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ONE may venture to say, without fear of contradiction, that no nation ever rose to great distinction in the world, that did not sooner or later take pride in its capital. It might be easy here, by a display of reading, and by copying from books, to prove this opinion to be well founded; but it is obviously unnecessary. . In all societies, men first look for shelter, then for convenience, and then for embellishment; and this, their natural progress, may be said to be typified by the three cardinal orders of architecture; the Doric, the Ionic, and the Corinthian.
In the reign of Elizabeth, some Spaniards, who were taken at the defeat of their armada, are reported to have said that the English people were the best fed, but the worst lodged of any they had any acquaintance with. Hence it appears, that considering the power then shown, we had been slow in the general improvement of our domestic buildings. It seems to be remarkable, however, that, differing from other nations, most of our oldest structures are not only much more stately than any we could afford to raise at the present day, but are besides chiefly found in our provinces.' Whether this was the case in any of the ancient empires, it would not be easy to determine; but, in modern Europe, the capitals have been the first attended to, and from them the 'embellishments of seats and villas have been derived. The love of the country is a passion as strongly implanted in the minds of Englishmen, as the love of their country; and retirement, in fact, is their first luxury. But what redounds most to our credit, is our munificence in endowments for charitable purposes, and the advancement of learning.
With such examples before my eyes, far must it be from me to find fault with the direction which has been given to our expendi
.This was occasioned, no doubt, by the great power and wealth of the church, spread over the whole face of the kingdom, in former times.
ture, whether public or private, in the erection of monuments of real and substantial utility. Still I may be allowed to observe, that in all the varieties of character to be found in a state of society, so enlarged and wealthy as ours is, it seems somewhat extraordinary that so few, if any individuals, living and dying in great opulence, should not from vanity, singularity, or caprice; or even in classical imitation of the ancients, have caused some edifices to be raised, which, though of a superfluous and useless description, might have contributed to perpetuate their memory. This certainly was the object of many Greeks and Romans; but in the pagan world very few had any belief in a future state ; there was a sort of earthiness, if I may so say, in all their attachments, hopes, and prospects ; and, therefore, in order to prolong as much as possible the memory of themselves, they had recourse to mausoleums, high-ways, or stupendous buildings of different descriptions. Our religion has taught us a better lesson, and the assurance of another life has made men much more indifferent to the transmission of their names, by such works as could endure to remote ages only. In this country, most especially, the exercise of one of its cardinal virtues is constantly inculcated, and the common saying, “ that charity covers a multitude of sins," has a prodigious effect. In our present state of society, so much a commercial one in particular, how many, in the ardor of their pursuit of wealth, have not only been guilty of taking unfair advantages in their dealings, but of absolute injustice ! At the latter end of their days, when satiated with their acquisitions, and reflecting on the indirection through which they had been obtained, thousands, no doubt, have, and will dedicate either during their lives, or after their death, a part of them as propitiations for past offences. Many hospitals have been founded, and many more endowed by individuals, the tenor of whose lives would not have borne a strict inquiry. Our religion is like nature--you may expel it with a prong, but it will still return. If this reasoning be just, we must cease to wonder at, but we can never sufficiently applaud the direction thus given to the employment of superfluous wealth, let it arise from whatever cause it may. There is scarcely any description of suffering among the poor that does not meet with an asylum constructed for its relief. This is sufficient praise, and quite independent of all that we might suppose ourselves called upon to execute in conformity with the prosperous and Corinthian state at which we are arrived.
We are not a vain-glorious, neither, surely, are we an inglorious nation. But national modesty may be carried too far. We have to consider, that after the termination of a struggle unparalleled in our annals, we have an account of gratitude to settle with those who contributed most to our deliverance out of it. But, supa posing ourselves to be forgetful or negligent of such a debt, merely because it is not positively demanded ; is it politic, looking forward, as we must, to future wars, to leave it unpaid, by a single memorial of services performed, that would strike all eyes, and bring them frequently and impressively back to our recollection ? Perishable it must be, but it ought to be contrived to endure as long as human hands can make it. I feel confident, however, that what has been deferred will not be abandoned ; and that some how or other, according to our means, and, perhaps, in the manner hereafter suggested, it may be carried into effect.
In the mean time, there can be no arrogance in saying, that we are arrived at that crowning pinnacle of the social system ; that palmy, or (to revert to my former metaphor) that acanthus state, which warrants the adoption of the most refined ornaments in our public edifices. Peace, with the prospect of its continuance, furnishes us with the opportunity of turning all the faculties and energies which were displayed during the war, to the exertion of them inwardly, in a thousand ways; and it would be surprising indeed, if the commodiousness and embellishments of our metropolis were not to become a principal object of that exertion. Such is the progress, in fact, already made, that any one who should happen to have been absent from the capital for ten years only, would be not a little struck with its improvements. · It is very immaterial where we commence our observations ; but, as the new communication from the northern to the southern part of London is the most important, and the most striking, we will begin with that.
Enough has not been said in commendation of this great improvement, and of the well-guided munificence of the crown, in providing and securing a fine open space, such as the Regent's Park, for the health and pleasure of the inhabitants of the northern parishes, amounting from 150,000 to 200,000, independently of the general benefit derived by a freer course of air from north to south. Had the managers of the crown lands been induced to follow the example of the great landlords about London, we should have seen, after the leases of Mary-la-bonne' Park had fallen in, long, straight streets carried up to Hampstead and Highgate, with the deviation only here and there of some smoky circus, crescent, square, or octagon; insufficient certainly for the creation of a second pair of lungs for the boundless increase of the capital
That additional ventilation we now have and we cannot be out
Ben Johnson, two hundred years age, wrote Maribone, and there seems no doubt that the etymology is St. Mary's at the Bourn, like Holborn, &c.
thankful for it. The indemnity looked for in this sacrifice of ground, is, chiefly, in the buildings that are intended to surround it; and, as this part of the plan comes more immediately within the scope of our observations, we must be allowed to express our extreme gratification at the sight of great piles of building, with every variety of architectural embellishment, arising on all sides, and inspiring, by example, a taste for the finest and most impressive of all the fine arts. Faulty and extra-fanciful models arefound, and will occur; but after passing through the tedious and monotonous streets of Mary-la-bonne, who is not relieved and delighted by the contrast he meets with, when he arrives at the new park, and where the vapors he had contracted in his protracted walk are instantly dissipated ? For my own part, I had rather pass and repass the houses of Nuremberg or Augsburg, bedaubed as they are with every stravaganza of fresco painting, than endure the tedium of such uniformity. But there are specimens of architecture in this park that none but the most fastidious will find fault with, and which demonstrate that our travels abroad, and our studies at home, have not been fruitless. · Cornwall Terrace might serve for one of the façades of a magnificent quadrangular palace, if its elevation and proportions were increased. The villas erected in the centre are made to produce the effect of great amenity, and to harmonise with the buildings that surround it with sameness or satiety. All the advantages here stated are incontestably ascribable to one plan adopted by government, instead of the random volition of competitors, who would have speculated only upon such designs as would prove the most gainful, and to the utter disregard of all taste and embellishment. This plan, therefore, carried into effect, (even although unsubstantially,)' is of more worth than all the ingenious (but often too gigantic) designs exhibited for a series of years at our Royal Academy. The edifices are produced, do stand and have already communicated such a spirit of imitation, in most quarters, in and about the capital, as must be apparent to every one. Indiscriminate and unqualified praise is not, however, to be bestowed on all that has been produced in this quarter. There is one pile, called Sussex Terrace, a sort of polygon crescent, that, with the single exception of singularity, seems to have nothing to attract notice. It is crowned with domes unlike any we have seen before; but whether we are to consider them as orientalisms, gothicisms, or barbarisms, mixed up as they are with Grecian architecture, they
1 Judging from the accidents which have happened of late to some of our great public works, such as the Penitentiary, the Custom House, the Opera "Hlouse, Waterloo Place, and many of the sewers, but little can be said in favor of the solidity of them.
produce a deplorable effect, and remind us of the commencement of Horace's Art of Poetry, in .. Humano capiti cervicem pictor equinam,
Jungere, si velit, &c.. and at the same time of the acknowledged relationship of all the fine arts with one another. But even this is not without its utility; for by its contrast to all the neighboring buildings, which are regular, it must, at the first view of it, impress the student with a wholesome disgust of incongruity. The succeeding pile, to the westward, puts us again in good humor: it is called Hanover Place, and is meant, no doubt, to be Palladian. Fastidious critics dislike the manning and womanning of pediments and walls with statues, and are inclined to ask, “ how the devil they got there?” But if this be a vice, it is one in which a very great man indulged; for, all along the course of the Brenta, in Vicenza, and at his villa near that city, there has been created by him a most abundant population of this sort. The pediment of Spencer House, towards the Green Park, is crowned in this way; and a degree of lightness is, thereby, given to a very ponderous façade. At the back of these stately buildings, out of the New Park, are the humble and unfortunate Alpha cottages, now shut out from the view of it ; but like some of our lengthened squares, and in defiance of all discouragement, they still continue to extend themselves; no doubt, to end at last in an Omega Row. 97. The magnificent rotunda, now erecting on the eastern side, promises us a panorama of the whole metropolis ; and, perhaps, of its environs; and, if we please so to construe it, to be of this our world, a v majestic emblem.” Success to all such speculations and undertakings ! They keep our money at home, employ our artists and our people, and may sérve to counterbalance, in some degree, our emigrations, by attracting foreigners, of an opulent description, to come and admire a city, hitherto only admirable from its extent, or, as a Frenchman once called it, une province de briques. I think we may venture to predict of this panorama, that if the picture be as well excuted as those hitherto exhibited, the speculation must turn out to be a most beneficial one ; for who that can afford a shilling (and it will be wise not to exceed that demand) will not go to see the metropolis in a nutshell ? And taken too from the top of St. Paul's! The Diorama is a handsome building, and the pictures shown there are very attractive in their way; but they are on a more partial and limited scale, and cannot rivalise with such works of art as comprehend a vast circle, and every object that the eye can take in on all sides. These afford a longer continuation, and much more variety of delight from their enlarged sphere of deception.