Page images
PDF
EPUB

the formation of a truly National Gallery, composed of the works of native artists; there is also that of a vast gallery of copies of such chefs d'æuvre of the Old Masters which it is desirable, but impossible, to obtain; and there is left to us the continuance in the course we have hitherto adopted and followed in the formation of a National Gallery, with such equivocal results.

A commission has just been appointed to consider the question of a new site for an edifice adapted to contain the nation's pictures, as well as the antiquities, or at least a portion of them, contained in the British Museum. This question involves so many others, that at present we must confine ourselves to that of site alone. Against the locality of the present National Gallery, it is objected that it is cramped for room, and that the pictures are suffering deterioration from dust, and soot. To the first objection, it may be urged, that if the space at present occupied by the barracks and the work house were acquired, an edifice could be erected large enough to provide ample room for the acquisitions of centuries. Any other locality would do as well for the barracks, while for the aged and infirm denizens of the workhouse, a rural site would be more consistent with humane keeping.

To the second objection we may reply that probably no thoroughfare actually within the limits of London proper, is more exempt from the evils of soot b and dust. As to any injury the pictures may receive from these noxious agents, they are not so invincible but they may be partially, if not wholly, overcome, and rendered innocuous by intelligent and judicious measures taken for their preservation. Certain we are that the influence of atmospheric agencies, even in the lapse of centuries, is insignificant when compared with the annual infliction of cleaning and varnishing to which these pictures have been unfortunately subjected. A picture properly varnished and well ventilated, is as indestructible as any organic substance can well be; and it is as difficult as presumptuous to assign any limits to its durability

In the opinion of most persons who have impartially considered the matter, the locality of the present National Gallery possesses many exclusive advantages. First and chiefest, it is central. Both to residents and visitors, it is accessible without difficulty or loss of time. For professed sight-seers, it is in close proximity to other exhibitions and objects of local interest : it may be reached from any part of London without appear to be a sacrifice of time. Even a business-man passing on an errand may venture to “make time” to stop and refresh himself with a hurried glance at the noble works within. But remove this gallery to Kensington, as proposed by certain“ practical” art-theorists, and we venture to assert, that for every thousand persons who now visit the national collection of pictures, not more than one will wend his weary way to the distant suburb. What a toilful journey it would prove to all the denizens of the murky regions that lie east of Temple-bar." How foot-sore and weary would the little “pets” become in performing so distant a

at may

• The writer has probably never noticed the volumes of opaque smoke frequently emitted from the baths and washhouses in the rear of the National Gallery. The influence of the act of parliament against the smoke nuisance does not appear to extend so far.-ED. GENT. MAG.

< In the evidence lately given before a committee of the House of Commons, scarcely a witness appeared to understand either the nature of varnish, or the object with which it is applied.

pilgrimage to the shrine of “high art;" for walk they must, unless we establish a line of railway, with penny fares, from Bow-common to Hammersmith-gate. Remove the National Gallery to Kensington! we might as well transport it to Salisbury Plain. Its very existence would be speedily forgotten by the million, or they would look upon it as inaccessible as Pompeii or Pekin. Let us hope that the good common sense of the nation will speedily repudiate so obnoxious a scheme. A new National Gallery must be provided, of that there can be no doubt. We tremble, lest its architecture may vie in absurdity with the “ Brompton-boiler" style; its management, that of Marlborough-house; or its accessibility, that of the gallery at Blenheim.

RECENTLY REPEALED STATUTES.

On the 21st of July, 1856, the royal assent was given to an act "to repeal certain statutes which are not in use," [19 & 20 Victoriæ, c. 64,] and 118 of such were swept from the law of the land; the series commencing with the venerable Statutes of Westminster of the year 1285, and closing with an act of the year 1777. Four of the repealed statutes are of the reign of Edward I.; five of Edward III.; nine of Richard II. ; ten of Henry IV.; five of Henry V.; seven of Henry VI.; two of Edward IV.; eight of Henry VII.; twenty-one of Henry VIII.; eleven of Edward VI. ; one of Mary; two of Philip and Mary; twelve of Elizabeth ; nine of James I.; two of Charles II. ; one of William and Mary; two of William III.; two of Anne; two of George I.; one of George II. ; and two of George III.

The subjects embraced by this long course of extinct legislation are sufficiently various; many relate to institutions long since passed away, whilst others apply to “ malefacts” but too common at the present day. We find, inter alia, statutes for lands in mortmain, and for the manufacture of bricks and tiles; decrees against “ Egyptians," as well as against crows and choughs; prohibitions of wasters and vagabonds in Wales, and riotous Irishmen in England; regulations for sheriffs, for victuallers, for hostlers, and for labourers; penalties for “riding in harness," as well as for wearing cloth buttons ; acts against “deceits used in painting," as also in making great cables and all other tackling for ships; heavy charges of corruption in custom-house officers, jurors, and gaolers; directions for coalkeels and for woolpacks; limits to iron-works, to sheep-farming, and to dealing in bullocks' horns; Star-chamber decrees against aliens, and an act for maintaining an English population in the Isle of Wight.

Above all, we have stringent statutes against the dishonesty of various tradesmen and artificers. Butchers, bakers, charcoal-men, workers in metals, tinkers, upholsterers, but more especially clothiers and tanners, are attempted to be made honest, but all to no purpose, apparently, so that at last the legislature gave up the task of reforming them in despair, and suffered more than fifty "godly statutes,” enacted for their especial restraint, to fall into desuetude; whether to the improvement of commercial morality, or otherwise, may fairly admit of a question.

Before entering on the misdeeds of the trading classes, as thus officially handed down to us, we will glance at some other matters, in relation to which changes have occurred in the lapse of centuries that afford sufficient reason for the statutes concerning them having fallen into disuse.

The first statute on our list (13 Edw. I. c. 33] is of this nature, and is sufficiently curious to be quoted :

"Forasmuch,” it says, “as many tenants set up crosses, or cause to be set up in their lands, in prejudice of their lords, that tenants should defend themselves against the chief lords of the fee, by the privileges of Templars and Hospitallers ; it is ordained, that such lands shall be forfeit to the chief lords, or to the king, in the same manner as is provided for lands aliened in mortmain.”

The next statute [13 Edw. I. c. 41] plainly indicates that property given for religious purposes was sometimes dishonestly administered, as it enacts that lands alienated by religious houses shall be seized into the king's hands, if of royal gift, and provides a form of writ by which the descendants of founders may recover them, and add them to their demesne; "and the purchaser shall lose his recovery, as well of the lands, as of the money that he paid.”

Another repealed statute of the same prince is one of the famous Articuli super Chartas [28 Edw. I. c. 5], extorted from him by his need of money for his foreign wars:

“ The king will that the chancellor and the justices of his bench shall follow him, so that he may have at all times near unto him some sages of the law, which be able duly to order all such matters as shall come into the court, at all times, when need shall require.”

Papal provisions, as is well known, formed a ground of quarrel between the popes and the English parliaments, rather than the kings a, for ages; here is one statute on the subject [25 Edw. III. stat. 5, c. 22,] repealed by the act before us :

“Because that some do purchase in the court of Rome provisions to have abbeys and priories in England, in destruction of the realm and of holy religion, it is accorded, that every man that purchaseth such provisions of abbeys or priories, that he and his executors and procurators, which do sue and make execution of such provisions, shall be out of the king's protection, and that a man may do with them as of enemies of our sovereign lord the king and his realm; and he that offendeth against such provisors in body or goods, or in other possessions, shall be excused against all people, and shall never be impeached nor grieved for the same at any man's suit.”

Whether any one availed himself of this parliamentary license to commit robbery or murder, does not appear from any chronicles that we are acquainted with ; but we know from Matthew Paris, that a hundred years before (Feb. 26, 1260,) the Londoners, of their free will, killed in the street one John Legras, who, by virtue of a provision, attempted to take possession of a prebend's stall in St. Paul's.

Among these repealed statutes we find the Statute of Nottingham (10 Edw. III. stat. 3], one of the earliest of our sumptuary laws. It is usually understood that curiousness of diet has been received by us from the French, but if so, and the recital of this statute is to be trusted, we had very early outdone our teachers. It is an ordinance (De cibariis utendis) for the repression of the extravagance of “excessive and over many sorts of costly meats, which the people of this realm have used, more than elsewhere;” for remedy, no one, "of what estate soever he be,” was allowed to

• Kings frequently solicited them from the popes, when it suited their purpose to interfere with the freedom of election promised to the Church at each successive coro. nation, if not more frequently ; hence they gave but cold support to the passing of the statutes against provisors, and dispensed with them without scruple.

have more than two courses at any one meal, except on the principal feasts in the year, eighteen in number, when he might have three. This ordinance was to be proclaimed in every county, and all were to keep it " without addition or fraud, by covin, evasion, art, or contrivance, or by interpretation of words, or any other colour-seeking;” they were charged to be obedient by their faith and allegiance to the king, their regard for the honour of God, and their care for the profit of the realm ; but not all these inducements together have been sufficient to save this ordinance from falling among the class of statutes not in use.

This statute was a few years later followed by the first of the Statutes of Apparel, which are usually supposed to have been swept away en masse in the first parliament of James I. One statute, however, [37 Edw. III. c. 15,] which, if acted on, would have strangely influenced the market price of broadcloth for the last 250 years, appears to have been overlooked, as it stood unrepealed until the last summer. It was intended to take away any ground for evasion of the statute of apparel, and therefore provided

“ That all the makers of cloths within the realm, as well men as women, shall conform them to make their cloths according to the price limited by this ordinance; and that all drapers shall buy and purvey their sorts according to the same price, so that so great plenty of such cloths be made and set to sale in every city, borough, and merchant town, and elsewhere within the realm, that for default of such cloths the said ordinance be in no point broken; and to that shall the said clothmakers and drapers be constrained by any manner way that best shall seem to the king and his council.”

Complaints against the corporation of London are rife enough at the present day, and whether well or ill-founded, it is certain that they are of ancient date. The statute 28 Edw. III. c. 10, gives a bad account of the governing body in the year 1354:

“Because that the errors, defaults, and misprisions which be notoriously used in the city of London, for default of good governance of the mayor, of the sheriffs and the aldermen, cannot be inquired nor found by people of the same city, it is ordained and established, that the said mayor, sheriffs and aldermen, which have the governance of the same city, shall cause to be redressed and corrected the defaults, errors, and misprisions above named, and the same duly punish from time to time, upon a certain pain, that is to say, at the first default a thousand marks to the king, and at the second default two thousand marks, and at the third default that the franchise and liberty of the city be taken into the king's hand : and be it begun to inquire upon them at St. Michael next coming, so that if they do not cause to be made due redress, as is aforesaid, it shall be inquired of their defaults by inquests of people of foreign counties, that is to say, of Kent, Essex, Sussex, Hertford, Buckingham, and Berks, as well at the king's suit as others that will complain.”

If indicted by these “foreign jurors,” the magistracy were to come out of their city to answer before the king's justices; and as the sheriffs of London were parties to this business," the constable of the Tower was put in their place to receive and execute all writs and process of attachment, distress, and exigent; "and this ordinance shall be holden firm and stable, notwithstanding any manner of franchise, privilege or customs. A like course was to be had with other offending corporations, only the inquests were to taken by people of the same county and the delinquents were to be judged at the discretion of such justices as should be assigned to try them.

Henry of Lancaster being greatly indebted to "the villeins of London," as the Yorkists termed them, for his throne, by a statute only now repealed [1 Hen. IV. c. 15,] relieved them from the forfeiture thus threatened, and

appointed the penalty for their default to be " by the advice and discretion of the justices thereto assigned.” The preamble states :

“Our lord the king, considering the good and lawful behaviour of the mayor, sheriffs and aldermen, and all the commonalty of the same city of London towards him, and therefore willing to ease and mitigate the penalty aforesaid. . . ."

This, however, was not the only token of the usurper's good will. The French chronicle of Richard II.b gives an account of a present that he made them, and how it was received :

“ In the year thirteen hundred fourscore and nineteen, the 16th of January, being the ninth day after the Kings, and a Wednesday, came a fine present, sent by King Henry to the city of London; that is to say, eight heads with their quarters, and twelve living gentlemen, prisoners, bound with whipcord and led between the villeins. The head of the Duke of Surrey was carried first, and upon the highest pole, and before it went the greatest part of the trumpeters and minstrels of the country; and the men of London made great rejoicings. The Archbishop of Canterbury, with eighteen bishops and thirty-two mitred abbots, beside the other prelates, went in procession, all mitred and wearing their ecclesiastical robes, to meet the present sent by King Henry to the Londoners; and they chanted Te Deum laudamus, while the people cheered, and shouted out unanimously, 'God preserve and bless our lord King Henry, and my lord the prince!' The archbishop then went to St. Paul's, where they chanted in chorus Te Deum laudamus, and afterwards the archbishop preached a sermon.”

Thus much for Henry's friends; the Statute-book furnishes us with information regarding his opponents also, and among these the Welsh stand conspicuous. Statutes still unrepealed shew that Owen Glyndwr was a much more formidable antagonist than Lancastrian chroniclers would lead us to believe (see 2 Hen. IV. cc. 16–20; 9 Hen. IV.cc. 1–4), and among those now repealed we have two [4 Hen. IV. cc. 27, 29) which forbid Welsh “minstrels, or vagabonds,” to hold assemblies, and order all Welsh. men to be disarmed, except those (a very small number, we imagine,) "which be lawful liege people to our sovereign lord the king.” Even in the time of Henry VI. they are said to vex the “ liege people” with lawsuits concerning matters done during the revolt, a proof that they had not been reduced to unconditional submission; a repealed statute [23 Hen. VI. c. 4] authorizes their apprehension and imprisonment if they flee from charges of treason or felony into Herefordshire, and imposes penalties on all who do not join in the hue and cry against them (knights 100s., squires 40s., all others 20s.); and this mode of proceeding against them in the foreign land” of England is authorized by two repealed statutes of Henry VIII. [26 Hen. VIII. cc. 5, 6]. These provide that the keepers of the ferries on the water of the Severn (at Aust, Arlingham, Fremeland, Newnham, Pirton, and Portishead-point) shall not convey in their ferry-boats "any manner of persons, goods, or chattels after the sun going down till the sun be up;" and that acquittals in any court in Wales or the marches shall not prevent trials for the same alleged offence in the next English county within two years. The preamble of the last-mentioned statute alleges as disorderly a state of things in the now peaceful Principality as was ever ascribed to Galway or Tipperary:

"Forasmuch as the people of Wales, and marches of the same, not dreading the good and wholesome laws and statutes of this realm, have of long time continued and

Chronicque de la Traïson et Mort de Richart Deux Roy Dengleterre,” published (1846) by the English Historical Society.

e According to the modern computation, the year should be given as 1400, and the day should be Friday. The ghastly trophies were furnished by Richard's friends, who had attempted a rising at Cirencester ten days before.

GENT, MAG. VOL. XLVII.

I

« PreviousContinue »