Listen to Cardinal Newman:
' . . Mr. Pugin is a man of genius ; I have the greatest admiration of his talents, and willingly acknowledge that Catholics owe him a great debt for what he has done in the revival of Gothic architecture among us. His zeal, his minute diligence, his resources, his invention, his imagination, his sagacity in research, are all of the highest order. It is impossible that any one, not scientifically qualified to judge of his merits, can feel a profounder reverence than I do, for the gift with which it has pleased the Author of all Truth and Beauty to endow him. But he has the great fault of a man of genius, as well as the merit. He is intolerant, and, if I might use a stronger word, a bigot. He sees nothing good in any school of Christian art except that of which he is himself so great an ornament. The Canons of Gothic architecture are to him points of faith, and everyone is a heretic who would venture to question them.'
Newman did. He argued that Gothic architecture never 'prevailed over the whole face of the Church', that for example 'the see of St Peter's never was Gothic', that there is no 'uninterrupted tradition of Gothic architecture', that what Pugin pleads for is a revival, and that no such revival can 'exactly suit the living ritual of the nineteenth century', and that the Oratory to which Newman belonged, is 'a birth of the sixteenth century' and hence cannot be represented by 'a cloister or a chapter house'.
Newman argues sensibly. He tries to be fair - had he not, as Mrs Stanton tells us, called Pugin's church at Cheadle 'the most splendid building I ever saw'? Pugin did not argue in this case at all; he swore, he cursed, he condemned: the Oratonans are 'perfectly monstrous, and I give the whole order up for ever . . . It is worse than the Socialists.' An Oratory is 'nothing else than a mechanics' institute', and the whole Italian architectural trend is 'nearly as much horror as the principles of Voltaire.'
But one must take Pugin on his own terms, and this is what Mrs Stanton does splendidly. The present book is only an earnest of a much bigger book which we must all hope to get from her soon. She started work on Pugin over twenty years ago. I advised her against Pugin. We have Ferrey - would she be able to get beyond him? My scepticism proved totally wrong. She found about 3000 letters. She found thirteen sketch books and masses more material. She could not work consistently towards the magnum opus. There were delays for human causes, there was a growing load of academic duties, there was much else. Still, what we have here is an essay of which every paragraph is worth while. The result is 1 new assessment.
In connection with this assessment, I want to return to Newman. All his arguments were right, yet emotionally and aesthetically in the end he was wrong, and Pugin was right. Pugin died in 1852, Newman in 1891. So Newman lived to see the Brompton Oratory (by Gribble). We all know it, and few will deny that it is alien. It is Italian and has not become Anglo-Italian as Osborne has, as Scott's and Matthew Digby Wyatt's Foreign Office has.
Pugin instead established a new phase of Victorian Gothic and was universally followed. It is true that in this establishing process the Cambridge Camden Society helped, Scott helped, Ruskin helped. But Pugin laid the foundation. His best book, the True Principles, was begun - so we leam from Mrs Staaton - already in 1838. And before its publication in 1841, Pugn had given up the Perpendicular as his source of forms and ensembles and turned to the Middle Pointed or Second Pointed, ie. the style current in England from Westminster Abbey to the early fourteenth century. Perpendicular he condemned as Enstian, but there must have also been an aesthetic decision there. ...................................