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 ofDes 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 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 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 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 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. 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, 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 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 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 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.

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 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 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; 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 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 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, 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 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. 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 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;" 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.