INIGO JONES AND WREN.*
Mn. LOFTIE'S book is at once polemical and historical. Considered either way, it is an excellent piece of work ; for, addressing himself as he does less to the professional student of architecture than to the general reader, and above all to -the employers of architects, its author wisely directs the forces of his argument to the weakest point in the layman's appreciation for architecture; while in his sketch of the rise and check of modern architecture in England, he deals with his material in the readable and untechnic,al style best suited -to attract the interest of the same class of readers.
Mr. Loftie's polemic is addressed to the task of bringing -into prominence the large and essential elements of archi- tecture, those bare beauties of proportion which of themselves will make the simplest setting-out of a housefront dignified, and without which no profusion of ornament is of any use. It will be readily admitted that this is the right order of thought for any one who would really appreciate the art; that it begins with the determination of beautiful relations between window and wall-space, wall and roof, story and story; that the large music of the art consists in the disposition and phrasing of these notes and pauses, and that to begin with the trills and grace- notes before the movement and the grouping of the bars is sett]ed, is to begin at the wrong end. But it will also be readily admitted that this is how the outsider always begins and where be frequently ends. He is, in his appreciation of architecture,
• Inipo /one* and Wren; or, The Rise and Decline of Modern Architecture in England. By W. J. Lade. London ; Rivington, Percival, and Co. 1893. what the child is in his apprehension of the world generally. The child, when he first "takes notice," is amused by little glittering bits of things; he notices not a person, but his watch-chain. So the eye not trained to take in the ensemble of a building, is caught by this or that little bit of ornament, and obtains no appreciation of the whole, except in the sense of simple addition,—ornament A plus ornament B, plus ornament C—total, a fine rich building. Whereas all the while A may be well enough singly, but a mad opponent of B; and neither A nor B nor C connected in any way with the total building to which they are appended. They are decoys cf the attention, like the little twirling bits of paper that flies buzz round.
Now Mr. Loftie finds, as the effect of the Gothic Revival, an immense inroad of this kind of trivial and childish treat- ment of buildings, and in the anomalous and chaotic styles that have succeeded to that movement, a further develop- ment of the tendency to hide the poorness of the whole under a fussy collection of bits of ornament. He identifies with the Gothic spirit the want of feeling for proportion and balance ; he considers that Gothic, by working out the logic of its con- struction, found rest when its arch was finally flattened out; he resents the revival of the style as an anachronism,—a revolt at once against the beauty of Palladian proportions and against reasonableness, since, in his idea, the Palladian church suits better with the Protestant worship than the Gothic.
When be urges a point like this last, Mr. Loftie does not seem to allow sufficiently for the sentiment of Gothic,—a sentiment completely different from that of classic archi- tecture. Proportion and balance are possible in Gothic as well as in classic style ; and given an equal merit of that kind in the design, it is certain that the appeal to emotion is different in Gothic from what it is in classic, and will always address a different taste and a different public. What is perfectly true, and what Mr. Loftie is within his right in insisting on, is that the sentiment of Gothic is more often present than the art, and that there are few monuments of Gothic to which one can point as satisfying, first and last, a critical sense of design. Stand in a cathedral and look up, and you see the builder at work in slices. Pleased with his arcade, he makes a fresh start with a triforium, and begins anew with a clerestory,—the connection is mechanical. And it is also true that those great omnibus buildings tended to be museums of the crafts rather than works of art homo- geneous throughout; it is this, indeed, frequently that their admirers delight in. Such a mind is glued to the imagery, and takes the building in parts,—the west front of Wells, a mere awkward frame for interesting sculpture, is but an exaggerated case. It is therefore a wholesome thing to have the claims of a style enforced, in which proportion, balance, the control of parts by the whole, are thought of first and last. Mr. Loftie perhaps attributes too much importance to the formulated proportions that are to be found in the treatises of the Palladians ; but it is certain that building is safer in the hands of the uninspired Palladian than in those of the dull Goth. A kind of rule-of-thumb dignity and decency are attainable by the first, while a failure in personal intensity is fatal indeed to the second.
Mr. Lof tie's main title, while it gives the names of the two greatest artists of the Palladian period in this country, is narrower than the scope of his book. To find a satisfactory title to cover the whole ground is no easy thing. " Classic " is best reserved for the later days when Greek and Roman architecture were directly revived. " Renaissance " belongs to the earlier time, when the ideas at work in Italy were also at work in England, transforming Gothic into Elizabethan and Jacobean. Mr. Loftie begins his sketch with that period of transition, giving a chapter to "The Decay of Gothic "and another to "Elizabethan Architecture." Then follow "The Beginnings of Palladian," when the employment of Italian designers, like Torrigiano under Henry VIII., the reading of Italian treatises, and travel in Italy on the part of English architects and their patrons, brought about a conscious revolution in style. Inigo Jones, born about the date of the publication of Palladio's great work, lent the force of genius to the new departure. His works are dealt with in a separate chapter, and the two that follow are devoted to his great successor, Wren. In the second of these, Mr. Loftie tells the miser- able story of the destruction of many of Wren's City churches. He describes the frauds and misrepresentations by which the parishioners in some cases have been brought to assent ; and he asks, with very proper indignation, whether these fraudulent means are worthy of the ecclesiastical dig- nitaries who sanction their use, and whether the end is one for our clergy to farther,—the destruction, namely, of the peculiar architectural treasure of London. " Restoration " and " decoration " have ruined others of the churches. St. Paul's itself is at the mercy of its clerical guardians, who are too ready to think richness of decoration is the same thing as conformity with the spirit or grandeur of Wren's ideas.
The last chapter of the book deals with Wren's successors, bringing the story down through men like Gibbs, Burlington, and Chambers, to the moderns who have attempted a classic rather than Palladian style. One of the most remarkable of these, " Greek " Thomson, of Glasgow, is referred to, and one of his churches is figured. There is a still more remark- able example built on the slope of a hill, and testifying to a rare power of co-ordinating masses and an almost Egyptian joy in weight and big scale.
To all who have to do with architecture, or find their interest in its study, the book may be commended. To take it as a guide through London will be to trace out and connect the magnificent fragments of effect we owe to the Palladian style, whether at Greenwich, Whitehall, Lincoln's Inn, or Somerset House with Waterloo Bridge, and to have as the result a touchstone and standard of architectural dignity.