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Taste in Gardening, which we shall then consider with reference to Mr. Repton's practice.
. The total banishment of all particular neatness immediately about a house, which is frequently left gazing by itself in the middle of a park, is a defect.
' Sheltered, and even close walks, in so very uncertain a climate as our's, are comforts ill exchanged for the few picturesque days that we enjoy, and whenever a family can purloin a warm, and even something of an old-fashioned garden, from the landscape designed for them by the undertaker in fashion, without interfering with the picture, they will find satisfaction on those days that do not invite strangers to come and see their improvements.'
Mr. Brown and his followers extended the appearance of a park to the very windows of the house, but Mr. Repton observes,
• The scenery of nature, called landscape, and that of a garden, are as different as their uses; one is to please the eye, the other is for the comfort and occupation of man; one is wild, and may be adapted to animals in the wildest state of nature, the other is appropriated to man in the highest state of civilization and refinement.'--p.li.
Thus at Cobham Hall, the character of the place has been entirely changed, and instead of a huge pile standing naked on a vast grazing ground,' this venerable mansion is now surrounded by gardens and pleasure-grounds, its walls are enriched 'with roses and jessamines, wbile the views of the park are improved by the rich foreground, over which they are seen from the several apartnents.' . Even the kitchen-garden, as an object of comfort, should be placed near the house, for • there are many days in winter, when a warm, dry, but secluded walk, under the shelter of an east or north wall, would be preferred to the most beautiful but exposed landscape; and in the Spring, when
“ Reviving nature seems again to breathe,
As loosened from the cold embrace of death," on the south border of a walled garden, some early flowers and vegetables may cheer the sight, although every plant is elsewhere pinched with the north-east winds, peculiar to our climate in the months of March and April, when
“ Winter, still lingering on the verge of Spring,
Retires reluctant, and from time to time
Fair Flora sickens.”—p. 167. There are many situations in which a visible and decided fence between the park and the pleasure ground, is an object of beauty. An open trellis is most garden-like. But if the house be architecturally Grecian, a terrace terminated by an open balustrade, may be most appropriate. Mr. Repton observes that where balustrades form the parapet of a bridge, their dimensions ought to
relate to those of man, rather than to that of the building. This is not always sufficiently attended to: thus, on Westminster-Bridge, • the large lofty balustrade is so managed, that the swelling of each heavy baluster exaciiy ranges with the eye of a foot passenger; and from a carriage, the top of the balustrade almost entirely obstructs the view of the river. Thus one of the finest rivers in Europe is hid for the sake of preserving some imaginary proportion in architecture, relating to its form or entablature, but not applicable to its uses, as a defence for safety, without impeding the view. If it be urged, that we should judge of it from the water, we should consider that this bridge is seen by an hundred persons from the land, to one from the water. By the aid of an open upright iron fence, the most interesting view of the river might be obtained with equal safety to the spectator.' -p.9.
In the infancy of modern gardening, a false taste was introduced by Shenstone, in his Ferme Ornée, at the Leasowes, where,
instead of surrounding his house with such a quantity of ornamental lawn or park only, as might be consistent with the size of the mansion, or the extent of the property, his taste, rather than his ambition, led him to ornament the whole of his estate ;' and in the vain attempt to combine the profit of a farm with the scenery of a park, he lived under the continual mortification of disappointed hope, and with a mind exquisitely sensible, he felt equally the sneer of the great man at the magnificence of his attempt, and the ridicule of the farmer at the misapplication of his paternal acres,
Another fashion attempted to be introduced was that of picturesque gardeuing, or the art of laying out grounds according to the principles of painting; and perhaps Mr. Repton's opinion upon this subject cannot be better illustrated than by an extract from an unpublished letter of the late Mr. Windham, one of the few relics, alas, of his acute and comprehensive mind.
• The writers of this school shew evidently that they do not trace with any success the causes of their pleasure. Does the pleasure that we receive from the view of parks and gardens result from their affording in their several parts subjects that would appear to advantage in a picture?
• In the first place, what is most beautiful in nature, is not always capable of being represented most advantageously by painting. The instance of an extensive prospect, the most affecting sight that the eye can bring before us, is quite conclusive. I do not know any thing that does, and naturally should so strongly affect the mind, as the sudden transition from such a portion of space as we commonly have in our minds, to such a view of the babitable globe as may be exbibited in the case of some extensive prospects. Many things too, as you illustrate well in the instance of deer, are not capable of representation in a
picture at all; and of this sort must every thing be that depends on motion and succession.
• But in the next place, the beauties of nature itself which painting can exhibit, are many, and most of them probably of a sort which have nothing to do with the purposes of habitation, and are even wholly inconsistent with them. A scene of a cavern, with banditti sitting by it, is the favourite subject of Salvator Rosa. But are we therefore to live in caves ? or encourage the neighbourhood of banditti? Gainsborough’s country girl is a more picturesque object than a child neatly dressed in a white frock; but is that a reason why our children are to go in
. The whole doctrine is so absurd, that when set forth in its true shape, no one will be hardy enough to stand by it; and accordingly, they never do set it forth, nor exhibit it in any distinct shape at all: but only take a general credit for their attachment to principles which every body is attached to as well as they, and where the only question is of the application, which they afford you no means of making. They are lovers of picturesque beauty, so is every body else : but is it contended, that in laying out a place, whatever is most picturesque is most conformable to true taste? If they say so, as they seem to do in many passages, they must be led to consequences which they can never venture to avow. If they do not say so, the whole is a question of how much, or how little, which without the instances before you can never be decided; and all that they do is, to lay down a system as depending on one principle, which they themselves are obliged to confess afterwards, depends upon many. They either say what is false, or what turns out upon examination to be nothing at all.
• Places are not to be laid out with a view to their appearance in a picture, but to their use, and the enjoyment of them in real life: and their conformity to those purposes, is that which constitutes their true beauty. With this view, gravel walks, and neat mown lawns, and in some situations straight alleys, fountains, terraces, and, for aught I know, parterres and cut hedges, are in perfect good taste, and infinitely more conformable to the principles which form the basis of our pleasure in these instances, than the ducks and thistles, and litter and disorder, that may make a much better figure in a picture.'
There are certainly many sources of pleasure in landscape gardening, wholly unconnected with picturesque effect. Mr. Repton has enumerated congruity, utility, order, symmetry, and, ainong others,' appropriation, or that command over the landscape visible from the windows, which denotes it to be private property belonging to the place.'
• A view into a square, or into the parks, may be cheerful and beau, tiful, but it wants appropriation ; it wants that charm which only belongs to ownership; the exclusive right of enjoyment, with the power of refusing that others should share our pleasure; and however painful the reflection, this propensity is part of human nature. It is so prevalent, that in my various intercourse with proprietors of land, I have rarely met with those who agreed with me in preferring the sight of mankind
to that of herds of cattle; or the moving objects in a public road, to the dull monotony of lawns and woods.— The most romantic spot, the most picturesque situations, and the most delightful assemblage of nature's choicest materials, will not long engage our interest without some appropriation; something we can call our own; and if not our own properly, at least it may be endeared to us by calling it our own home.'- p. 235.
Having thus far traced the history of the art of English gardening, an interesting subject of inquiry remains to be considered.What will be its future progress, and ultimate fate? Shall we descend from the proud pre-eminence we have attained, or shall we continue to advance uniting comfort with picturesque effect, till Albion sinile one ample theatre of sylvan grace?'
Horace Walpole feared the abolition or restriction of the modern taste in gardening from its solitariness, arising from the change which had, even in his time, taken place in the style of living in the country, where, however, ' superb palaces were still created, becoming a pompous solitude to the owner, and a transient entertainment to a few travellers. Our style of living is now indeed changed, but from causes of which he could form no idea, and it is not wholly to be attributed to their solitariness that our nobility do not continue to reside upon their estates, while some of the parks of our country gentlemen are become farms, and others are transferred to successful speculators on the necessities of the times, or on the various demands that a long continued war has produced.
Many of these new possessors of the domains of our ancient families have neither taste nor inclination to improve their scenery, but continuing to-act upon the principles by which their landed property has been acquired, they are rather solicitous to increase than to enjoy it; regarding their newly purchased estates as investments of money, from which they must derive the greatest possible return of profit, at the expense, perhaps, of every local association and attachment. They only wish to improve their rental, until other speculations shall transfer the estates to new proprietors. Others consider their estates as occasional retreats from the bustle and anxiety of business. Their objects are privacy and seclusion. They surround the whole place, perhaps, with a lofty pale and a thick plantation, and improve it according to their own taste, with white rails, serpentine walks, spruce firs, and Lombardy poplars, a sheet of water and a Chinese bridge. Novelty usurps the place of propriety; and to men whose former lives have been exclusively devoted to mercantile pursuits in London, almost every thing is new in the country. Their ideas of perfection are contained in a few words, ' I know what pleases myself.'
But the man of good taste endeavours to investigate the causes of the pleasure he receives, and to inquire whether others receive pleasure
also. He knows that the same principles which direct taste in the polite arts, direct the judgment in morality: tbat the knowledge of what is good, whether in actions, in manners, in language, in arts, or science, constitutes the basis of good taste, and marks the distinction between the higher ranks of polished society, and the inferior orders of mankind, whose daily labours allow no leisure for other enjoyments, than those of mere sensual, individual or personal gratification.'
Many of our new proprietors of estates are, however, gentlemen of liberal education, who have bitherto only wanted leisure to discover the true value of these scenes of active benevolence and tranquil enjoyment; to them it is reserved to extend the dominion of elegance around their own habitations, and diffuse cheerfulness and comfort among those of their dependants. This is an English gentleman's proper scene of action. He is no where so respectable as at the head of his tenants and his peasantry, and never so well employed as in promoting their welfare. The art of landscape gardening will, above all others, induce him, first to create, and afterwards to enjoy a comfortable home; and the reciprocity of good offices between the higher and lower classes of society, produced by the residence of the former upon their estates in the country, is an object of the greatest national importance. This is the true end of all plans of improvement, and we have therefore read with satisfaction the Fragment on the Duke of Bedford's cottage, (as it is called,) at Endsleigh, where Mr. Repton observes:
* It is with peculiar pleasure that I have been called upon to exercise my utmost skill on this subject, since every thing that can contribute to the enjoyment of its scenery, I know, must also contribute to the improvement of the neighbouring country, in its agriculture, its mineralogy, its civilization, and the general happiness of all who dwell within the influence of this cottage on the banks of the Tamar.'-p. 226.
We may appear to have dwelt too long upon this subject : but the history of its art, is a part of the history of our country; and according to an author who united good taste with profound erudition,* Our skill in gardening, or rather laying out grounds, is the only taste we can call our own; the only proof of original talent in matters of pleasure. This is no small honour to us: since neither France nor Italy have ever had the least notion of it, nor yet do at all comprehend it when they see it. And we agree with Mr. Repton, that
• Perhaps after all, the pleasure derived from a garden has some relative association with its evanescent nature and produce. We view with more delight a wreath of short lived roses, than a crown of ama. ranth of everlasting flowers. However this may be, it is certain that Gray.