The Garden Landscape Guide
During the seventeenth century England suffered from civil war, waste and political turmoil on a scale which could be compared to the troubles which had afflicted Rome in the first century BC. The English troubles, which centred on the conflict between the Royalist and Parliamentarian parties, led to a greater appreciation of country life. As in Roman times rural retirement appeared both safer and more virtuous than living in towns. The political dangers of town life were experienced alternately by the opposing parties. During Charles I's reign many of the protestants who later formed the core of the Parliamentary party, were unjustly persecuted. After the outbreak of civil war, in 1642, both parties suffered.

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The execution of Charles I in l649 brought the war to an end and Cromwell exiled the defeated Royalists to the country. They made a virtue of necessity and devoted themselves to agriculture and the improvement of their estates. The Commonwealth survived until 1660 and ended with the restoration of the monarchy in the person of Charles II. A new period of religious and political persecution began with the execution of the regicides who had been responsible for beheading Charles I. It was now the turn of the protestant landowners to find life safest in their country retreats. John Milton, the poet and apologist for the Commonwealth, himself retired into the country for a time after the restoration and began work on Paradise Lost. Book IV contains a description of the Garden of Eden before the Fall. It was frequently quoted by eighteenth century poets and gardening authors and contains the following lines, which compare Eden to a rural estate:

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Thus was this place,
A happy rural seat of various view;
Groves whose rich
Trees wept odorous Gumms and Balme,
Others whose fruit burnisht with Golden Rinde........
Betwixt them Lawns, or level Downs, and Flocks
Grasing the tender herb, were interpos'd,
Or palmie hilloc, or the flourie lap
Of som irriguous Valley spread her store, 

The persecution of Protestants reached a climax between 1685 and 1688, during the reign James II, and led directly to the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the invitation to the protestant William of Orange to assume the British throne. It was once again the turn of the catholics to find life safer away from the court and town.

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Illustrations on CD edition of Garden Visit and Travel Guide - see www.gardenvisit.com/order_form.htm

Sir William Temple, by Sir Peter Lely

Illustrations on CD edition of Garden Visit and Travel Guide - see www.gardenvisit.com/order_form.htm
The Garden of Eden, from an illustration in Milton's
Paradise Lost

By the end of the seventeenth century writers on many subjects, but especially writers on gardening, were praising the ideal of rural retirement. They looked to renaissance authors for practical advice but were also attracted to the life-style which they praised. William Temple exemplifies this attitude. He was a protestant diplomat and statesman whose career, from 1655 to 1688, had been in stormy times. The crowning achievement of his career was the negotiation, in 1668, of the Triple Alliance of protestant countries to protect Holland from catholic aggression - this was done during the reign of a British king, Charles II, who had strong French and catholic sympathies. To Temple's regret the alliance came to nothing. Towards the end of his career Temple was offered a secretaryship of state but he was weary of political strife and declined the offer. In true Horatian style he retired to his rural seat at Moor Park and devoted himself to its management and to literature. Temple's essay of 1685 Upon the Gardens of Epicurus extolls

The sweetness and satisfaction of this retreat, where since my resolution taken of never entering again into any public employments, I have passed five years without once going to town, though I am almost in sight of it, and have a house there always ready to recieve me .
 

This remark is at once butressed with a quotation from Horace:  
Let me less possess, so I may live, What'er of life remains ,unto myself.
 

Temple also refers to other classical authors. He enormously admired the philosopher whose name appears in the title of his essay: `Epicurus passed his life wholly in his garden: there he studied, there he exercised, there he taught his philosophy,' because 'the sweetness of air, the pleasantness of smell, the verdure of plants, the cleaness and ligntness of food, the exercises of working and walking; but above all, the exemption from cares and solicitude, seem equally to favour and improve both contemplation and health'.
 

Temple's idea of a garden was as traditional as his gardening philosophy. His own garden, which will be described in the next chapter, had a series of walled and hedged rectangular enclosures which were devoted to flowers, vegetables and fruit. Temple was especially interested in fruit trees. His essay is by no means a pomological treatise but, following the Georgics, contains practical advice distilled from the author's personal experience.

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Anthony Ashley Cooper, the third Earl of Shaftesbury, is another writer who praised the joys of rural life. The two friends who conduct a debate in his 'philosophical rhapsody' The Moralists set out for a walk and, 'fell naturally into the praises of country life, and discoursed a while of husbandry, and the nature of the soil'. They proceed to a discussion of nature, ethics and aesthetics. Shaftesbury believed that a garden should induce peacefulness and spirituality. 'Therefore remember ever the garden', he wrote, 'and the groves within. There build, there erect what statues, what virtues, what ornament or orders of architecture thou thinkest noblest. There walk at leisire and in peace; contemplate, regulate, dispose: and for this, a bare field or common walk will serve full as well, and to say truth, much better'.

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Stephen Switzer is a third example of a gardening author who was influenced by the classical idea of rural retirement. He published his first book in 1715 but his philosophy is basically that of the previous century. Switzer is careful to acknowledge his sources and begins with the Garden of Eden. Epicurus is credited with making the first town garden and praised for using it as a place to teach philosophy. Virgil is admired for the way he 'mixes the poet, philosopher and gardener together'. The art of choosing a good site and planning the layout is properly ascribed to Vitruvius. John Evelyn is seen as a second Virgil on account of his grasp of the technical and philosophical aspects of country life, and, amongst other writers, Switzer mentions Homer, Horace, Columella, Ovid, Milton, Cowley, Temple, Addison, and Pope. He also gives grateful thanks to his former employers, London and Wise, and to the French designers and authors who provided the model for his work. In the course of a long apprenticeship Switzer had learnt more about the practicalities of estate work than Temple or Shaftesbury had ever known. He was a nurseryman and designer who sought to combine 'the pleasures of the country with the profits'.
 

Although Temple, Shaftesbury and Switzer have been taken as representative gardening authors of their period, and have been shown to embrace an ancient gardening ideal, it must also be said that these men are best known to historians as the precursors of a uniquely British style of garden and estate layout which arose during the eighteenth century. This style, which is known variously as the 'natural', 'irregular', 'informal', or 'English landscape' style, contrasts very markedly with the 'geometrical', 'regular' or 'formal' styles which characterised the gardens of the seventeenth century. Pevsner only expressed a popular judgement rather boldly when he wrote of the last passage* of Temple's essay that:

 This passage is one of the most amazing in the English language. It started a line of thought and visual conceptions which were to dominate first England and then the World for two centuries. It is the first suggestion ever of a possible beauty fundamentally different from the formal, a beauty of irregularity and fancy .

Similarly Shaftesbury is described by Joseph Burke as 'the first philosophical sponsor of a new movement in gardening', and Switzer, by Hunt and Willis, as 'the first professional gardener in England to write about the new style'.

 [*In which Temple wrote: ‘There may be other forms wholly irregular, that may, for aught I know, have more beauty… They must owe it …to some great race of fancy or judgement in the contrivance’. The whole of Temple's essay is included on the CD]

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