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“A precious piece of architecture"_Guests at an inn-A pleasant
city-Unexpected kindness—A medieval lavatory-An honest lawyer !—The cost of obliging a stranger-Branston-A lost cyclist-In search of a husband !-Dunston Pillar-An architectural puzzle--A Lincolnshire spa—Exploring—An ancient chrismatory.
LINCOLN Cathedral is surely, both within and without, one of the most interesting and beautiful in England; its superb central tower is the finest specimen of medieval building of its kind I have so far seen. Were I inclined to be dogmatic, regardless of the possibilities of what I have not beheld, I should proclaim it to be the most beautiful in the world, perfect, as it appears to me to be, in proportion and decoration, besides being so dignified. It is in just this rare, but delightful, quality of dignity that the modern architect somehow so lamentably fails; he may be grand by virtue of mass, he may be picturesque by accident, but dignity he seldom achieves! The chapter house here, with its bold flying buttresses outside and grand groined roof within, is a notable bit of eye-pleasing architecturebut I declared I had no intention of wearying my readers with a detailed description of this cathedral, and already I find myself beginning to do so; and RUSKIN ON LINCOLN
truly Lincoln Cathedral, above all others, should be seen, not described. Perhaps it may not be out of place here to quote some of Ruskin's remarks on Lincoln and its cathedral, contained in a letter written by the famous art critic to a local celebrity at the time of the opening of the Lincoln School of Art. I quote this the more gladly as, owing to the nature of the communication, it may not be generally known, and all that Ruskin has to say should be worth preserving. Thus then he wrote: “I have always held, and am prepared against all comers to maintain, that the cathedral of Lincoln is out and out the most precious piece of architecture in the British Islands, and, roughly speaking, worth any two other cathedrals we have got. Secondly, that the town of Lincoln is a lovely old English town, and I hope the mayor and common-councilmen won't let any of it (not so much as a house corner) be pulled down to build an institution, or a market, or a penitentiary, or a gunpowder and dynamite mill, or a college, or a gaol, or a barracks, or any other modern luxury.” This is true Ruskinian ; and fortified by such an expression of such an authority, I feel after all inclined for once to be dogmatic and declare that Lincoln, taking it as a whole, is the loveliest cathedral in the land. Shielded behind Ruskin's great authority I venture this bold opinion; other cathedrals may be admired, Lincoln can not only be admired, it may also be loved. It is not always one finds grandeur thus combined with lovableness !
Within the cathedral we noticed several tweed
clad tourists amongst the crowd “doing” the building ; these were the first regulation tourists we had come upon during our drive, which circumstance brought to our mind the fact, possibly not realised by the many, that our cathedrals have become more like vast museums than places of worship devoted to God. I have attended a cathedral service on a week-day, and have made one of a congregation of five—all told ; which seems, to me, a great waste of clerical and choirical energy. I afterwards asked the verger if they did not generally have more people at that particular service, and he replied meaningly, “When the weather is wet we sometimes have fewer.” And I could not help wondering whether it might not be possible, on certain occasions, when the elements were especially unpropitious, that the vergers had the elaborate service and superb singing all to themselves! Which is magnificent! When the service in question we attended was over, the tourists, who had been waiting outside, trooped in hurriedly and in numbers more than I could conveniently or perhaps possibly count. I venture to say that in our cathedrals, during the year, the people who come merely for sight-seeing vastly outnumber those who come purely for worship.
Over the ancient fane, and its immediate surroundings, there seems to brood the hush of centuries, a hush heightened rather than broken, when we were there, by the cooing of innumerable pigeons that love to linger about the hoary pile, and give a pleasant touch of life to the steadfast masonry. Leaving the cathedral and the city on the hill
A SHARP CONTRAST
(“Above Hill” it is locally called to distinguish it from the city “Below Hill"), we descended to the more modern part. This time we appeared not to tread back the long centuries, but to walk suddenly out of the picturesque past into the very prosaic present, as represented by Lincoln's busy High Street. There we found tram-cars running and jingling along; eager crowds on the pavement; plate-glass-fronted shops, quite “up to date"; and a large railway station asserted its nineteenth-century ugliness,-moreover, right across this thronged thoroughfare was a level railway crossing of the London main line, and when the gates of this were shut, as they were from time to time, crowds of pedestrians and a mass of vehicles collected on either side. I have never seen before a level crossing of an important main line situated in the centre of a busy city High Street. I was under the impression that such things were only allowed in America. I was mistaken. An American gentleman, to whom I spoke of the nuisance of a certain level “railroad” crossing in Chicago, maintained that such a thing could be found in an English city. I stoutly maintained the contrary; he would not be convinced, neither would l. Lincoln proves me wrong. I apologise, in case by any remote chance these lines may catch the eye of that Chicago citizen, whose name I have forgotten.
Of most places there is generally one best view, a view that is distinctly superior to all others; but of Lincoln this cannot be said. The ancient city, with its towered cathedral standing sovereign on its
hill, looks well from almost everywhere ; each view has its special character and charm, and no one can be said to be better than another. As we returned to our inn and looked up the High Street, the prospect presented to us of the cathedral raised high over the red-roofed houses, gabled walls, and gray bits of medieval masonry peeping out here and there, with just a touch of mystery superadded by the blue film of smoke that floated veil-like over the lower city, was most poetic ; gold and gray showed the sentinel towers as they stood in sunshine or shadow, softly outlined against the darkening sky. Another most effective view of Lincoln is from “the pool,” where the river widens out; here the foreground is changed from houses to reflective water with sleepy shipping thereon, shipping of the homely kind that navigates inland waters. But from almost every point “below hill,” where the cathedral can be seen as a whole—there is a picture such as the true artist loves ; not sensational at all, but simply beautiful and benevolent, which is more to my mind. Lincoln as a picture charms, it does not astonish ; it is supremely effective without being in the least theatrical or unreal; unlike the architectural scenery of Italy—if I may be allowed the term-it does not suggest the painting of a drop-scene, nor the background of an opera !
Lincoln "above hill” is not only one of the most pleasant cities in England, it is also one of the most picturesque; it is beautiful close at hand, it is beautiful beheld at a distance.
In the evening we had evidence of having come