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wild-cat scheme that misguided enthusiasm, or the passing fashion of the day may suggest. Even the well-weighed proposals of responsible outside critics need long and careful consideration before they can receive the seal of official sanction. There may be conflicting interests to reconcile, long-standing rights to safeguard, or, most difficult of all, a reluctant Treasury to beguile. And so at best the wheels grind slowly, whilst the parrot cry of ‘red tape’ that echoes round the walls of the War Office only bespeaks the blank ignorance of those who raise it, all unaware that the thing they blaspheme stands simply for order, for method and system, and for justice between man and man.

A. K. SLESSOR.

Christ Church, Orford.

THE CRYSTAL PALACE

A REMINISCENCE AND A SUGGESTION

'A PALACE made of Crystal !' The words beat upon my childish ears with all the charm and insistence of a fairy tale. They loomed large and fantastic upon the world of 1851—that world which to those who can remember it appears now so small, so circumscribed, so stable and so safe. The name alone, which in these days appears so commonplace, because people have forgotten its real signification, set all imaginations going; and the rare travellers who went from my native country to visit England came back with quite unbelievable stories of its vastness, its beauty, its splendour.

It must be borne in mind that nothing of the kind had ever been conceived ; that public taste was not jaded by every sort of extraordinary thing springing up like mushrooms overnight, in almost all European countries, and that exhibitions had never been heard of. It was, in fact, the distinct beginning of a new epoch and of new ideas in the history of England. When first I saw the Palace in the distance, soaring apparently in mid-air, unreal and elusive against a frosty December sunset, its age was only seven years. The impression was so strong that it remains as fresh in my mind to-day as it was then. We were nearing murky London, a far foggier and darker London than it is now, and also a much less beautiful one. As my eyes roved over the miles of small houses I thought of the poet Heine's description when he says that, looking down upon the myriads of chimneypots, they put him in mind of so many teeth drawn and set with their roots upwards; he also adds that in England the moon always wears a yellow flannel jacket, which proves that he only knew a London moon.

The great event which brought me and my companions over to England was the marriage of Queen Victoria's eldest daughter, the young and gifted Princess Royal, with the future Emperor Frederick the Third. The ladies and gentlemen with whom I had travelled were to form the Princess's court at Berlin, and the Queen, with her usual kind thoughtfulness, had desired that all the sights of London should be shown to us. The very first thing we went to see, as the most important and remarkable, was the Crystal Palace, for it was unique in the world, and filled us with wonder and admiration. I can recall now the Princess Royal after her marriage often alluding to its opening as one of the most glorious events in the Queen's reign. She said her Royal mother felt such a pride in it, as a proof of the genius and high intelligence of her beloved husband, who conceived it and under whose directions it was built.

The idea of a great Exhibition Palace was an absolutely new one, and in those days a colossal enterprise. The path on which so many other exhibitions were to follow had to be dug and paved, minds had to be trained and accustomed to the thought, and bitter opposition was aroused; yet in spite of it all the great work sprang up in the course of less than six months from its beginning and, what is more, not one of the exhibitions, great or small, which in the last sixty years have followed in its wake have ever rivalled it or even approached it in intrinsic beauty. This is high praise for a monument built at a time when taste and imagination were at a low ebb and the conception of art clung almost only to pictures and statuary. It was only twenty years later that the influence of Morris and the pre-Raphaelite school began to be felt in things pertaining to daily life-an influence which spread far beyond the boundaries of the British Empire, and has strongly coloured art in every European country.

At a moment when so much has been said about the destruction of one of the foremost landmarks of the most glorious reign Great Britain has ever known, it may not be amiss to give a short account of its history. Whether the Prince Consort really originated the idea of a great International Exhibition or whether it was suggested to him by somebody else is not quite certain ; but there is no doubt that he seized the idea with great warmth and enthusiasm, and matured it in his own mind before speaking of it to anybody else. It was during the summer of 1849 that the Prince first began to discuss the matter with Sir Robert Peel and others. * Now is the time, he said, 'to prepare for an Exhibition-a great Exhibition worthy of the greatness of this country, not merely national in its scope and benefits, but comprehensive of the whole world ; and I offer myself to the public as their leader, if they are willing to assist the undertaking.'

The place selected for the Exhibition Palace was Hyde Park, but this met with violent opposition. In June 1850 the Prince writes : ' The Exhibition is now furiously attacked by The Times, and the House of Commons is going to drive us out of the Park. There is immense excitement on the subject. If we are driven out of the Park the work is done for. Never was anything so foolish!' Then a little later in another letter : 'Further to

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distress us, the whole public-led on by The Times-has all at once made a set against me and the Exhibition, on the ground of interference with Hyde Park. We are to back out of London with our nuisance to the Isle of Dogs, &c.! If we are beaten

& we shall have to give the whole thing up.'

However, the Prince was not beaten on the question of site. The House of Commons defeated the opposition with a large majority. The financial question was overcome by creating a guarantee fund, the Prince being a liberal subscriber, so anxiety was set at rest on that point. Nobody could anticipate at that time that the success of the Exhibition would make a dead letter of these guarantees, for it left in the hands of the commissioners a balance of nearly a quarter of a million !

The architect chosen to construct the Palace was Mr. Joseph Paxton, the seventh son of a poor schoolmaster, who had worked up his way from the humble position of a gardener on the Duke of Devonshire's estates at Chatsworth, where he had constructed a conservatory 300 feet long by 145 wide, which gave him the idea of the Crystal Palace.

As soon as the designs for the Exhibition were made public there arose a storm of protest that might have frightened a less determined man than Mr. Paxton. It was said that a huge building of glass and iron could never be made stable. There would be a stupendous disaster. The first gale would blow it into a shapeless wreck. Even if the glass case' managed to resist the gales, the heat engendered by the sun when it poured its rays upon the glass would be so terrific that no human being would be able to withstand it; consequently if they escaped an avalanche of glass they would be roasted to death inside the case.' I quote these amusing details from a volume compiled some time ago when the Crystal Palace was to be sold by auction.

But there were still more extraordinary developments. The project was looked upon with distrust by most of the great Continental Powers. They thought that contact with English institutions might open dangerous lines of opinion in the minds of their subjects, who were sure to be attracted in considerable numbers to England by the Exhibition. The Prussian Government so alarmed the King with apprehensions of dangers from Republican assassins that at first he would not allow the Prince and Princess of Prussia (afterwards Emperor William and Empress Augusta) to accept the Queen's invitation to be present at the opening ceremony.

All these difficulties increased the Prince Consort's work enormously, and he writes : 'Just at present I am more dead than alive from overwork. The opponents of the Exhibition work with might and main to throw all the old women into & panic and to drive myself crazy.

The

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strangers, they give out, are to commence a thorough revolution here, to murder Victoria and myself, and to proclaim the Red Republic in England. The plague is certain to come from the confluence of such vast multitudes and to swallow up those whom the increased price of everything has not already swept away. For all this I am to be responsible and against all this I am to make efficient provision.'

This letter is dated the 15th of April 1851, and on the 1st of May the Exhibition was opened in circumstances of unparalleled pomp. It is amusing to record that even at the last moment the prophets of evil begged and prayed that guns announcing the Queen's arrival in the Park should not be fired, because the concussion would shiver the glass roof of the Palace, and thousands of great ladies, who were to be in their seats by ten o'clock, would be cut into mincemeat. Many nervous people were deterred from attending the opening ceremony.

The Prince Consort's biographer writes :

The shock of surprised delight which everyone felt upon first entering the great transept of Paxton's building was a sensation as novel as it was deep. Its vastness was measured by the huge elms, two of the giants of the Park which rose far into the air with all their wealth of foliage, free and unconfined as if there were no thing between them and the open sky. The plash of fountains, the luxuriance of tropical foliage, the play of colours from the choicest flowers, carried on into the vistas gi the nave by the rich dyes of carpets and stuffs from the costliest looms, were enough to fill eye and mind with a pleasure never to be forgotten, even without the vague sense of what lay beyond in the accumulated results of human ingenuity and cultivated art.

Thackeray was so moved by the sight that he wrote the following lines :

But yesterday a naked sod
The dandies sneered from Rotten Row,
And cantered o'er it to and fro,
And see 'tis done!
As tho' t'were by a wizard's rod
A blazing arch of lucid glass
Leaps like a fountain from the grass
To meet the sun.
A quiet green, but few days since
With cattle browsing in the shade
And here are lines of bright arcade,
An order raised.
A Palace as for fairy Prince
A rare Pavilion such as man
Saw never since mankind began,
And built and glazed !

But the happiest, the proudest, the most thankful heart on that day was the Queen's. The loving wife, the great Queen,

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