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Restoration of the Parthenon for the Travels in Nubia, by the late John National Monumentoro.....
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RESTORATION OF THE PARTHENON.
upon which the public seem not to
be quite agreed, although the quesTo the Right Honourable the Lord tion has been very much narrow
Advocate of Scotland, Convener of ed by the frequent consideration it the Committee on the National Mo- has met with during the last twelve nument.
months. The delay also which has
arisen in the choice of a model and a MY LORD,
situation has been productive of adI take the liberty of addressing vantage, by allowing people time to your Lordship on a subject which oc- reflect and to inquire into the merits cupies, at this moment, a considerable of an undertaking so foreign to their share of public attention; and I do ordinary thoughts. The effect seems so in the full confidence that, when the to be, that, with a few exceptions, improvement or embellishment of this only one opinion prevails as to the city, or, indeed, when the public inter- objects, and very nearly a universal est in any respect is concerned, I shall opinion as to the plan and position, of have a most attentive auditor in your the National Monument. Lordship. I am further induced to These objects are, to commemorate place your Lordship's name at the the glories of the late arduous and head of this letter, in consequence of honourable war, by some trophy cala belief, which I trust is well found- culated duly to minister to so splened, that your Lordship is disposed did a retrospect; and which shall tend, to think favourably of the plan re- by its magnitude and prominence, to eently brought before the public, I keep alive that ardent, generous, and mean that of restoring the Temple invigorating sentiment of national hoof Minerva, commonly called the nour, to the influence of which we owe Parthenon, as the National Monu- all our prosperity; whether that cons ment of Scotland, Your Lordship’s sist of military triumphs, of civil lic support on this occasion, is con- berty, or of domestic security and sidered of much value by all persons peace: and it ought to be such' that, of taste and public spirit in Edin- by its symmetry and beauty, our naburgh, in consequence of the expe- tional taste may be improved, and rience which they have had of the thence our national manners still fur. judgment, the activity, and disin- ther dignified and refined. These terestedness which have marked so are lofty objects, even when considermany successful measures in which ed with reference to ourselves : but your Lordship has been engaged. every true lover of his country, whate
So much has already been written ever be his station or his party, must upon this subject, that it seems su desire to transmit such ennobling sen. perfluous to enter again into a minute timents to his posterity; and though consideration of it; but I beg your history will certainly dwell with due Lordship's attention to some points energy upon the great events of our
day, it is beyond its powers to inspire, stands deservedly high; and whose or, at least, to impress permanently authority is of importance in this disthat chivalrous and enthusiastic feel. cussion, since he is well known as an ing of patriotism which a great, and artist, a traveller, and an amateur. beautiful, and conspicuous national “ Ís it too much, then,” says this monument is alone capable of pro- animated writer, after expatiating on ducing
the beauties of his own romantic It is of importance, therefore, town,—“ is it too much, then, to exto consider what is the fittest mo- pect that a fac-simile, or a restoration del to be adopted, since the occa- of the Temple of Minerva, may yet sion is obviously of too great moment crown the Calton Hill, as a monuto admit of experiment, especially as ment, to proclaim to distant ages, we have by no means unlimited funds: not only the military glory, but the and we are naturally led to take the ad- pure taste which distinguishes our vice of those who are allowed, on all country in the present? Is it too hands, to be the best qualified, by their much to expect, that an enlightened studies and pursuits, to give a practi- patronage may call up genius, kindred cally correct and safe opinion. The to that of ancient times, and authorities which, on this occasion, rect our native talents to efforts simiare entitled to the greatest atten- lar to those which gave splendour to tion, are, men of high reputa- the age of Pericles? Such an example tion as artists, accomplished classic of perfection would purify the general cal travellers, and all those who, taste of the country in all subsequent without being either artists or travel- undertakings, and do more to ennoble lers, have given much of their time the age than all the trophies of vicand attention to such subjects. And tory." it happens most satisfactorily to be the Dr Clarke observes, when speaking it case, that all the artists who have been of Edinburgh, that, in order to renconsulted upon this point; the travel- der the resemblance between it and lers who have visited both Athens Athens complete, nothing is wanting and Edinburgh; and many gentlemen but a temple of great dimensions on whom this interesting topic has sti the Calton Hill.
late to reflection and inquiry, are The authority of our best archi, of opinion, that no model, of which we
tects is in favour of the expediency of have any knowledge, is so well calculat this restoration, in preference to any ed as the Parthenon, for the National experimental building ; an opinion Monument; and that the Calton IIill which does no less honour to their is not only as well fitted for its recep taste than to their liberality, since this tion as the Acropolis was for the plan is the least expensive that could Temple of Minerva ; but that the si be chosen. tuation, of which we have here the
That the present is a fit moment for command, actually possesses some making this great addition to the beaustriking advantages in size, figure, ty and importance of the capital, will and situation, over the position on
be very apparent, when it is recollectwhich the original temple has stood, ed that the public taste is not taken, the wonder and admiration of all
as it were, by surprise, but has been ages.
invited to come forth, and to deveIn support of these assertions, it lope itself by regular, though not will probably be deemed satisfactory slow, degrees. The time is not very to quote the opinion 'of a gentle- distant when the most wealthy and man whose reputation in this city fashionable inhabitants of this town
were content to reside in wynds or • It is by no means the opinion of the alleys, which their servants would supporters of the present plan, that Nel. now disdain to lodge in. A taste for son's Monument should be removed, the higher comforts having sprung up, effect of that monument, with all its faults, the New Town rose to gratify it; being certainly very fine. There is ample room for the Parthenon a little to the northward and eastward of Nelson's Monu. • Travels in Italy, Greece, and the. ment, on a spot overlooking Prince's Street, Ionian Islands. By H. W. Williams, towards which one end of the Temple would Esq. Edinburgh, 1820. Vol II. be directed.
this indulgence naturally begot still It is not necessary to detain your farther refinements : and the new Lordship with any observations upon churches and chapels were soon erecte the advantages which may be looked ed to the great advantage and orna- for at the present moment from a ment of this singular city. It was judicious cultivation of our local next considered, that, to such a magni- pride in these matters; because the ficent town, the back of ihe Canongate fact of our consequence, our wealth, was but a despicable approach, and and our useful population, having inthe Regent's Bridge and the Calton creased with the improvements and Road were formed as by magic. embellishments of Edinburgh, is geThen followed works of pure taste; nerally felt and admitted. It is also the Observatory, the County Hall, evident, that our manners have been the new designs for the College ; improved, and that learning, refinein short, since the public taste ex- ment, and intelligence of every kind panded, in proportion as it had wor- in Scotland have been most wonderthy objects to exert itself upon, we fully advanced by the recent augmenmay infer that, if we take advan- tation and improvements of the capitage of the liberal spirit which now tal. prevails, and secure in the centre of Many people are not aware of the the city an exact restoration of the facilities which we possess for unmost perfect model of art which the dertaking such a work as is propoworld has ever seen, we shall furnish sed. In the first place, it is not geneour country with the means of ex, rally known, that the freestone of tending the national taste beyond Edinburgh is considered, by judges any assignable limits. We are there- fully qualified to decide upon such a fore, it appears, just arrived at that question, as being quite as good for happy moment when we can appré- a great building as the marble of ciate such a building as the Parthe- Mount Pentelicus, of which the originon ; a building which, to use the nal Temple of Minerva is built. This words of Mr Dodwell, " is the most stone, of which we have such an ununrivalled triumph of sculpture and bounded command, though not absoarchitecture that the world ever saw. lutely white, is of as fine a colour as The delight," he adds, “ which it the Athenian marble, after it has been inspires on a superficial view, is exposed to the air; it is equally hard ; heightened in proportion as it is at, it works as well under the chisel ; aná tentively surveyed. If we admire the is held to be at least as durable. To whole of the glorious fabric, that ad- these advantages we may add that of miration will be augmented by a mi- the quarries being close at hand, acnute examination of all the ramified tually open, and at this instant wrought details.” • It has the further and by experienced workmen, who can important advantages of being con- produce with certainty blocks or shafts structed on the most durable prin- of any required dimensions. It is ciples; or, as Mr Dodwell says, “con- further the opinion of practical men, trived' for eternity." Plutarch re- that our masons and stone-cutters marks, “ That the structures of Peri- have acquired a neatness and precles are the more admirable as being cision of chiselling, which give procompleted in so short a time, they yet mise of success in the imitation of any had such a lasting beauty; for as they sculpture whatsoever. had when new the venerable aspect of In the next place, it is known that antiquity, so now they are old, they there are, in this country, plans, drawhave the freshness of a modern work: ings, and measurements of the Parthey seem to be preserved from the thenon, made with the utmost care injuries of time by a kind of vital upon the spot by the celebrated Mr principle, which produces a vigour Cockerell, by Mr Basevi, and by Mr that cannot be impaired, and a bloom Saunders. that will never fade.”+
• Why, indeed, should we despair of • Dodwell's Travels, Vol. I. page 321. producing in this country, by due encou
+ MS. of Plutarch, in the King's Libra- ragement, workmen equal to those sculpry at Paris, quoted by Mr Dodwell, Vol. tors who executed, with such exquisite I. page 328.
finish, the tracery of our Gothic cathedrals ?