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Imperial Magazine;





Memoir of

| bondage, he ventured to remonstrate both JOHN BRITTON, ESQ. F.S.A. M.R.S.L. &c. &c.

with his master and his uncle; but without

effect, for neither was the task of labour (With a Portrait.)

remitted by the one, nor any consolation In the history of literary industry, few in afforded by the other. At length, when stances will be found more impressively there seemed little chance of recovery, the exemplary than the one we are about to wine. merchant thought proper to give up record; for though not diversified with inci- | the indentures about half a year before the dent, or rendered attractive by adventure, expiration of the term; and, as a further proof it presents the instructive circumstance of of his liberality, he presented the young man intellectual energy working its way, unpre- with two guineas, instead of the twenty, pared by education, and unaided by patron- which had been stipulated for by agreea age, from painful obscurity to honourable ment! eminence.

It must here be observed, that during Mr. John Britton was born at Kington this subterraneous immurement, the apSt. Michael, in Wiltshire, in the month of prentice would occasionally steal half an July, 1771. His father carried on busi- hour in a morning, between seven and ness as a baker and maltster, with sufficient eight o'clock, to look at the sky, breathe a credit to support a family of ten children, little fresh air, and visit two book-stalls in till misfortunes, brought on by rivals in the vicinity of his prison cave. The rational trade, and an improvident connexion with food and medicine obtained from these a dishonest miller, reduced him to poverty, sources, not only supported life, but furand hurried him to the grave, where he nished that information which enabled him was soon followed by his afflicted widow. to ascertain the seat of certain diseases,

Previous to this calamity, John Britton, which had long preyed on his frame, and whose education had been limited to the threatened his dissolution. The perusal of scanty elements of reading, writing, and | Cheselden's Anatomy, Quincy's Dispensaarithmetic, was sent, at about the age of tory, Buchan's Domestic Medicine, Tissot fourteen, to a maternal uncle at London, on Sedentary Diseases, Cornaro on Health, who held some situation in the Chancery and other works of a like kind, had a saluoffice; and by whom he was apprenticed tary effect in regulating his mode of living, for six years to a wine merchant. This and inducing observation. At this period, tedious period of servitude, was drayged various books of a serious, scientific, or through as a lengthened and galling chain, amusing description, had been read by him, severe enough of itself, but peculiarly so to as Ray on the Creation, Derham's Astro a weak constitution, which was now greatly and Physico Theology, Martin's Philosoimpaired by constant confinement in damp, phical works; and the novels of Fielding murky cellars. Here his occupation was and Smollet. All this miscellaneous readan incessant course of labour, without im- | ing was by candle-light in the cellar, and provement; a continued round of the same at occasional intervals only. employ, without any thing new to excite To compensate for the time thus abapplication, or amusement to relieve pre- stracted from systematic duties, the student sent fatigue. The porters in the business was compelled to labour with additional learnt as much as the apprentice; but their exertion, and to adopt the most rapid situation was preferable to his, for they modes of performing his tasks. To bottle enjoyed annual salaries, or weekly wages, off, and cork a certain number of dozens of to invigorate hope, and reward diligence; wine, was required for a day's work, and while to the articled drudge, there appeared as this, by management, could be done, in no prospect of advancement beyond that of ten or eleven hours, three or four hours a servant; for which, however, by the decay were left for reading. Though dissipation of bodily health, he became daily disqua was hereby guarded against, of mental imlified. In this irksome and miserable provement there could be but little, ir 118.-VOL, X.


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course so vague and desultory, without a | By writing an occasional essay for the literary friend, able and willing to impart Sporting Magazine, he became koonn to information, and to give salutary advice.. the late Mr. Wheble, the printer and pro

Towards the termination of his appren prietor, who, oa hearing he was a native of ticeship, however, young Britton had the Wiltshire, informed him that he had some good fortune, in his morning walks, to be. years before undertaken to poblish by sab. come acquainted with a watch-face painter scription the Beauties of that county. Owing, named Essex, who, being fond of books, however, to other engagements, the work and of a communicative disposition, gladly was never proceeded with; but being der. encouraged the same tum in others. The ous of redeeming his pledge, he now urged intimacy with this practical philosopher was Mr. Britton to take it up, and complete cultivated to advantage, not only in the the design. Though wholly unacquainted acquisition of books, but in the proper ap- with topography, he consented, and entered plication of the knowledge they imparted. upon a course of research necessary for the The shop of Mr. Essex was resorted to by task on which he bad embarked. This intelligent men, with some of whom, Mr. produced a renewal of the connexion with Britton, at the outset of life, formed an Mr. Brayley; and wbile the two friends acquaintance, particularly the late Dr. were thus employed, they were induced by Joseph Towers and Mr. Edward Brayley. another bookseller, Mr. Hood of the PoulThe former, from being a journeyman try, to compile the “ Beauties of England printer, had already raised himself to lite- and Wales." In order to qualify themrary distinction; and the latter, though selves the better for this important underarticled to a mechanical trade, was ex- taking, they resolved, very judiciously, to tremely ardent for knowledge. He read make pedestrian excursions in different parts with avidity, and early evinced talents for of the kingdom. This plan they carried composition, both in prose and verse. A into execution in the summer and autumn congeniality of taste soon ripened into of 1799, by perambulating the whole of friendship, and it is a curious fact, that a North Wales, and returning through Chepartnership was entered into between Mr. shire to the metropolis. Britton and Mr. Brayley, for the publica- The Beauties of Wiltshire came out the tion of a ballad, or song, written by the year following, and then the great work latter, and entitled “The Guinea Pig." commenced with the account of BedfordThis piece was allusive to the tax on wear- shire. The necessity of personal observaing hair powder; and though slight enough tion being now obvious, Mr. Britton visited in point of poetical merit, the subject made many parts of that county, as well as Berkit popular. Many thousands, printed on a shire and Buckinghamshire, transmitting fine wire-wove paper, were sold at one his church notes and other memoranda to penny each; but though entered at Sta- his coadjutor in town. As the work protioner's hall, it was pirated by a noted ceeded, Mr. Brayley travelled over Campublisher of such small wares, named | bridgeshire, Derbyshire, Durham, HertEvans, who boasted that he had circulated fordshire, Huntingdonshire, Kent, and other above 70,000 copies of the ballad, printed counties ; while Devonshire, Cornwall, on common paper.

Essex, Hampshire, Wilts, Dorset, and Great events, it is said, spring from little Northampton, were visited by Mr. Britton. causes ; two large rivers in the west of | In addition to these surveys, other persons England, arise under a bush in a desolate were employed to inspect the midland, waste, and after meandering along in a gen northern, and eastern counties. tle current for some miles, diverge at last, At the outset, some difference arose beand, taking different directions, swell into tween the publisher and editors, on the magnificent streams, on whose banks towns manner in which the descriptive part should of great commercial importance flourish, be executed; the former wishing to conand on whose bosom ships of vast burden fine the Beauties wholly to gentlemen's seats float in majestic dignity. Thus, we perceive and picturesque scenery, omitting antiquities that a number of works which now rank and natural curiosities, which the conhigh in architectural and topographical lite- ductors were for introducing. Under these rature, may be traced to the publication of circumstances, two other works arose in the an ephemeral ballad. For the present, hands of different publishers, one entitled, however, the association did not augur such “ The Architectural Antiquities," edited by effects; and Mr. Britton, little thinking of Mr. Britton; and the other, “ The Antiauthorship as a profession, engaged in diffe quarian and Topographical Cabinet," by rent employments, sometimes as clerk to a | Mr. Brayley. The Architectural Antiquities wine merchant, and at others to an attorney. were nine years and two months in pro. gress, and extended to four quarto volumes, We have extracted this curious disquisicomprising two hundred and seventy-eight tion for the sake of a remark or two on the engravings, and a large body of letter-press. subject. Agreeing with the reviewer that This work, which cost the proprietors more the appellation Christian Architecture is than eight thousand pounds, was intended to not strictly appropriate, we are still of opibe, what it chiefly is, a miscellaneous collec- nion that a generic name might properly be tion of views of ancient buildings, with a given to this species of architecture, and few plans, sections, and elevations.

that is the Oriental, for whoever has glanBy way of supplement to this valuable ced at the views of Hodges and other work, the author published a volume en- draughtsmen, must be satisfied that the titled, “A Chronological History, and Gra- pointed arch, and most of the distinctions phic Illustrations of Christian Architecture of the kind of building called Gothic, oriin England,” with eighty-six engravings. ginated in that region, where the banyanSpeaking of this performance, an ingenious tree, no doubt, gave the idea of long-drawn critic in the Literary Gazette says, “We ob aisles, and high-imbowered roofs, to keep out serve that Mr. Britton is desirous of giving the scorching rays of the sun. It should a new name to the style which his work is also be observed, that no less a man than intended to elucidate, and to call it Chris | bishop Warburton advanced the very printian Architecture, as being more apposite ciple here suggested, in regard to the fluted than the commonly received appellation of columns and round arches, though the Gothic. That Gothic is not an appropriate | learned prelate was not acquainted with term, we acknowledge ; but that Christian | the style of architecture prevalent in Hinis an entirely correct one to supersede it, | doostan. we do not feel convinced. The architec The reviewer, in a subsequent paragraph, ture of the middle ages was of extreme says, that “wicker work and wood were variety, and these the author endeavours to probably almost the sole materials em. comprehend under five divisions, rejecting | ployed in church building, till the time of the Tedesca of Vasari, the Gottica of Pal. the Norman conquest.” This is partly ladio, the Gothic and Saracenic of Wren, / true, but not wholly so; but it is surpristhe short-lived English of the Antiquarian ing, that a writer, in treating this subject, Society, the round-arched Saxon, and the should not have noticed so ordinary a book larger Norman, the Plantagenet, and all as Staveley's History of Churches, where the the varieties of these styles. But our im- figure of a wicker building of the kind here pression is, that no generic name can com stated, is given from Spelman's Annals, prehend the multitude of manners, which and said to have existed at Glastonbury. mark different periods of our architecture, That the first churches were of this humble and that we must be content to recognize character, we readily believe; but it is certhem either by centuries or particular qua tain, that long before the Norman conquest, lities; it may be eras, as British, Roman, a style of superior elegance prevailed in this Saxon, Danish, Norman; or it may be kingdom. dates, of the reign of William or Edward ; On completing the Architectural Antior it may be style, circular, pointed, plain, quities, our indefatigable author, whose decorated, &c. : but in truth, the edifices spirit of research expanded with his acquimust be defined to be understood, and sitions and application, began a kindred every term yet invented as a general term, work, under the title of “ The Cathedral is of necessity vague and unintelligible. For Antiquities of England.” Both publicaourselves, we believe that every original tions were expressly devoted to the same style of architecture was produced by copy subject, and jointly tended to illustrate the ing after the forms of rude natural mate arts, customs, and religious and civil pecurials; Grecian capitals from sacrificial horns, liarities of our ancestors, in their various and wreaths of flowers ; pointed as well as stages of progressive civilization and refineround arches, from plants bent into bowers, ment. Of the cathedrals, ten have already or arbour temples; round windows from been published, and the rest are in prepaflowers, columns and clustered pillars from ration. In the letter-press of these works, single or united stems, the fluted column the author has given a condensed and perperhaps from fasciculi of sticks : and that spicuous narrative of all the principal events thus the same first simple styles may have connected with each sacred edifice; pointed originated, not each in one country, but in out the different styles, eras, and characmany; and that the distinctive alterations teristic features of the architecture, besides afterwards made may perhaps be fixed by adding biographical anecdotes of the preantiquarian research, but the beginning | lates, with lists of the several dignitaries, never.”

In connexion with these splendid eccle.

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