Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

planet could enter many of our places of worship (and especially our fashionable chapels) he might well-casting his eyes on the pewings, and the carpetings, and the luxurious cushions, and the careful separation of ranks, mistake them for temples erected for the deification of self, rather than for the worship and honour of God.

Most true it is that God must be worshipped in spirit and in truth; but it is not the less our duty to add to these the outward and visible signs of an inward and spiritual veneration. And for such a purpose the plastic arts may be most fitly and usefully employed.

Canter

I rejoice to think that there is a growing feeling in favour of this view of the question, and that some of the most estimable dignitaries of our church have declared

themselves disposed to make some exertions to remove Opinion of the reproach which has so long attached to us. It was the Arch- stated in evidence before the Committee on Arts (session bishop of

1836,) that his Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, bury.

when Bishop of London, accorded to the British Institution, an express permission to send an altar-piece to any church within his jurisdiction. Very little, however, has yet been accomplished.

But just in proportion as the plastic arts are eminently adapted to arouse the attention and impress the mind, and may therefore be appropriately employed in our sacred edifices, it is the more important that they should be so employed under judicious restrictions. “Those representations alone, which serve forcibly to imprint on our minds the mercy and goodness of our Creator, the benevolent merits of our Redeemer, the duties of christian love, or the hopes of christian immortality, are the objects of art in such places."*

[ocr errors]

Epochs of the Arts, by Prince Hoare, Part III., Chap. ii.-8vo. Lond. 1813.

mental

Painting is so little employed in our churches, that there are probably very few, if any, instances of its serious misapplication. But is it possible to say so much with respect to sculpture ?

If the monumental sculptures which are admitted into Of monuour cathedrals and churches ought to be regulated by

sculptures the rule which has been laid down, the answer must be in churches distinctly negative. What have the aspirations of mere human glory, and the breathings of ferocious warfare, in common with the mercy of God or the merits of Christ?

Wherein do they illustrate the duties of christian love, or the hopes of christian immortality? What have the figures of Mars and Bellona, or the allegorical representations of victory and of fame to do with those feelings of humble and contrite devotion with which a christian man should enter the temple of his God?

Surely the sculptured monuments in a Christian church should, above all things, be simple and unpretending. They should be memorials of the departed as frail and sinful beings humbly looking for the immortality of a life to come, and not as the creatures of a day full of vanity, and pretension, and pomp. But our sepulchral monuments have sadly departed from their primitive simplicity. There was a time when the most powerful hands that ever wielded sceptre were represented, when life had departed, calmly and piously crossed on the breast of the recumbent monarch, with no emblems, save the symbol of our Christian faith;—when the haughtiest knight that ever couched lance was represented on his tomb in the humble attitude of supplication, as if verily in the presence of his Creator.

But if monuments simply sepulchral have so greatly departed from their proper characteristics—that, if the faith of the deceased were to be inferred from them, it might sometimes be imagined pagan, and not christianwhat shall we say of monuments expressly elevated to

commemorate deeds of war, and to incite to their
emulation, placed in a Christian church. This, too, in a

country remarkable for its many conventional hypocrisies. St. Paul's One who should, for the first time, visit Saint Paul's Cathedral. Cathedral in London, and after viewing the numerous

statues and medalions it contains, with the figures of
Mars and Victory, of Neptune and of Fame, and with
all their attendant lions, and tigers, and cannons, and
flags, should then observe the blood-stained standards
taken in battle which hang from its dome, might well be
excused if he imagined himself in a pantheon of
military honour, or a temple of Mars, rather than in a
cathedral erected for the worship of God.

Westmin- Nor are the ideas naturally excited by viewing the
ster Abbey. various monuments to men of letters and of genius,

which fill what is called “the Poet's Corner" in
Westminster Abbey, in much better unison with the
sacred purpose of the edifice in which they are placed.
Both alike tend to arouse emotions, excellent and im-
portant indeed, in themselves, but still misplaced.

And this practice of placing purely secular monuments
in religious edifices is also open to three additional
and grave objections. The first, that it places in the

dean and chapter of a cathedral for the time being a Objections most irresponsible and dangerous power of deciding

summarily, and without appeal, on the pretensions in system.

general, and on the religious and moral principles in
particular, of any individual of celebrity, to whom it
may be proposed to erect a public monument, in the
only place provided or sanctioned by custom for that
purpose.

This objection has been so recently and importantly
illustrated in respect of a proposed statue to the memory
of Lord Byron, that it may be useful to quote the
petition of Col. Leicester Stanhope, as inserted in the

1

1

to this

1

Journals of the House of Commons. and needs no comment:

It is as follows,

« The humble Petition of Leicester Stanbope,

Sheweth, That your petitioner, in deep admiration of the genius of the late Lord Byron, was one of a body of subscribers to a monumental statue to be erected to his memory in some national edifice.

That, in consequence of a vote of a committee appointed to carry the above intention into effect, a letter was written to Thorwalsden, requesting him to execute the statue, to which letter the following answer, highly honorable to the writer, was returned:

Rome; 25 Juillet, 1829. “ MONSIEUR, “Je viens de recevoir votre lettre," avec laquelle vous m'honorez du commandement d'une statue pour le monument de votre illustre concitoyen Lord Byron. Avec un plaisir inexprimable je me mettrai à un ouvrage qui remettra à la postérité la mémoire du grand génie déjà assez rénommé par ses æuvres et par son talent. De mon coté, je vous assure de toutes mes soins, afin soit digne du comité qui l'ordonne, et du grand poëte que j'ai connu, et dont je regretterai la perte à jamais. Dans ce travail je n'ai point d'egards à mon intêrêt, de manière que je voudrois bien, si vous voulez, faire pour ce prix (£1,000 sterling) sur le pedestal un bas relief, qui fasse allusion au mérite du défunt. Aussitôt que j'aurai la réponse je commencerai à travailler au monument pour tâcher de l'achever le plus vite possible. Avec toute l'estimation possible je me dis,

“ Votre très humble serviteur, “ A Monsieur Hobhouse.

ALBERT THORWALSDEN."

que ce travail

That Thorwalsden having executed the statue, it arrived in England in 1834; and that, immediately on its arrival, the committee having decided that Westminster Abbey would be the fitting place for its erection, an application was made by Sir J. C. Hobhouse to the Dean of Westminster, who returned the following answer, addressed to Mr. Murray:

Deanery, Westminster; 17th Dec. 1834. “ DEAR SIR, “I have not had the opportunity, till this morning, of consulting with the chapter on the subject of your note. When you formerly

applied to me for leave to inter the remains of Lord Byron within this abbey, I stated to you the principle on which, as churchmen, we were compelled to decline the proposal. The erection of a monument in honour of his memory, which you now desire, is, in its proposition, subject to the same objection. I do, indeed, greatly wish for a figure by Thorwalsden here, but no taste ought to be indulged to the prejudice of a duty.

Yours truly, To John Murray, Esq.

JOHN IRELAND."

That, ever since the refusal of the dean to admit the statue of the deceased poet into Westminster Abbey, the statue, which is said to be the finest work of the immortal sculptor, has remained inclosed in its box at the Custom House, thus depriving the living of the contemplation of a great work of art, with all its heart-stirring associations; and the dead of the honours due to him, and which are reflected back on his country.

That, under these circumstances, your petitioner humbly prays your honorable House to take such steps as shall seem best, in your wisdom, to induce the temporary keeper of a national edifice to open

its doors to the statue of a man who has added lustre to the English name, and whose orthodoxy cannot be fairly judged of in works of fiction, and whose religious opinions, not being known to his most intimate friends, could not be known to the dean and chapter of Westminster, or justly subject to condemnation by the censors of the reformed church. And your petitioner will ever pray.

LEICESTER STANHOPE. The Cedars, Putney, Aug. 13, 1838."

The second objection is, that under this system, monuments erected merely by the personal predilection of friends to persons of no distinction at all, are, for the sake of the fees, permitted to be placed in juxta-position with those which commemorate public gratitude for great national services and extraordinary mental endowments. And of this, it is the natural and inevitable

[ocr errors]

Supplement to the Voter and Proceedings. -Lunæ, 13° die Augusti, p. 191, 1838.

[ocr errors]
« НазадПродовжити »