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LETTERS ON ENGLAND.
London, Oct. 11, 1817. The most remarkable public buildings in London are certainly the Royal Palaces. Nothing can give one a more striking idea of the comparatively little respect in which kings are held in this country, than the external aspect of their residences. And they shew, also, the state of total barbarism in which the arts remained in England, at a period when they had reached the highest state of perfection that they have hitherto arrived at in other countries, her immediate neighbours.
The best and handsomest of the town palaces is Buckingham-House; and this would hardly serve for the residence of a wealthy private gentleman in France. Think of the monarch of a great nation having for his town palace a brick house two stories high, with four pilasters stuck on the front of it, and nine windows on a floor! Yet such is Buckingham-house, situated in one of the parks. To be sure it was not intended for a royal palace; but was built by a nobleman, the Duke of Buckingham. But this, you will think, does not mend the matter.
There are two other palaces, which are of brick also. They are even inferior to the one I have described; and are remarkable only for that perverse skill which could contrive to put together such a mass of materials, without by any accident, or in any particular, making an approach to either grandeur or beauty.
Carlton-House, the present town residence of the Regent, but which was erected expressly for him as heir-apparent to the throne, is in much better style. It is built of stone ; and though extremely small, is in very good taste. It has a highly ornamented Corinthian portico, which, combining, and yet contrasting, with the simple style of the wings of the building, gives an elegant and somewhat classical air to the whole. The small court-yard before the house is entered by two handsome Ionic gateways, which, had they been connected together by a low screen, surmounted by an appropriate iron railing, would have rendered the effect of the whole building elegant and complete. But in this country they contrive, in matters of taste, to spoil every thing. They have done so in this instance most effectually, by connecting the gateways to each other by a high screen surmounted by couples of Ionic columns, reaching to the same height as the gateways themselves, which is more than half the height of the whole building. The effect of this is totally bad; for the columns have nothing to support but themselves; and from the novel predicament in which they are placed, they are not able to do even that with anything like grace or dignity.
There are two other palaces about four leagues from London, and one about seven. These I liave not yet seen.
Next to the palaces, I have inquired for the public offices of the Government; but I find most of them are built in such a strange and disorderly style, that it would be impossible for me to give you any distinct idea of them by a description. Indeed I cannot get one myself by looking at them. I here speak of the War-Office, the Admiralty, the Treasury, &c. all of which are joined to each other, and form part of the side of a long street.
These buildings, for the same expense which they must have cost, might have been made a splendid ornament to this fine part of the metropolis ; but, as it is, from their total want of uniformity or apparent design, they produce no continuity or singleness of effect whatever. The back-fronts of these buildings, which look towards the Park, though comparatively small and insignificant, are much more uniform and pleasing.
In the same street there is a very good specimen of modern archi. tecture, called Whitehall-out of one of the windows of which Charles the First was led to the scaffold. I could not learn to what purpose this edifice is now appropriated.
Most of the other government offices are situated in Somerset-House. This is the only public building in London which can be said to have any pretensions to the character of grandeur and magnificence; the only one in which there appears any evidence of a comprehensive and well-digested plan ; the only one which for extent, variety, and yet completeness, is worthy of the largest city in the world. SomersetHouse is a modern building of Portland stone. It is situated on the banks of the Thames; over which the grand front looks.. This front is elevated on arches; and at high tide it appears to rise-and, indeed, does rise-out of the water. It extends four hundred feet along the banks of the river. The arches, which rise directly from the bed of the river, support a balustraded terrace fifty feet wide; immediately behind which the grand front rises. This front is by no means suffi. ciently elevated to form a corresponding whole with the immense substructures on which it stands :
:--a defect that is especially remarkable at low water, when the whole basement is exposed to view, and, from its disproportionate size, gives the appearance of smallness to what is intended to be the most striking part of the building. This front is not yet finished ; but the architecture of it, though more varied in its details, corresponds in style with those parts which I shall describe more particularly. The north front, looking towards the Strand, is an elegant and complete piece of architecture. It consists of a basement of nine arches, of which the three centre ones form the principal entrance to the whole building. On the key-stones of the arches are sculptured masks, representing Ocean, and the eight principal rivers of England. On this basement rises an elegant Corinthian order of ten columns, which support an entablature and balustrade ; and over the three centre intercolumniations is an attic, ornamented with four statues, and surmounted by a sculptured allegorical group. The arches of the basement, and the intercolumniations of the second order, are filled by Doric windows, with pilasters, pediments, &c. The shafts of the Corinthian columns are not fluted : a peculiarity which is, I believe, not authorized by ancient examples. On passing through a very beautiful vestibule, formed by the three centre arches of this front, you enter a fine quadrangle, considerably more than 300 feet long and 200 wide, formed by the back-fronts of the two principal elevations which I have described, and by two side-fronts to correspond. The style of the architecture of this quadrangle, though varied in parts, yet corresponds generally with the principal fronts-excepting, however, a dome which rises over the south front, and a cupola over each of the sides which join it: These are small and insignificant in themselves, and
their effect on the coup-d'oil from the centre of the quadrangle is
So also is the effect produced by the paved court of the quadrangle being sunk considerably below the level of the street, and of the principal entrance.
I had forgotten to mention that, immediately on passing through the vestibule, you are faced by a bronze statue of the present King. All that struck me concerning this specimen of the fine arts was, that if it had never been produced, it would have been better for the artist, the person whom it represents, and the place where it stands.*
Upon the whole, Somerset-House, though it has no peculiar claims to the character either of grandeur or beauty, and though it does not evince genius in the architect, is yet a distinguished ornament to the metropolis : and, as a structure built for, and exclusively appropriated to public offices, it is perhaps not to be paralleled in Europe,
Although this building has been erected little more than forty years, the sea-coal smoke, and the effects of this horrible climate together, have turned it entirely black, and given it the appearance of age without that of antiquity.
That part of Somerset-House which looks toward the Strand is appropriated to the use of three of the principal public Institutions connected with the the Arts and Sciences, viz. the Royal Academy of Arts, the Royal Society, and the Society of Antiquaries. The rest of the building is occupied by different offices, mostly connected with the administration of the Finances.
The other public buildings of London are chiefly appropriated to commercial purposes. The Bank and the India-House are the chief of these. The Bank is a structure, the style of which is, fortunately, quite unique and indescribable--though it has not inaptly been likened to a huge Mausoleum. The India-House belongs to a joint-stock Company, who are allowed by law certain exclusive privileges in the trade with the East Indies and China. It is a fine stone building, with a noble Corinthian portico ; and if it were situated in some open space where it could be seen to advantage, it would be as great an ornament to the metropolis as any other single building it contains : but its front forms part of the side of a narrow dirty street, where it is totally lost. You pass, as it were, under it, and without even seeing it.
Near to this part of the City there is a single column raised to commemorate the great fire which destroyed a considerable part of London about one hundred and fifty years ago. It is fifty feet higher than the column in the Place Vendome; and is of stone, with a sculptured pedestal and a fluted shaft. It stands in the midst of houses, and produces no good or grand effect whatever, when you are near it; but, in all the distant views of the metropolis, it forms a very striking object, being considerably higher than any other structure, except the dome of St. Paul's. By the by, does it not evince rather a strange caste, to expend an immense sum in raising a national monument to commemorate a national calamity? And this is called, too, par excellence, The Monument.
London contains no other public buildings worth particular notice on
* This statue was executed by the elder Bacon, who is long since dead.-TR.
their own account, except the Bridges over the River Thames. These, however, though they afford little scope for description, are finer single objects of sight than any other structures in London. This arises partly from their immense extent, but chiefly from the good taste which has been displayed in the building of them. There is also a new one now erecting, which is in a state of great forwardness, and is still finer than either of the other three. When finished, it will probably be the noblest structure of the kind in Europe.
I am afraid I have quite tired you with these formal descriptions of tangible and visible objects. But you know our agreement extended to every thing. But we will have done with them now; and I think I may promise you, that the rest of our communications together shall take place in regions in some way or other connected with that of intellect : for nowhere else do I ever feel true freedom or delight; and therefore, nowhere else can I expect to receive impressions in the descriptions of which I may hope to convey any pleasure to you. In my next I shall commence in the field of literature.
D. S. F.
SONG--“ MEN OF ENGLAND.”
BY T. CAMPBELL.
Men of England! who inherit
IN DE X
FOURTH VOLUM E.
Cemetery of Père la Chaise, 155—-monu-
ments in, 156, 157-funerals in, 159.
a monument by,
Chess, on the game of, in Europe, during
the thirteenth century, 316, 497.
Como, sketch of, 568.
Concealment, a song, 348.
Confessional, the, 349. No. I.-Love, 450,
Courtship, modern, 71.
Craniology and physiology, 121.
Crecy, lines on the field of, 261.
Doblado's Letters from Spain, 113, 321.
Drama, on the German, 145—The Rob-
bers, ib.—Cabal and Love, ib.-of Kot-
England, 17-new buildings in London, Don Carlos, 149.
Dumesnil, the actor, account of, 311.
Dwarfs, 49-Count Boruwlaski, 50-his
history, 51, 52, 53, 54.
Easter, on the origin and celebration of,
England, Letters on, by M. De, St. Foix,
Fables, on the old, 373.
Fair, Brook Green, 554.
Farmer's wife and Gascon, the, 396.
Festival of May morning in Warwickshire,
Fight, the, 102–journey to Hungerford'
103, 104, 105 — the combat between
Neate and Hickman, 109 to 111-ad-
ventures home, 112.
Filicaja, sonnets of, 320.
Fox (Mr.), his introduction to Voltaire,
385—the Spectre Boat, by, 550-songs Frederick II. and Pietro delle Vigne, 455.
by, 572, 576.
Gallery of Apelles, 1.
Game of Chess during the thirteenth cen-
tury, 320, 497.