to the citadel ? The narrow and tortuous streets, in those days carefully swept, afforded a grateful shade, so that even in the heat of the day they might be traversed without inconvenience. Carriages were of rare occurrence, so that the traveller might indulge in day-dreams without the risk of being run down or compelled to take sbelter under a doorway until the vehicle with its screaming attendant had passed by. The attention, constantly riveted by some fresh object of interest, never flagged, and as each scene in the moving panorama unfolded itself we seemed to have stepped back into a former age, and were irresistibly reminded of the legends and stories which have not yet lost their hold upon the imagination of the people. This frame of mind inspired · Eothen.' The mushroom cities of Western America could hardly be less conducive to such emotions than the aspect of modern Cairo. It should not, however, be assumed that whilst deeply lamenting these changes we deprecate the adoption of certain improvements adapted to modern civilisation, and carried out in the spirit of the founders.

A survey of the city directed with intelligence and having in view the convenience of the public, and certain sanitary reforms, hitherto too much neglected, might well be made to replace the vulgar ostentation and the odious taste which meet the eye on every side. The opening out of new thoroughfares, where this object can be attained without the sacrifice of the architectural features of the city, should form part of a programme designed to meet the wants of an Oriental people not yet weaned from the tastes and habits of their ancestors.

There is in fact scarcely an appliance of modern civilisation which might not be grafted on the habits of the people, if the object in view were really directed towards their moral and physical improvement.

A close examination of the changes recently brought about in Egypt leads to the conclusion that the superficial gloss miscalled civilisation is only the narrow end of the wedge designed by crafty rulers to effect the final subjugation of the people. The critical position into which the country bad been brought under the rule of the exKhedive rendered it necessary to place the government under the temporary tutelage of the two European Powers most interested in securing an honest administration. There is reason to believe that the attempts at reform recently inaugurated have not been entirely fruitless, and that some advance in the direction of good government has really been made. This would surely be a fitting time to urge the claims of Arab art upon the attention of a ruler who seems not insensible to the advantages that might accrue from an enlightened consideration of so important an element of true civilisation.

In stigmatising as it deserves the gigantic sham that is being enacted in Egypt under the guise of civilisation, it is difficult to speak in terms of moderation ; but the day cannot be far distant when the ruin which is impending over the Arab monuments of Cairo must inspire a feeling of deep regret and a desire before it is too late to devise some scheme by which they can be saved from annihilation.

It was, I believe, owing to the strenuous exertions of some of the European residents that the Mosque of Sultan Hassan, one of the grandest examples of Arab architecture in the world, was saved from destruction. Happily this beautiful structure still remains, although its walls show ominous signs of decay, and a new mosque begun some fifteen years ago blocks up and disfigures the principal entrance. The vanity of the native architect who probably suggested this juxtaposition is almost amusingly displayed in the contrast thus afforded by the two buildings.

It is to be hoped that the want of funds may continue to be an obstacle to the completion of the latter, and that it may not remain as an enduring monument of perverted taste. It is not by spasmodic efforts that any decisive blow can be struck at a system so deeply rooted. Hand in hand with the judicial and other reforms which may be looked for under the guidance of two great European Powers, an intelligent supervision should be brought to bear upon the condition of the city as regards its public buildings and the domestic architecture, which yet affords a rich field for study. In some of the remoter quarters of the town Arab houses yet exist which, either from the apathy of the owners or from a sentiment of nationality not yet extinct, have been left untouched, and might still be preserved as a record of the past, and an incentive to a revival of native taste. Within the memory of the writer many of these have passed away, others remain in a condition more or less precarious, but still susceptible of intelligent restoration. In reference to the latter term, so often misapplied, it should be borne in mind that the efforts of the restorer should be restricted to the employment of materials already at hand, of which much still remains amongst the fragments of earlier buildings. Restoration in the ordinary acceptation of the term should of all things be the most deprecated, as it would assuredly lead to greater evils than those we are so anxious to avoid. The purchase of an Arab house of a good period might be effected at little cost, and its conversion into a local museum of objects of Arab art, similar in kind to the noble collection before alluded to at Boulak, would go far to awaken the visitors who yearly flock to Cairo to a recognition of the claims of that beautiful city to protection from further injury

If but a tithe of the vast sums expended upon the demolition and the rebuilding of Cairo could have been devoted to such objects, the sad spectacle of a city desecrated and disfigured would have been spared to us, and a revival of the sense of beauty which once characterised the Arab race might still be hoped for.

If little or nothing has been done for the protection of native monuments, they have not at least suffered from the mania for restoration which has done so much in Europe to obliterate the relics of the past. It would facilitate the consideration of a subject so fraught with interest as the revival of Arab art if it could be borne in mind that it may be regarded, in Egypt at least, as virtually extinct. The style adopted in the construction of the few mosques for which the necessary funds have been spared is debased and meaningless; they belong to no period of art, and do not even possess the negative merit of unobtrusiveness, but rear their heads ostentatiously above the ruins which they displace. Within gunshot of the Mosque of Mehemet Ali, a tasteless pile which defaces one of the finest sites in the city, is to be found a series of mosques more or less in ruins, known popularly as the “ Tombs of the Kaliphs,' but more correctly designated the • Tombs of the Memlook Sultans of Egypt.'

Of many of these the crumbling walls alone remain, but even these fragments might be saved from ruin, for all are rich in material for study, and as monuments of Arab art are eminently suggestive and interesting. Others are, however, in a fair state of preservation, and a few are still devoted to their original purposes. The Mosque of Kaid Bey (fifteenth century), the enlightened Sultan to whom the city is so much indebted for its architectural adornment, is perhaps the most perfect, and is well worthy of the anxious care which its extreme beauty seems to invite.

Some slight effort seems to have been made to save this noble work, but the minaret is, I am informed, in a critical state, and the Mueddin, when calling the faithful to prayer, no longer ventures to climb the rickety staircase. A portion of the roof has given way, and within the last few years a notable change is visible in the condition of the wall decoration, formerly a beautiful feature of the building.

It seems incredible that the wilful neglect of such monuments as these should have failed to attract the attention of influential persons, and that it should have been reserved for the powerless zeal of a small band of artists and amateurs to call attention to so signal an instance of apathy and indifference.

The mania for restoration that has extended over Europe originated in motives so complex that it may easily be condemned or defended according to the point of view from which it is regarded. The revolutionary epoch which, commencing nearly a century ago, can now only be regarded as entering upon another phase, evoked a sentiment of nationality which has worked in opposite directions. On the one hand reverence for the past has led men to treasure up such records as might throw a light upon their history and the great deeds achieved previous to their subjugation. Against this must be set the desire, equally natural in a nation entering upon a new life, to efface as far as possible the history of their early struggles. The homely adage · New brooms sweep clean ’ has a clear application in the tendency of newly-awakened nationalities to make a tabula rasa and start afresh. To re-name a street or a public building may seem a trifling innovation, but when this paves the way to the removal of an inscription or the destruction of a monument it becomes an outrage upon the sentiment of true nationality, which should rest upon a firmer basis than oblivion of the past.


It has already been remarked that the monuments of mediæval Egypt have scarcely as yet suffered from indiscreet restoration, for they have either been left to perish or have been swept away by the ruthless hands of successive rulers, ignorant or careless of the treasures of which they should have been the zealous protectors. The specimens of Arab art which yet remain, meagre as they have unhappily become, possess at least the advantage of being comparatively untouched, and enough even now remain to justify the anxiety for their preservation, which it is the desire of the writer to stimulate. It must be confessed that the prospects of success in this endeavour are extremely slight. International jealousies, and the fear of awakening a fanatical opposition to the interference of Europeans, present formidable barriers to any active movement in this direction, but, regarded only as a protest against a crying evil, the humblest effort to arrest its course should at least be viewed with indulgence.

It has been suggested in the way of objection to any scheme for the preservation of the monuments of mediæval Egypt that other countries affording examples of Saracenic architecture might lay claim to similar protection. This is undoubtedly true, and it is most desirable that these should not be left out of the account; but in urging a prior claim to Cairo for the first steps in this direction, it should be borne in mind that this city may be regarded as the metropolis of the East so far as the monuments of Saracenic art are concerned, no city in the world being comparable to Cairo in this respect. Gathered together within a comparatively small space, fragments are yet to be found invaluable in their bearing upon the history of architecture, and capable of affording a rich field for study-a fact which for some unexplained reason has never met with due recognition.

In conclusion, I can only express the earnest desire that this question may fall into more competent hands, and that it may not be allowed to languish for the want of active support from those able as well as willing to further so desirable an end.



OUTSIDE the borders of the orthodox theologies—indeed to some extent within them-three great ideas seem to hold men's thoughts : the modernised idea of a single and simple Godhead, the metaphysical idea of Divine Mystery in the Universe, the historical idea of human dignity and progress—Theism-Pantheism-Humanity.

Not to speak of the first or the last of these, we may examine on general grounds of religion and morality the claims of Pantheism to be an adequate basis of our lives, the final issue of the mighty Assize of religions, which this generation and the next are destined to try out.

The claims of Pantheism are not small. It is a vague term; its field is indefinite; its doctrines curiously elastic. It is the faith of idealists everywhere: of the poets, of the metaphysicians, of the enthusiasts. It has so many forms, and so few formulas, that it gathers round it sympathies everywhere; and seems to illustrate everything, even when it explains nothing. A generation ago, it could be assigned only to a poet, or a philosopher here and there. Pantheism would seem to have no hold on the public at all. But then, a generation ago, the fountains of the great deep of orthodoxy had only begun to break. It is otherwise now. Now, the problems of orthodoxy; of Theism; the very bases of Creation, Providence, and Judgment, are being debated in the market-places and the street; the great dilemma of Infinite goodness with Omnipotent power, making and ruling the world we know and see to-day, is exercising the thoughts of men, and women, even of children, and the answers are very various, and sometimes obscure. And thus, Pantheism, in the widest sense, is become the great halting-place between the devotion to God and the devotion to Humanity.

Not Pantheism in any precise form; not as a philosophical doctrine, not as a creed that can be stated, often not consciously held at all. We may include under the somewhat technical term Pantheism all those types of thought, and conscious or unconscious tendencies of thought, which have this common sign-that they find the ultimate and dominant idea in some divine Mystery of the Universe, in the sense of Beauty and Power of Nature, in the immensity of the

« VorigeDoorgaan »