Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

I know, that from the hour I kneel

Before the altar, never more
The world's gay splendours will reveal

For me the charm which once they wore.
No glittering garb must mantle о'er

My wedded heart,—no pearly string, — No garland round my brows, restore

The faded treasures of the spring; He boasts that woman's loveliness Shows fairest in its matron dress !

What then ?--the crowd, the wreathing dance,

The mimic scene, the festal song Denied,-joy dwells in lonelier haunts,

And shuns, like him, the prating throng. And still, our native vales among,

Together we shall range the woods,
And in sweet fancy commune long

With mountains vast and foaming floods ;
Finding, while hand in hand we go,
A brighter Eden spread below.
You mock my homely joys ?-smile on !

I cannot dream beneath the skies
A brighter scene,-a happier one,

Than the dear home which you despise. And think, what sweeter hopes will rise

When children hang around my knee,
And tears spring up into his eyes

As he enfolds his babes and me
In one long, close embrace, -that blends
The love of “ country, home and friends."
T'ogether, through our infant bloom,

Through life's meridian lustre, thrown,
Through age's lingering years of gloom,

May neither cling to earth, alone ! His kin are kindred to my own,

His joys below, his hopes of heaven, Are mine ;-sand when to mercy's throne

We kneel, in trust to be forgiven, May the Almighty Judge decree For us one bright eternity!

C.F.G.

OUR NATIONAL ARCHITECTURE.

§ 1. Public BUILDINGS IN THE DEPARTMENT OF THE Office

of Works. It has been for some time our intention to devote a few papers to a serious and dispassionate inquiry into the state of Architecture in this country, as exhibited in the vast variety of public buildings, whether for civil or religious purposes, which have been recently erected, or are in progress, both in the metropolis and the provinces. The result of our observations is anything but satisfactory. We are reluctantly compelled to confess that while the greatest impulse has been given to Architecture as a profession, by the application of larger sums to its encouragement within the last ten years than in the whole previous century, rarely a building has been erected which is not deformed by petty mannerisms, branching into every variety of bad taste, or which is not revolting to that sense of propriety, upon the satisfaction of which the perfection of architecture must essentially be founded. We may assert, without exaggeration, that, although many plans of considerable boldness in their conception have originated in the wealth and spirit of our times, the execution of almost all of them has been marked by absurd efforts at inconsistent novelties, by ludicrous applications of detached bits of ancient buildings totally at variance with the habits of our age and country, and by ridiculous minuteness of ornament, to which every feeling of simplicity is sacrificed. We know of no building (except our docks and bridges) which will remain to after generations, as the work of a rich and powerful people, accustomed to grand and elevated modes of thought-nothing, in short, which can in any degree compete with our Greenwich Hospital and St. Paul's, produced as they were at a period in which much less encouragement was given to architecture, and when the national mind (as represented in the government) was far less favourable to any development of the higher principles of taste. The character of our present architecture is feebleness and minuteness of detail, sacrificing all greatness of parts to “ curiosities of ornament.” As Wren said of Versailles, “works of filagree and little trinkets are in great vogue, but building ought certainly to have the attribute of eternal, and therefore to be the only thing incapable of new fashions.”

The recent appearance of a Report from a Select Committee of the House of Commons, on the Office of Works and Public Buildings, has furnished us with a great many very curious facts as to the system upon which the money of the people is now expended in edifices, of which, with a few exceptions, they have sufficient cause to be ashamed. We shall

, therefore, in the present instance, limit our inquiries to the circumstances now, for the first time, brought completely to light by the evidence on this very important investigation. We conscientiously believe that the wit of man could not have devised a more perfect system than that which prevails in the Office of Works, for destroying all responsibility, for encouraging architectural caprice to the fullest latitude which perverted taste could desire, for fostering the most ra

pacious spirit of individual jobbing, and for shutting out every competition of unofficial talent. Very fortunate it is for the country that the hour for these disclosures has at length arrived, enormous as are the evils of a profligate expenditure upon fantastic gewgaws, which it has already entailed upon us.

The affair had grown much too monstrous to be longer endured, Mole ruit suâ. If the publication of this Report shall have the effect of creating some responsible power to check the extravagant freaks, which either proceed from the official archi. tects themselves, or from some irresponsible authority, which no artist of real genius could bow before, and which no minister of real honesty could pander to, then even Buckingham Palace will not have been built in vain. That such a happy consummation may be hastened by the force of public opinion, we shall analyse this Report with that care which may well be bestowed upon a subject of such intrinsic national importance.

The office of the Board of Works has gradually grown into a concern of enormous magnitude, as the increasing wealth and power of the country has enlarged the field of its duties. In the time of Elizabeth, there was no general superintendant of the royal buildings. There are some very curious reports in the State Paper Office, in the form of memorials to Lord Burleigh, touching the somewhat extensive alterations of Windsor Castle at that period; and the person drawing up these memorials appears to have been a surveyor specially appointed to prepare plans, to cut down timber, to make contracts, and effectually to superintend that particular work, upon a very trifling salary, little beyond that of an ordinary mechanic. The circumstance of this person communicating direct with the Secretary of State, warrants the assumption that no superior officer, professionally an architect or otherwise, existed for the direction of the public buildings attached to the crown. Under Charles I. we find Inigo Jones filling the office of surveyor-general ; and the country need not blush for what he executed in that character, during times when the resources of the crown were sufficiently scanty. Sir John Denham, utterly ignorant of archtiecture, succeeded Jones, thus setting the precedent of making the office a sinecure: but it was fortunate for England that a man of real genius was appointed his deputy; and, having ultimately become the principal, bequeathed those legacies to Engiand, which will enable her to hold up her head when architecture is named, in spite of the efforts of later times to debase the art. Wren received about £300 per annum for all his public employments; and was at last turned out of his office by George I., to make way for a court favourite, Benson. The office seems now to have merged into that of secretary to the Board of Works, and was held, without many results either of good or evil, by obscure men, till, in 1775, Sir Wm. Chambers received the appointment. The more recent history of the Office of Works is in the Report before us :

It was enacted in 1782, by the 22d Geo. 3, c. 82, which suppressed the then existing Board of Works, together with several other offices, that all His Majesty's buildings hitherto under the management of that Board, should be under the direction of an Architect or Builder by profession, as Surveyor or Controller of the Works; which office was held for many years by Sir William Chambers, and after his death by Mr. Wyatt ; but the want of punctuality and exactness of the latter in keeping his accounts, and the

extreme disorder into which they had fallen, gave occasion, in 1814, to new regulations, by the introduction of the system under which that Office is now conducted.

The intention of the framers of that act appears to have been, to establish an efficient control and superintendence in the Surveyor-General, attaching to his office a council of three of the most eminent Architects, to assist and advise him by their united talent, in all such matters, either of design or execution, as might require the knowledge and skill of persons professionally educated.

A salary of 5001. was assigned to each of them, and their commission upon new buildings conducted under their direction was settled at 31. per cent, instead of 51. which is the usual charge of architects ; but they were relieved from the expense of clerks of the works, and of making out the accounts and bills of the workmen, which occur when they are employed in the usual course of their business.

The three attached Architects are certainly not excluded by the 6th section of the Act from undertaking and conducting public works, but it does not seem to have been designed or contemplated that they should be exclusively employed ; nor that separate and distinct divisions of the Metropolis should be allotted to them, as in severalty, so that one only of this council (if it may be so denominated) should be referred to, or consulted, within the limits of his peculiar province, without any professional competition or concurrence.

We thus see, that by the Act of 1814, surveyor-general, not a professional architect, was appointed, with a council consisting of three of the most eminent architects of his time. The gentleman made choice of was distinguished for his habits of order and correctnessfor his accuracy in accounts—and for his diligence in reforming the peculations which had crept into the Royal Buttery. Colonel Stephenson, as it appears to us wisely enough, did not take upon himself to decide upon the plans which his council submitted to him; and the result of his modesty, or incompetency, are very candidly detailed in the following extract of the Report :The defects of the present system, under the Act of 1814, appear to be,

1st. Want of responsibility,
2d. Want of competency to decide.

3d. Want of choice and competition. From which three causes proceed the erection of buildings unsightly and unsatisfactory, much confusion and variation, both in the planning and executing of them, and the expenditure of larger sums than are necessary:

1st. The Surveyor-General, according to the present constitution of that office, is solely the channel of communication between the Commissioners of His Majesty's Treasury and the Architect: he exercises no judgment nor control, nor gives any opinion as to the work to be done, or the mode of doing it; confining himself to fixing prices, and making contracts accordingly, and examining and checking the accounts after they have been made out by the clerks of the works, and the measurers belonging to the office.

2d. The Surveyor-General having no duty to perform in judging of the propriety or sufficiency of the design or plan, that important business is imposed upon the Commissioners of the Treasury for the time being, who may not always be competent to decide upon such matters ; and although it may happen frequently that there are among them persons eminently conversant with works of art, it may also happen that a very efficient Board of Treasury for all other and more important purposes may be unfit for this; and in such a case the architect of the district, without any real control or useful supervision, may plan and execute whatever is to be done, according to his own pleasure and discretion.

3d. No sufficient choice is afforded to the Board of Treasury, who are to judge and decide, for they have not even taken advantage of having three Architects attached to the office and paid by it; nor does it appear that they have hitherto at all encouraged the competition of other professional men, or called for any variety of designs.

The committee have pointed out the defects of the present system with perfect truth. The Surveyor-general has ceased to exercise any sort of control over the plans of the great works, for which the payments are made through his office; and his board has been, from its first appointment, an ingenious invention for securing the entire spoil of the Government buildings to Mr. Soane, Mr. Nash, and Mr. Smirke, without retaining even the advantage of the united talent of these distinguished persons; but guaranteeing their monopoly, by leasing, as it were, the several districts over which the office had any power to each of these happy and irresponsible individuals. This is the most Irish idea of a council that was ever devised, even by the impudence of all former manufacturers of jobs, whether in brick or biscuit. Let us try how the system works; we refer again to the Report

It would be an invidious and unpleasant task to criticise the labours of living architects, who have deservedly risen to a distinguished station in their profession ; and it is only with regard to such parts of their productions as they profess themselves dissatisfied with, and condemn, that Your Committee venture to express their full concurrence in those unfavourable opinions ; but in some of these it must be observed, that much of the defect is to be attributed to changes and alterations in their plans, even during the execution of the buildings, and to a want of due consideration and determination upon the entire edifice, before any portion was begun.

The inconvenient line of the new Council Office, both in Downing-street and Whitehall, discordant from the lines of those streets, and encroaching most awkwardly and incommodiously upon the foot pavement of the latter, (if it should be continued,) could hardly have been resolved upon, if all the consequences attendant upon that design, in relation to the line of street and the height of the adjoining and neighbouring buildings, had been laid before the Lords of the Treasury at one view, and the objections pointed out to them. The addition of the pavilion towards Downing-Street was entirely an after-thought; and it now seems to require a corresponding and ornamented projection, which, if it be placed before the Office of the Secretary of State for the Home Department, and kept in the same alignment, will essentially disfigure the fine street of Whitehall; or if returned upon an obtuse angle towards Melbourne House, will excite, in every observing passenger, a sentiment of regret that this inconvenience was not foreseen in the beginning, and obviated. It will be noticed in the evidence of Mr. Soane, that a second Pavilion, towards the Home Office, was never in his contemplation; but he produced to your Committee a design for erecting a corresponding Pavilion on the other side of Downing-street, at the angle of King-street, with a building extending into King-street, similar to that in Whitehall.

The Council-Office should have been much higher, if taste only were considered, as Mr. Soane acknowledges in his evidence, and his first design for a much less decorated building was made accordingly; but a desire of restricting the expense, which must have been incurred by making the rooms unnecessarily high, was one of his reasons, as he alleges, for not carrying the building to a more dignified elevation. A balustrade connecting the line of chimnies was, during a short time, placed upon the roof of this dwarfish AUGUST, 1828.

H

« ZurückWeiter »