Traditions and Hearthside Stories of West Cornwall, Vol. 1, by William Bottrell, , at sacred-texts.com
Forms known in happy days you bring,
And much-loved shades amid you spring
Like a tradition—half expired,
Worn out with many a passing year.
First Love comes forth—so oft desired,
With half-forgotten Friendship near.
And, voiced with Sorrow's tone, they bid
The pangs of parted years renew;
All that life's mazy path has hid
Again they call me to pursue.
Those dear ones’ names I hear repeated,
As shades of sorrow round me rise,
When fortune of fair hours has cheated,
All early vanished from mine eyes.
The present hour, each present thing,
All that I now around me see,
Into the distance seem to wing—
But all the past and vanish’d, spring
Back into clear reality!"—
Goethe's Faust (Herschel's translation).
The completion of the Penzance Public Buildings forms an epoch in the history of the place, and an elderly person cannot help contrasting the present appearance of the town with what it was three-score years, or a century ago; as we know it to have been from well-remembered vestiges of the old time, and from the accounts of our grandparents, who, if they revisited our town at the present time, would be much surprised, and not over well pleased, at all the changes which have taken place during the last hundred years, many of which are alterations without improvement, nay, often wanton destruction of what can never be restored, however regretted. Who that remembers the picturesque and interesting old market-house, with the corresponding buildings surrounding or near it, such as the house in which Sir Humphry Davy was born, the cosy nook under the balcony of the "Star" inn, where often of an evening he held his youthful comrades spellbound by the wonderful stories that his poetical imagination inspired, can help regretting their removal and loss? I can't understand, nor can many others, what was the inducement to remove the old balcony from this inn, and other houses throughout the town! They were no obstruction to the footpath, and the very aspect
of these appropriate, cosy-looking entrances to the old inns infused a feeling of comfort and seclusion that one misses very much in the glaring, lantern-like modern hotels. Besides, as an interesting memorial of our most illustrious townsman, it is ten thousand pities it should have been destroyed. The picturesque scene is gone, never to be restored, which was formed by the projecting balcony, with its rustic pillars and casemented lights, combined with the high gables, mullioned and labled windows, with the penthouse-like projections of the old market-house. It is much to be regretted that, when the old building was taken down, its site should have been occupied by any structure more massive than an elegant monument to Sit Humphry Davy—suppose it had been a fountain, of an antique Gothic pattern, surmounted by a statue of Sir Humphry, with niches in the basement for memorials of other celebrities connected with the town, or its vicinity, as Pellew, Davies Gilbert, &c., &c. The first mistake was to build on the site at all; the second, to adopt the Italian style for a building to be erected in such a confined space. It must be apparent to anyone who has studied the matter that the Gothic or English style, with its acute gables, pinnacles, pendants, balconies, oriels, and other projecting appendages for use or ornament, which that style admits, is felt to be more suitable to a confined space, because any imitation of the classical styles is very unsatisfactory, unless it has sufficient breadth and massiveness to produce the impression of grandeur, as well as just proportion, which cannot be appreciated, however just it may be, unless there is sufficient space around to allow the spectator the choice of a station from which the whole facade of the building may be taken into the view. In the Old English, on the contrary, one does not look for breadth, massiveness, and correspondence in the various portions of the structure, but rather to that lightness and variety which is even more interesting when seen only in such broken portions, and from such points of sight as would spoil the effect of the regular styles. Besides, perhaps from being accustomed to meet with the picturesque old style in ancient walled towns, where the streets are always narrow, it never seems out of place in a confined space, if the surrounding buildings are of a simple or corresponding style, or at least are not such as to produce a violent contrast.
Any small buildings, designed after the classical examples, look naked and poor, and particularly mean, unless the building-materials are of the best description and finish; consequently such are quite unsuitable for the houses of a narrow street, which must necessarily be small and irregular, where the frontages range only from about twenty to forty feet, and where the adjoining houses belong to different proprietors, who delight to display their independence of each other and common sense, by each one building on his fifteen or twenty-feet frontage according to his own caprice, and desire to show off his originality of conception.
If our beautiful Old English style (which is the most suitable for the climate and everything else) cannot be again restored, the next best is the Venetian, which may be defined as the Saracenic (or what the French call the Grec-Arab) engrafted on the Italian. The Venetian, like our Old English (or domestic, Gothic, if you will) admits of great irregularity, and of great variety in the ornamentation.