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Lord Bacon on Building-Burghley his evident Ideal-Grandeurs of the House- The Approach and Entrance-gate-The
Interior - The Chapel—The Billiard-room-Portraits—The “Lord of Burghley", Tennyson's Poem-The Real Facts – The Old Ball-room and its Decorations - Queen Elizabeth's Chamber-The Pagoda-room-A Grand Collection of Portraits, The George IV. Rooms-Royal Visitors at Burghley-The Carlo Dolce Picture-The Gardens—“ Capability Brown"-The Town of Stamford-Its Great Antiquity-Once a Resort of Learning-Its Churches-St. Martin's and the Cecil Monuments—The “George" Inn.
PHEN the great Lord Chancellor Bacon, being at the time simply Mr.
Francis Bacon, wrote his essay upon Building, he beyond all doubt had in his mind that model of dignified comfort and ease, the noble country-house built by the Lord Treasurer Burghley, on land which his father, Richard Cecil, had bought from the Abbey of Peterborough. This mansion was finished about ten years before the publication of “Essayes and Religious Meditations.” In the short
treatise on that important theme, the planning of a house, Bacon has the following :-"First, therefore, I say, you cannot have a perfect Pallace, except you have two several Sides; A Side for the Banquet, as is spoken of in the Booke of Hester; and a Side for the Household : The One for Feasts and Triumphs, and the Other of Dwelling. I understand both these Sides to be not onely Returnes but Parts of the Front; And to be uniforme without, though severally Partitioned within ; And to be on both Sides of a Great and Stately Tower, in the Middest of the Front, that as it were ioyneth them together, on either Hand. I would have on the side of the Banquet, in Front, one onely Goodly Roome, above Staires, of some Fortie Foot high ; And under it, a Rooms for a Dressing or Preparing Place, at Times of Triumphs. On the other Side, which is the Household Side, I wish it divided at the first into a Hall and a Chappell, with a Partition betweene; Both of good State and Bignesse : And those not to goe all the Lengthe, but to have, at the further End, a Winter and a Summer Parler, both Faire. And under these Roomes, a Faire and Large Cellar, suncke under Ground : And likewise some Privie Kitchins with Butteries and Pantries and the like. As for the Tower, I would have it two Stories, of Eighteene Foot High a peece, above the two Wings; And a Goodly Leads upon the Top, railed with Statuas interposed ; And the same Tower to bee divided into Roomes as shall be thought fit. The Staires likewise, to the upper Roomes, let them bee upon a Faire open Newell, and finely raild in, with Images of Wood, cast into a Brasse Colour ; And a very Faire Landing Place at the Top. But this to Bee, if you do not point any of the lower Roomes, for a Dining Place of Servants. For otherwise you shall have the Servants Dinner after your owne: For the Steame of it will come up as in a Tunnell.”
Other desiderata named and described by Bacon are so exactly fulfilled in the economy of Burghley House as to stamp that magnificent structure at once as the type selected. A “Faire Court” is demanded by the essayist, and there it is. Staircases are to be cast into turrets, and such is the arrangement followed by the architect, John Thorpe. Stately galleries there must be, and these shall have cupolas: the galleries and the cupolas are notable objects in Burghiey House. “Imbowed,” or bayed, windows are held by Francis Bacon to be of good use; and nobody who has seen this typical country-seat can have failed to observe that peculiarly English characteristic of the mansion, a picturesque and comfortable abundance of these projecting windows. It is observable that neither by Bacon himself, nor by certain others having pretensions to judgment in such things, is Burghley, or Hatfield, or any of the Elizabethan or Jacobean dwelling-houses of that day considered beautiful. The essay from which we have quoted begins with this emphatic declaration : “Houses are built to Live in, and not to Looke on : Therefore let Use bee preferred before Uniformitie, except where both may be had. Leave the Goodly Fabrickes of Houses, for Beauty onely, to the Enchanted Pallaces of the Poets : Who build them with small Cost.” And yet we moderns justly account such edifices beautiful, introducing them into pictures which we should pronounce ugly if they contained the commonplace and unlovely labours of the "speculative builder.” Why is this? Because the domestic architects of Elizabeth and James actually regarded certain work of ornament as being so necessary that they did not think of it in the sense of ornament at all. It was pure matter-of-fact to them; a mere natural outcome of the habits and feelings of the age : in short, “the regular thing," without which a habitation would be indecorous and repulsive.
It is thus that "the Picturesque" grows into that quality out of some need which was never felt as anything but a need, of the most ordinary and prosaic kind, by those who first recognised it, and strove in all simple faith to satisfy it. Burghley House is one of many instances, perhaps the chief instance, of unconscious elegance of design. There it stands, as innocent of any pretentious or purposed charms as a ship in full sail ; having the same fit and free relation to oak and elm, to cawing rooks and quiet verdure, that
THE INTERIOR OF THE HOUSE.
the vessel has to open sea and sky, and scudding cloud, and changeful shadows. Even so late an authority as Mr. Fergusson denies, in his “History of Architecture,” the claim of Burghley, as of Hatfield, to be classed as “beautiful ” specimens of the English Renaissance, whether from the details or from grouping of the parts. On the other hand, that prince of dilettanti, Horace Walpole, felt the fascination of Burghley House—that “venerable palace,” as he calls it; and Matthew Prior, when under the patronage of the Earl of Exeter, wrote several of his poems there, “adding celebrity to the place,” as Walpole observes, "by his pleasing verses.”
John Thorpe's plans for Burghley House are preserved among the curiously miscel-laneous objects of Sir John Soane's Museum, in Lincoln's Inn Fields. The unjustly slighted architect, whose name, not long after his death, passed into an oblivion from which it was only to be rescued by critics more generous and discerning than his immediate successors, designed his work in the form of a parallelogram, and built it, as Bacon describes his “Perfect Pallace,” round an open court. This, by-the-by, is a feature that struck Horace Walpole “with admiration and reverence.” The whole palace is built of Barpack stone. The west front, with its lofty square tower, projecting from the line, and having its angles surmounted by octangular turrets, capped with cupolas, was the part first finished. Massive iron gates, richly gilt, guard the approaches to this and the north, or principal, front, which is divided into three compartments, with an effect so undeniably fine that no candid spectator will abstain from wondering how any critic so acute as Fergusson could have spoken coldly of such an elevation. On the central panel of the parapet is the date 1587, which denotes the period of completion, Lord Burghley having begun to build here in 1575. The earliest date discoverable on any part of the building is 1577; and these figures occur on the arched ceiling of the west entrance. Beyond the front on this side is the porter's lodge, opening to a quadrangle, round which the various domestic offices are ranged, the centre being well occupied by an old horse-chestnut tree of a goodly girth.
Following the order in which visitors are usually shown the interior of this mansion, we pass through a long corridor, commanding a view of that inner court which awakened the admiring praise of Francis Bacon, and reach a stone staircase, of that characteristic quality which is inimitable, or which, being imitated, ceases to be characteristic. It is as naturally and grandly picturesque as if it had grown. Communicating with the apartments on the first floor, it rises to the top of the house; and in its peculiarities of decoration, such as the ornaments of the roof, the radiating arch above the shorter flights, and the groinings over the landing-places, with their stone pendants, may be observed a blance to the canopy of the Lord Treasurer's monument in St. Martin's Church, Stamford. The first room entered is called the Chapel-room; thence we reach the Ante-Chapel; and so pass on to the Chapel, in which is placed as an altar-piece a picture by Paul Veronese, the subject being Zebedee's wife petitioning our Lord on behalf of her sons.
The chimney-piece, of various marbles, was brought from a convent near Lisbon.
More interesting yet is the admirable wood-carving of Grinling Gibbons, specimens of which adorn the walls here as in other parts of the house. It has been asserted—principally on the strength of a letter written by Lord Burghley, in 1585, wherein he speaks of
having set his walls on the old foundation, and of having made the rough stones to be square— that the Chapel, the Great Hall, and the kitchen had formed part of the monastic cell and subsequent manor house attached to Peterborough Abbey. It would, however, be difficult to point out any convincing evidence that the present house contains a fragment of masonry older than the period of the Elizabethan architect, John Thorpe.
On our way to the Chapel we have passed a great many Italian pictures, the production in a large measure of Giordano and Carlo Maratti. By Giordano, or Jordain, was painted that picture of “Seneca Dying in a Bath,” which was eulogised in verse by Prior, who
saw it at Burghley, where it no longer is. An egregious blunder is made, in respect of this work, by the editor of Prior's poems in the “ Aldine” edition of British Poets. A long foot-note, quoting Pilkington's “Dictionary of Painters,” begins by telling us that " Jaques Jordain” was born at Antwerp in 1584 ; that he was a disciple of Adam van Oert, and so All this may be very interesting, but it has nothing on earth to do with the picture, which was painted, not by a Fleming named Jordain (or more properly Jordaens), but by Luca Giordano (Frenchified to Jordain), who was born at Naples fifty years after Jacob Jordaens first drew breath at Antwerp; and who, being a pupil first of Spagnoletto and afterwards of Pietro da Cortona, developed qualities of quite a different sort from those which distinguished the Flemish artist.
Perhaps the only characteristic held by the two painters in common was unflinching industry.
From the Chapel we are led to the Billiard-room, in which are many interesting portraits,