The Garden Guide

Book: Fragments on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening, 1816
Chapter: Fragment Xxvi. Extract From A Recent Report Of A Place Near The Capital.

Banishment of terraces and grottoes

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From hence it is evident, that the poet no more meant to banish entirely the terrace or grotto of the old style in gardening, than columns or arcades in architecture: but, as mankind always step at once from one extreme to another, so every straight line became curved; and, in contrasting art with nature, it was asserted, that a serpentine line was the true line of beauty, and that nature abhorred a straight line; forgetting that in nature's most sublime works the straight line prevails; as in the apparent horizon of the ocean, and the rays of the sun, which may be broken, but cannot be bent. This favourite meandering and undulating line soon prevailed in everything, whether it was a line of a road, a walk, a canal, or the surface of the ground, or even the fence of a plantation; till, at length, it became as monotonous as the straight line, and every place in the kingdom was alike, whether large or small; from a citizen's villa with two acres, surrounded by a shrubbery and serpentine walk, to the nobleman's park of two thousand acres, surrounded by a belt of plantation and serpentine drive. These, by their uniform sameness, are equally insipid, and have called forth from a modern poet lines not less severe than those of Pope:- "Prim gravel walks, through which we winding go, In endless serpentines, that nothing shew, Till tir'd, I ask, 'Why this eternal round?' And the pert gard'ner says, 'tis pleasure-ground.' " THE LANDSCAPE, BY R. P. KNIGHT, ESQ. As applied to this place, if all straight lines must be abolished, almost every tree would be sacrificed: and if all the shapes of land or water, which are artificial, must be made natural, the cost would be as much more to undo the work of former times, as the difference between the price of labour and the value of money now, and at the period when these costly works were executed.