V. The British Villa. Hill, or Brown, Country.—Principles of Composition.
"Vivite contenti casulis et collibus istis." Juvenal.
In the Boulevard des Italiens, just at the turning into the Rue la Paix (in Paris), there stand a few dusky and withered trees, beside a kind of dry ditch, paved at the bottom, into which a carriage can with some difficulty descend, and which affords access (not in an unusual manner) to the ground floor of a large and dreary-looking house, whose passages are dark and confined, whose rooms are limited in size, and whose windows command an interesting view of the dusty trees before mentioned. This is the town residence of one of the Italian noblemen, whose country house has already been figured as a beautiful example of the villas of the Lago di Como. That villa, however, though in one of the loveliest situations that hill, and wave, and heaven ever combined to adorn, and though itself one of the most delicious habitations that luxury ever projected, or wealth procured, is very rarely honoured by the presence of its master; while attractions of a very different nature retain him, winter after winter, in the dark chambers of the Boulevard des Italiens. This appears singular to the casual traveller, who darts down from the dust and heat of the French capital to the light and glory of the Italian lakes, and finds the tall marble chambers and orange groves, in which he thinks, were he possessed of them, he could luxuriate for ever, left desolate and neglected by their real owner: but, were he to try such a residence for a single twelve-month, we believe his wonder would have greatly diminished at the end of the time. For the mind of the nobleman in question does not differ from that of the average of men; inasmuch as it is a well-known fact, that a series of sublime impressions, continued indefinitely, gradually pall upon the imagination, deaden its fineness of feeling, and, in the end, induce a gloomy and morbid state of mind, a reaction of a peculiarly melancholy character, because consequent, not upon the absence of that which once caused excitement, but upon the failure of its power. This is not the case with all men; but with those over whom the sublimity of an unchanging scene can retain its power for ever, we have nothing to do; for they know better than any architect can, how to choose their scene, and how to add to its effect: we have only to impress upon them the propriety of thinking before they build, and of keeping their humours under the control of their judgment. It is not of them, but of the man of average intellect, that we are thinking throughout all these papers; and upon him it cannot be too strongly impressed that there are very few points in a hill country at all adapted for a permanent residence. There is a kind of instinct, indeed, by which men become aware of this, and shrink from the sterner features of hill scenery into the parts possessing a human interest; and thus we find the north side of the Lake Leman, from Vevay to Geneva, which is about as monotonous a bit of vine country as any in Europe, studded with villas; while the south side, which is as exquisite a piece of scenery as is to be found in all Switzerland, possesses, we think, two. The instinct, in this case is true; but we frequently find it in error. Thus, the Lake of Como is the resort of half Italy, while the Lago Maggiore possesses scarcely one villa of importance, besides those on the Borromean Islands. Yet the Lago Maggiore is far better adapted for producing and sustaining a pleasurable impression, than that of Como. The first thing, then, which the architect has to do in hill country is, to bring his employer down from heroics to common sense; to teach him that, although it might be very well for a man like Pliny, whose whole spirit and life was wrapt up in that of nature, to set himself down under the splash of a cascade 400 ft. high, such escapades are not becoming in English gentlemen; and that it is necessary, for his own satisfaction, as well as that of others, that he should keep in the most quiet and least pretending corners of the landscape which he has chosen.
Having got his employer well under control, he has two points to consider. First, where he will spoil least; and, secondly, where he will gain most. Now, we may spoil a landscape it two ways; either by destroying an association connected with it, or a beauty inherent in it. With the first barbarism we have nothing to do; for it is one which would not be permitted on a large scale; and, even if it were, could not be perpetrated by any man of the slightest education. No one, having any pretensions to be called a human being, would build himself a house on the meadow of the Rutlin, or by the farm of La Haye Sainte, or on the lonely isle on Loch Katrine. Of the injustice of the second barbarism we have spoken already; and it is the object of this paper to show how it may be avoided, as well as to develope the principles by which we may be guided in the second question; that of ascertaining how much permanent pleasure will be received from the contemplation of a given scene.
It is very fortunate that the result of these several investigations will generally be found the same. The residence which, in the end, is found altogether delightful, will be found to have been placed where it has committed no injury; and, therefore, the best way of consulting our own convenience in the end is, to consult the feelings of the spectator in the beginning. Now, the first grand rule for the choice of situation is, never to build a villa where the ground is not richly productive. It is not enough that it should be capable of producing a crop of scanty oats or turnips in a fine season; it must be rich and luxuriant, and glowing with vegetative power of one kind or another. For the very chiefest part of the character of the edifice of pleasure is, and must be, its perfect ease, its appearance of felicitous repose. This it can never have where the nature and expression of the land near it reminds us of the necessity of labour, and where the earth is niggardly of all that constitutes its beauty and our pleasure; this it can only have, where the presence of man seems the natural consequence of an ample provision for his enjoyment, not the continuous struggle of suffering existence with a rude heaven and rugged soil. There is nobility in such a struggle, but not when it is maintained by the inhabitant of the villa, in whom it is unnatural, and therefore injurious in its effect. The narrow cottage on the desolate moor, or the stalwart hospice on the crest of the Alps, each leaves an ennobling impression of energy and endurance; but the possessor of the villa, should call, not upon our admiration, but upon our sympathy; and his function is to deepen the impression of the beauty and the fulness of creation, not to exhibit the majesty of man; to show, in the intercourse of earth and her children, not how her severity may be mocked by their heroism, but how her bounty may be honoured in their enjoyment.
This position, being once granted, will save us a great deal of trouble; for it will put out of our way, as totally unfit for villa residence, nine-tenths of all mountain scenery; beginning with such bleak and stony bits of hillside as that which was metamorphosed into something like a forest by the author of Waverley; laying an equal veto on all the severe landscapes of such districts of minor mountain as the Scotch Highlands and North Wales; and finishing by setting aside all the higher sublimity of Alp and Apennine. What, then, has it left us? The gentle slope of the lake shore, and the spreading parts of the quiet valley, in almost all scenery; and the shores of the Cumberland lakes in our own, distinguished as they are by a richness of soil, which though generally manifested only in an exquisite softness of pasture, and roundness of undulation, is sufficiently evident to place them out of the sweeping range of this veto.
Now, as we only have to do with Britain, at present, we shall direct particular attention to the Cumberland lakes, as they are the only mountain district which, taken generally, is adapted for the villa residence, and as every piece of scenery which in other districts is so adapted, resembles them in character and tone.
We noticed, in speaking of the Westmoreland cottage, the feeling of humility with which we are impressed during a mountain ramble. Now, it is nearly impossible for a villa of large size, however placed, not to disturb and interrupt this necessary and beautiful impression, particularly where the scenery is on a very small scale. This disadvantage may be obviated in some degree, as we shall see, by simplicity of architecture; but another, dependent, on a question of proportion, is inevitable. When an object, in which magnitude is a desirable attribute, leaves an impression, on a practised eye, of less magnitude than it really possesses, we should place objects beside it, of whose magnitude we can satisfy ourselves, of larger size than that which we are accustomed to; for, by finding these large objects in precisely the proportion to the grand object, to which we are accustomed, while we know their actual size to be one to which we are not accustomed, we become aware of the true magnitude of the principal feature. But, where the object leaves a true impression of its size on the practised eye, we shall do harm by rendering minor objects either larger or smaller than they usually are. Where the object leaves an impression of greater magnitude than it really possesses, we must render the minor objects smaller than they usually are, to prevent our being undeceived. Now, a mountain of 15,000 ft. high always looks lower, than it really is; therefore, the larger the buildings near it are rendered, the better. Thus, in speaking of the Swiss cottage, it was observed that a building of the size of St. Peter's in its place, would exhibit the size of the mountains more truly and strikingly. A mountain 7,000 ft. high strikes its impression with great truth, we are deceived on neither side; therefore, the building near it should be of the average size; and thus the villas of the Lago di Como, being among hills from 6,000 to 8,000 ft. high, are well proportioned, being neither colossal nor diminutive: but a mountain 3,000 ft. high always looks higher than it really is; therefore, the buildings near it should be smaller than the average. And this is what is meant by the proportion of objects; namely, rendering them of such relative size as shall produce the greatest possible impression of those attributes which are most desirable in both. It is not the true, but the desirable impression which is to be conveyed; and it must not be in one, but in both: the building must not be overwhelmed by the mass of the mountain, nor the precipice mocked by the elevation of the cottage. (Proportion of color is a question of quite a different nature, dependent merely on admixture and combination.) For these reasons, buildings of a very large size are decidedly destructive of effect among the English lakes: first, because apparent altitudes are much diminished by them; and, secondly, because, whatever position they may be placed in, instead of combining with scenery, they occupy and overwhelm it: for all scenery is divided into pieces, each of which has a near bit of beauty, a promontory of lichened crag, or a smooth swarded knoll, or something of the kind to begin with. Where-ever the large villa comes, it takes up one of these beginnings of landscape altogether; and the parts of crag or wood, which ought to combine with it, become subservient to it, and lost in its general effect; that is, ordinarily, in a general effect of ugliness. This should never be the case: however intrinsically beautiful the edifice may be, it should assist, but not supersede; join, but not eclipse; appear, but not intrude. The general rule by which we are to determine the size is, to select the largest mass which will not overwhelm any object of fine form, within two hundred yards of it; and, if it does not do this, we may be quite sure it is not too large for the distant features: for it is one of Nature's most beautiful adaptations, that she is never out of proportion with herself; that is, the minor details of scenery of the first class bear exactly the proportion to the same species of detail in scenery of the second class, that the large features of the first bear to the large features of the second. Every mineralogist knows that the quartz of the St. Gothard is as much larger in its crystal than the quartz of Snowdon, as the peak of the one mountain overtops the peak of the other; and that the crystals of the Andes are larger than either. Every artist knows that the boulders of an Alpine foreground, and the leaps of an Alpine stream, are as much larger than the boulders, and as much bolder than the leaps, of a Cumberland foreground and torrent, as the Jungfrau is higher than Skiddaw. Therefore, if we take care of the near effect in any country, we need never be afraid of the distant. For these reasons, the cottage villa, rather than the mansion, is to be preferred among our hills: it has been preferred in many instances, and in too many, with an unfortunate result; for the cottage villa is precisely that which affords the greatest scope for practical absurdity. Symmetry, proportion, and some degree of simplicity are usually kept in view in the large building; but, in the smaller, the architect considers himself licensed to try all sorts of experiments, and jumbles together pieces of imitation, taken at random from his note-book, as carelessly as a bad chemist mixing elements, from which he may by accident obtain something new, though the chances are ten to one that he obtains something useless. The chemist, however, is more innocent than the architect; for the one throws his trash out of the window, if the compound fail; while the other always thinks his conceit too good to be lost. The great one cause of all the errors in this branch of architecture is, the principle of imitation, at once the most baneful and the most unintellectual, yet perhaps the most natural, that the human mind can encourage or act upon. Let it once be thoroughly rooted out, and the cottage villa will become a beautiful and interesting element of our landscape.
So much for size. The question of position need not detain us long, as the principles advanced at page 88, are true generally, with one exception. Beautiful and calm the situation must always be, but, in England, not conspicuous. In Italy, the dwelling of the descendants of those whose former life has bestowed on every scene the greater part of the majesty which it possesses, ought to have a dignity inherent in it, which would be shamed by shrinking back from the sight of men, and majesty enough to prevent such non-retirement from becoming intrusive; but the spirit of the English landscape is simple, and pastoral and mild, devoid, also, of high associations (for, in the Highlands and Wales, almost every spot which has the pride of memory is unfit for villa residence); and, therefore, all conspicuous appearance of its more wealthy inhabitants becomes ostentation, not dignity; impudence, not condescension. Their dwellings ought to be just evident, and no more, as forming part of the gentle animation, and present prosperity, which is the beauty of cultivated ground. And this partial concealment may be effected without any sacrifice of the prospect which the proprietor will insist upon commanding from his windows, and with great accession to his permanent enjoyment. For, first, the only prospect which is really desirable or delightful, is that from the window of the breakfast-room. This is rather a bold position, but it will appear evident on a little consideration. It is pleasant enough to have a pretty little bit visible from the bed-rooms; but, after all, it only makes gentlemen cut themselves in shaving, and ladies never think of anything beneath the sun when they are dressing. Then, in the dining-room windows are absolutely useless, because dinner is always uncomfortable by daylight, and the weight of furniture effect which adapts the room for the gastronomic rites, renders it detestable as a sitting-room. In the library, people should have something else to do, than looking out of the windows; in the drawing-room, the uncomfortable stillness of the quarter of an hour before dinner may, indeed, be alleviated by having something to converse about at the windows: but it is very shameful to spoil a prospect of any kind, by looking at it when we are not ourselves in a state of corporal comfort and mental good humour, which nobody can be after the labour of the day, and before he has been fed. But the breakfast-room, where we meet the first light of the dewy day, the first breath of the morning air, the first glance of gentle eyes; to which we descend in the very spring and elasticity of mental renovation and bodily energy, in the gathering up of our spirit for the new day, in the flush of our awakening from the darkness and the mystery of faint and inactive dreaming, in the resurrection from our daily grave, in the first tremulous sensation of the beauty of our being, in the most glorious perception of the lightning of our life; there, indeed, our expatiation of spirit, when it meets the pulse of outward sound and joy, the voice of bird and breeze and billow, does demand some power of liberty, some space for its going forth into the morning, some freedom of intercourse with the lovely and limitless energy of creature and creation. The breakfast-room must have a prospect, and an extensive one; the hot roll and hyson are indiscussable, except under such sweet circumstances. But he must be an awkward architect, who cannot afford an opening to one window without throwing the whole mass of the building open to public view; particularly as, in the second place, the essence of a good window view, is the breaking out of the distant features in little well-composed morceaux, not the general glare of a mass of one tone. Have we a line of lake? the silver water must glance out here and there among the trunks of near trees, just enough to show where it flows; then break into an open swell of water, just where it is widest, or where the shore is prettiest. Have we mountains? their peaks must appear over foliage, or through it, the highest and boldest catching the eye conspicuously, yet not seen from base to summit, as if we wanted to measure them. Such a prospect as this is always compatible with as much concealment as we choose. In all these pieces of management, the architect's chief enemy is the vanity of his employer, who will always want to see more than he ought to see, and than he will have pleasure in seeing, without reflecting how the spectators pay for his peeping.
So much, then, for position. We have now only to settle the questions of form and colour, and we shall then have closed the most tiresome investigation, which we shall be called upon to enter into; inasmuch as the principles which we may arrive at in considering the architecture of defence, though we hope they may be useful in the abstract, will demand no application to native landscape, in which, happily, no defence is now required; and those relating to sacred edifices will, we also hope, be susceptible of more interest than can possibly be excited by the most degraded branch of the whole art of architecture, one hardly worthy of being included under the name; that, namely, with which we have lately been occupied, whose ostensible object is the mere provision of shelter and comfort for the despicable shell within whose darkness and corruption that purity of perception to which all high art is addressed is, during its immaturity, confined.
There are two modes in which any mental or material effect may be increased by contrast, or by assimilation. Supposing that we have a certain number of features, or existences, under a given influence; then, by subjecting another feature to the same influence, we increase the universality, and therefore the effect, of that influence; but, by introducing another feature, not under the same influence, we render the subjection of the other features more palpable, and therefore more effective. For example, let the influence be one of shade (Fig. 41), to which a certain number of objects are subjected in a and b. To a we add another feature, subjected to the same influence, and we increase the general impression of shade; to b we
Fig. 41. add the same feature, not subjected to this influence, and we have deepened the effect of shade. Now, the principles by which we are to be guided in the selection of one or other of these means are of great importance, and must be developed before we can conclude the investigation of villa architecture. The impression produced by a given effect or influence depends upon its degree and its duration. Degree always moans the proportionate energy exerted. Duration is either into time, or into space, or into both. The duration of colour is in space alone, forming what is commonly called extent. The duration of sound is in space and time; the space being in the size of the waves of air, which give depth to the tone. The duration of mental emotion is in time alone. Now, in all influences, as is the degree, so is the impression; as is the duration, so is the effect of the impression; that is, its permanent operation upon the feelings, or the violence with which it takes possession of our own faculties and senses, as opposed to the abstract impression of its existence without such operation on our own essence. For example, the natural tendency of darkness or shade is, to induce fear or melancholy. Now, as the degree of the shade, so is the abstract impression of the existence of shade; but, as the duration of shade, so is the fear of melancholy excited by it. Consequently, when we wish to increase the abstract impression of the power of any influence over objects with which we have no connexion, we must increase degree; but, when we wish the impression to produce a permanent effect upon ourselves, we must increase duration. Now, degree is always increased by contrast, and duration by assimilation. A few instances of this will be sufficient. Blue is called a cold colour, because it induces a feeling of coolness to the eye, and is much used by nature in her cold effects. Supposing that we have painted a storm scene, in desolate country, with a single miserable cottage somewhere in front; that we have made the atmosphere and the distance cold and blue, and wish to heighten the comfortless impression. There is an old rag hanging out of the window: shall it be red or blue? If it be red, the piece of warm colour will contrast strongly with the atmosphere; will render its blueness and chilliness immensely more apparent; will increase the degree of both, and, therefore, the abstract impression of the existence of cold. But, if it be blue, it will bring the iciness of the distance up into the foreground; will fill the whole visible space with comfortless cold; will take away every relief from the desolation; will increase the duration of the influence, and, consequently, will extend its operation into the mind and feelings of the spectator, who will shiver as he looks. Now, if we are painting a picture, we shall not hesitate a moment: in goes the red; for the artist, while he wishes to render the actual impression of the presence of cold in the landscape as strong as possible, does not wish that (chilliness to pass over into, or affect, the spectator, but endeavours to make the combination of colour as delightful to his eye and feelings as possible. But, if we are painting a scene for theatrical representation, where deception is aimed at, we shall be as decided in our proceeding on the opposite principle: in goes the blue; for we wish the idea of cold to pass over into the spectator, and make him so uncomfortable as to permit his fancy to place him distinctly in the place we desire, in the actual scene. Again, Shakspeare has been blamed by some few critical asses for the raillery of Mercutio, and the humour of the nurse, in Romeo and Juliet; for the fool in Lear; for the porter in Macbeth; the grave-diggers in Hamlet, &c.; because, it is said, these bits interrupt the tragic feeling. No such thing; they enhance it to an incalculable extent; they deepen its degree, though they diminish its duration. And what is the result? that the impression of the agony of the individuals brought before us is far stronger than it could otherwise have been, and our sympathies are more forcibly awakened; while, had the contrast been wanting, the impression of pain would have come over into ourselves; our selfish feeling, instead of our sympathy, would have been awakened; the conception of the grief of others diminished; and the tragedy would have made us very uncomfortable, but never have melted us to tears, or excited us to indignation. When he, whose merry and satirical laugh rung in our ears the moment before, faints before us, with "A plague o' both your houses, they have made worms' meat of me," the acuteness of our feeling is excessive: but, had we not heard the laugh before, there would have been a dull weight of melancholy impression, which would have been painful, not affecting. Hence, we see the grand importance of the choice of our means of enhancing effect; and we derive the simple rule for that choice; namely, that, when we wish to increase abstract impression, or to call upon the sympathy of the spectator, we are to use contrast; but, when we wish to extend the operation of the impression, or to awaken the selfish feelings, we are to use assimilation.
This rule, however, becomes complicated where the feature of contrast is not altogether passive; that is, where we wish to give a conception of any qualities inherent in that feature, as well as in what it relieves; and, besides, it is not always easy to know whether it will be best to increase the abstract idea, or its operation. In most cases, energy, the degree of influence, is beauty; and, in many the duration of influence is monotony. In others, duration is sublimity, and energy painful: in a few, energy and duration are attainable and delightful together. It is impossible to give rules for judgment in every case; but the following points must always be observed:—1. When we use contrast, it must be natural, and likely to occur. Thus, the contrast in tragedy is the natural consequence of the character of human existence: it is what we see and feel every day of our lives. When a contrast is unnatural, it destroys the effect it should enhance. Canning called on a French refugee in 1794. The conversation naturally turned on the execution of the queen, then a recent event. Overcome by his feelings, the Parisian threw himself upon the ground, exclaiming, in an agony of tears, "La bonne reine! la pauvre reine!" Presently he sprang up, exclaiming, "Cependant, Monsieur, il faut vous faire voir mon petit chien danser." This contrast, though natural in a Parisian, was unnatural in the nature of things, and therefore injurious.
2dly. When the general influence, instead of being external, is an attribute or energy of the thing itself, so as to bestow on it a permanent character, the contrast which is obtained by the absence of that character is injurious and becomes what is called an interruption of the unity. Thus, the raw and colorless tone of the Swiss cottage, noticed at page 36, is an injurious contrast to the richness of the landscape, which is an inherent and necessary energy in surrounding objects. So, the character of Italian landscape is curvilinear; therefore, the outline of the buildings entering into its composition must be arranged on curvilinear principles, as investigated at page 130.
3dly. But, if the pervading character can be obtained in the single object by different means, the contrast will be delightful. Thus, the elevation of character which the hill districts of Italy possess by the magnificence of their forms, is transmitted to the villa by its dignity of detail, and simplicity of outline; and the rectangular interruption to the curve of picturesque blue country, partaking of the nature of that which it interrupts, is a contrast giving relief and interest, while any Elizabethan acute angles, on the contrary, would have been a contrast obtained by the absence of the pervading energy of the universal curvilinear character, and therefore improper.
4thly. When the general energy, instead of pervading simultaneously the multitude of objects, as with one spirit, is independently possessed and manifested by every
5thly. When any attribute is necessarily beautiful, that is, beautiful in every place and circumstance, we need hardly say that the contrast consisting in its absence is painful. It is only when beauty is local or accidental that opposition may be employed.
6thly. The edge of all contrasts, so to speak, should be as soft as is consistent with decisive effect. We mean, that a gradual change is bettcer than instantaneous transfiguration; for, though always less effective, it is more agreeable. But this must be left very much to the judgment.
7thly. We must be very careful in ascertaining whether any given contrast is obtained by freedom from external, or absence of internal, energy, for it is often a difficult point to decide. Thus, the peace of the Alpine valley might, at first, seem to be a contrast caused by the want of the character of strength and sublimity manifested in the hills; but it is really caused by the freedom from the general and external influence of violence and desolation.
These, then, are principles applicable to all arts, without a single exception, and of particular importance in painting and architecture. It will sometimes be found that one rule comes in the way of another; in which case, the most important is, of course, to be obeyed; but, in general, they will afford us an easy means of arriving at certain results, when, before, our conjectures must have been vague and unsatisfactory. We may now proceed to determine the most proper form for the mountain villa of England.
We must first observe the prevailing lines of the near hills: if they are vertical, there will most assuredly be monotony, for the vertical lines of crag are never grouped, and accordingly, by our fourth rule, the prevailing lines of our edifice must be horizontal. In Fig. 44, which is a village half-way up the Lake of Thun, the tendency of the hills is vertical; this tendency is repeated by the buildings, and the composition becomes thoroughly bad: but, at p. 92, Fig. 27, we have the same vertical tendency in the hills, while the grand lines of the buildings are horizontal, and the composition is good. But, if the
prevailing lines of the near hills be curved (and they will be either curved or vertical), we must not interrupt their character, for the energy is then pervading, not individual; and, therefore, our edifice must be rectangular. In both cases, therefore, the grand outline of the villa is the same; but in the one we have it set off by contrast, in the other by assimilation; and we must work out in the architecture of each edifice the principle on which we have begun. Commencing with that in which we are to work by contrast: the vertical crags must be the result of violence, and the influence of destruction, of distortion, of torture, to speak strongly, must be evident in their every line. We free the building from this influence, and give it repose, gracefulness, and ease; and we have a contrast of feeling as well as of line, by which the desirable attributes are rendered evident in both objects, while the duration of neither energy being allowed, there can be no disagreeable effect upon the spectator, who will not shrink from the terror of the crags, nor feel a want of excitement in the gentleness of the building.
2dly. Solitude is powerful and evident in its effect on the distant hills, therefore, the effect of the villa should be joyous and life-like (not flippant, however, but serene); and, by rendering it so, we shall enhance the sublimity of the distance, as we showed in speaking of the Westmoreland cottage; and, therefore, we may introduce a number of windows with good effect, provided that they are kept in horizontal lines, and do not disturb the repose which we have shown to be necessary.
These three points of contrast will be quite enough: there is no other external influence from which we can free the building, and the pervading energy must be communicated to it, or it will not harmonize with our feelings; therefore, before proceeding, we had better determine how this contrast is to be carried out in detail. Our lines are to be horizontal; then the roof must be as flat as possible. We need not think of snow, because, however much we may slope the roof, it will not slip off from the material which, here, is the only proper one; and the roof of the cottage is always very flat, which it would not be if there were any inconvenience attending such a form. But, for the sake of the second contrast, we are to have gracefulness and ease, as well as horizontality. Then we must break the line of the roof into different elevations, yet not making the difference great, or we shall have visible verticals. And this must not be done at random. Take a flat line of beauty, a d, Fig. 45, for the length of the edifice.
Strike a b horizontally from a, c d from d; let fall the verticals; make c f equal m n, the maximum; and draw h f. The curve should be so far continued as that h f shall be to c d as c d to a b. Then we are sure of a beautifully proportioned form. Much variety may be introduced by using different curves; joining paraboles with cycloids, &c.: but the use of curves is always the best mode of obtaining good forms. Further ease may be obtained by added combinations. For instance, strike another curve (a q b) through the flat line a b; bisect the maximum v p, draw the horizontal r s (observing to make the largest maximum of this curve towards the smallest maximum of the great curve, to restore the balance), join r q, s b, and we have another modification of the same beautiful form. This may be done in either side of the building, but not in both. Then, if the flat roof be still found monotonous, it may be interrupted by garret windows, which must not be gabled, but turned with the curve a b, whatever that may be. This will give instant humility to the building, and take away any vestiges of Italian character which might hang about it, and which would be wholly out of place. The windows may have tolerably broad architraves, but no cornices; an ornament both haughty and classical in its effect, and, on both accounts, improper here. They should be in level lines, but grouped at unequal distances, or they will have a formal and artificial air, unsuited to the irregularity and freedom around them. Some few of them may be arched, however, with the curve a b, the mingling of the curve and the square being very graceful. There should not be more than two tiers and the garrets, or the building will be too high.
So much for the general outline of the villa, in which we are to work by contrast. Let us pass over to that in which we are to work by assimilation, before speaking of the material and color which should be common to both.
The grand outline must be designed on exactly the same principles; for the curvilinear proportions, which were opposition before, will now be assimilation. Of course, we do not mean to say that every villa in a hill country should have the form a b c d; we should be tired to death if they had: but we bring forward that form, as an example of the agreeable result of the principles on which we should always work, but whose result should be the same in no two cases. A modification of that form, however, will frequently be found useful; for, under the depression h f, we may have a hall of entrance and of exercise, which is a requisite of extreme importance in hill districts, where it rains three hours out of four all the year round; and under c d we may have the kitchen, servants' rooms, and coach-house, leaving the large division quiet and comfortable.
Then, as in the curved country there is no such distortion as that before noticed, no such evidence of violent agency, we need not be so careful about the appearance of perfect peace, we may be a little more dignified and a little more classical. The windows may be symmetrically arranged; and, if there be a blue and undulating distance, the upper tier may even have cornices; narrower architraves are to be used; the garrets may be taken from the roof, and their inmates may be accommodated in the other side of the house; but we must take care, in doing this, not to become Greek. The material, as we shall see presently, will assist us in keeping unclassical; and not a vestige of column or capital must appear in any part of the edifice. All should be pure, but all should be English; and there should be here, as elsewhere, much of the utilitarian about the whole, suited to the cultivated country in which it is placed.
It will never do to be speculative or imaginative in our details, on the supposition that the tendency of fine scenery is to make everybody imaginative and enthusiastic. Enthusiasm has no business with Turkey carpets or easy chairs; and the very preparation of comfort for the body, which the existence of the villa supposes, is inconsistent with the supposition of any excitement of mind: and this is another reason for keeping the domestic building in richly productive country. Nature has set aside her sublime bits for us to feel and think in; she has pointed out her productive bits for us to sleep and eat in; and, if we sleep and eat amongst the sublimity, we are brutal; if we poetise amongst the cultivation, we are absurd. There are the time and place for each state of existence, and we should not jumble that which Nature has separated. She has addressed herself, in one part, wholly to the mind, there is nothing for us to eat but bilberries, nothing to rest upon but rock, and we have no business to concoct picnics, and bring cheese, and ale, and sandwiches, in baskets, to gratify our beastly natures, where Nature never intended us to eat (if she had, we needn't have brought the baskets). In the other part, she has provided for our necessities; and we are very absurd, if we make ourselves fantastic, instead of comfortable. Therefore, all that we ought to do in the hill villa is, to adapt it for the habitation of a man of the highest faculties of perception and feeling; but only for the habitation of his hours of common sense, not of enthusiasm; it must be his dwelling as a man, not as a spirit; as a thing liable to decay, not as an eternal energy; as a perishable, not as an immortal.
Keeping, then, in view these distinctions of form between the two villas, the remaining considerations relate equally to both.
We have several times alluded to the extreme richness and variety of hill foregrounds, as an internal energy to which there must be no contrast. Rawness of colour is to be especially avoided, but so, also, is poverty of effect. It will, therefore, add much to the beauty of the building, if, in any conspicuous and harsh angle or shadowy moulding, we introduce a wreath of carved leaf-work, in stone, of course. This sounds startling and expensive; but we are not thinking of expense: what ought to be, not what can be afforded, is the question. Besides, when all expense in shamming castles, building pinnacles, and all other fantasticisms, has been shown to be injurious, that which otherwise would have been wasted in plaster battlements, to do harm, may surely be devoted to stone leafage, to do good. Now, if there be too much, or too conspicuous, ornament, it will destroy simplicity and humility, and everything which we have been endeavouring to get; therefore, the architect must be careful, and had better have immediate recourse to that natural beauty with which he is now endeavouring to assimilate. When Nature determines on decorating a piece of projecting rock, she begins with the bold projecting surface, to which the eye is naturally drawn by its form, and (observe how closely she works by the principles which were before investigated) she finishes this with lichens, and mingled colours, to a degree of delicacy, which makes us feel that we never can look close enough; but she puts in not a single mass of form to attract the eye, more than the grand outline renders necessary. But, where the rock joins the ground, where the shadow falls, and the eye is not attracted, she puts in bold forms of ornament, large leaves and grass, bunches of moss and heather, strong in their projection, and deep in their colour. Therefore, the architect must act on precisely the same principle: his outward surfaces he may leave the wind and weather to finish in their own way; but he cannot allow Nature to put grass and weeds into the shadows; ergo, he must do it himself; and, whenever the eye loses itself in shade, wherever there is a dark and sharp corner, there, if he can, he should introduce a wreath of flower-work. The carving will be preserved from the weather by this very propriety of situation: it would have mouldered away, had it been exposed to the full drift of the rain, but will remain safe in the crevices where it is required; and, also, it will not injure the general effect, but will lie concealed until we approach, and then rise up, as it were, out of the darkness, to its duty; bestowing on the dwellings that finish of effect which is manifested around them, and gratifying the natural requirement of the mind for the same richness in the execution of the designs of men, which it has found on a near approach lavished so abundantly, in a distant view subdued so beautifully into the large effects of the designs of nature.
Of the ornament itself, it is to be observed that it is not to be what is properly called architectural decoration (that which is "decorous," becoming, or suitable to); namely, the combination of minor forms, which repeat the lines, and partake of the essence of the grand design, and carry out its meaning and life into its every member: but it is to be true sculpture; the presenting of a pure ideality of form to the eye, which may give perfect conception, without the assistance of colour: it is to be the stone image of vegetation, not botanically accurate, indeed, but sufficiently near to permit us to be sure of the intended flower or leaf. Not a single line of any other kind of ornament should be admitted, and there should be more leafage than flower-work, as it is the more easy in its flow and outline. Deep relief need not be attempted, but the edges of the leafage should be clearly and delicately defined. The cabbage, the vine, and the ivy are the best and most beautiful leaves: oak is a little too stiff, otherwise good. Particular attention ought to be paid to the ease of the stems and tendrils: such care will always be repaid. And it is to be especially observed, that the carving is not to be arranged in garlands or knots, or any other formalities, as in Gothic work; but the stalks are to rise out of the stone, as if they were rooted in it, and to fling themselves down where they are wanted, disappearing again in light sprays, as if they were still growing. All this will require care in designing; but, as we have said before, we can always do without decoration; but, if we have it, it must be well done. It is not of the slightest use to economise; every farthing improperly saved does a shilling's worth of damage; and that is getting a bargain the wrong way. When one branch or group balances another, they must be different in composition. The same group may be introduced several times in different parts, but not when there is correspondence, or the effect will be unnatural; and it can hardly be too often repeated, that the ornament must be kept out of the general effect, must be invisible to all but the near observer, and, even to him, must not become a necessary part of the design, but must be sparingly and cautiously applied, so as to appear to have been thrown in by chance here and there, as Nature would have thrown in a bunch of herbage, affording adornment without concealment, and relief without interruption.
So much for form. The question of colour has already been discussed at some length, in speaking of the cottage; but it is to be noticed, that the villa, from the nature of its situation, gets the higher hills back into a distance which is three or four times more blue than any piece of scenery entering into combination with the cottage; so that more warmth of colour is allowable in the building, as well as greater cheerfulness of effect. It should not look like stone, as the cottage should, but should tell as a building on the mind as well as the eye. White, therefore, is frequently allowable in small quantities, particularly on the border of a large and softly shored lake, like Windermere and the foot of Loch Lomond; but cream-colour, and putty-colour, and the other varieties of plaster colour, are inexcusable. If more warmth is required by the situation than the sun will give on white, the building should be darkened at once. A warm, rich grey is always beautiful in any place and under every circumstance; and, in fact, unless the proprietor likes to be kept damp like a travelling codfish, by trees about his house and close to it (which, if it be white, he must have, to prevent glare), such a grey is the only colour which will be beautiful, or even innocent. The difficulty is to obtain it; and this naturally leads to the question of material. If the colour is to be white, we can have no ornament, for the shadows would make it far too conspicuous, and we should get only tawdriness. The simple forms may be executed in anything that will stand wet; and the roofs, in all cases, should be of the coarse slate of the country, as rudely put on as possible. They must be kept clear of moss and conspicuous vegetation, or there will be an improper appearance of decay; but the more lichenous the better, and the rougher the slate the sooner it is coloured. If the colour is to be grey, we may use the grey primitive limestone, which is not ragged on the edges, without preparing the blocks too smoothly; or the more compact and pale-coloured slate, which is frequently done in Westmoreland; and execute the ornaments in any very coarse dark marble. Greenstone is an excellent rock, and has a fine surface, but it is unmanageable. The greyer granites may often be used with good effect, as well as the coarse porphyries, when the grey is to be particularly warm. An outward surface of a loose block may be often turned to good account in turning an angle, as the colours which it has contracted by its natural exposure will remain on it without inducing damp. It is always to be remembered, that he who prefers neatness to beauty, and who would have sharp angles, and clean surfaces, in preference to curved outlines and lichenous colour, has no business to live among hills.
Such, then, are the principal points to be kept in view in the edifice itself. Of the mode of uniting it with the near features of foliage and ground, it would be utterly useless to speak: it is a question of infinite variety, and involving the whole theory of composition, so that it would take up volumes to develope principles sufficient to guide us to the result which the feeling of the practised eye would arrive at in a moment. The inequalities of the ground, the character and colour of those inequalities, the nature of the air, the exposure, and the consequent fall of the light, the quantity and form of near and distant foliage, all have their effect on the design, and should have their influence on the designer, inducing, as they do, a perfect change of circumstance in every locality. Only one general rule can be given, and that we repeat. The house must NOT be a noun substantive, it must not stand by itself, it must be part and parcel of a proportioned whole: it must not even be seen all at once; and he who sees one end should feel that, from the given data, he can arrive at no conclusion respecting the other, yet be impressed with a feeling of a universal energy, pervading with its beauty of unanimity all life and all inanimation, all forms of stillness or motion, all presence of silence or of sound.
Thus, then, we have reviewed the most interesting examples of existing villa architecture, and we have applied the principles derived from those examples to the landscape of our own country. Throughout, we have endeavoured to direct attention to the spirit, rather than to the letter, of all law, and to exhibit the beauty of that principle which is embodied in the line with which we have headed this concluding paper; of being satisfied with national and natural forms, and not endeavouring to introduce the imaginations, or imitate the customs, of foreign nations, or of former times. All imitation has its origin in vanity, and vanity is the bane of architecture. And, as we take leave of them, we would, once for all, remind our English sons of Sempronius "qui villas attollunt marmore novas," novas in the full sense of the word, and who are setting all English feeling and all natural principles at defiance, that it is only the bourgeois gentilhomme who will wear his dressing-gown upside down, "parceque toutes les personnes de qualité portent les fleurs en en-bas."
Oxford, October, 1838.
- For instance, one proprietor terrifies the landscape all round him, within a range of three miles, by the conspicuous position of his habitation; and is punished by finding that, from whatever quarter the wind may blow, it sends in some of his plate-glass. Another spoils a pretty bit of crag, by building below it, and has two or three tons of stone dropped through his roof, the first frosty night. Another occupies the turfy slope of some soft lake promontory, and has his cook washed away by the first flood. We do not remember ever having seen a dwelling-house destroying the effect of a landscape, of which, considered merely as a habitation, we should wish to be the possessor.
- We are not thinking of the effect upon the human frame of the air which is favourable to vegetation. Chemically considered, the bracing breeze of the more sterile soil is the most conducive to health, and is practically so, when the frame is not perpetually exposed to it; but the keenness which checks the growth of the plant is, in all probability, trying, to say the least, to the constitution of a resident.
- We hope the English language may long retain this corrupt but energetic superlative.
- This position as well as the two preceding, is important, and in need of confirmation. It has often been observed, that, when the eye is altogether unpractised in estimating elevation, it believes every point to be lower than it really is; but this does not militate against the proposition, for it is also well known, that the higher the point, the greater the deception. But when the eye is thoroughly practised in mountain measurement, although the judgment, arguing from technical knowledge, gives a true result, the impression on the feelings is always at variance with it, except in hills of the middle height. We are perpetually astonished, in our own country, by the sublime impression left by such hills as Skiddaw, or Cader Idris, or Ben Venue; perpetually vexed, in Switzerland, by finding that, setting aside circumstances of form and color, the abstract impression of elevation is (except in some moments of peculiar effect worth a king's ransom) inferior to the truth. We were standing the other day on the slope of the Brevent, above the Prieure of Chamouni, with a companion, well practised in climbing Highland hills, but a stranger among the Alps. Pointing out a rock above the Glacier des Bossons, we requested an opinion of its height. "I should think," was the reply, "I could climb it in two steps; but I am too well used to hills to be taken in that way; it is at least 40 ft." The real height was 470 ft. This deception is attributable to several causes (independently of the clearness of the medium through which the object is seen), which it would be out of place to discuss here, but the chief of which is the natural tendency of the feelings always to believe objects subtending the same angle to be of the same height. We say the feelings, not the eye; for the practised eye never betrays its possessor, though the due and corresponding mental impression is not received.
- This is rather a bold assertion; and we should be sorry to maintain the fact as universal; but the crystals of almost all the rarer minerals are larger in the larger mountain; and that altogether independently of the period of elevation, which, in the case of Mont Blanc, is later than that of our own Mendips.
- In p. 158, we noticed the kind of error most common in amateur designs, and we traced that error to its great first cause, the assumption of the humor, instead of the true character, for a guide; but we did not sufficiently specify the mode in which that first cause operated, by prompting to imitation. By imitation, we do not mean accurate copying, neither do we mean working under the influence of the feelings by which we may suppose the originators of a given model to have been actuated; but we mean the intermediate step of endeavoring to combine old materials in a novel manner. True copying may be disdained by architects, but it should not be disdained by nations; for, when the feelings of the time in which certain styles had their origin have passed away, any examples of the same style will invariably be failures, unless they be copies. It is utter absurdity to talk of building Greek edifices now; no man ever will, or ever can, who does not believe in the Greek mythology; and, precisely by so much as he diverges from the technicality of strict copyism, he will err. But we ought to have pieces of Greek architecture, as we have reprints of the most valuable records, and it is better to build a new Parthenon than to set up the old one. Let the dust and the desolation of the Acropolis be undisturbed for ever; let them be left to be the school of our moral feelings, not of our mechanical perceptions: the line and rule of the prying carpenter should not come into the quiet and holy places of the earth. Elsewhere, we may build marble models for the education of the national mind and eye; but it is useless to think of adopting the architecture of the Greek to the purposes of the Frank: it never has been done, and never will be. We delight, indeed, in observing the rise of such a building as La Madeleine: beautiful, because accurately copied; useful, as teaching the eye of every passer-by. But we must not think of its purpose: it is wholly unadapted for Christian worship; and, were it as bad Greek as our National Gallery, it would be equally unfit. The mistake of our architects in general is, that they fancy they are speaking good English by speaking bad Greek. We wish, therefore, that copying were more in vogue than it is. But imitation, the endeavor to be Gothic, or. Tyrolese, or Venetian, without the slightest grain of Gothic or Venetian feeling; the futile effort to splash a building into age, or daub it into dignity, to zigzag it into sanctity, or slit it into ferocity, when its shell is neither ancient nor dignified, and its spirit neither priestly nor baronial; this is the degrading vice of the age; fostered, as if man's reason were but a step between the brains of a kitten and a monkey, in the mixed love of despicable excitement and miserable mimicry. If the
- This difference of principle is one leading distinction between the artist, properly so called, and the scene, diorama, or panorama painter.
English have no imagination, they should not scorn to be commonplace; or, rather, they should remember that poverty cannot be disguised by beggarly borrowing, though it may be ennobled by calm independence. Our national architecture never will improve until our population are generally convinced that in this art, as in all others, they cannot seem what they cannot be. The scarlet coat or the turned-down collar, which the obsequious portrait-painter puts on the shoulders and off the necks of his savage or insane customers, never can make the 'prentice look military, or the idiot poetical; and the architectural appurtenances of Norman embrasure or Veronaic balcony must be equally ineffective, until they can turn shopkeepers into barons, and schoolgirls into Juliets. Let the national mind be elevated in its character, and it will naturally become pure in its conceptions; let it be simple in its desires, and it will be beautiful in its ideas; let it be modest in feeling, and it will not be insolent in stone. For architect and for employer, there can be but one rule; to be natural in all that they do, and to look for the beauty of the material creation as they would for that of the human form, not in the chanceful and changing disposition of artificial decoration, but in the manifestation of the pure and animating spirit which keeps it from the coldness of the grave.