The Garden Guide

Book: Fragments on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening, 1816
Chapter: Fragment XxvII. Gardens Of Ashridge.

Ancient gardening at Ashridge

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OF ANCIENT GARDENING. It fortunately happens at Ashridge, that the area proposed to be dedicated to garden and pleasure-ground, is bounded both to the east and to the west by a straight line of lofty trees; these give a character of antiquity and grandeur to the site, and prove it to have existed before serpentine lines were introduced. I can hardly expect that the sweeping line of wire-fence should be immediately altered; but, as it must very soon perish, it becomes my duty to point out a different line, for the future more durable boundary of the gardens; and this alteration will throw out two or three acres of ground, which must otherwise be kept mown, since no plantations can possibly be made there, without injuring the view of the park. The only use that could be made of these three acres, would be an open cricket-ground, which may either be in the park, or excluded from it, yet appear one surface with the intermediate space of lawn, which I have called the bowling-green. This is an appendage perfectly accordant with the ideal date and character of the building; and would be made still more perfect, by extending the walk from the east terrace, to form the quadrangle complete. These walks may all be considered as part of the original artificial and truly magnificent style of gardening in former times, when the works of art were avowed as artificial, their costliness bespeaking their value*. *[I cannot here omit mentioning the having been present when Mrs. Siddons objected to the straight braids represented in the celebrated picture in the character of the Tragic Muse, and requested Sir Joshua Reynolds to let the hair flow in more graceful ringlets; but that great master observed, that without straight lines there might be grace or beauty, but there could be no greatness or sublimity; and this same rule applies to gardening, as to painting. It was, therefore, with peculiar satisfaction, that I observed the straight lines of walks near the house, and that mall to the east, in a line with the trees, which Mr. James Wyatt had advised.]