The Garden Guide

Book: Gardening tours by J.C. Loudon 1831-1842
Chapter: Middlesex, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Wilshire, Dorsetshire, Hampshire, Sussex, and Kent in the Summer of 1832

William Beckford tales

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These are but a few of the numerous tales which were told us by different persons about Fonthill; and it must be recollected that we do not vouch for the truth of any of them, though we think the whole of them are very likely to be true. We admire in Mr. Beckford his vivid imagination and cultivated mind and that good taste in landscape-gardening which produced the perfect unity of character which pervades the grounds at Fonthill. We also give him full credit for his good sense in having quitted the place when he could no longer afford to keep it up and the honourable principle he showed in never getting into debt, but paying liberal prices and ready money to the last. We must, however, enter our protest against the recklessness with which he employed his wealth to gratify his wishes, without regard to its demoralising effects on the labouring population of his neighbourhood, effects so serious that it will take a generation to remove them. Far happier will it always be for a country gentleman to cultivate feelings of kindness and sympathy for all those that are about him, and to encourage similar feelings in them towards him, than merely to lavish money upon them. Still, it is as impossible not to admire Mr. Beckford, as it is not to admire Lord Byron, from the native grandeur of his mind, its superior cultivation, and the high aristocratic feeling which he possessed, unmixed with the slightest shade of meanness. His faults and eccentricities appear to have been chiefly caused by an ardent temperament, stimulated by the early possession of almost unbounded wealth, and unchecked by the restraints of reason, prudence, and human sympathy.