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Page:History of Architecture in All Countries Vol 1.djvu/22

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xiv
PREFACE.

not for want of earnest attention and study. I got so far into its spirit that I thought I saw then how better things could be done in Gothic art than had been done either in the Middle Ages or since; and I think so now. But if it is to be done, it must be by free thought, not by servile copying.

My faith in the exclusive pre-eminence of mediæval art was first shaken when I became familiar with the splendid remains of the Mogul and Pathan emperors of Agra and Delhi, and saw how many beauties of even the pointed style had been missed in Europe in the Middle Ages. My confidence was still further weakened when I saw what richness and variety the Hindu had elaborated not only without pointed arches, but indeed without any arches at all. And I was cured when, after a personal inspection of the ruins of Thebes and Athens, I perceived that at least equal beauty could be obtained by processes diametrically opposed to those employed by the mediæval architects.

After so extended a survey, it was easy to perceive that beauty in architecture did not reside in pointed or in round arches, in bracket capitals or horizontal architraves, but in thoughtful appropriateness of design and intellectual elegance of detail. I became convinced that no form is in itself better than any other, and that in all instances those are best which are most appropriate to the purposes to which they are applied.

So self-evident do these principles—which are the basis of the reasoning employed in this book—appear to me, that I feel convinced that there are very few indeed even of the most exclusive admirers of mediæval art who would not admit then, if they had gone through the same course of education as has fallen to my lot. My own conviction is, that the great difference which seems to exist between my views and those of the parties opposed to them arises almost entirely from this accident of education.

In addition to this, however, we must not overlook the fact that for three centuries all the architects in Europe concurred in believing that the whole of their art began and ended in copying classical forms and details. When a reaction came, it was not, unfortunately, in the direction of freedom; but towards a more servile imitation of another style, which—whether better or worse in itself—was not a style of our age, nor suited to our wants or feelings.

It is perhaps not to be wondered at, that after three centuries of perseverance in one particular groove, men should have ceased to have any faith in the possibility of reason or originality being employed in