The Garden Guide

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

Garden and park scenery

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A garden, as the appendage to a place of such importance as Ashridge, is no trifling consideration; and it ought well to be weighed, before we sacrifice one of the most splendid and costly works of art, to the reigning rage for nature, and all that is deemed natural. It will, perhaps, be said, that, where we work with nature's materials, the production should imitate nature: but it might, with equal propriety, be asserted, that a house, being built of rocks and stones, should imitate a cavern. Let us, then, begin by defining what a garden is, and what it ought to be. It is a piece of ground fenced off from cattle, and appropriated to the use and pleasure of man: it is, or ought to be, cultivated and enriched by art, with such products as are not natural to this country, and, consequently, it must be artificial in its treatment, and may, without impropriety, be so in its appearance; yet, there is so much of littleness in art, when compared with nature, that they cannot well be blended: it were, therefore, to be wished, that the exterior of a garden should be made to assimilate with park scenery, or the landscape of nature; the interior may then be laid out with all the variety, contrast, and even whim, that can produce pleasing objects to the eye, however ill adapted as studies for a picture. If my pencil has given inadequate representations of scenes not yet existing, I may plead, in my excuse, that I am not a painter; and, if I were, my subjects could not be painted; yet they may serve (better than mere words) to realize, and bring before the eyes of others, those ideas which have suggested themselves to my own imagination. "Segnius irritant animos demissa per aures, Quam quae sunt oculis subjecta fidelibus." ["What we hear, With weaker passion will affect the heart, Than when the faithful eye beholds the part." FRANCIS'  trans] [Note by TT: the quotation is from Horace Ars Poetica line 181. John Quincy Adams Lectures on rhetoric and oratory: Volume 1 p 430 comments as follows 'The preeminence of the eye over the ear, as a judge of imitation, is remarked by Horace, whose principles of taste, through prescribed only for the composition of poetry, are universally applicable to all the fine arts']