« AnteriorContinuar »
litterateurs, should imagine that the author of the “Reflections" was a much more powerful person than he really was. But for Burke himself to have fallen into the same delusion is indeed strange, and can only be accounted for on the supposition, that the success of his “Reflections," and the sudden change from neglect to popularity which it had produced, had for the moment clouded his judgment, and given the rein to his imagination. The royal refugees, then residing at Coblentz, begged his advice upon the best method of restoring the French monarchy. Burke, elated by this condescension, actually sent his son as a sort of private plenipotentiary to their place of exile, and requested that an accredited agent might be sent to himself in turn. This was accordingly done. The actual advice which Burke gave to his new disciple was as wise and as honest as we might expect, though wasted on the prejudiced minds to which it was addressed. But the mode of communication was such as could hardly be expected to recommend itself to the English government, while it naturally afforded a fertile theme for the opposition wits. Pitt and Dundas did all they could to show their contempt for the proceeding without alienating Burke, who now sat upon their benches; but Fox and his dependents had nothing to restrain them from making fun of it to any extent. And Mr. Burke's arrogance now figured in all the Whig newspapers, alongside of Pitt's unbending stiffness and Dundas's accommodating pliability. The loss of this son, in the year 1791, was Burke's bitterest affliction, as his allusion to him in the “ Letter to a Noble Lord” is oue of his most touching and eloquent effusions.
About three months before his son's death, which took place in the month of August, 1794, Burke had retired from parliament. In the autumn of the same year, Mr. Pitt announced to him the king's intention to bestow on him a pension. The offer and its acceptance seem to us to require no defence; and here, perhaps, Mr. Macknight has shown a little lack of judgment. He asks why, if Barrè, or Dunning, or Doddington, received large grants of public money without any complaint being made, Burke should not have done the same? To argue in this way, is to throw the victory into his opponent's hands. Burke was neither Barrè, nor Dunning, nor Doddington. It was just because he was Burke that the outcry was made.' When a man whose sole object is a pension obtains it, nobody cries out because there is nothing remarkable in it. Servants, spies, satellites, even honest and laborious drudges, must be paid if they are used, and it is well known they cannot be dispensed with.
But when a leading statesman, a commanding genius, and a man of the loftiest integrity, places himself on a level with the drudge and the satellite, mankind will inevitably complain. It will not do, therefore, to defend Burke's pension by simply saying that Doddington had one. We must take broader ground than that. Men who, feeling a conscious vocation to the political life, devote themselves, without any patrimony, to the promotion of political principles, deserve every encouragement from the state. If they keep their hands unsullied, and prove, by their services to the public, that they had not mistaken the bent of their genius, they can hardly be rewarded too highly. Nothing should be omitted to allure such men into politics; for they are nature's statesmen, born with a comprehension of principle which ordinary men never attain, and with an aptitude for affairs which others acquire but imperfectly with long practice. This is the true justification of the pension conferred on Mr. Burke; and this, we believe, was the spirit in which he determined to accept it.
Burke did not live long to enjoy his late-won affluence. He could indeed say with greater truth than Johnson—" It has been delayed till I am indifferent, and cannot enjoy it; till I am solitary, and cannot impart it.” He never recovered the death of his beloved son. The loss of Reynolds, occurring about the same time, increased his melancholy; and he lingered and languished among his fields and woods at Beaconsfield till 1797, when he expired, after an illness of some months' duration, about the midnight of Saturday, the 8th of July. He was buried in the village church by the side of his son Richard, where, fifteen years afterwards, the ashes of his widow were deposited. Politics, however, could not be banished from his grave. Fox was not present at the funeral; and the pall-bearers, says Mr. Macknight with unconscious satire, were principally the distinguished members of “the old Whig party.”
1. Some Account of Domestic Architecture in England; by the
Editor of the “Glossary of Architecture.” 3 vols. (Oxford
and London: J. H. & J. Parker.) 2. Remarks on Secular and Domestic Architecture, Present and
Future; by G. Gilbert Scott, A.R.A. 2nd Edition. (London: J. Murray.)
NEW edition of Mr. G. Scott's agreeable and suggestive
treatise will be accepted as a hopeful sign by very many whose notions of architectural fitness differ from those avowed with such calm self-confidence by Lord Palmerston. In this work, the best known, and perhaps most liberal-minded of our living architects has striven briefly, practically, and in popular terms, to point out the right way of developing a beautiful and national style of secular architecture, in harmony at once with past teachings and present needs. On such a text no fitter or timelier commentary could easily be found than the three elaborate volumes published, and for the most part compiled; by Mr. J. H. Parker. In these we are presented with a careful and well-nigh exhaustive retrospect of English secular architecture from the twelfth to the sixteenth century, illustrated, as such a book should be, by numberless drawings, remarkable not less for the manner of their execution, than for the beauty, strikingness, and variety of the subjects drawn, They enable us to realize the steady growth of our different Gothic styles, from that of the noble Norman hall at Oakham castle, to the richer and more intricate beauties of Eltham palace ; from the simple old dwelling-house with its two or three rooms, that sufficed for our fathers in the days of the first Plantagenets, to the picturesque breadth of Agecroft hall, or the princely glories of Great Chalfield. The drawings are made to illustrate the letterpress, and each has its own value apart from the other. In one page we are invited to look at the broad embattled front of Pembroke castle, or the lofty interior of Penshurst hall; in another we are glad to pause before the
ruined arches of Mayfield palace; in a third our interest is denianded for some striking detail, like the window of Broughton castle, the sideboard at Lincoln, or the cistern and lavatory in Battle hall. The introductory pages of the first volume lead us back to the dim days of Bede, and beyond those again to the monuments of the Roman occupation ; and the last volume brings us down to the latter days of that brilliant period, within which most lovers of our old architecture are content to range for the best samples of artistic beauty, and the fittest startingpoint for like achievements in the future.
Of late years our English architecture, in some at least of its developments, has betrayed a very marked improvement on that mean and ugly counterfeit, which seems to have satisfied the hearts and soothed the eyes of our careless forefathers during the whole of last century. The tide of spiritual and artistic feeling has begun to flow back over the waste marshes, and to stir afresh the stagnant pools, left by the long reactionary slumber, which followed the fierce blood-storm of civil and religious warfare that swept for mingled good and evil over the England of Strafford, Cromwell, and William III. There has been a stirring among the dry bones of forgotten creeds and mouldering traditions; and some day, perhaps, the skeleton now slowly shaping out therefrom, may clothe itself with the flesh and sinews of a living beauty even greater than the first. The natural bent of all imaginative feeling to find fit symbols in outward forms, has closed up the gulf which our Puritan sires fancied they saw lying between the material and the spiritual world, Holiness and refinement have been allowed once more to come together, and the love of outward beauty is no longer frowned down by a fear of stinting the homage due to the infinite Maker of all beauty. It is no longer deemed by most people a sacred duty, to set apart for God's worship the very ugliest buildings that human hands can fashion, or to limit to the use of their own drawing-rooms the employment of those faculties which seem specially adapted to do Him honour. At least one good result of the late Tractarian movement has been, to quicken in many minds the growth of that lurking desire for
less rude and scanty aids to religious derotion, out of which the movement itself in no little measure sprang. Not only have our newest English churches generally managed to look less like the humbler meeting-houses ; but Wesleyan, Presbyterian, even Independent chapels, are beginning to challenge a closer comparison, in point of outward beauty, with their more conspicuous rivals. In the case of our older churches, too, the reign of false economy and sanctified Vandalism is nearly over: beautiful roofs are brought to light by the easy removal of some overlying plaster ; stone columns, rich carvings, and graceful colours, look out again, after long hiding under layers of barbarous whitewash; portentous pews give place to seats of less uncomely proportions; and arches which a modern architect might well despair of rivalling, reveal to modern eyes the fulness of that symmetry which frightful galleries and ambitious monuments had long done their worst to mar.
But the spirit of improvement does not invariably work in company with knowledge. This new order of things, however hopeful, has yet to get itself established on sure and rational grounds. We have seen the error of our past ways; but the true path to future excellence has still to be searched out through the fogs that hang around our returning senses. It will not be enough for us to tread over again in the well-marked footsteps of the men who wrought their marvels at Canterbury, Winchester, York, Oxford, Exeter, and Salisbury. To rub off a thick coat of whitewash, and to paint over the traces of former colouring, are good deeds in their way. So also is it a good thing to study the great works of great masters. But it will not be enough for us to call back into fuller life the long-slumbering glories of our medieval churches, or to build up new ones that might be taken for more or less faithful copies of the old. The work of restoration, indeed, bids fair in many cases to be both thoroughly and beautifully done; sometimes even, if we may so phrase it, too thoroughly done. Nothing that a healthily refined taste could wish away, steps in to spoil the exquisite enjoyment of an hour passed in Exeter cathedral, or the fine old church of Ottery St. Mary, with its richly coloured chancel-roof, and noble blending of many styles. Only a lack of funds delays the perfect reno