Author Comment    

Sep 1, 05 - 12:20 AM

I have been dipping into Familiar Allusions, a Handbook of Miscellaneous Information which concerns itself with statues, paintings, buildings, natural curiosities and suchlike. It was published in 1882, when those now-familiar (perhaps overly familiar) landmarks the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower were merely a twinkle in some Frenchie�s eye. Here are some things which interested me:

Under Liberty is mentioned only: �A colossal statue designed by Thomas Crawford (1814-57), surmounting the dome of the Capitol in Washington. It is undoubtedly the best known of his works. The statue is executed in bronze and is nineteen-and-a-half feet in height.� Alas, it is not described. I wonder, is it still there? I have never noticed a statue in pictures of the Capitol, but I suppose even such a height might be dwarfed by the dome itself. If not, whatever happened to it? Also listed is the Liberty Tree (revolution�s grimmer aspect): �A large elm in Boston, Mass, used to hang effigies of obnoxious persons upon at the time of the disturbances caused by the Stamp Act. The site of this tree is commemorated by a device upon the building which now occupies its place upon Washington Street. Lafayette said, �The world should never forget the spot where once stood Liberty Tree�.� Well, I suppose you can�t forget it if you never heard of it! At least it was only effigies � or was it?

Also in Washington: �A noted monumental structure in Washington, begun in 1848, and intended to be in the form of an obelisk 600 feet in height, and to contain the tomb of Washington. It is now in an unfinished state, being at present 174 feet high. In a building adjoining the monument is a collection of memorial stones sent by different countries and states for the decoration of the interior. It is uncertain whether this monument will ever be carried forward to completion, or whether the material used in its construction will be adapted to some other commemorative purpose.�

The Monument, of course, is in London: �A stone column, 202 feet in height, Fish Street Hill, London, erected by Sir Christopher Wren (1671-1680) to commemorate the Great Fire of 1666, and the rebuilding of the city. The following inscription, now effaced, was cut in 1681 upon the pedestal: �This pillar was set up in perpetual remembrance of that most dreadful burning of this Protestant city, begun and carried on by ye treachery and malice of ye popish factio, in ye beginning of Septem. in ye year of Our Lord 1666, in order to ye carrying on of their horrid plott for extirpating the Protestant religion and old English liberty, and the introducing popery and slavery.� [You see our old friend Liberty making a surprise appearance.] Alexander Pope is quoted:
�Where London�s column, pointing at the skies,
Like a tall bully, lifts the head and lies.�

There is also a jarring note from Murray�s Handbook:
�Six persons have thrown themselves off the Monument. This kind of death becoming popular, it was deemed advisable to encage and disfigure the Monument as we now see it.�

I wonder if this was some martyr-like protest at the inscription (and if the �disfigurement� was the effacing of it mentioned above) or merely suicidal flamboyance? By the way, since Sir Christopher was not some amazing child prodigy, the dates given here must be for the building of the Monument. So... wasn't Thomas Crawford a slow worker!

Sep 1st, 2005 - 7:31 AM
Re: Landmarks

Perhaps my favourite landmarks, past and present, are the Eleanor Crosses at the sites where Queen Eleanor�s coffin rested on its journey from Lincolnshire to London, so sad and romantic. Fifteen were erected but only three remain. I have seen one, at Waltham Cross in Hertfordshire. It is beautifully decorated despite seven hundred years of weathering. There was one at Charing Cross (from cher reine, dear queen) but those mean Parliamentarians destroyed it.

Sep 4th, 2005 - 9:30 PM
Re: Landmarks

My own taste is towards Oriental splendour, something sadly lacking in my own dear land, though the Brighton Pavilion is the jewel of the South Coast. I long to see the Alhambra in Spain, the Red Castle, which though outwardly plain has an interior splendid with colonnades, fountains, gilded ceilings and Moorish ornamentation.
Ellen Dale

Sep 6th, 2005 - 12:27 AM
Re: Landmarks

I do hope you are not criticizing the Eiffel Tower. In a cold light it may appear a monstrous metal folly, but on the other hand, however often I see it my heart still skips a beat. It just seems to epitomize the romance of France and Paris in particular, its style and grace and insouciance belying its magnitude and stability.