« AnteriorContinuar »
Two Hundreds only (those of Spelho and Newbottle-Grove) are completed, and that of Fawsley begun, in the present division of this history; and the author observes that he has considerably exceeded the quantity of matter contemplated in his original estimate. What he next adds, we insert by way of contrast to the splendid publications of Hoare and Whitaker, and by way of example to those who, with such specimens before their eyes of topographical and ornamental magnificence, might hereafter be deterred from the pursuit by the belief that it must necessarily be attended with an expense and risk so far beyond the compass of any moderate means or resources. ·
“ He has not only,” says the author, "adopted a much smaller type than the other county histories now in progress; but, in order as much as possible to economise space, has printed the names of incumbents and epitaphs (where practicable) in columns, and the pedigrees in a much smaller type and in the most condensed form. He knows not whether it will be right or prudent to enlist this plea in palliation of his embellishments not being either so numerous or highly-finished as he could have wished; but at least he can safely affirm that he has gone to the extreme boundary which a due regard to prudential considerations would warrant.”
Such are the general outlines of a plan, the best suited of any that has come within our notice to the main purposes of a County History, and of which all that can be alleged to qualify our praises is, that it is (perhaps) too drily methodical, and affords too little scope for those illustrations of local scenery, the manners and customs of antiquity, and the characters and actions of individuals, which, though in some degree adscititious and ornamental, rather than necessarily component parts of the subject, are nevertheless too grateful to the imagination, and too refreshing to the mind, exhausted by the wearisome pursuit of names and dates, not to deserve a station of primary importance in the table of contents prefixed to every topographical chapter. On this account, principally, we now turn from the historian of Northamptonshire to the late venerable and much-regretted author, whose topographical labours, after illustrating with so much true taste and judgment the antiquities of Whalley and Craven, have been recently and prematurely terminated, just as he had completed the first division of a work which was proposed to embrace the whole extent of the largest of the English counties.
No work of County History has hitherto issued from the press (not excepting even Sir Richard Hoare's magnificent Wiltshire) so splendid, in respect both of typography and graphic illustration, as Dr. Whitaker's Richmond ; and yet, with all the author's high reputation and acknowledged talent, few (we believe) have fallen so far short of the expectations formed by
VOL. IX. PART II.
readers of real science and desirous of substantial information, principally in those very points in which we have represented Mr. Baker as far excelling. That the causes of this failure are to be met with in the ill-directed spirit of enterprise evinced by the publishers rather than in any defect of judgment on the part of the author, is an inference due, perhaps, to this eminent character; but it is not to be the less lamented that he surrendered his judgment to those who, with all their skill in what constitutes the external attractions, are so much less competent judges as to the essential requisites of works of learning and science. The imaginative faculty, and enthusiastic spirit of the genuine antiquary, are, however, displayed in almost every page of his history; and his very prospectus, while it tends to correct the fastidiousness of those who conceive that the higher powers of the mind are necessarily excluded from participating in the dull investigations and duller details which form the basis of the topographer's labours, will also serve the purpose of supplying all that is most evidently deficient in the outline of Mr. Baker's system.
“ The author's researches, besides a personal application to original authorities existing in public libraries, and, where he may be permitted, in private collections also, will extend to an exact survey of every parish : thankful as he shall always be for previous directions to objects of curiosity, he will take nothing upon trust. He will see every thing with his own eyes : he will make minutes upon the spot. In order to the attainment of some accuracy in those parts of his subject which depend upon written evidence, he most respectfully desires the representatives of ancient and noble families, who may be induced to encourage the projected work, to consider what a stamp of worth and authenticity is impressed upon the whole by a general opinion of its having been compiled from original authorities. In more than one topographical work already before the public, it has been, with very few exceptions, the happiness of the author to have drawn from the first fountains of information. In this age of general intelligence and liberal communication, little, it may be hoped, remains of that absurd jealousy, by which the ancient stores of families were supposed to contain unknown and unsuspected secrets, which might shake the titles to estates *. The most superficial knowledge of
* The limitations which the wisdom of our laws had imposed on the right of disputing titles confirmed by length of possession ought generally to satisfy the most timid proprietor in permitting the inspection of ancient evidences; and the most general abstract is sufficient to answer all the legitimate purposes of the county historian with reference to the deduction of more modern transfers and limitations. The great cause of the Marquis Cholmondeley and Lord Clinton, which turned on the supposed want of analogy between legal and merely equitable estates, considered as affected by the statute of
the law of England, as it exists at present, must in a moment remove every such apprehension. Discovery, while it is the most animating object of a topographer, can alone give an interest in the minds of real judges to a topographical work. What, for example, would have been the feelings of the writer what the loss and disappointment of his readers, had he been debarred from access to the stores of the Cliffords, in their two surviving branches at Skipton and Bolton ? · And can it be supposed that in a county, which for several centuries has been the principal residence of so many noble families, distinguished for their activity and exertions in war and peace, the grantees also of so many religious houses, there should neither have been curiosity to collect, nor care to procure the evidence, which from time to time had fallen into their hands? ***
“ Antiquarian research, and even poetry itself, have of late been turned to the elucidation of ancient manners; and the pursuit is a decisive proof of the superior intelligence and curiosity which belong to modern times. Heretofore, when an antiquary had given a tolerable view of the ruins of a religious house, the name of the founder, the date of the foundation, with the manors and carucates which it possessed, in faithful and dull detail, his office was performed, and his readers were satisfied. Meanwhile it never occurred to the one or the other that all this was the body only, not the soul of monastic history; that monkish manners, a state of life not only picturesque and magnificent, but combined in some degree both with piety and usefulness, was a study for philosophers; that all its varieties are yet accessible, and, what is better, accessible not only by means of direct and formal narrative, but through the medium of inference and induction (one of the most delightful exercises of an intelligent antiquary) in the compotuses of the religious houses. To the stores of this nature, which are reposited in the libraries of ancient families, and still perhaps unexplored, the author looks with anxious expectation : but in the Harleian and Cotton Libraries, and above all, in the indigested, but almost inexhaustible collections of Dodsworth, he reckons with certainty on much original intelligence.
" Architecture, ancient and modern, civil, military, and ecclesiastic, will always be regarded in this work with peculiar attention ; and the magnificent seats of the nobility and gentry, with which this great county abounds, together with the distinguished specimens of art in painting and sculpture, with which they are severally adorned, will not fail to receive a due tribute of respect.
" The entire text of Doomsday, Leland's Itinerary, and many portions of that of Camden, will be incorporated with the work. The
limitations, might, during its pendency, have justified, or at least excused, a degree of even jealous caution, which the late ultimate decision of that important controversy, by the highest court of appellant jurisdiction, should (among its other great public benefits) be looked to as having rendered, for the future, altogether unnecessary and futile.
late returns of population will also be subjoined to the account of every parish.
Subsidiary to the author's department in this laborious work, are those of the draftsmen and the engraver, concerning which the public have a right to be informed, that no expense will be spared to render the history of Yorkshire, what, in the present state of the national taste, can alone procure for it a favourable reception—TRULY MAGNIFICENT. To this end, distinct but superior artists will be engaged for subjects of landscape and architecture.”
To the announcement contained in the last paragraph nothing was wanted but the name of the picturesque artist (J. M. W. Turner, R. A.), those of the engravers (Landseer, Pye; &c. &c.), and a catalogue of the subjects selected for the exercise of their several and splendid talents (such as, The Fall of the Tees--The Junction of the Tees and Greta-Moss-Dale FallAysgarth Force, &c. &c. &c.), to satisfy the most enthusiastic admirer of all that is grand and beautiful in nature, or excellent in art, that the work projected is no vulgar County History, the tardy produce of fifty years' toilsome labour amidst the dust and cobwebs of the Record-room and Chapter-house, “ beautified” with here and there a rich engraving of some heavy heap of monumental absurdity, or a Sylvanus-Urban-like groupe of churches remarkable only for their general uniformity of outline, neglect of detail, and glorious contempt of all the rules of chiaro-oscuro and perspective. But, though it promises something very different from this, it at the same time promises something which, however admirable in itself, and excellent in its own peculiar style of excellence, is altogether at variance with the main end and object of topography, and above all calculated to make both author and reader lose sight of the point in view, and regard the substance of the work as merely subservient to the grand purpose of its ornament. In its own enlarged acceptation, it may indeed be said that there is scarcely any subject which, as either principal or accessary, may not be enlisted into the general service of topography. Yet, in the light of a science, it is something essentially distinct from either geology, botany, civil and ecclesiastical history, or mere superficial and picturesque descriptions, although in some respects intermixed with and dependent on all of them. The illustrations by which it is accompanied ought to be selected with reference to its more immediate and principal objects—the territorial peculiarities and divisions, and the perishable and perishing remnants of monumental and architectural antiquity. Directed to these purposes, it is scarcely possible to render the delineations which should accompany a work of topography too various, minute, or comprehensive; and they are purposes which admit of the greatest plainness and simplicity, as well as of the highest refinement and excellence, of which the art of engraving is capable*. The multiplication of maps and plans illustrative of the subject under discussion, is of all things the most desirable; and, while on this topic, we would strongly recommend that, in a County History, the description of every parish be accompanied with a map explaining its boundaries and subdivisions (where subdivided) into tithings, townships, or other districts, and pointing out the situation of every house or hamlet referred to in the course of the history. This is a point, indeed, which appears to us to be of such peculiar iniportance, that we would willingly sacrifice to its attainment all the proud embellishments which modern luxury has substituted in the place of the old homely representations by which our older county histories are disfigured. We will go farther, and say, that, in the way of landscape, wherever it should occur that, by a few choice sketches, a strong general impression may be conveyed of the
* To the many other merits of Mr. Baker's excellent History of Northamptonshire, some of which have been already enumerated, should be added the selection and execution of the engravings, which are remarkable for their clearness and accuracy, and for the combination of neatness and elegance, with a just regard to economy. There are no maps or plans, however, to accompany the local description ; and though we suppose that it is of course intended by the author to give a general map of the county with the concluding portion of his labours, that is not nearly enough to satisfy what topography, in our estimation, demands in this department of illustration. Sir Richard Hoare's meagre outline of the principal bearings of his " Vale of Wily,” is far too trivial and inconsiderable for the purpose ; and we would remark,“ en passant,” that, though there is something pleasant and attractive in the notion of parcelling out a county by its natural divisions of hills and rivers, in preference to the arbitrary, and most irregular and unaccountable apportionment of hundreds, rapes, and wapentakes, yet a little reflection will evince the incompatibility of such an arrangement with a parochial survey. It might, however, be attended to with advantage in a general description of the whole district, which may be thus presented under a sort of bird's-eye view upon the departmental system. And, in constructing maps of this description, we will venture to recommend the adoption of Lehmann's system of plandrawing, which has lately been introduced into England by Mr. Siborn's (of the 9th regt. inf.) work on plan-drawing. The peculiar excellence of this system is, that the inequalities of the surface, instead of being left to the fancy of the draughtsman, are described in so exact a manner, that, at any point, the elevation of the point, the angle of inclination of the surface there, and the quantity of the. adjacent surface which may be seen from it, can be instantly determined.