Page images
PDF
EPUB

would exclude all but one of those proportions that utility requires in different buildings, and in different parts of the same building.

It provokes a smile to find writers acknowledging the necefsity of accurate proptions, and yet differ. ing widely about them. Laying aside reasoning and philosophy, one fact universally allowed ought to have undeceived them, that the same proportions which are agreeable in a model, are not agreeable in a large building : a room 40 feet in length and 24 in breadth and height, is well proportioned ; but a room 12 feet wide and high and 24 long, approaches to a gallery.

Perrault, in his comparison of the ancients and moderns,* is the only author who runs to the opposite extreme ; maintaining, that the different propor . tions afligned to each order of columns are arbitrary, and that the beauty of these proportions is entirely the effect of custom. This betrays ignorance of human nature, which evidently delights in proportion as well as in regularity, order, and propriety. But without any acquaintance with human nature, a single reflection might have convinced him of his error, That if these proportions had not originally been agreeable, they could not have been established by custom.

To illustrate the present point, I shall add a few examples of the agreeableness of different proportions. In a fumptuous editice, the capital rooms ought to be large, for otherwise they will not be proportioned to the size of the building : and for the same reason, a very large room is improper in a small house. But in things thus related, the mind requires not a precise or single proportion, rejecting all others; on the contrary, many different proportions are made

equally

* Page 94:

equally welcome. In all buildings accordingly, we find rooms of different proportions equally agreeable, even where the proportion is not influenced by utility. With respect to the height of a room, the proportion it ought to bear to the length and breadth, is arbitrary ; and it cannot be otherwise, considering the uncertainty of the eye as to the height of a room, when it exceeds 17 or 18 feet. In columns, again, even architects must confess, that the proportion of height and thickness varies betwixt 8 diameters and 10, and that every proportion between these extremes is agreeable. But this is not all. There must certainly be a farther variation of proportion, depending on the size of the column: a row of columns 10 feet high, and a row twice that height, require different proportions : the intercolumniations must also differ according to the height of the row.

Proportion of parts is not only itself a beauty, but is inseperably connected with a beauty of the highest relish, that of concord or harmony; which will be plain from what follows. A room of which the parts are all finely adjusted to each other, strikes us with the beauty of proportion. It strikes us at the fame time with a pleasure far superior : the length, the breadth, the height, the windows, raise cach of them separately an emotion : these emotions are similar ; and though faint when felt separately, they produce in conjunction the emotion of concord or harmony; which is extremely pleasant.* On the other hand, where the length of a room far exceeds the breadth, the mind, comparing together parts so intimately connected, immediately perceives a difagreement or disproportion which disguits. But this is not all : viewing them separately, different emotions are produced, that of grandeur from the great

length, * Chap. 2. part 4.

length, and that of meanness or littleness from the small breadth, which in union are disagreeable by their discordance. Hence it is, that a long gallery, however convenient for exercise, is not an agreeable figure of a room, we consider it, like a stable, as destined for use, and expect not that in any other respect it should be agreeable.*

Regularity and proportion are essential in buildings destined chiefly or folely to please the eye, because they produce intrinsic beauty. But a skilful artist will not confine his view to regularity and proportion : he will also study congruity, which is perceived when the form and ornaments of a structure are suited to the purpose for which it is intended. The sense of congruity di&tates the following rule, That every building have an expression corresponding to its destination : a palace ought to be fumptuous and grand; a private dwelling, neat and modest ; a playhouse, gay and splendid ; and a monument, gloomy and melancholy.t A Heathen temple has a double destination : It is considered chiefly as a house dedi. cated to some divinity; and in that respect it ought to be grand, elevated, and magnificent : It is considered a iso as a place of worship, and in that refpeâ it ought to be somewhat dark or gloomy, because dim

ness

* A covered paffage conne&ling a winter-garden with the dwelling house, would answer the purpose of walking in bad weather much better than a gallery. A fight roof supported by slender pillars, whether of wood or nione, would be sufficient ; filling up the spaces between the pillars with evergreens, so as to give verdure and exclude wind.

+ A house for the poor ought to have an appearance fuited to its deflination. The new hoftital in Paris for foundlings, errs against this rule : for it has more the air of a palace than of an hof ical. Propriety and convenience vughi to be Audied in lodging the indigent : bur in such houses (nlendor and magnificence are out of all rule. For the same reason, a naked flatue or picture, scarce decent any where, is in a church intol. erable. A sumptuous charity-School, beside its impropriety, gives the children an unhappy case for high living.

ness produces that tone of mind which is fuited to humility and devotion. A Christian church is not considered to be a house for the Deity, but merely a place of worship : it ought therefore to be decent and plain, without much ornament: a situation ought to be chosen low and retired ; because the congregation during worship, ought to be humble and difengaged from the world. Columns, beside their chief service of being supports, may contribute to that peculiar expression which the deftination of

a building requires : columns of different proportions, serve to express loftiness, lightness, &c. as well as strength. Situation also may contribute to expreffion : conveniency regulates the situation of a private dwelling-house : but, as I have had occasion to obferve, * the situation of a palace ought to be lofty.

And this leads to a question, Whether the situation, where there happens to be no choice, ought, in any measure, to regulate the form of the edifice ? The connection between a large house and the neighbouring fields, though not intimate, demands howeva er some congruity. It would, for example, displease us to find an elegant building thrown away upon a wild uncultivated country : congruity requires a polished field for such a building ; and beside the please ure of congruity, the spectator is sensible of the pleasure of concordance from the similarity of the emotions produced by the two objects. The old Gothic form of building seems well suited to the rough uncultivated regions where it was invented : the only mistake was, the transferring this form to the fine plains of France and Italy, better fitted for buildings in the Grecian taste ; but by refining upon the Gothic form, every thing possible has been done to reconcile it to its new situation. The pro

fule

[ocr errors]

fuse variety of wild and grand objects about Inverary, deinanded a house in the Gothic form ; and every one must approve the taste of the proprietor, in adjusting so finely the appearance of his house to that of the country where it is placed.

The external structure of a great house leads naturally to its internal structure. A spacious room, which is the first that commonly receives us, seems a bad contrivance in several respects. In the first place, when immediately from the open air we step into such a room, its fize in appearance is diminished by contrast: it looks little compared with that great canopy the sky. In the next place, when it recov. ers it grandeur, as it soon doth, it gives a diminutive appearance to the rest of the house : passing from it, every apartment looks little. This room therefore may be aptly compared to the swoln commencement of an epic poem,

Bella per Emathios plusquam civilia campos. In the third place, by its situation it serves only for a waiting-room, and a passage to the principal apartments : instead of being reserved, as it ought to be, for entertaining company ; a great room, which enlarges the mind and gives a certain elevation to the spirits, is destined by nature for conversation. Rejecting therefore this form, I take a hint from the climax in writing for another form that appears more suitable : a handsome portico proportioned to the size and fashion of the front, leads into a waitingroom of a larger size, and that to the great room ; all by a progreffion from small to great. If the house be very large, there may be space for the following suit of rooms: first, a portico ; second, a passage within the house, bounded by a double row of coluinns con

nected

« PreviousContinue »