The Garden Guide

Book: A treatise on the theory and practice of landscape gardening, adapted to North America,1841
Chapter: Section I. Historical Sketches.

Lancelot Capability Brown

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The modern style was now running high in popular favor in England, but the next professor of the art, Brown, who seems to have been a mannerist not without some sympathy with nature, but not capable of grasping her more varied and expressive beauties, "Capability" Brown, as he was nicknamed, saw in every new place great capabilities, but unfortunately his own mind seems to have furnished but one model-a round lake, a smooth bare lawn, a clump of trees and a boundary belt-which he expanded, with few variations, to suit the compass of an estate of a thousand acres, or a cottage with a few roods. His works were often on a grand scale, and he boasted that the Thames would never forgive him for the rival he had created in the artificial lake at Blenheim. "The places he altered," says Loudon, "are beyond all reckoning. Improvement was the fashion of the time; and there was scarcely a country gentleman who did not, on some occasion or other, consult the gardening idol of the day." Mason, the poet, praises this artist, and Horace Walpole apologizes for not praising him. Daines Barrington says, "Kent hath been succeeded by Brown, who hath undoubtedly great merit in laying out pleasure grounds; but I conceive, that, in some of his plans, I see traces rather of the kitchen gardener of old Stowe, than of Poussin, or Claude Lorraine."