from THE RUINS OF
by Robert Wood
THE PUBLISHER TO THE READER.
AS the principal merit of works of this kind is truth, it may not be amiss to prefix to this, such an account of the manner in which it was undertaken, and executed, as will give the publick an opportunity of judging what credit it deserves.
Two gentlemen whose curiosity had carried them more than once to the continent, particularly to Italy, thought, that a voyage, properly conducted, to the most remarkable places of antiquity, on the coast of the Mediterranean, might produce amusement and improvement to themselves, as well as some advantage to the publick.
As I had already seen most of the places they intended to visit, they did me the honor of communicating to me their thoughts upon that head, and I with great pleasure accepted their kind invitation to be of so agreeable a party.
The knowledge I had of those gentlemen, in different tours through France and Italy, promised all the success we could wish from such a voyage; their strict friendship for one another, their love of antiquities and the fine arts, and their being well accustomed for several years to travelling, were circumstances very requisite to our scheme, but rarely to be met with in two persons, who with taste and leisure for such enquiries, are equal both to the expence and fatigue of them.
It was agreed that a fourth person
We passed the winter together at
We met our ship at
We visited most of the island of
the Archipelago, part of
The various countries we went through, furnish, no doubt, much entertainment of different sorts. But however we might each of us have some favourite curiosity to indulge, what engaged our greatest attention was rather their antient than present state.
It is impossible to consider with indifference those countries which gave birth to letters and arts, where soldiers, orators, philosophers, poets, and artists have shewn the boldest and happiest flights of genius, and done the greatest honour to human nature.
Circumstances of climate and situation, otherwise trivial, become interesting from that connection with great men, and great actions, which history and poetry have given them: The life of Miltiades or Leonidas could never be read with so much pleasure, as on the banks of Marathon or at the streights of Thermopylae; the Iliad has new beauties on the banks of the Scamander, and the Odyssey is the most pleasing in the countries where Ulysses travelled and Homer sung.
The particular pleasure, it is true, which an imagination warmed upon the spot receives from those scenes of heroick actions, the traveller only can feel, nor is it to be communicated by description. But classical ground not only makes us always relish the poet, or historian more, but sometimes helps us to understand them better. Where we thought the present face of the country was the best comment on an antient author, we made our draftsman take a view, or make a plan of it. This sort of entertainment we extended to poetical geography, and spent a fortnight with great pleasure, in making a map of the Scamandrian plain, with Homer in our hands.
Inscriptions we copied as they fell in our way, and carried off the marbles whenever it was possible; for the avarice or superstition of the inhabitants made that task difficult and sometimes impracticable.
The only opportunity we had of procuring any manuscripts, was among the Maronite churches of Syria; and though those we met with in Greek were very little interesting, either as to their subject or language, yet it did not discourage us from purchasing several in Syriac and Arabick, in the same places, as we chose rather to bring home a great many bad things, than run the risk of leaving any thing curious in languages we did not understand.
Architecture took up our chief attention; and in this enquiry our expectations were more fully satisfied. All lovers of that art must be sensible that the measures of the antient buildings of Rome, by Monsieur Desgodetz, have been of the greatest use: We imagined that by attempting to follow the same method in those countries where architecture had its origin, or at least arrived at the highest degree of perfection it has ever attained, we might do service.
It was chiefly with this view, that we visited most of the places in Asia Minor, where we could expect any remains of buildings of a good age; we seldom had reason to regret the trouble we were at in this pursuit, particularly in Lydia, Ionia, and Caria. Few ruins were so compleatly such, as not to preserve very valuable fragments, especially as we had provided ourselves with tools for digging, and sometimes employed the peasants in that way, for several days, to good purpose.
The examples of the three Greek
orders in architecture, which we met with, might furnish a tolerable history of
the rise and progress of that art, at least the changes it underwent, from the
time of Pericles[a] to
that of Dioclesian. We thought it would be proper to
Such was our scheme, and such the manner in which we carried it into practice, in spight of some discouraging difficulties, inseparable from an undertaking of this kind; and though, at our setting out we knowingly engaged with great fatigue, expence and danger, yet, upon the whole, it would have answered our expectations as to pleasure, as well as profit, had not our happiness been interrupted by the most affecting misfortune which could possibly have happened to our little society; when I say, this was the death of Mr. BOUVERIE, all those who had the pleasure of knowing that gentleman, must pity our situation at that time.
Besides those virtues, the loss of which we regret in common with all his friends, he had qualities particularly well adapted to the part he bore in this voyage; the great objects of his private entertainment were almost every thing which comes within the circle of Virtý, in which he had acquired such knowledge, by several journies to Rome, that his opinion in those matters had authority among the connoisseurs of that country; and indeed his collection of drawings, medals, intaligoís and cameoís, (which would have grown very considerable had he lived) are proofs of the correctness of his taste.
How much the loss of such a person
must have broke in upon the spirit of our party, may easily be supposed. Had he
lived to have seen
An accident so highly distressing would have entirely disconcerted us, had it not been for the uncommon activity and resolution of our surviving friend; and indeed, if any thing could make us forget that Mr. BOUVERIE was dead, it was the Mr. DAWKINS was living.
If the following specimen of our joint labours should in any degree satisfy publick curiosity, and rescue from oblivion the magnificence of Palmyra, it is owing entirely to this gentleman, who was so indefatigable in his attention to see every thing done accurately, that there is scarce a measure in this work which he did not take himself.
At the same time that, by this declaration, I disclaim any share of merit which the publick, uninformed of the truth, might have given me, I cannot help in return indulging my vanity with a circumstance, which I am sure does me honour, viz. that my being the publisher of these sheets is owing to Mr. DAWKINS his friendship for me, who while he highly enjoys the pleasure of contributing to the advancement of the arts in this manner, declines the profits which may arise from this publication.
If I venture to mention this single instance of my friendís regard for me, I shall compound with him for that liberty, by suppressing others without number: To join Mr. DAWKINíS name with mine (where I must still continue to be the only gainer) is, I fear, little less than impertinent, but it is the impertinence of gratitude, which, like love, is never more aukward in itís declarations than when it is most sincere and in earnest.
[a]† I mean with the addition of the ancient buildings of the Attica, which make no part of our collection, for the following reason† When we arrived at Athens, we found Mr. STEWART and Mr. REVET, two English painters, successfully employed in taking measures of all the architecture there, and making drawing of all the bas reliefs, with a view to publish them, according to a scheme they had communicated to us at Rome. We were much pleased to find that some of the most beautiful works of the antients were to be preserved by persons so much more equal to the task; and therefore did no more at Athens that satisfy our own curiosity; leaving it to Mr. STEWART and Mr. REVET to satisfy that of the publick. We hope they may meet with that encouragement which so useful a work deserves.