19 MAY 1900, Page 23


Scotland's Ruined Abbeys. By Howard Crosby Butler, A.M. (Macmillan and Co. 12s.)—Whether Mr. Butler be a Scotsman by birth or not we do not know, and there is nothing in the preface to his book to indicate. But he describes himself as "sometime lecturer on architecture in Princeton University and Fellow of the American school of classical studies in Rome," and he writes from the standpoint of one who has visited Scotland as

an enthusiastic stranger. This fact, if it be one, does no discredit, but the reverse, to Mr. Butler, who has written an excellent book, and has accomplished his purpose, which is "to place in convenient form At the'disposal of interested travellers among the ruins of North Britain, and of all to whom these ancient buildings are an object of pleasing memory, an accurate, though necessarily brief, history of each of the more important abbeys, with a careful description of its structure in the light of the most recent study and criticism." Mr. Butler has certainly made the most of the two summers spent in Scotland of which this book is the result, and during which "the pleasure of looking up the historical and romantic side of the ruins manifested itself to the author, whose original interest in them had been purely from architectural motives." Mr. Butler in dealing with his subjects—he confines himself to the ruined abbeys of Scotland, and does not concern himself with those which have been " restored "—hits the happy medium between Dryasdust and the late Mr. Ruskin. Take, for instance, what he has to say of the surroundings of the his- torical abbey of Kilwinning :—" From the midst of the gleaming sea to the south the mighty cone of Ailsa Craig lifts high its grizzly head, and across the water, where the sun sinks into the ocean, loom the purple masses of Goatfell, the mountains of Arran and Kintyre. To the east roll the soft and shadowy hills of Tinto, with rich fields and pastures between. Alone in its grandeur for hundreds of years, the abbey, with its triplet towers, appeared to stand in the centre of a broad fen, unrivalled in its dignity by art or Nature; but on nearer approach it was found to be hovering over a crowded mass of bumble cottages, their sheltering mother." Mr. Butler can introduce history into his sketches as deftly as he can Nature ; and as he is familiar with all that has been written on the architectural aspects of his subject, including the monumental work of Messrs. McGibbon and Ross, his volume is, in virtue of what it contains upon the sixteen abbeys that it treats of, a very good guide to much that is specially interesting in the life and scenery of Scotland. It is heartily to be commended as an admirable piece of work.