H. D. (Henry Duff) Traill.

Social England; a record of the progress of the people in religion, laws, learning, arts, industry, commerce, science, literature and manners, from the earliest times to the present day (Volume 4) online

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worst in our own methods of construction, and to imitate all
of what was best in foreign designs.

It is remarkable that although James II. was himself a

sailor, as well as an enthusiastic naval reformer and a good

friend both to officers and seamen, his fall was largely brought

about by the action of the service, within which, indeed, there



Naval Mis



were very few who championed his declining cause. Some,
certainly, resigned rather than give in their allegiance to the
new order of things, but the Navy as a whole went over to
William and Mary without much hesitation. .James was not
a I ile to collect, for the defence of his realms, a single squadron
upon the loyalty of which he could rely, nor did lie carry
with him into exile a single English man-of-war. In the Army
he had a considerable following for many a year. In the Navy,
where he might have expected a much larger one, he had none
worth mentioning. This was due to two facts. One was that
the Navy was intensely Protestant. The other was that the
most distinguished flag officers, and all those leaders who in
the Navy had the greatest influence and commanded the
deepest confidence, were politically opposed to the principles
of James's policy. Dartmouth was an exception. He adhered
to the king, and suffered for his devotion. But the profound
Protestant feeling of the Navy was stronger than its natural
loyalty. Sir Roger Strickland, Rear-Admiral of England, Avho
belonged to the Roman faith, could not get men to man his
flagship, and so could not remain in the service.

But, although James II. kept the Navy as much as possible
under his own eye, and although he had an admirable helper
in Pepys, there was, as there had throughout the Stuart period
been, much peculation and malversation among the Admiralty
subordinate officials, especially in the dockyards and in the
departments ; for, writing to Lord Dartmouth, almost at the
moment of the landing of William, Pepys says : " I must pray
your Lordshipp, as Master of the Ordnance, to forgive me the
dischargeing myself of what I cannot but hold myselfe
accomptable for to the King in you as Admirall of his fleet,
by observing to you that, however matters may be represented
to you from the office, there is not one shipp now behind
you from whose commander I doe not daily hoar of want of
gunns, carriages, shot, or something else relating thereto."
Sir John Berry, at the same time, complained : " There is not
any round shot come to the Elizabeth, I have no flaggs to
answer signalls, nor pendants : they have sent me only two
blew flaggs : what they mean by that I know not." And
Pepys laments : " How it has come to pass I know not . . .
but soe it is, that the King has understood from. Captain



Constable that the St. Albans has four ports on the quarter-
deck which the establishment has provided no guns for. .. . .
It is a little uneasy with me to believe that there can have
been any such mistake in the establishment." As for Strick-
land, even before he discovered that he could not get men to
serve with him, he objected that his ship, t the Mary, was "so
very crancke " ; and having been given the Cambridge instead,
he presently found her " so foul and ill-fitted " that he begged
to be re- transferred to the Mary. Many vessels broke down ;
others proved dangerously leaky. It is not very astonishing.
Corruption was the fashion of the age, and testimony that
funds granted for specific purposes were seldom, if ever, wholly
applied to those purposes, is unfortunately only too abundant.
The consequent unpreparedness of the fleet was mainly re-
sponsible for the negative result of the battle of Ban try Bay
and for the frankly lamentable result of the battle of Beachy
Head, at the beginning of the next reign. In neither case
were the admirals and captains to blame.

THE first half of the seventeenth century may, with but a REGINALD
slight adjustment of the dates, be correctly termed the era of ^ ZS '
Inigo Jones. The second half of the century may, with even tecture
more propriety, be termed the era of Christopher Wren, '

Inigo Jones died in June, 1652. Wren was then a youth of
twenty, but he was already famous for his mathematical gifts,
and on his way to a fellowship at All Souls', Oxford. His
original bent seems to have been to astronomy, and he was
early elected professor at Gresham College. But his talents
in other fields must have been widely bruited, for John Evelyn
speaks of him in 1654 as " that miracle of a youth, Mr. Wren."
Architecture, and particularly ecclesiastical architecture, was
naturally at a standstill during the Civil War and under
Cromwell; but after the Restoration, Charles decided to go
on with various works commenced by his father. Finding
Denham, the then incumbent of the office of Surveyor-General,
wholly incompetent, he applied, on what is surmised to have
been the advice of Evelyn, to Wren. Ho was called on by
the king to execute repairs in Old St. Paul's, and, while
studying for these, was also engaged on building Pembroke


[1660 1688

Chapel at Cambridge. His uncle, Bishop Matthew Wren, had
been imprisoned in the Tower : and when, at the Restoration,
he regained his liberty, he determined to commemorate his
release by giving a new chapel to his old college. His nephew
supplied the designs, in which, following the tradition of his
great predecessor, he endeavoured to obtain beauty by pro-
portion alone. The building has now been restored out of all
knowledge, but as designed by Wren it was undoubtedly
harmonious and pleasing. The year before the dedication of
Pembroke Chapel Wren was commissioned to fulfil the desire
of another prelate, Archbishop Sheldon, at Oxford ; and the
ease with iwhich he surmounted the difficulty of covering an
area of seventy feet by eighty with a roof without auy central
support shows that he had by this time, though how we do
not know, completely mastered the technical difficulties of
his business.

The works at St. Paul's do not seem to have been proceeding
very fast when the Plague of 1065 stopped them altogether.
Wren improved the moment to pay a visit to Paris, a city famous
for the work of Le Mercier, and Avhere Mansard was actually
planning the Invalides. Thither Bernini, too, had been sum-
moned by Louis XIV. to provide designs for the Louvre : so
that the moment of Wren's visit was happily chosen. It is
an odd coincidence that the most successful design in France,
of this period, should have been that of an amateur, the physician
Restora- Perrault, Avhile Wren, another amateur, was about to astonish

tion ol

London. the world in England. Just at this juncture there came the
fortunate calamity of the Great Fire, which afforded an epoch-
making opportunity for the display of his talents. " He restored
London," says Horace Walpole, and " the noblest temple, the
largest palace, the most sumptuous hospital in Britain, are all
works of the same hand." The list of his achievements is
stupendous. In or near London he built St. Paul's Cathedral,
above fifty parish churches, the Monument, Temple Bar, a royal
exchange, the western tower of Westminster Abbey, and Marl-
borough House, besides Chelsea Hospital, perhaps the poorest,
and Greenwich, perhaps the finest, of his secular buildings. In
Oxford he built the Tom Tower, or Campanile, at Christ Church ;
the Sheldonian Theatre, and the Ashmolean : and at Cambridge,
Pembroke Chapel and the library of Trinity. He worked,

t ^v^


% r ~^" *

>^riNG i

St. Paul's

of Decora-



besides, at Winchester and Hampton Court, at Windsor, and
elsewhere. And in all this mass of work, in his least as in his
most successful labours, he shows himself, notwithstanding his
intense individuality, not only a true descendant of Palladio,
but the greatest, exponent in all Europe of the doctrine that,
architecture is proportion.

The most famous of all his works is, of course, the great
Metropolitan Church of St. Paul's. The foundation stone was
laid in 1675, and the building was practically completed in thirty-
five years. It is, of course, not according to Wren's original design.
Internally that design would, no doubt, have been more satisfacti >rv
than the one finally adopted, for it would have shown a series of
prospects, gradually increasing in magnificence, from the entrance
to the great central dome. Beyond these would have been nothing,
for the small choir would have hardly counted; so that tin'
present anti-climax would have been avoided. Externally, how-
ever, it is superb. The roof is of Avood, over a stone vault, but
that is a common, almost a universal, feature in Gothic churches.
Used as this roof is in St. Paul's, it has given rise to the criticism
that St. Paul's is not a dome at all, but a tower ; and it is true
that the interior dome has little relation to the exterior. The
lantern is, in fact, carried on a vast cone of brickwork, built up
from the drum of the inner dome ; and the outside, perfectly
admirable as it is, has no constructive justification. But, after
all, artistic purism may surely be silent in the presence of such a
masterpiece of outline. Discussions on the originality of artistic
work are not very profitable, and it is impossible to know whether
Mansard's design for the dome of the Invalides. not completed
till after 1680, helped Wren at St. Paul's. So, too, of the coupled
columns of which Wren made use, and which, in some sense,
form a distinguishing mark of his style : did he get a hint from
Perrault, who undoubtedly applied them to the facade of the
Louvre ? These speculations have a certain importance in regard
to the question of originality, but between St. Paul's and the
work of Mansard and Perrault there is all the difference between
genius and ability. That Wren intended to rely, to some extent,
on colour for the decoration of St. Paul's is certain, though how
far he intended to go is uncertain. He left on record his intention
" to beautify the inside of the cupola with Mosaick work," and
that portions of the apse and the domes of nave, choir, and

St. Bride's, Fleet Street.






transept were intended to 1i:ive siniil.-ir decoration is evidenced

by the tact tli;it IK- left their surfaces unfinished, or only finished
in ])lastcr. The area thus left to lie covered amounts to ahont
LY..OOO square feet, which, if Fate approve and Mr. Richmond,
A.R. A., survive, will, by the early years of tlie present- century,

be covered, as intended by the
seventeenth - century architect.
That Wren should have contem-
plated any scheme of colour
decoration is in itself proof of
his independence, for the taste,
and still more the religion, of
England had a decided pre-
ference for whitewash, and
naturally found the mono-
chromes of Sir .1. Thornhill
altogether preferable to the
architect's mosaics. I Jut it is
not in the Cathedral alone that
Wren shines as a genius in
church architecture. Few in-
teriors in any style of the
Renaissance are more beautiful
than St. Stephen's, \Valbrbok.
The spire of St. Mary-le-Bow is
another wonder, for it goes far
to demonstrate that the grace of
a (lothic steeple can be obtained
by means which are purely
classical. His ingenuity was

\ I:D\ST,

indeed unbounded, and of this
Greenwich Hospital, though it
was not wholly completed till
the reijm of ( !eor<-e Jll., is a l.-ading instance. Here he


was hampered by the necessity of working in a fragment
of ihe old Tudor palace, and the whole of the new palace
built by \\Ybb (Inigo Jones's pupils for Charles II. This he
accomplished with supreme success, and the colonnade, com-
posed of his favourite coupled columns, with the domes over
hal-1 and chapel, is really magnificent. Ijefore it was finished,



however, the heavy hand of Yanbrugh was brought in to mar
the grace and symmetry of Wren's work. Wren did much for
William III, as well as for his predecessors and for Queen Anne ;
although little was done, and that not very well done, for Hampton
Hampton Court, Yet his designs for that palace show that if he Court -
had had his way, he would have converted it into one of the
most grandiose in Europe ; for he designed two colonnaded wings,
three hundred feet long, on each side of the hall, and a grand
approach through the horse-chestnuts of Bushey Park. It is


somewhat difficult to decipher, at this day, what parts of the
existing building belong to Wren and what to his successors.
But he certainly finished the east front, with its four
Corinthian columns, and the beautiful Fountain Court, on
the cloister of which his initials occur.

Wren's career does not admit of being split into periods, wren's
He was at work on the Cathedral, as we have seen, at least
as early as 1G63, when we find his name in the commission
to restore the church. He was still working at Hampton Court
in 1718. His commanding personality, acting during so long
a period, left its imprint not only on architecture, but on the




architects of two generations. His ]nipil, Hawksmoor, then
became the builder of St. George's, Bloomsbury, and of the
towers of All Souls' at Oxford. Gibbs, who designed St. Mary-
lc-Strand. St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, and the Kadclitie at Oxford,
also imitated him, though perhaps not so perfectly as Kent, the
architect of Holkham, whose worship of Inigo Jones must have


made him keenly appreciative of the talent of Jones's architectural
heir. Besides these, James, who built St. George's, Hanover
Square : Campbell, who designed Wanstead House ; Archer, who
is responsible for St. John's at Westminster: and Cooper, the
architect of Bath; belonged to his school. None of these were
men of great talent indeed, the ablest and most individual
architects of the generation after Wren were Yanbrugh the



dramatist, and the Earl of
Burlington the virtuoso. As
regards the latter, Kent re-
sided in his house for many
years, and played profitably
the part of " ghost ' to his
noble patron, as Campbell
claimed to have done at an
earlier date. But the asso-
ciation was certainly fortunate,
for it gave to the world the
famous volumes of their
" Inigo Jones." Between them
they refronted Burlington
House, subsequently ruined
by injudicious alterations.

Sir John Vanbrugh was
an architect of more original
temper, though singularly
insensible to beauty, either
of outline or detail. The

" Lie heavy on him, earth, for he
Laid many a heavy load on
thee "-

is trite enough, but it is an
excellent criticism on his
style. A feeling for mass is
the chief merit of Sir John
Vanbrugh, and if he had only
been employed to build
Bastilles, or Pyramids, or
colossal tombs, he might have
left a great reputation. As
it is, he has left only remark-
able country houses, such as
Blenheim Palace and Castle
Howard. It was said that
his selection as architect of
Blenheim was due to a






quarrel between the famous Sarah and Christopher Wren over
Marlborough House ; but, at any rate, he became a sort of
rival of the older man, and his general acceptance points to
the fact that the English, as a nation, had then as, perhaps,
they have now no critical appreciation of any form of art
which is strongly tinctured with classicality. At Blenheim
Vanbrugh had, in fact, a unique opportunity. Unlike Wren
Blenheim, -who, at St. Paul's, and Greenwich, and elsewhere, was ham-
pered by royal and clerical interference, and by the necessity
of conciliating divergent religious animosities, by the parsimony
of his patrons, and by the limitations of space at his com-
mand Vanbrugh had an unrivalled site, a free hand in his
design, and ample supplies of money. In bigness, Blenheim
certainly leaves nothing to be desired, and the thickness of
the casement mouldings, the air of gloomy solidity, are unsur-
passed. But no feeling for proportion can be discovered.
Mr. Ferguson, his most favourable critic, points out that the
order is so gigantic as to dwarf everything near it, and that
the lines are confused and wanting in repose. Castle Howard
is, no doubt, better, though here again Vanbrugh has in the
centre used columns of a size appropriate for the dwellings
of giants, and columns of exactly the same kind, but adapted
to the use of men, in the wings. He was much less successful
at Seaton Delaval and Grimsthorpe, where the large coarseness
of his details becomes " offensive from the smallness of what
they are intended to decorate." The best that can be said
of Sir John Vanbrugh's designs is that they are not merely
the still-births of memory ; on the contrary, they are thoroughly
characteristic and individual. This, no doubt, is something,
and it entitles Vanbrugh. to consideration in any sketch, how-
ever slight, of English architecture. But it is difficult to
conceive anything further removed from the subtly calculated
perfection of ancient art. English architecture reaches, in
Vanbrugh, the edge of the pit. A method which depends
on the austere graces of order and balance and proportion
cannot be applied by a rule of thumb, and there is no trace
of any other rule in his work. The impossibility of having a
living classical style in England seems demonstrated by this :
that only in the hands of genius has it ever been tolerable.
From such hands, it is true, we have had noble examples;



but directly it has passed from them it has become, even
with men of ability and character, lifeless, meaningless, and

After the breaking out of the strife between king and Painting
Parliament, the only art that commanded the attention of Qon
the well-to-do had been that of war. Nor had the Puritan wealth,
ascendancy under the Commonwealth been much more favour-
able to artists. "The sectaries," it has been said, "ran into
the extreme against politeness." It is certain, however, that
Cromwell, who loved music, admired also the art of the painter.
He secretly arranged the purchase of the cartoons and other
works in the royal collection. He also patronised Peter Van
der Fas a Dutchman born at a place called Soest, probably
the village of that name near Utrecht, not the Soest in
Westphalia. He seems to have come to England in 1643,
and is better known by the name of Lely, a sobriquet adopted Lely.
by his father. It was while sitting to Peter Lely that the
Protector insisted that he was not to be nattered in his picture,
and to have bidden him " remark all these roughnesses, pimples,
warts, and everything as you see me ; otherwise, I will never
pay a farthing for it." Cromwell's patronage was not con-
fined to Lei} 7 , and his favourite artist was Robert Walker.
This man to some extent tilled the position of official portraitist
under Cromwell, and, after the Government seized Arundel
House, was given a residence there. He painted not only
the Protector himself, but Ireton, Fleetwood, Keeper Kcble,
and Lambert. The fact that Lambert, a Parliamentary general
and a friend of Cromwell's, was himself an amateur painter,
is perhaps the most suggestive fact connected with art in
Cromwell's reign. If we accept Lely, whose chief work was
done later, Walker alone, of the Commonwealth artists, left
more than a name. Several works of his have been identified,
Avhich show him to have possessed a dry but individual
talent. The rest Mascall, Fairfax, Loveday, and Wray are
mere names. Of course, other painters of Charles I., such as
Richard Gibson the dwarf, and Samuel Cooper the excellent
miniaturist, who, his admirers declared, was greater than
Vandyck, continued their work in the succeeding reigns ; but
with the exception of Cooper, who painted pretty nearly all
the magnates of the Commonwealth, they more properly




at the


belong to the reigns of Cromwell's predecessor or of Cromwell's

At the Restoration, Peter Lely took possession of the artistic
throne vacant by the deaths of Vandyck and Dobson. He
had received favours from Charles 1., and the office of Si.Tgeant
Painter, although practically worthless, was conferred on him
while the Civil Wars were raging. From the date of his
arrival in England in or prior to 1648, he gave himself to
portraiture, which he practised with extraordinary success
until his death in 1680. Most of his portraits are three-
quarter lengths, a majority of them of ladies dressed " in
silken night-gowns, fastened with a single pin." He was, 'how-
ever, a considerable master of drapery, though in an extremely
artificial way. He had a considerable business amongst male
sitters, too, and painted a certain number of mythological and
sacred subjects, which, like " Jupiter and Europa," " Susanna
and the Elders," appealed to the taste of the time. His is
a low form of art, but it is admirably in keeping with con-
temporary manners. When we look at the long rows of his
ladies at Hampton Court, this accomplished mannerist per-
fectly explains to us the feeling of the shocked and zealous
Puritan who published, two years before Lely's death,
" Cooke's Just and Reasonable Reprehensions of Naked Breasts
and Shoulders."

Lely was, as we have seen, a foreigner and, indeed, after
Dobson, there is no considerable English name among painters
until we reach Hogarth. A few Englishmen, however, have
just escaped oblivion - - Isaac Fuller, for instance, Avho cer-
tainly did not lack a vates sacer, for no less a person than
Addison wrote a Latin poem on the altar-cloth (now lost)
that he painted for Wadham College. He was further
employed to paint a series of large pictures of King Charles's
escape after Worcester, Avhich the king presented to the
Parliament of Ireland. He also had a considerable vogue
as a decorator of ceilings and panels in taverns. Robert
Streater was a contemporary whose work ran on similar
lines, though l^velyn calls him " that excellent painter of
perspective and landscape." He was employed a good deal
at Oxford, and Pepys has the following entry relating to
him :



' Went to see Mr. Streater, the famous history painter, where I found
Dr. Wren and other virtuosos looking upon the paintings he is making
for the new theatre at Oxford ; and, indeed, they look as they would be
very fine, and the rest think better done than those of Rubens at Whitehall ;
but I do not fully think so. But they will certainly be very noble, and I
am mightily pleased to have the fortune to see this man and his work, which
is very famous ; and he is a very civil little man, and lame, but lives very

Of Lely's English pupils only a few attained anything like
eminence. Of these the least obscure were John Greenhill,
on whom Aphra Behn wrote an elegy ; Anne Killigrew, the
paragon of whom Lely made an unusually individual portrait ;
and Mary Beale, who, like Fuller, had poems written in her
honour. Of those who were uninfluenced by the great Court
painter, the name of Michael Wright has survived. His fame
was to some extent founded on a series of portraits of the
judges, for which, in the first instance, Lely had been com-
missioned. The story is curious, as showing the position of
a successful painter in the seventh decade of the seventeenth
century. The citizens of London, grateful for the services of
the twelve judges in settling the litigation which arose after
the Great Fire, resolved that their portraits should be placed
in the Guildhall. To this end they applied to Sir Peter, and
he accepted the commission ; but finding that the judges
would not come to his studio to sit, he declined to proceed.
The commission was then transferred to the less exigent
Wright, who received for the portraits no less than 60 apiece.

Charles II. did not inherit his father's artistic tastes, his Foreign
feeling for beauty being purely animal. During his exile, how-
ever, he and his courtiers had seen the splendours of Louis

Online LibraryH. D. (Henry Duff) TraillSocial England; a record of the progress of the people in religion, laws, learning, arts, industry, commerce, science, literature and manners, from the earliest times to the present day (Volume 4) → online text (page 46 of 71)