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but full of wolfish life; fierce as the winds that beat, and changeful as the clouds that shade them.
In one point of view Gothic is not only the best but the only rational architecture, as being that which can fit itself most easily to all services, vulgar or noble. Undefined in its slope of roof, height of shaft, breadth of arch, or disposition of ground plan, it can shrink into a turret, expand into a hall, coil into a staircase, or spring into a spire, with undegraded grace and unexhausted energy; and whenever it finds occasion for change in its form or purpose, it submits to it without the slightest sense of loss either to its unity or majesty,–subtle and flexible like a fiery serpent, but ever attentive to the voice of the charmer. And it is one of the chief virtues of the Gothic builders, that they never suffered ideas of outside symmetries and consistencies to interfere with the real use and value of what they did. If they wanted a window, they opened one; a room, they added one; a buttress, they built one; utterly regardless of any established conventionalities of external appearance, knowing (as indeed it always happened) that such daring interruptions of the formal plan would rather give additional interest to its symmetry than injure it. So that, in the best times of Gothic, a useless window would rather have been opened in an unexpected place for the sake of the surprise, than a useful one forbidden for the sake of symmetry. Every successive architect, employed upon a great work, built the pieces he added in his own way, utterly regardless of the style adopted by his predecessors; and if two towers were raised in nominal correspondence at the sides of a cathedral front, one was nearly sure to be different from the other, and in each the style at the top to be different from the style at the bottom.
The most striking outward feature in all Gothic architecture is, that it is composed of pointed arches, as in Romanesque that it is in like manner composed of round; and this distinc. tion would be quite as clear, though the roofs were taken off every cathedral in Europe. And yet, if we examine care fully into the real force and meaning of the term “roof,” wo shall, perhaps, be able to retain the old popular idea in a definition of Gothic architecture, which shall also express what ever dependence that architecture has upon true forms ol roofing. Roofs are generally divided into two parts; the roof proper, that is to say, the shell, vault, or ceiling, internally visible; and the roof-mask, which protects this lower roof from the weather. In some buildings these parts are united in one frame-work; but in most they are more or less independent of each other, and in nearly all Gothic buildings there is a considerable interval between them. Now it will often happen, that owing to the nature of the "partments required, or the materials at hand, the roof proper may be flat, coved, or domed, in buildings which in their walls employ pointed arches, and are, in the straitest sense of the word, Gothic in all other respects. Yet so far forth as the roofing alone is concerned, they are not Gothic unless the pointed arch be the principal form adopted either in the stone vaulting or the timbers of the roof proper. I shall say then, in the first place, that “Gothic architecture is that which uses, if possible, the pointed arch in the roof proper.” This is the first step in our definition. Secondly. Although there may be many advisable or neces. sary forms for the lower roof or ceiling, there is, in cold countries exposed to rain and snow, only one advisable form for the roof mask, and that is the gable, for this alone will throw off both rain and snow from all parts of its surface as speedily as possible. Snow can lodge on the top of a dome,
not on the ridge of a gable. And thus, as far as roofing is concerned, the gable is a far more essential feature of Northern architecture than the pointed vault, for the one is a thorough necessity, the other often a grateful conventionality; the gable occurs in the timber-roof of every dwelling-house and every cottage, but not the vault; and the gable built on a polygonal or circular plan, is the origin of the turret and spire; and all the so-called aspiration of Gothic architecture is nothing more than its development. So that we must add to our definition another clause, which will be at present by far the most important, and it will stand thus: “Gothic architecture is that which uses the pointed arch for the roof proper, and the gable for the roof mask.”
And here, in passing, let us notice a principle as true in architecture as in morals. It is not the compelled, but the wilful, transgression of law which corrupts the character. Sin is not in the act, but in the choice. It is a law for Gothic architecture, that it shall use the pointed arch for its roof proper; but because, in many cases of domestic building, this becomes impossible for want of room (the whole height of the apartment being required every where), or in various other ways inconvenient, flat ceilings may be used, and yet the Gothic shall not lose its purity. But in the roof mask there can be no necessity nor reason for a change of form: the gable is the best; and if any other—dome, or bulging crown, or whatsoever else—be employed at all, it must be in pure caprice and wilful transgression of law. And wherever, therefore, this is done, the Gothic has lost its character; it is pure Gothic no mOlle.
I plead for the introduction of the Gothic form into our domestic architecture, not merely because it is lovely, but because it is the only form of faithful, strong, enduring, and honorable building, in such materials as come daily to our hands. By an increase of scale and costs it is impossible to build, in any style, what will last for ages; but only in the Gothic is it possible to give security and dignity to work wrought with imperfect means and materials. And I trust that there will come a time when the English people may see the folly of building basely and insecurely. It is common with those architects against whose practice my writings have hitherto been directed, to call them merely theoretical and imaginative. I answer, that there is not a single principle asserted either in the “Seven Lamps” or here, but is of the simplest, sternest veracity, and the easiest practicability; that buildings, raised as I would have them, would stand unshaken for a thousand years; and the buildings raised by the architects who oppose them will not stand for one hundred and fifty, they sometimes do not stand for an hour. There is hardly a week passes without some catastrophe brought about by the base principles of modern building: some vaultless floor that drops the staggering crowd through the jagged rents of its rotten timbers; some baseless bridge that is washed away by the first wave of a common flood; some fungous wall of nascent rottenness that a thunder-shower soaks down with its workmen into a heap of slime and death. These we hear of day by day; yet these indicate but a thousandth part of the evil. The portion of the national income sacrificed in mere bad building, in the perpetual repairs, and swift condemnation and pulling down of ill-built shells of houses, passes all calculation. And the weight of the penalty is not yet felt; it will tell upon our children some fifty years hence, when the cheap work, and contract work, and stucco and plaster work, and bad iron work, and all the other expedients of modern rivalry, vanity, and dishonesty, begin to show
Although Renaissance architecture assumes very different forms among different nations, it may be conveniently referred to three heads:—Early Renaissance, consisting of the first corruptions introduced into the Gothic schools: Central or Roman Renaissance, which is the perfectly formed style; and Grotesque Renaissance, which is the corruption of the Renaissance itself.
Now, in order to do full justice to the adverse cause, we will consider the abstract nature of the school with reference only to its best or central examples. The forms of building which must be classed generally under the term early Renaissance are, in many cases, only the extravagances and corruptions of the languid Gothic, for whose errors the classical principle is in no wise answerable. It was stated in the “Seven Lamps,” that unless luxury had enervated and subtlety falsified the Gothic forms, Roman traditions could not have prevailed against them; and, although these enervated and false conditions are almost instantly colored by the classical influence, it would be utterly unfair to lay to the charge of that influence the first debasement of the earlier schools, which had lost the strength of their system before they could be struck by the plague.
The manner, however, of the debasement of all schools of art, so far as it is natural, is in all ages the same; luxuriance of ornament, refinement of execution, and idle subtleties of fancy, taking the place of true thought and firm handling; and I do not intend to delay the reader long by the Gothic sickbed, for our task is not so much to watch the wasting of fever in the features of the expiring King, as to trace the character of that Hazael who dipped the cloth in water, and laid it upon his face. Nevertheless, it is necessary to the completeness of our view of the architecture of Venice, as well as to our under