[I have scanned and formatted in html the fifteenth chapter of Charles L. Eastlake's History of the Gothic Revival, omitting both the opening phrase "It was suggested in the last chapter that" and one note (indicated below) chiefly in Latin verses. Page breaks appear in the following form to enable readers to cite the original text or check this text against it: [264-65] — George P. Landow]
During the ten years which elapsed between the commencement and the completion of All Saints' Church the public taste in architecture underwent a decided change. It would perhaps have been more correct to say two or three changes, but undoubtedly the first and perhaps the most important one was expressed by that phase in the Gothic Revival which has since been distinguished — and in one sense honourably distinguished — by the name of Ruskinism.
If the author of 'Modern Painters' had been content to limit his researches, his criticism, and the dissemination of his principles to the field of pictorial art alone, he would have won for himself a name not easily forgotten. No English amateur had measured so accurately the individual merits and deficiencies of the old-schools of painting, or was so well qualified to test them by the light of reason. No critic had educated his eye more carefully by observation of Nature. No essayist enjoyed the faculty of expressing his ideas with greater force or in finer language. But Mr. Ruskin's taste for art was a comprehensive one. He learnt at an early age that painting, sculpture, and architecture are intimately associated, not merely in their history but in their practice, and in the fundamental principles which regulate their respective styles/His love of pictures was not that of a mere collector or dilettante, who buys them to hang up in gilt frames to furnish his drawing-room, but that of an artist who considers no noble building complete without storied walls and sculptured panels, and who believes that even in an ordinary dwelling-house there might, under a proper [264/265] condition of things, be found scope for the carver's handiwork and limner's cunning.
Mr. Ruskin looked around him at the modern architecture of England. and saw that, it not only did not realise this ideal but was diametrically opposed to it. He found the majority of his countrymen either profoundly indifferent to the art or interested In it chiefly as antiquarians and pedants. He saw public buildings copied from those of a nobler age, but starved or vulgarised in the copying He saw private houses, some modelled on what was supposed to be an Italian pattern, and others modelled on "what was supposed to be a Mediaeval pattern, and he found too often neither, grandeur in the one nor grace in the other. He saw palaces which looked mean, and cottages which we're tawdry. He saw masonry without interest, ornament without beauty, and sculpture without life. He walked through the streets of London and found that they consisted for the most part of flaunting spop fronts, stuccoed porticos, and plaster cornices. It is true there were fine clubs and theatres and public institutions scattered here and there but after making due allowance for their size, for the beauty of materials used, and for the neatness of the workmanship, how far could they be considered as genuine works of art? Mr. Ruskin was by no means the first person who asked this question; but he was the first who asked it boldly, and with a definite purpose.
Pugin for years had argued that it was the duty of modern Christiana to Christianise their architecture — that is, as he explained it, to revive the style of building which prevailed in this country for some centuries before the Reformation; but he made. no secret of his hope that in readopting Gothic, Englishmen would gradually learn to readopt their ancient faith; and this was what a large proportion of them did not exactly contemplate with satisfaction. The High Church party, too, were mainly anxious for the Revival because they saw in it an opportunity of carrying out their notions of orthodox ritual, and of reviving ecclesiastical ceremonies which had long teen obsolete. It would be hard indeed to blame either the author of 'The True Principles' or the followers of Dr. Pusey for viewing the matter In this light. The interests of religion are of higher importance than the interests of art, but art has more than once been the handmaid of religion, and the seeking to retain her in that service, from conscientious motives, was in both cases a most natural and obvious course.
Twenty years ago, however, the extreme Protestant party was still a strong one. They saw mischief lurking in every pointed niche, and heresy peeping from behind every Gothic pillar. They regarded the Medievalists with suspicion, and identified their cause with Romish hierarchy, with the Inquisition and Smithfield. It would be a curious matter for speculation to ascertain how far the Revival has been en- couraged, and how far it has been retarded, by ecclesiastical zeal or idle bigotry.
When Mr. Ruskin first entered the lists as a champion of Gothic Architecture, it was certainly not as a Ritualist or as an apologist for the Church of Rome. His introduction to the 'Seven Lamps of Architecture' partook largely, as indeed much of his writing then did, of a religious tone, but he wrote rather as a moral philosopher than as a churchman, and though his theological views found here and there decided expression they could hardly be identified with any particular sect. His book, therefore, found favour with a large class of readers who had turned from Pugin's arguments with impatience, and to whom even the 'Ecclesiologist' had preached in vain. With regard to architecture as an art, he openly declared himself a reformer.
I have long felt (he wrote) convinced of the necessity, in order to its progress, of some determined effort to extricate from the confused mass of traditions and dogmata with which it has become encumbered during imperfect or restricted practice, those large principles of right which are applicable to every state and style of it. Uniting the technical and imaginative elements as essentially as humanity does soul and body, it shows the same infirmly balanced liability to the prevalence of the lower part over the higher, to the interference of the [266/267] constructive, with the purity and simplicity of the reflective, element. This tendency like every other form of materialism, is increasing with the advance of the age; and the only laws which resist it, based upon partial precedents, and already regarded with disrespect as decrepit, if not with defiance as tyrannical, are evidently inapplicable to the new forms and functions of the art which the necessities of the day demand,
This was enough to alarm that school of the Revivalists whose aim was to reproduce, line for line, the works of the Middle Ages in England, and their alarm was increased when they found that Mr. Ruskin's taste was of so comprehensive an order as to include Italian Gothic among his models of structural beauty. Up to this time English architects, whether of the Gothic or Classic school, had regarded such buildings as the Doge's Palace at Venice, or the Church of San Michele at Lucca, as curious examples of degenerate design — interesting indeed as links in the history of European art, but utterly unworthy of study or imitation. It was, therefore, with some surprise that they found features from those buildings engraved in the 'Seven Lamps' as instances of noble carving and judicious ornamentation, while the lantern of the Church of St. Ouen at Rouen, which the old school of Medievalists had accepted as a miracle of grace, was described as one of the basest pieces of Gothic in Europe. But Mr. Ruskin did not confine his remarks to general praise or censure of existing works, Arranging the principles which he conceived had regulated or should regulate architectural design under several heads, he proceeded to show how far they had been developed in past ages, and to what extent they -were liable to be missed or falsified in the present. In doing this he occasionally traversed old ground; but he avoided as far as possible the footsteps of his predecessors, and even where he agreed with their conclusions, he generally led up to them with a different line of argument. There are sentiments expressed in 'The Lamps' of Sacrifice, of Truth, and of Memory, which had been frequently expressed before; but they are founded on novel theories, identified with minutiæ of facts [267/268] which had hitherto escaped attention, or so clothed in metaphysical language as to assume a different aspect. He showed, for example, more clearly and emphatically than any previous writer on art, the folly of wasting money on the meaningless and uninteresting fineries of a modern house, while a tenth part of the expense thus thrown away on so-called decoration, which no one cares for or enjoys, would, if collectively offered and wisely employed, build a marble church for every town in England, But he carefully guarded himself against the imputation of advocating either meanness in domestic architecture, or ostentatious display of magnificence in ecclesiastical.
The most advanced practitioners of the day had long agreed that it was undesirable to employ iron for visible construction in a Gothic building, But many of them had not hesitated to use it where it could be concealed from view. On this point Mr. Ruskin found himself embarrassed by some doubt. He had propounded the dogma that there was no law based on past practice which might not be overthrown by the invention of a new material, and he could not avoid the conclusion that a fresh system of architectural laws might gradually be evolved from^ the modern use of iron. Besides, there were examples of its employment in good ages of art — as the Florence dome and the central tower at Salisbury — to say nothing of minor instances. On the other hand, all his artistic sympathies were opposed to the nature of metallic construction. After deliberating on this confliction of theory and practice, he came to the conclusion that iron might be used as a cement but not as a support — or, as an architect would say, as a tie, but not as a strut. This was a distinction, though in arriving at it he forgot to notice the distinct compression respectively possessed by wrought and cast iron,
Professor Willis had already demonstrated that Gothic tracery had been gradually developed from the close association of pierced openings in the solid arch-heads of eariy windows. The prevalent opinion was that the full beauty of tracery had only been reached when this primitive [268/269] type was forgotten, and the stone ribs themselves, rather than the spaces which they enclosed, were reduced by geometrical rule to finite form. Mr. Ruskin held, on the contrary, that, in proportion as this stage had been approached, the true grace' of tracery had diminished. He pointed out that the forms which the penetrations assumed were of primary importance, and that whereas in the early windows they were simple and severe in outline, in the late windows they became distorted and, extravaganty while the flowing unstone-like character of the tracery itself gave rise to a foolish supposition among the ignorant, viz. that it originated in the imitation of vegetable form.
To this supposition Mr. Ruskin alluded in terms of well-deserved contempt, yet it is not a little remarkable that in defining the condition& of architectural beauty he himself endeavoured to trace its source in almost every instance! to the example of nature. This was, in short, the foundation and elementary belief of his teaching. From this belief he derived, or thought that he derived, a fixed and lasting standard by which the value of every structural feature, the quality of all ornament, and indeed the excellence of most designs as a whole^ might be tested. In endeavouring to proyelthis theory he encountered endless difficulties, involved himself in many apparent contradictions and inconsistencies, and though it enlisted the sympathies of those whose opinions, on art are based on sentiment rather than study, it was received with incredulity by a large proportion of his readers, while professional architects, as a rule, regarded him in the light of a vain and misinformed enthusiast.
There is nothing in the world easier than the expression of a simple opinion on matters of taste but there is nothing more difficult than to succeed in justifying it, not only in one's own mind, but to the satisfaction of other people. It was of course open to Mr. Ruskin to declare,the Greek triglyph and the Greek fret ugly things. So far many of his readers, and especially the Gothic architects of the day, [269/270] agreed with him. But when he attempted to prove that the triglyph was ugly because it suggested no organic form, and that the fret ornament was ugly because its natural type was only found in crystals of bismuth, even his admirers began to smile. They felt that this mode of reasoning carried a little farther would tend to condemn many architectural features, the use of which has been long sanctioned by custom, and even authorised by expedience, but which has no semblance of a prototype in the book of Nature.
Assuming the application of Mr. Ruskin's theory to be correct in these instances, it would be difficult to assign any reason for retaining such distinctively Gothic details as the pinnacle, the battlemented parapet, the moulded arch, or that peculiar form of Venetian billet decoration, of which he himself says, in another work, that nothing could be ever invented fitter for its purpose. Indeed, they are all admirable in their place, but it must be a poetical order of mind which could detect in them any resemblance to natural form.
The truth is that Mr. Ruskin was continually advancing propositions, often excellent in themselves, which he as frequently failed to maintain — not for want of argument, but because his arguments proved too much. Nothing, for instance, can be more rational than a great deal of what he says in the 'Lamp of Beauty' on the subject of proportion. That subtle quality of architectural grace was, he averred, not a science which could be taught, but the result of individual genius in the designer.
Proportions are infinite (and that in all kinds of things, as severally in colours, lines, shades, lights, and forms), as possible airs in nxusic; and it is just as rational an attempt to teach a young architect how to proportion truly and well by calculating for him proportions of fine works, as it would be to teach him to compose melodies by calculatingthe mathematical relations of the notes in Beethoven's 'Adelaide' or Mozart's 'Requiem.' The man who has eye and intellect will invent beautiful proportions and cannot help it, but he can no more tell us how to do it than Wordsworth could tell us how to write a sonnet or than Scott could have told us how to plan a romance. [270/271]
This is all very well, but a few pages further on we find our author dissecting the flower stem of a water-plantain, and using arithmetical formulas to show the subdivision of its branches, from which he implies that a lesson is to be learnt. Now it may or may not be true that anatomy of water-plantains is suggestive of good proportion in architecture, and it may or may not be right that Mr. Ruskin should recommend us to examine it for that reason; but if the secret of right proportion is, as he has said, not to be learnt, it follows that both the sermon and its text are thrown away. It was one of the same writer's early opinions that the scientific study of perspective was quite useless. In course of time he wrote a treatise himself on the subject, which is certainly not less complicated or obscure than many others which had previously been published.
These inconsistencies and prejudices are to be regretted, not only on their own account, but because they have from time to time exposed the author to criticism which Is not only severe, but, up to a certain point, justifiable.
Many an architect who had no time to read through the 'Seven Lamps' with attention cast the book impatiently aside as he lighted on some passage which betrayed the author's inexperience in technical details. Many a journalist who knew nothing of technicalities was fully alive to irreconcilable dogmas and flaws of logic. Meanwhile, the great moral of his teaching was overlooked. His opinions were regarded by many of the profession as utterly absurd and irrational. The general press admired his eloquence, but questioned his arguments, and stood aghast at his conclusions; For Mr. Ruskin had even then hinted at certain social reforms, which he has since endeavoured to reduce to a system, but which have as much chance of being realised as the discovery of the philosopher's stone. To what extent morality and art were allied in the Middle Ages, or at any other period of the world's history, may be doubtful. What we do know is, that in the nineteenth century a bad artist is not unfrequently a very good [272/272] Christian, and that an indifferent Christian may be an excellent artist. The services of architects, sculptors, and painters have, it is true, been of late years secured, for the Church; but it is probable that they undertook their work as they would have undertaken by other sort of work — zealously but, except in a few rare instances, without extraordinary enthusiasm. It would, no doubt, be beneficial to the interests of society if every art-workman were to become a religious man; but the chances are that the progress of art would not be advanced by his conversion.
Mr. Ruskin is one of the most accomplished art critics, and perhaps the most eloquent writer on art that England has seen, ini this or any other age. He is also, if any man ever was, a theoretical philanthropist. His views on the subject of art may in the main be sound; his philanthropical intentions are, we doubt not, sincere; but, considered in combination as they are usually associated, they present a scheme which.is utterly impracticable. On the Gothic Revival, as it was ordinarily understood, Mr. Buskin himself did not look very hopefully. He had seen the fitful variations of taste to which modern architecture had already been exposed, and perhaps he foresaw other and more radical changes by which it was threatened. He was impatient of the tame and spiritless formality which distinguished too many specimens of contemporary design; but, on the other hand, he was sick of the cant which continually demanded novelty and freedom from precedent.
A day never passes without our hearing our English architects called zipon to be original and to invent a new style; about as sensible and necessary an exhortation as to ask of a man who has never had rags enough on his back to keep out the cold to in vent a new mode of cutting a coat. Give him a whole coat first and let him concern himself about the fashion of it afterwards. We want no new style of architecture. Who wants a new style of painting or of sculpture? But we want some style.
This is not exactly one of the happiest of Mr. Ruskin's similes, but [272-273] serves to illustrate his meaning. What he meant was that a style of national architecture should be definitely selected for adoption, and universally practised. The choice of a style he limited to four types: (i) Pisan Romanesque; (2) Florentine of Giotto's time; (3) Venetian Gothic; and (4) the earliest English Decorated. Of these he considered that the last would, on the whole, be the safest to choose; but it was to be well fenced from the chance of degenerating again into Perpendicular, and might be enriched by the introduction of a French element.
To ensure conformity of taste to this standard when once settled, Mr. Ruskin proposed that in universal system of form and workmanship should be everywhere adopted and enforced. How it was to be enforced and by whom he did not venture to explain. Whether it was to become the law of the land; what provision was to be made for its fulfilment; what penalties were to be attached to its neglect or violation; whether the architect of a Jacobean mansion would be subject to a fine, or how far any decided tendency to Flamboyant design could be considered as a misdemeanour; all these were details of his scheme which he left others to determine. That the scheme presented a difficulty he was aware, but he did not consider that any difficulty could affect the value of his proposition.
It may be said that this is impossible. It may be so. I fear itis so. I have nothing to do with the possibility or impossibiltty of it. I simply know and assert the necessity of it. If it be impossible, English art is impassible. Give it up at once. You are wasting time and money and energy upon it, and though you exhaust centuries and treasuries, and break hearts for it, you will never raise it above the merest dilettanteism. Think not of it. It is a dangerous vanity, a mere gulf in which genius after genius will be swallowed up, and it will not close.
It was wild and impetuous reasoning such as this which broke the spell of Mr. Ruskin's authority and robbed his eloquence of half its charm. People began to ask themselves whether a man gifted, [273-274] even as they knew him to be gifted with a keen appreciation of the beautiful in art.and nature, with intellectual faculties of a high order, with a moral sense which revealed itself in the minutiae of aesthetics — whether even such a guide as this was to be trusted when he allowed his theories to waft him into dreamland, or to culminate in plans which would have been considered unfeasible in Utopia.
In so far as the author of 'The Seven Lamps of Architecture' confined himself to strictures on all that was false or mean or meretricious in bad art, or pointed out the truth, the purity, and grace of noble art (and on the whole no one was better qualified to draw these distinctions), he did excellent service to national taste. In so far as he allowed his prejudices to get the better of his judgment, in so far as he attempted to form — what never will be formed — a perfect and universally acceptable test of architectural excellence, or pursued fanciful theories at the expense of common sense, he exposed himself to the obvious charges of unfairness and inconsistency, and damaged the cause which he had most at heart. [author's note: It is but 'fair to state here that Mr. Ruskin has since expressed himself dissatisfied with the form in which many of his early opinions were recorded at.this period of his life.]
Two years after the publication of 'The Seven Lamps' Mr. Ruskin came before the world as the author of another and more important work, with which his name has been more permanently associated, and for which, if we regard collectively the character of its contents, the nature of its aim, or the beauty and vigour of its language, there is no parallel in the range of English literature.
The Mediæval architecture of Venice had hitherto been to most of our countrymen an unexplored mine of artistic interest, which probably few, if any, professional students in this country considered worth the working. Since the days of Joseph Woods, a man of education and refined taste, who came back from his Continental tour to tell the British public that he could find no beauty in St. Mark's, it is pro- bable that pur architects who went there to sketch and to measure [274/275] were content to fill their portfolios with drawings of the Libreria and the Renaissance palaces, and to leave the Byzantine and Gothic relics to their fate. Those who had riot visited Venice itself could form no idea of such remains from the cold and lifeless engravings of Cicognara's work. Fontana gave (to the artist) even less information. But at last the merits of Venetian Gothic found an able and a doughty exponent. Mr. Ruskin for many years of his life had returned again and again to examine it, to admire it, to sketch its details with a loving hand, to note carefully and minutely its peculiar characteristics, and'to lay up a stock of information respecting its origin, its development and decay, such as never had before been so copiously accumulated or turned to so excellent an account.
The same year which saw the first-fruits of this labour witnessed the realisation of a scheme of world-wide reputation, which had also for its object — or at least one of its main objects — the advancement of art; but it is impossible to conceive two modes devised for that end more thoroughly opposed to each other in sentiment, in purpose, and ex- ample, than the publication of 'The Stones of Venice' and the opening of the Great Exhibition of 1851.
That 'The Stones of Venice' expanded into three volumes is no matter of surprise when we remimber that the author's aim was not only to give an historical and artistic description of Venetian architecture but to incorporate with that description his ideas of what modern architecture should be: not only to illustrate, but to moralise, expound, and advise. In entering on so bold and comprehensive an undertaking as this, it was of course necessary to proceed in a methodical manner, and if classification of subject could ensure this end Mr. Ruskin did his best to ensure it. Not only was each volume divided into chapters, not only each chapter divided into sections, but further divisions and sub-divislons were made to such ati extent that it became an effort to remember in what precise relation they stood to each other.
The virtues of architecture ' were declared to be three. The main [275/276] duties of architecture were declared to be two. The divisions of architecture were declared to be six. The first of the two main duties of architecture were concerned with Walls, Roofs, and Apertures. The Wall was divided into the Foundation, the Body or Veil, and the Cornice. The roof was of two kinds — the Roof prooper and the Roof mask. The Cornice was of twokinds — the Roof Cornice and the Wall Cornice. Roof cornices were, again, subdivided into the Eaved cornice and the Bracket. Eaved cornices were of several kinds, brackets were of several kinds, and, in short, to trace intelligibly the ramifications of each feature on Mr. Ruskin's plan would be to rival the intricacy of a genealogical tree.
In pursuing this system of classification. Mr. Ruskin did not hesitate to coin names and employ phrases unknown in any architectural glossary and certainly unfamiliar to professional ears. The expressions 'wall-veil," 'arch-load,' 'linear and surface Gothic,' and 'ignoble grotesque,' though now intelligible enough to those who have read his works, were at the time, and simply because of their novelty, pronounced by many to be obscure and affected. For precisely the same reason many of his theories were condemned as untenable. The injustice of this inference is obvious. It was not affectation which led Mr. Ruskin to spend month after month in studying the capitals of the Ducal Palace in measuring the intercolumnlations of the Fondaco de' Turchi; in planning the churches of Torcello and Murano; in delineating the rich inlay of the Palazzo Badoari. If was the work of no shallow reasoner to show step by step the development of the pointed arch with all its varieties of outline and hacery, to analyse and define the conditions of sculptured decoration, to draw nice distinctions between the profiles of base-mouldings and string-courses, to demonstrate the relations between archivolt and aperture. In these and a hundred other instances he showed that his appreciation of architecture was not that of a mere amateur, but based on an earnest study of its fundamental principles. [276/277]
It is true that here and there he betrayed an imperfect acquaintance with the science of construction, but it was chiefly on points which did not affect his arguments; while in all that related to the philosophy of his favourite art or the elements of its beauty he generally proved his case whether he was answering Mr. Garbett or posing Mr. Fergusson.
Indeed Mr. Ruskin discoursed on art with advantages not often possessed by ordinary art critics. Before he ventured to write on the subject his curriculum of study had extended over a wide field. He had had a university education. He had looked into natural science. He was better acquainted than most men who have not devoted themselves specially to such pursuits with geology and botany. He was well read in classic literature. His taste and skill as an artist were remarkable, and his sketches of architecture and of decorative sculpture are even now second to none in refinement and delicacy of execution. A man who with such qualifications sets himself seriously to examine the principles of a particular branch of art has a right to be heard when he talks of it.
And, for all his errors and failings, Mr. Ruskin was heard. [I have here omitted a note containing Latin verses mentioning The Seven Lamps of Architecture from the epiloque to an 1857 play that Eastlake uses to demonstrte "the extent to which "'Ruskinism' was as this time recognized in English society."] Never, the days of the English decadence — never, since the Pointed arch was depressed into Tudor ugliness — never, since tradition lost its sway in regulating the fashion of structural design — has the subject of Gothic [277/278] Architecture been rendered so popular in this country, as for a while it was rendered by the aid of his pen. All that had been argued — all that had been preached on the subject previously, was cast into the shade by the vigour of his protest. Previous apologists for the Revival had relied more or less on ecclesiastical sentiment, on historical interest, or on a vague sense of the picturesque for their plea in its favour. It was reserved for the author of 'The Stones of Venice' to strike a chord of human sympathy that vibrated through all hearts, and to advocate, independently of considerations which had hitherto only enlisted the sympathy of a few, those principles of Mediaeval Art whose application should be universal. There are passages in this work recording nobler truths concerning architecture than had ever before found expression in our mother tongue. The rich fertility of the author's language, his happy choice of illustrative parallels, the clear and forcible manner in which he states his case or points his moral, and, above all, the marvellous capacity of his descriptive power, are truly admirable. No finer English has been written in our time. It is poetry in prose.
That he made many converts, and found many disciples among the younger architects of the day, is not to be wondered. Students, who but a year or so previously had been content to regard Pugin as their leader, or who had modelled their notions of art on the precepts of the 'Ecclesiologist,' found a new field open to them, and hastened to occupy it. They prepared designs in which the elements of Italian Gothic were largely introduced: churches in which the 'lily capital' of St. Mark's was found side by side with Byzantine bas-reliefs and mural inlay from Murano; town halls wherein the arcuation and baseless columns of the Ducal Palace were reproduced; mansions which borrowed their parapets from the Calle del Bagatin, and windows from the Ca' d'Oro. They astonished their masters by talking of the Savageness of Northern Gothic, of the Intemperance of Curves, and the Laws of Foliation; and broke out into open heresy in their abuse of Renaissance detail. They went to Venice or Verona — not to study the works of Sansovino [278/279] and San Michele — but to sketch the tomb of the Scaligers and to measure the front of the Hotel Danieli. They made drawings in the Zoological Gardens, and conventionalised the forms of birds, beasts, and reptiles into examples of 'noble grotesque' for decorative sculpture. They read papers before Architectural Societies, embodying Mr. Ruskin's sentiments in language which rivalled the force, if it did not exactly match the refinement, of their model. They made friends of the Pre-Raphaelite painters (then rising into fame), and promised themselves as radical a reform in national architecture as had been inaugurated in the field of pictorial art. Nor was this all. Not a few architects who had already established a practice began to think that there might be something worthy of attention in the new doctrine. Little by little they fell under its influence. Discs of marble, billet- mouldings, and other details of Italian Gothic, crept into many a Londoni street-front. Then bands of coloured brick (chiefly red and yellow) were introduced, and the voussoirs of arches were treated after the same fashion. [[Authors note: In the suburbs this mode of decoration rose rapidly into favour for cockney villas and public taverns, and laid the foundation of that peculiar order of Victorian Architecture which has since been distinguished by the familiar but not altogether inappropriate name of the Streaky Bacon Style.]
But the influence of Mr. Ruskin's teaching reached a higher level than this, and manifested itself in unexpected quarters. Years afterwards, in the centre of the busiest part of our busy capital — the very last place one would have supposed likely to be illumined by the light of 'The Seven Lamps' — more than one palatial building was raised, which recalled in the leading features of its design and decoration the distinc- tive character of Venetian Gothic.
The literature of the Revival was sensibly affected by the same cause, It is impossible not to recognise even in the title of Mr. Street's charming volume, 'The Brick and Marble Architecture of North Italy' a [279/280] palpable echo from 'The Stones of Venice' while in some of his theories — as, for instance, that the undulation in the pavement of St. Mark's was intended to typify the stormy seas of life — we find a reflex of Mr. Ruskin's tendency to natural symbolism.
For a considerable time, indeed, the principles enunciated by this accomplished author and critic gained ground even in spite of violent opposition. It was perhaps while they were most vigorously attacked on one side that they received the staunchest support from the other. But the current of public taste, even in the artistic world, is capricious in its course, and is subject to constant deviation. Of late years other influences have been at work — for good or evil one can scarcely yet say, but certainly to some purpose. If the Gothic Revival has lost Mr. Ruskin as a leader, it is to be trusted that he may still watch its progress as a counseller and a friend.
Eastlake, Charles L. A History of the Gothic Revival. London: Longmans, Green; N.Y. Scribner, Welford, 1872. [Copy in Brown University's Rockefeller Library]
Last modified 11 October 2008