, and pruning away, as useless expenditures, all the vitals of his design. Many fine and sensible conceptions have thus been ruined in the outset. Had intermeddling committeemen kept their hands off from what they were fitted, neither by nature nor by education, to comprehend, far less to control, — so many of our most expensive public buildings would not be disfigured by the crudities which they now present. The faults which strike us so disagreeably in this edifice are, to our knowledge, by no means attributable to the architect ; they were forced upon him by “the Committee,” that inexorable tribunal of taste, from whose authoritative decision there is no hope of appeal. The low, deformed story which terminates the tower, with its enlarged quatrefoil openings, and its flimsy battlement, it can well be imagined, formed no part of the original design. The same is true of the weak clusters of columns that support the galleries, and of the anomalous ceiling, that, were it really of stone, as it now assumes to be, would either depend for support upon some secret principles of construction as yet unknown to geometrical science, or else adopt the only disagreeable alternative allowed to it by the laws of gravitation, and perhaps immure a devout, attentive, and unsuspicious congregation under its rubbish. Upon any recognized principles of the arch, it would not stand for an instant. So long, however, as it was evidently lath and plaster, and therefore easily known to be supported from the roof behind, it did not appear dangerous, or perhaps we should say, impossible. But now that the skill of the decorative artist has been called in, to give to it the semblance of a stone vaulting, and the deceptive appearance of the different courses is so well carried out as, in many instances, to impose upon the eye, it becomes evident, at the same time, to the most careless spectator, that a vault, so constructed, could be kept in its place by nothing short of a direct miracle.

“ More might be said of this to give a proof,

But more to say were more than is enough." The design of an architect should be strictly consistent

« ZurückWeiter »