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.

London frontages and back gardens

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VIEW TO THE WEST. My opinion respecting this view will, I have no doubt, be considered as a dereliction of all the modern notions of taste in landscape gardening. In this view towards the west we can see nothing natural, except the materials which nature has furnished, of land, trees, and water; but all these have been so forcibly brought under the control of art, that they are no longer to be considered as natural objects, any more than the stones and masonry of the house can be considered as natural rocks. The surface of the ground has been shaped to form corresponding and adequate roads of approach, and the trees have been ranged in rows to accompany such roads. The water has been collected into a vast basin by an effort of art, which is avowed in the lofty mound that separates the upper from the lower levels. All these have existed nearly a hundred years; and, whether right or wrong, cannot now be altered; while they afford a magnificent specimen of the ancient style of gardening. The great character of this place must be considered, as it relates to the vicinity of the capital. Those who could treat this splendid palace like the seat of an English country gentleman, at the distance of a hundred miles from the metropolis, would rob it of all its importance, and more than half its interest and beauty. It would be absurd, in this place, to conform to the modern style of placing the house in the centre of its domain, from which everything is banished but the beasts of the forest. On the contrary, it must be classed with those royal and princely residences, which form the retreats of the great from the court or city: and we do not expect near a metropolis anything like perfect seclusion from mankind, either in the palaces of Versailles, Potsdam, or Kensington, any more than in the metropolis, as at Carlton House, or St. James's. To each of these the gardens behind the house may be private, but the entrance-front must be exposed to the public; and we must not, as in lesser places, consider the entrance of the park as the boundary of the domain: on the contrary, I have always considered the gate which opened immediately into the fore-court, or bassecour, as the dressed limit of such palaces. And if it were possible to exclude from Hyde Park, or Kensington Gardens, the gay assemblage of company which enlivens the scene, we should only produce one dull and cheerless solitude, without a single feature to constitute natural landscape, or to reconcile the mind to artificial rows of trees with their symmetrical formality.