W. J. (William John) Loftie.

Rambles in and near London : or, London afternoons online

. (page 14 of 23)
Online LibraryW. J. (William John) LoftieRambles in and near London : or, London afternoons → online text (page 14 of 23)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

divisions. Therefore, in St. Peter's the height is to the
breadth as seven to four, while at St. Paul's it is as three
to two, an easier proportion for the unconscious mental
process which affects our sense of beauty. It should be
mentioned that these proportional measurements are
approximate only. Wren's mind took great pleasure
in combinations of architectural parts and features, and
every church he built contained a problem carefully worked
out. The great difference between the two cupolas and
their supports seems to be marked by the thirty-two
columns which surround the cupola of St. Paul's as con-
trasted with the fourteen coupled columns of St. Peter's.
The charm of a building depends much more on its pro-
portions than on its ornamentation. The most bigoted
Goth cannot help an exclamation of pleasure at a first
view of St. Paul's.

Many of us were brought up with an idea that modern
Gothic is the only true style. We were told that St.
Paul's was a sham ; that one half was built to conceal
the other half, a fault to be found with all buildings of
a certain size, though less with St. Paul's than with any
other ; that it was heathenish ; that it boasted no long
drawn aisles ; that its vaults were unf retted, and so on.
Nevertheless, its first view gave us, one and all, a sensation
of pleasure which neither the Houses of Parliament nor


the Law Courts, nor St. Pancras Hotel, nor even the
rival Cathedral at Truro, can evoke. This is largely due
to the calculations which Wren made of the proportions.
His proportions have a simplicity so great that they are
readily grasped, and are the principal elements in a success
which is denied by few. He allowed for human weakness
in three particulars. He made his building look strong.
He added no features to deceive the eye as to its size. And
he combined proportions which are as simple as those
of St. Peter's are complex. The breadth of the vaulting
of St. Peter's is to its height as 1 to 1.75. At St. Paul's
it is as 1 to 2. The first involves elaborate calculation
before it is understood. A child can grasp the relation
of one to twice one.

The ulterior of the church presents to the visitor
feature after feature of the highest beauty. It is dignified
as well, and seems to repeat constantly Wren's saying,
"Building is for eternity." The morning chapel is
on the left at the western entrance, and, with the
consistorial court on the opposite side, forms the foot of
the cross. All the details may be carefully examined,
and will yield new pleasure at every visit to anyone
who admires skill in wrought-iron, in carved wood,
and above all in the exquisite undercutting of Grinling
Gibbons' floral wreaths and capitals of stone. Exami-
nation of these things involves a series of surprises, and
proves that the botanical wonders shown to us by the
monk of Southwell are rivalled and often surpassed by
the carvers of St. Paul's, and that too in some ten times
the quantity. The best panel of stone carving is usually
thought to be that at the entrance to the north aisle of
the choir. Neither Gibbons nor his helper, Gibber, can
have sculptured them all, but they must have superintended
their workmen so carefully that whether it is in the stone-


work, the pear wood, the oak of the stalls, the cherubs
in the choir, the jambs of the doorways, the saints and
angels of the organ case, the screens of the chapels in
everything we seem to recognise the same hand, without
any flagging or failure. It is the same with the metal-
work, some of which will repay careful examination,
especially the scroll work in the gates north and south
of the choir, and the small grills in the side aisles. These
and other iron- work are attributed to a French designer,
Tijou, but were made by English workmen. Tijou de-
signed the well-known gates made at Hampton Court
by Huntingdon Shaw. There is a certain decline to be
traced in the wood-carving of the morning chapel and
the consistorial court, by Jonathan Maine ; but in almost
any other church it would be pointed out as of superior
beauty. The organ, which formerly stood across the
entrance to the choir, is now divided very judiciously,
and the view eastward shows extremely well.

The organ was originally constructed by "Father
Schmidt." A short but sufficiently full account of it is
in a little volume on " Organs Built in England," written
anonymously by a clergyman in 1847. Schmidt, we
read, was distinguished for the sweetness and brilliancy
of his wooden pipes, to which he gave great attention.
The organ of St. Paul's was one of his best works, and even
now some of his stops are in the divided instrument. It
was first used in 1694. The magnificent chorus was its
principal feature, and was improved by Bishop in 1826. The
swell had been added by Crantz in the eighteenth century.
In some respects the organ has been greatly unproved
of late years. Wren, jealous of his architectural features,
never allowed it room enough, and the modern methods
of laying pipes in any convenient situation had not been
discovered. Some of Schmidt's stops lay useless in the


vestry. All this has now been changed, and good judges
assert that the organ of St. Paul's is not only one of the
best and largest, but also one of the sweetest in the world.
It is related that Handel held the instrument as it was
in his day in high esteem, and often played on it. What
would he think of it now ?

If we turn from the architectural view of St. Paul's
to examine the monuments which have been placed in
the building, and to inquire as to the mosaic and other
decorations, we shall enter on subjects more or less con-
troversial. Without mention of these things no account
of the church would be at all complete ; but we must
endeavour to glance at them briefly and pass on. The
monuments engage our attention first, and offer a difficult
and delicate theme for treatment. It would, perhaps,
be a mistake to say that the church would be better for
their removal ; yet there are but few that can be reckoned
worthy of the situation. Portions of six figures which
were in Old St. Paul's may still be seen : one in the south
aisle of the choir has already been described as the monu-
ment of Dean Donne ; the other five are in the crypt
at the east end. They have been identified as belonging
to the monuments of Sir Nicholas Bacon, Lord Keeper ;
Sir Christopher Hatton, Lord Chancellor ; Sir John
Wolley ; Sir Thomas Heneage ; and Sir William Cockayne,
who was Lord Mayor in 1019, and died in 1G2G.

In the south aisle of the choir, beside the effigy of Dean
Donne whose best memorial is Izaak Walton's biography
are the modern tombs of Bishops Blomfield and Jackson,
and of Dean Milman, none of which calls for special notice.
Beyond them and in strong contrast is the kneeling figure
of Reginald Heber, Bishop of Calcutta (d. 1826). It is
by Sir Francis Chan trey, but cannot be greatly admired.


At the extreme east end is a recumbent effigy of Canon
Liddon (d. 1890).

Under the dome are some sad eyesores, especially the
semi-nude statues of Johnson (d. 1784, and buried in
Westminster Abbey), and of John Howard (d. 1790),
both by Bacon. Howard's monument was the first to
be placed in the church, and would seem to have set a
fashion in bad art. Bacon could, and sometimes did,
excel in sculpture, but St. Paul's seems to have deprived
him of his presence of mind, an effect it had also on lioth
Flaxman and Chantrey. There were, however, lower
depths than even this to be reached. In the north
transept are figures cut in stone they cannot be called
statues or sculpture of several members of the illustrious
family of Napier, by Adams ; and a battle scene by Bailey,
of enormous size and nudity, to the memory of Sir William
Ponsonby, a Waterloo hero ; under the dome, in a most
conspicuous place, is a pulpit to the memory of Captain
Robert Fitzgerald, who died in 1853. It consists of
pillars and panels of coloured marbles arranged by Mr.
Penrose, and demonstrates the truism that incongruity
is not of necessity picturesque.

When the organ was taken down and divided in 1870,
the monument of Nelson was removed from its place
against the choir screen. It now stands in the south
transept, where it goes far, with some of the other monu-
ments near it, to spoil the view. One reads the name of
Flaxman upon it, as well as upon a great group, in even
worse taste, worse style, and poorer sculpture, to the memory
of Earl Howe (d. 1799). Two other groups are rather
less offensive. They are by Rossi, an Italian, and represent
Lord Rodney (d. 1792), and Lord Cornwallis (d. 1805).
The Historic Muse on the Rodney group is very fine.
Among the more conspicuous failures in the church is the


cenotaph of General Gordon, who was killed at Khartoum
in 1885. It is by Sir Edgar Boehm, a foreign artist,
naturalised like Marochetti, and is very unfortunately
placed, being immediately to the north of Stevens's master-
piece, and close to the Melbourne memorial. If the
hero's recumbent figure and its base had any merits they
would still suffer in competition with the Wellington
monument ; if they had any poetic feeling, or even
sentiment, Marochetti's angels would have excelled them.

Marochetti, an Italian, was before all things poetical.
As a sculptor he was capable of making a design, but he
was not capable of fully carrying it out. The statue of
Prince Albert at Kensington Gore was to have been by
him. The model he produced was found to be impossible,
and the authorities discovered when it was all but too
late that they ought to have entrusted the work to Foley,
who barely lived to finish it. The tomb by Marochetti at
St. Paul's is in the north aisle. It commemorates two
members of the family of Lamb. The elder, William,
inherited the Irish Viscounty of Melbourne, and was
Prime Minister at the time of Queen Victoria's accession.
He died in 1848, and was succeeded as Lord Melbourne
by his brother, Frederick James, Lord Beauvale, who died
in 1853, and to whose taste the design of the monument
may be chiefly ascribed. It represents a sable portal, the
ebony entrance of a tomb. The panelling of the doorway,
which exactly fills the space under the easternmost window
of the north aisle of the nave, is very poor and meaningless,
wanting both in design and in excellence of execution. On
two panels are gilded the names of the two brothers. On
either side, in white marble, are two statues ; on the west,
the Angel of Death, leaning on his sword ; on the
east side the Angel of the Resurrection with his trumpet.
The poetical feeling is better than that of any other

(From a photograph by Mr. F. Hollyer of the Cartoon by Sir William Richmond, K.C.B., R.A.)


monument in the church, and, in fact, wholly disarms the
criticism which the shortcomings of the sculpture might
otherwise evoke. Marochetti used figures of angels very
like these for the monument over the well of Cawnpore.

We may well imagine that when it was resolved to
remove the Wellington monument from the side chapel
where it ought never to have been put, the Dean and
Chapter were unwilling to place it under the arch for
which Stevens designed it. This was the easternmost
arch on the north side. It would have hidden the Mel-
bourne monument. They, perhaps wisely, resolved to place
it under the middle arch where it would only oc cult
Boehm's wretched figure of Gordon. As the three nave
arches are of equal height, it does not greatly matter.
It is to be hoped that now there is abundant room for
it, the equestrian statue which Stevens designed to crown
his work may be placed upon its summit ; but the extra-
ordinary vacillations of successive deans and chapters as
to this, the one worthy piece of memorial sculpture in
their church, warn us not to expect too much.

Alfred Stevens was undoubtedly the greatest sculptor
England has produced, and his Wellington monument is
his greatest work. Stevens did not live to see the monu-
ment set up, having died in 1875. It is not to the credit
of the Dean and Chapter that we can assign its removal
io its present position. After it had remained some twenty
years in the consistorial court behind the great oaken
screen and against the light of a south window, the monu-
ment was transferred to a place approximately that for
which it had been designed, with a south window shining
not behind it but on it, and as full a view as possible from
the central aisle of the nave. This was done, in 1892,
through the exertions and generosity of the late Lord
Leighton and some of his friends.


When we descend to the crypt we first reach " The
Painters' Corner." Wren's tombstone at the eastern
end of the south aisle bears his name, and a tablet on the
wall above contains the oft-quoted words, Si monumentum
requiris drcumspice. Among the artists sleep Turner,
Landseer, Reynolds, Lawrence, Leighton, and Millais.
Two eminent bridge builders, Rennie and Mylne, are also
laid here, and Sir Astley Paston Cooper, the surgeon.

The aspect of the crypt is very fine, Wren's desire
to build for eternity being everywhere apparent. Up lo
thd middle of the last century nothing of great interest
was to be seen except the sarcophagus in which the re-
mains of Lord Nelson do not repose. Since the funeral
of the Duke of Wellington an attempt has been made, with
some success, both to keep the crypt in better order and
to utilise some parts of it for divine service.

Nelson's tomb is marked by a black marble sarcophagus,
to which a curious history attaches. It was made by a
Florentine named Benedetto da Rovezzano, in or about
the year 1524, for Cardinal Wolsey. The King had
granted leave to his great minister to appropriate as a
burial place the old chapel of St. Edward at Windsor,
and Wolsey set about constructing for himself a sumptuous
monument. This marble coffin was handsomely decorated
with gilt copper, and, it is supposed, bore a figure of the
cardinal. After his disgrace, it lay neglected in what
long bore the name of Wolsey's tomb-house ; and Colonel
Whichcott, Governor of the Castle during the Common-
wealth, sold the metal work for 600. At the time of
Nelson's death (1805) it was brought here, but it was found
too small for the hero's coffin. His body, therefore, rests in
the masonry below, enclosed in the coffin which Captain
Hallowell, of the Swiftsure, had caused to be made of the
mainmast of the Orient, destroyed at the Battle of the


Nile. The sarcophagus is a handsome piece of work
resting on a base of white and black marble, on which
Nelson's name is inscribed. On the north side is the
grave of the eighth Earl of Northesk, who was third hi
command at Trafalgar, which battle he survived till 1831-
On the south is the grave of Lord Collingwood, the second
in command at Trafalgar, who died hi 1810.

Passing further to the westward we come to the tomb
of the Duke of Wellington. It consists of a huge block
of purple granite or porphyry, from Cornwall, fashioned
very skilfully into the form of a classical sarcophagus,
within which the body actually rests. The body of Picton,
one of Wellington's generals, who fell at Waterloo, was
first buried in the little chapel of St. George in the Bays-
water Boad, and was removed to lie near that of his old
leader in 1859.

At the extreme west end of the crypt is a relic which
once more connects the names of Wellington and Stevens.
This is the vast bronze funeral car or hearse on which
the Duke's coffin was conveyed from the Horse Guards
to St. Paul's. Bedgrave, a very second-rate landscape
painter, had the preparation of the designs, but Stevens
hand is apparent hi every item, and his work has always
been recognised as pervading the whole of the massive
and beautiful hearse.

It is well known that Sir Christopher Wren desired
to see colour, gilding, and especially mosaic, employed in
the decoration of St. Paul's. Nothing effectual was done
to carry out his wishes until a comparatively recent period.
He left designs for a baldachino, a model of which used to
be preserved in the library. The very poor and unworthy
pictures in monotone with which Sir James Thornhill
covered the under surface of the dome, though they have
been cleaned and touched up more than once, seem only


contrived to enhance the general gloom of that part of the
view from below.

^Many schemes for the decoration of St. Paul's were put
forward during the second half of the nineteenth century.
The funeral of the Duke of Wellington, in November,
1852, seems first to have tardily brought home to those
concerned the unadorned and even squalid condition of
their church. When Alfred Stevens was commissioned
to make Wellington's monument, the bareness of the
walls struck him most unpleasantly, and he formulated
a scheme for an elaborate series of pictures and inlays.
Another grand public function, of a more cheerful character
than that of 1852, was the Thanksgiving of the Prince of
Wales on his recovery from a fever, in 1872. Again
was the public attention called to the melancholy con-
dition of St. Paul's, and large subscriptions were ob-
tained for the decoration. The views of Stevens had
influenced the public mind, and the Dean and Chapter,
urged by the universal mandate, and with ample funds
in their hands, appointed a committee and spent the
munificent sum of 100 on the purchase of Stevens's design
for the dome. By an incredible effort, after four years'
further deliberation, they decided to employ Mr. Stannus,
who had completed the Wellington monument for Stevens,
to prepare some coloured full-sized cartoons for two ribs
of the dome. The late Lord Leighton, Sir Edward Poynter,
and Mr. George F. Watts were consulted on the decoration
of the spandrils below the dome with mosaics of the four
evangelists and the four greater prophets. St. Matthew
and St. John, by Mr. Watts, were translated into mosaic
by Messieurs Salviati, for in matters of this kind English-
men usually prefer to employ foreigners. The first work
was in place hi 1878, and the result was received with mixed
feelings by the public. Those best able to judge saw at


once that the artist had not realised the conditions. He
had failed to perceive that a harmony of brilliant colour
and an absence of any attempts at the grand style in
drawing and composition, would have succeeded better.
Instead, the colour is as dull as possible, and the attitude
of the two figures and the attendant angels is forced ;
while instead of the kind of flatness which alone suits
mosaic, something like chiaroscuro was invoked, as if to
accentuate the other faults of the designs. But a more
serious failure resulted from the employment of the mosaic
of Venice instead of that of Whitefriars. Not to speak
of the greatly increased cost of bringing over foreign
workmen and their glass, the inlay has been found far
too smooth for our climate. It has, hi short, no surface,
none of what artists call "grain"; and is hi many respects
extremely uninteresting.

The Dean and Chapter next acquiesced in the
appointment of William Surges as " architect of the
completion." He approached the work exactly as Scott
and Street and other Gothic architects approached a
country church, whose history was to be carefully
wiped from its walls by way of restoration. As, accord-
ing to the authorities of his school, St. Paul's was an
Italian building, it was to be " restored " into Italian
Gothic, or perhaps Byzantine. Surges considered St.
Paul's as a heathen temple, thought it hideous, and openly
proclaimed this opinion. To his mind, the only way to
" complete " or " restore " it was to modify or alter every-
thing classical. The Corinthian and Composite capitals
were to be made into mediaeval grotesques. Every part
of the church was to be coated with gilding ; and, hi the
drawings exhibited, his very rudimentary ideas of colour
were shown by everything that was not gilding being
yellow. The effect was startling, as may be imagined,


yet it will hardly be believed that the Dean and Chapter
dallied with it, and the members of the amateur committee
were divided about it. Meanwhile, though schemes
and designs and controversies were in the air, very little,
if any, progress was made, and in the spring of 1881
Burges died.

Meanwhilei the eight pendentives or spandrils of the
dome received their mosaics. The figures of St. Matthew
and St. John by Mr. Watts were supplemented by St.
Mark and St. Luke by Mr. Brittan, while poor Alfred
Stevens's design for the figures of the four greater prophets
was carried out. He was only actually concerned in the
production of Isaiah, but drew the head for the Daniel.
The rest were enlarged from his sketches. They do not
recall his style, and, in common with those of the
evangelists, have a serious fault : the figures are so large
that they seem to dwarf the dome. This is an error
which could not have been committed if the artists had
remembered that Wren chose his proportions with reference
to the size and sight of a human being. I have remarked
already that, unlike St. Peter's, where cupids six feet
high are among the adornments, nothing in St. Paul's
is colossal. It was for this same fault that Wren con-
demned Benson's balustrade. The subject is one of
great difficulty, but it affords a criterion wliich we can
apply to all the new work all the work not by Wren in
the church.

In designing the new reredos, Messrs. Bodley and
Garner kept the principle of proportion well in mind.
The figures with which it is adorned are all of moderate
size. They do not in any way interfere with the spec-
tator's power of appreciating the size of the church. The
design, which otherwise has but little of Wren's style
or feeling about it, consists of a basement, in which, right


(from a photograph by Mr F. Hollyer of the Cartoon by Sir William Richmond for the
mosaic in the Apse of St. Paul's.)


and left, are two small doorways leading into the apse
behind. The basement would have had a better effect if it
had been very plain, but of beautiful or costly material,
porphyry, for example, or some rare marble. As it is,
the unmeaning row of panels only wearies the eyes, and
deprives the whole structure of such dignity as it might
otherwise have boasted. On the summit of the niche,
some eighty feet from the ground, is a fine figure of the
" Risen Saviour." The gates leading right and left into
the aisles are of beautiful design, and will repay close
examination. Two of them were in the old choir screen,
but the westernmost at either side were imitated from
them. The old work was made of charcoal-smelted
iron, from Kent and Sussex, and the new is of iron from
Norway, where this method of smelting is still in use.
Wren found a skilful designer in iron, named Jean Tijou,
whose work is well known, and has already been mentioned.

The great railing and gates at the west end of the
church were cast at Lamberhurst, in Sussex. Their fate
was detailed by the late Dr. Sparrow Simpson in his
" St. Paul's and Old City Life " (p. 257). When the gates
were removed in 1874, together with about one hundred
and twenty feet of the railing, they were sold by public
auction for 349 5s. They were placed on board a ship
called the Delta for transport to Canada. The Delta
was wrecked on the American coast in November, 1874.
A portion of the railing was, however, recovered, and
was bought by John G. Howard, an architect at Toronto,
to which city he presented a public park. When he died,
the railing was put round his tomb in the park.

Although this portion of the railing was removed
a manifest improvement to the western view plenty
remains to show what it was like. Among the local
traditions is one that tells us that Wren had a house close


to the Thames, on the southern bank, from which he
could afar off watch his rising do mo ; and to this house
the railing from Lamberhurst was floated in sections, being
conveyed as it was required to the Cathedral precincts.
It weighed in all about 200 tons, and cost 11,000.

We now come to the last, most ambitious, and, so far
as we can yet judge, the most successful of the many
attempts at decorating St. Paul's. While Messrs. Bodley

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 14 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23

Online LibraryW. J. (William John) LoftieRambles in and near London : or, London afternoons → online text (page 14 of 23)