Bishop Pococke's Improvements to St. Canice's Cathedral, Kilkenny

Finnegan, Rachel (2008) Bishop Pococke's Improvements to St. Canice's Cathedral, Kilkenny. The Journal of The Irish Georgian Society, 11. pp. 12-54.

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Born in Southampton in 1704 into a church family, Richard Pococke was educated at his grandfather’s school in Highclere rectory and matriculated at (or entered) Corpus Christi College, Oxford in 1720, aged only fifteen. He received a BA in 1725, a BCL in 1731 and a DCL (Doctor of Laws) in 1733. (4) While Precentor of Lismore Cathedral in 1725, aged only twenty-one (an appointment made by his somewhat unpopular uncle Thomas Milles, Bishop of Waterford and Lismore,) (5) his interests appeared to be concerned less with the church than with travel. It seems that the sinecure to which he was promoted required him to be present very little in Ireland, if at all. Several years later, together with his much younger cousin Jeremiah Milles, Pococke made his first Grand Tour to Italy. This is documented through a series of letters to his mother (6) outlining his six-month tour of the country from December 1733 to June, 1734 and is summarized in A Dictionary of British and Irish Travellers in Italy, 1701-1800. (7). In May, 1736, Dr Pococke (now having been promoted to Vicar-General of Waterford and Lismore) set out on a second, more extensive journey, this time alone. Travelling for a year through Germany and Eastern Europe, he spent a further year in Italy, where he befriended the Irishman Robert Wood, who was to become famous some years later for his two influential books on Palmyra and Baalbec. (8) His departure from Leghorn in September, 1738, took him on an extensive tour of the east, where he visited Alexandria, Cairo and Jerusalem over a period of three years, a voyage inspiring his famous travel book on the Levant, in two volumes, discussed below. His trip was almost contemporaneous with one made by another Irishman, William Ponsonby (Viscount Duncannon and future 2nd Earl of Bessborough), and his travelling companion Lord Sandwich, (9) and it is possible, though undocumented, that they may have met at some stage along the way. They certainly shared the same passion for knowledge about the east, for antiquities and for Turkish dress, all three commissioning portraits in such costume by the artist Jean-Etienne Liotard; and they were all, on their return, to become founder members of two London dining clubs devoted to promoting an interest in the east. Pococke returned to England in 1742 and in the February was elected Fellow of the Royal Society on the grounds of being “a Gentleman of Universal Learning, great Curiosity, every way well quallified and likely to be a very usefull and valuable member of the Same”. (10) He worked on his first volume of A Description of the East and Some other Countries: Observations on Egypt, which was published the following year and , interestingly, for the present study, he dedicated this volume to Henry Herbert, 9th Earl of Pembroke and Montgomery, commonly known as the “architect earl”. In his Dedication, Pococke immediately declared the objective of his book in his statement: “My Lord, As the magnificent buildings of Egypt, and antient architecture are the chief subject of this book, it could not be more properly addressed than to Your Lordship.’ (11) In the Preface to this volume, he draws attention to the illustrations in the book, noting: ‘The publisher of these observations [Pococke himself] had it only in his thoughts, to give the world the plans he had taken of the Egyptian buildings, together with some drawings of them, and to add an account, and designs of all the different orders of Egyptian architecture. He imagined even plans alone, with proper descriptions, not so defective as they might be with regard to other buildings….’ He continues: ‘What he has done will, he hopes, give a sufficient idea of the Egyptian manner of building; and if he had gone no further, it would have been very little more than publishing these plates; and it is but a little more at present, by the persuasion of some friends, to give an account of his travels, and of several accidents, that might give an insight into the customs and manners of people so different from our own, in order to render the work more acceptable to the generality of readers.’ (12) Volume II incorporates two parts. The first is entitled Observations on Palestine or the Holy Land, Syria, Mesopotamia, Cyprus and Candia, and the second is Observations on the Islands of the Archipelago, Asia Minor, Thrace, Greece, and some otherParts of Europe. Published in 1745, this volume and was dedicated to Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, to whom Pococke was Domestic Chaplain. The dedication was rewarded by his appointment the same year to the Archdeaconry of Dublin, a position he retained until promoted to the Bishopric of Ossory, in 1756. This volume of his travels continues in an architectural vein, bringing to a total 178 magnificent plates, the most impressive of which are possibly the ten plans and elevations of temples and ‘apartments’ in Baalbeck (Pococke’s Plates X-XX). As was the custom with contemporary travel writers, Pococke frequently included in his illustrations a picture of himself, usually recognisable among the two or three figures present by being depicted either as taking measurements of the buildings, or engaged in drawing them.

Item Type: Article
Departments or Groups: *NONE OF THESE*
Divisions: School of Humanities > Department of Applied Arts
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Date Deposited: 09 May 2009 10:57
Last Modified: 22 Aug 2016 10:25

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