On the Portraits of English Authors on Gardening,
by Samuel Felton
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Il recut deux presens des Dieux, Les plus charmans qu'ils puissent faire; L'un etoit le talent de plaire, L'autre le secret d'etre heureux.

[99] The Quarterly Review for April, 1821, observes, that "The total number of exotics, introduced into this country, appears to be 11,970, of which the first forty-seven species, including the orange, apricot, pomegranate, &c. were introduced previously or during the reign of Henry VIII., and no fewer than 6756 in the reign of George III. For this proud accession to our exotic botany in the last century, the public are chiefly indebted to Sir Joseph Banks, and Messrs. Lee and Kennedy, of the Hammersmith nursery."

[100] The invocation to this Vale, reminds one of Mr. Repton's description:—"Downton Vale, near Ludlow, one of the most beautiful and romantic valleys that the imagination can conceive. It is impossible by description to convey an idea of its natural charms, or to do justice to that taste which has displayed these charms to the greatest advantage,

With art clandestine, and conceal'd design.

A narrow, wild, and natural path, sometimes creeps under the beetling rock, close by the margin of a mountain stream. It sometimes ascends to an awful precipice, from whence the foaming waters are heard roaring in the dark abyss below, or seen wildly dashing against its opposite banks; while, in other places, the course of the river Teme being impeded by natural ledges of rock, the vale presents a calm, glassy mirror, that reflects the surrounding foliage. The path, in various places, crosses the water by bridges of the most romantic and contrasted forms; and, branching in various directions, including some miles in length, is occasionally varied and enriched by caves and cells, hovels, and covered seats, or other buildings, in perfect harmony with the wild but pleasing horrors of the scene."

[101] Foxley, this far-famed seat of dignified and benevolent retirement, has on many occasions become interesting. I will merely mention one. It gave a peaceful asylum to Benjamin Stillingfleet, when his mind was depressed by disappointment. The then owner, Robert Price, Esq. and his mild and amiable lady, both kindly pressed him to become an inmate of their domestic retreat, that his health might be restored, and his mind calmed; and though he modestly refused being a constant intruder, yet he took up his residence in a cottage near them, and delighted to pass his leisure hours in their happy domestic circle, "blending his studious pursuits, with rural occupations," and particularly with gardening. No doubt, to this protecting kindness, may, on this spot, have been imbibed his great veneration for Theophrastus; and here he must have laid the foundation of those attainments, which, during the future periods of his life, obtained for him the high approbation of the justly celebrated Mrs. Montagu, who, in her letters, speaks of "this invaluable friend," in the highest possible terms of praise. In this peaceful and consoling retreat, was written his original and masterly tribute to the talents of Xenophon; and here was first kindled his deep enthusiastic zeal for the classic authors of antiquity; and the materials for his then intended edition of Milton (who he says equalled all the ancients whom he imitated; the sublimity of Homer, the majesty of Sophocles, the softness of Theocritus, and the gaiety of Anacreon,) enriched with parallel passages from holy writ, the classics, and the early Italian poets; and here he composed his matchless treatise on the power and principles of Tartini's music (for it seems Mr. Price himself "was a master of the art.") Here too, most probably, he sketched, or first gathered, his early memoranda towards his future general history of husbandry, from the earliest ages of the world to his own time; and fostered a devoted zeal for Linnaeus, which produced that spirited eulogium on him, which pervades the preface to his translation of "Miscellaneous Tracts on Natural History."

[102] Sir Uvedale, about fifty years ago, translated Pausanias from the Greek. One may judge of the feeling with which he dwelt on the pages of this book, by what he says of that nation in vol. i. p. 65 of his Essays, where he speaks of being struck with the extreme richness of some of the windows of our cathedrals and ruined abbeys: "I hope it will not be supposed, that by admiring the picturesque circumstances of the Gothic, I mean to undervalue the symmetry and beauty of Grecian buildings: whatever comes to us from the Greeks, has an irresistible claim to our admiration; that distinguished people seized on the true points both of beauty and grandeur in all the arts, and their architecture has justly obtained the same high pre-eminence as their sculpture, poetry, and eloquence."

[103] On the pomp of devotion in our ancient abbeys, Mr. R. P. Knight thus interests his readers, in the chapter "Of the Sublime and Pathetic," in the Inquiry into the principles of Taste:—"Every person who has attended the celebration of high mass, at any considerable ecclesiastical establishment, must have felt how much the splendour and magnificence of the Roman Catholic worship tends to exalt the spirit of devotion, and to inspire the soul with rapture and enthusiasm. Not only the impressive melody of the vocal and instrumental music, and the imposing solemnity of the ceremonies, but the pomp and brilliancy of the sacerdotal garments, and the rich and costly decorations of the altar, raise the character of religion, and give it an air of dignity and majesty unknown to any of the reformed churches."

[104] In p. 130 and 179 of vol. ii. he thus adverts to the effects of the levelling system of Launcelot Browne:—"From this influence of fashion, and the particular influence of Mr. Browne, models of old gardens are in this country still scarcer in nature than in painting; and therefore what good parts there may be in such gardens, whether proceeding from original design, or from the changes produced by time and accident, can no longer be observed; and yet, from these specimens of ancient art, however they may be condemned as old fashioned, many hints might certainly be taken, and blended with such modern improvements as really deserve the name."—"Were my arguments in favour of many parts of the old style of gardening ever so convincing, the most I could hope from them at present, would be, to produce some caution; and to assist in preserving some of the few remains of old magnificence that still exist, by making the owner less ready to listen to a professor, whose interest it is to recommend total demolition." Mr. R. P. Knight, in a note to his landscape, thus remarks on this subject: "I remember a country clock-maker, who being employed to clean a more complex machine than he had been accustomed to, very confidently took it to pieces; but finding, when he came to put it together again, some wheels of which he could not discover the use, very discreetly carried them off in his pocket. The simple artifice of this prudent mechanic, always recurs to my mind, when I observe the manner in which our modern improvers repair and embellish old places; not knowing how to employ the terraces, mounds, avenues, and other features which they find there, they take them all away, and cover the places which they occupied with turf. It is a short and easy method of proceeding; and if their employers will be satisfied with it, they are not to be blamed for persevering in it, as it may be executed by proxy, as well as in person."

Severely (and no doubt justly), as the too generally smooth and monotonous system of Mr. Browne has been condemned, yet he must have had great merit to have obtained the many encomiums he did obtain from some of our first nobility and gentry. The evil which he did in many of their altered pleasure-grounds, lives after him—the good is oft interred in his grave.

[105] Mr. George Mason justly observes that "Nature's favourite haunts are the school of gardening."

[106] Dion. Chrysostom said of Xenophon, that "he had something of witchcraft in his writings." It would not be too much to say the same of this poet.


Printed by Lowe and Harvey, Playhouse Yard, Blackfriars.

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