Page images


MR. BERESFORD HOPE, in taking the chair of the Architectural Section, began by vindicating for London-which was too commonly regarded as a mere modern town of trade and politics-the possession of vast stores of antiquarian treasures, which amply justified the Archæological Institute for holding its congress there. He then called attention to the importance which was currently attributed to London, in its corporate identity, in the imaginative and patriotic literature of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as the central idealization of that which made English citizenship precious. The shock of the Reformation had disturbed the currents of thought which otherwise might have set in from a more recent period, and led to the general glorification of Plantagenet history; so that poetry, pedantry and caution combined to exhume a much earlier symbolism, in reaching of which no treacherous ground had to be trodden. The personified "Britannia," though she began to appear early in the seventeenth century, was not fully accepted till "La Belle Stuart" sat for her effigy on our pence in the time of Charles II., while she attained her greatest glory when Thomson ordered her to rule the waves. But at an earlier and fresher

period, commencing from the Elizabethan outburst of literature, the old Trojan story of Geoffrey of Monmouth, with its ingenious metamorphosis of the Trinobantes into Troynovant, was laid hold of by the poets as their centre of patriotic personification. For example, Spenser told his readers that

"Noble Britons spronge of Trojans bolde, And Troynovant was built of old Troye's ashes colde;" while Drayton, in his "Polyolbion," recurs, over and over again, to the enticing theme in the course of his stately though it may be somewhat involved flow of verse. The same impulse of constructing the myth of a Trojan origin led the imaginative French chroniclers of the renaissance, to dream of Paris, the son of Priam, somehow rescued from Achilles' sword, having been the founder of the chief city of the Isle of France. But for all this, during the contemporaneous epoch of French literature, no similar glorification of the capital of France could be found. The cause of this difference was partly political-in the earlier and more complete consolidation of the kingdom of England-but it was also partly physical, in the commercial importance possessed by London, with its unequalled river and port, while Paris was, after all, only a great residenz. No doubt in the third place the "Paris" invention was rather recent and scholastic, while the Brutian épopée was already ancient at the invention of printing; but, per contra, this fact proved that the circumstances of England were more opportune for the development of the feel

ing of embodied pride in the capital than those of France. Expressive, therefore, as the Elizabethan poetry was of the growing consciousness on the part of Englishmen of the commercial and constitutional future of the country, it was natural that the recognized eponymus of the realm should be rather found in the city planted on the great and still unsullied outlet of its trade, than in a region which, to the townsmen of these days, comprised not only the fertile fields of the south and midland, but the wastes of Dartmoor, the Peak, Yorkshire, and Northumberland. It was also natural that with London to be glorified the poetic elements of its glorification should be sought in the Trojan legend, so flattering in an uncritical age to national vanity. They need go no further than the sixteenth and seventeenth "Songs" of Drayton, to learn how thoroughly identified were the ideas of London and of the Thames, for in them they might see how

"Then Westminster the next great Tames doth entertaine;
That counts her Palace large, and her most sumptuous Fane:
The Land's Tribunall seate that challengeth for hers,
The crowning of our Kings, their famous sepulchers.
Then goes he on by that more beautious Strand,
Expressing both the wealth and bravery of the land.
(So many sumptuous Bowres, within so little space,
The All-beholding Sun scarce sees in all his race.)
And on by London leads, which like a Crescent lies,
Whose windowes seem to mock the Star-befreckled skies;
Besides her rising spyres, so thick themselves that show,
As doe the bristling reeds, within his Banks that growe,
There sees his crouded wharves and people-pestred shores,
His Bosome over-spread, with shoales of labouring ores;
With that most costly Bridge, that doth him most renowne,
By which he cleerely puts all other Rivers downe."

But in the meanwhile he was wandering from his subject, which was rather that of inviting the examination of the buildings of old London one by one, than the realization of the city as a social whole. In spite of the many writers, Stow, Howell, Newcome, Entick, Pennant, Maitland, Brayley, &c., who had successively tried their hands upon the topography and antiquities of the capital, no really complete history of London and Westminster, in an archæological sense, yet existed. He would consider that this Congress would have more than amply done its work, if it could only lay the foundations of such a production. Of course it could not do so directly. The volume which it would produce would be but at best a series of detached essays and monographs. Still the stone might be set rolling for such a complete and exhaustive history as would be worthy of the age, of the writers, and of the subject-he meant, as he hardly need say, a history which should include the municipal, the historical, the legal, the social, the biographical, the picturesque, and the genealogical, as well as the architectural records of our mighty Troynovant-the work, it must be, of many labouring hands, although acting under one controlling mind.

There was one incident which he especially commended to the editor of such a history, whenever he might be found, viz., the analysis of the way in which the present "town" had been gradually kneaded together out of- or had overrun, to adopt another metaphor the different villages and estates in the neighbourhood. The cause of this abnormal lateral

« PreviousContinue »