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Page:History of Architecture in All Countries Vol 1.djvu/21

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PREFACE.

morning, every feeling and every information regarding a people may be dug out of its books. But it certainly was not so in the Middle Ages, nor in the early ages of Greek or Roman history. Still less was this so in Egypt, nor is it the case in India, or in many other countries; and to apply our English nineteenth century experience to all these seems to me to be a mistake. In those countries and times, men who had a hankering after immortality were forced to build their aspirations into the walls of their tombs or of their temples. Those who had poetry in their souls, in nine cases out of ten expressed it by the more familiar vehicle of sculpture or painting rather than in writing. To me it appears that to neglect these in trying to understand the manners and customs, or the history of an ancient people, is to throw away one-half, and generally the most valuable half, in some cases the whole, of the evidence bearing on the subject. So long as learned men persist in believing; that all that can be known of the ancient world is to be found in their books, and resolutely ignore the evidence of architecture and of art, we have little in common. I consequently feel neither abashed nor ashamed at being told that men of the most extensive book-learning have arrived at different conclusions from myself—on the contrary, if it should happen that we agreed in some point to which their contemporary works did not extend, I should rather be inclined to suspect some mistake, and hesitate to put it down.

There is one other point in which I fancy misconception exists, of a nature that may probably be more easily removed by personal explanation than by any other means. It is very generally objected to my writings that I neither understand nor appreciate the beauties of Gothic architecture, and consequently criticize it with undue severity. I regret that such a feeling should prevail, partly because it is prejudicial to the dissemination of the views I am anxious to promulgate, but more because at a time when in this country the admiration of Gothic art is so nearly universal, it alienates from me the best class of men who love the art, and prevents their co-operating with me in the improvement of our architecture, which is the great object which we all have at heart.

If I cannot now speak of Gothic architecture with the same enthusiasm as others, this certainly was not the case in the early part of my career as a student of art. Long after I turned my attention to the subject, I knew and believed in none but the mediæval styles, and was as much astonished as the most devoted admirer of Gothic architecture could be, when any one suggested that any other forms could be compared with it. If I did not learn to understand it then, it was