Stonehenge

Stonehenge by Rosemary Hill Read Free Book Online

Book: Stonehenge by Rosemary Hill Read Free Book Online
Authors: Rosemary Hill
‘chizel’d and far from rude’ – and that they were worked more finely on the inside than the out. He observed the tapering of the uprights to correct the effect of perspective, such as the Greeks had practised in architecture. His Stonehenge was ‘a true master-piece. Every thing proper, bold, astonishing. The lights and shades adapted with inconceivable justness … the proportions of the dissimilar parts recommend the whole, and it pleases like a magic spell.’

    7. Stukeley’s view looking up the Avenue. He was the first person to appreciate the full extent of Stonehenge and to understand it as part of a connected landscape.
    Stukeley made a great contribution to the understanding of what the prehistoric Stonehenge had been. His work is still invoked by modern archaeologists. Later, in his interpretationof his findings, he gave the monument much of the popular resonance it has today and so both aspects of his study deserve serious attention.
    Over the years that he considered Stonehenge, Stukeley’s view of history and of the human condition changed, in a way that disconcerted some of his contemporaries and his later critics, but which is not in itself perhaps incomprehensible. His
Stonehenge
, when it finally appeared in 1740, was cast as the first volume of a projected study of
Patriarchal Christianity: or, a chronological history of the origin and progress of true Religion and of Idolatry
. A profoundly thoughtful and pious man, Stukeley had always been anxious to discover the meaning of this wonderful ‘Universe of things’ in which he found himself. What he sought was a single first cause: ‘We must go up to the fountainhead as much as possible,’ as he put it. Like Newton (whose own theory was that Stonehenge was a temple of the earliest religion), Stukeley sought a fuller explanation of existence, but not a godless one. He lived at a time when the search for such certainty was becoming more complicated and more urgent. The horizons of the European mind were expanding through exploration, faster than in Aubrey’s day, and the published accounts of travels to Egypt and the Americas told of other peoples and cultures, new plants and animals, Incan temples and similar mysterious structures. It all raised questions about the biblical framework through which history and the nature of mankind were still understood. How could so many people, living and dying beyond the reach of Christianity, be simply lost to salvation? Why were the religions of Peru and China and Egypt in certain ways similar? How could so many different sorts of animals have fitted into the Ark and where, after the Flood, did all the water go? Stukeley struggled to understand, to justify the ways of God to man and reconcile his faith with the experience of his generation. He was immensely energetic in his intellectual efforts. In 1735 he was learning Chinese.

    8. The figure of the Druid as he appeared in Stukeley’s
Stonehenge
of 1740. From that date onwards the Druids were to be indelibly associated with the monument.
    Between his first survey and his finished book he moved from a deist position, a belief that humans have an innate moral sense and that reason, rather than revelation, is the basis of faith, to a profoundly Christian one. His Stonehenge changed with him from a Neoplatonic model of the cosmos that could transmit ‘the divine influences of the archetypal mind’ to a material world into a more or less Christian church, and his Druids became priests of a religion established by Abraham and ‘so extremely like Christianity, that in effect, it differed from it only in this: they believed in a Messiah who was to come into the world, as we believe in him that is come’. As his unifying theory emerged, Stukeley looked for material that might support it and found plenty in the writings of John Toland and indeed in those of Aylett Sammes. As Toland had noted, people ‘easily … convey their own ideas into other men’s books,

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