The dead abide with us! Though stark and cold
Earth seems to grip them, they are with us still.
Some years ago I took up architecture, and made a tour through
Holland, studying the buildings of that interesting country. I was not
then aware that it is not enough to take up art. Art must take you up,
too. I never doubted but that my passing enthusiasm for her would be
returned. When I discovered that she was a stern mistress, who did not
immediately respond to my attentions, I naturally transferred them to
another shrine. There are other things in the world besides art. I am
now a landscape gardener.
But at the time of which I write I was engaged in a violent flirtation
with architecture. I had one companion on this expedition, who has
since become one of the leading architects of the day. He was a thin,
determined-looking man with a screwed-up face and heavy jaw, slow of
speech, and absorbed in his work to a degree which I quickly found
tiresome. He was possessed of a certain quiet power of overcoming
obstacles which I have rarely seen equalled. He has since become my
brother-in-law, so I ought to know; for my parents did not like him
much and opposed the marriage, and my sister did not like him at all,
and refused him over and over again; but, nevertheless, he eventually
I have thought since that one of his reasons for choosing me as his
travelling companion on this occasion was because he was getting up
steam for what he subsequently termed 'an alliance with my family',
but the idea never entered my head at the time. A more careless man as
to dress I have rarely met, and yet, in all the heat of July in
Holland, I noticed that he never appeared without a high, starched
collar, which had not even fashion to commend it at that time.
I often chaffed him about his splendid collars, and asked him why he
wore them, but without eliciting any response. One evening, as we were
walking back to our lodgings in Middeburg, I attacked him for about
the thirtieth time on the subject.
'Why on earth do you wear them?' I said.
'You have, I believe, asked me that question many times,' he replied,
in his slow, precise utterance; 'but always on occasions when I was
occupied. I am now at leisure, and I will tell you.'
And he did.
I have put down what he said, as nearly in his own words as I can
Ten years ago, I was asked to read a paper on English Frescoes at the
Institute of British Architects. I was determined to make the paper as
good as I could, down to the slightest details, and I consulted many
books on the subject, and studied every fresco I could find. My
father, who had been an architect, had left me, at his death, all his
papers and note-books on the subject of architecture. I searched them
diligently, and found in one of them a slight unfinished sketch of
nearly fifty years ago that specially interested me. Underneath was
noted, in his clear, small hand--Frescoed east wall of crypt. Parish
Church. Wet Waste-on-the-Wolds, Yorkshire (via Pickering).