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Page:History of Architecture in All Countries Vol 1.djvu/77

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Sect. XVII.
45
INTRODUCTION.

true and appropriate style of architecture whenever it chose to set about it in the right way, and there certainly can be no great difficulty in our doing now what has been so often done before, if we only set to work in a proper spirit, and are prepared to follow the same process which others have followed to obtain this result.

What that process is, may perhaps be best explained by such an example as that of ship-building, before alluded to, which, though totally distinct, is still so nearly allied to architecture, as to make a comparison between the two easy and intelligible.

Let us, for instance, take a series of ships, beginning with those in wliich William the Conqueror invaded our shores, or the fleet with which Edward III. crossed over to France. Next take the vessels which transported Henry VIII. to his meeting with Francis I., and then pass on to the time of the Spanish Armada and the sea fights of Van Tromp and De Ruyter, and on to the times of William III., and then through the familiar examples till we come to such ships as the "Wellington" and "Marlborough" of yesterday, and the "Warrior" or "Minotaur" of to-day. In all this long list of examples we have a gradual, steady, forward progress without one check or break. Each century is in advance of the one before it, and the result is as near perfection as we can well conceive.

But if we ask who effected these improvements, or who invented any part of the last-named wonderful fabrics, we must search deep indeed into the annals of the navy to find out. But no one has inquired, and no one cares to know, for the simple reason that, like architecture in the Middle Ages, it is a true and living art, and the improvements were not effected by individuals, but by all classes—owners, sailors, shipwrights, and men of science, all working together through centuries, each lending the aid of his experience or of his reasoning.

If we place alongside of this series of ships a list of churches or cathedrals, commencing with Charlemagne and ending with Charles V., we find the same steady and assured progress obtained by the same identical means. In this instance, princes, priests, masons, and mathematicians, all worked steadily together for the whole period, striving to obtain a well-defined result.

In the ship the most suitable materials only are employed in every part, and neither below nor aloft is there one single timber nor spar nor one rope which is superfluous. Nor in the cathedral was any material ever used that was not believed to be the most suitable for its purpose; nor any form of construction adopted which did not seem the best to those who employed it; nor any detail added which did not appear necessary for the purpose it was designed to express; the result being, that we can look on and contemplate both with the same unmitigated satisfaction.