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The Temple of British Worthies
Submitted by Marcus on Mon, 2012-08-20 08:57
On the weekend I visited the Landscape Gardens of Stowe House in Buckinghamshire.
By chance I happened across "the Temple of British Worthies" built in 1734.
This monument contains the busts and tributes to sixteen British worthies, divided into eight worthies of action and eight worthies of ideas. Scholars suggest that the designer William Kent may have had in mind an Italian model, a series of busts of Roman emperors in niches that form a small circle in the Garden of the Villa Brenzone. Kent's monument contains niches for sixteen busts, eight in either wing, and a central oval niche for the head of Mercury.
Alexander Pope, Sir Thomas Gresham, Inigo Jones, Milton, Shakespeare, John Locke, Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon, King Alfred, the Black Prince, Elizabeth I, William III, Raleigh, Drake, Hampden and Sir John Barnard (Whig MP and opponent of the Whig Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole).
There are inscriptions written above each of these fine figure (some examples):
Sir Isaac Newton
Sir Thomas Gresham
This monument is part of what is called the Elysian Fields at the other end of which is the Temple of Ancient Virtue, which contains busts of Epaminondas (general), Lycurgus (lawmaker), Homer (poet) and Socrates (philosopher). The Elysian Fields (Elysium) is what the Ancient Greeks called the place of the Gods.
Is a sad realisation that in today's liberal world such monuments would not be possible. I would expect Liberals to demand that unworthies be included amongst any worthies, just for the sake of equality. And the worthies would likely be those who had overcome adversity rather than those who had truly excelled in their disciplines.
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