The Garden Guide

Book: History of Garden Design and Gardening
Chapter: Chapter 4: British Gardens (1100-1830)

Authors on landscape gardening

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584. The authors who established the modern style, are Addison, Pope, Thomson, Shenstone, G. Mason, Whately, and Mason the poet. Addison's Spectators have been already referred to; Pope's Epistle to Lord Burlington has also been noticed, as well as Shenstone's Unconnected Thoughts; the former published in 1716, the latter in 1764. G. Mason's Essay on Design in Gardening, from which we have so frequently quoted, was first published in 1768, and afterwards greatly enlarged in 1795. It is more a historical and critical work than a didactic performance. Mason was the eldest son of a distiller at Deptford. He was an excellent classical scholar; lived much alone, and almost always in London, being connected with the Sun Fire Office. He died at Aldenham, in Herts, in 1806, aged seventy-one. Whately's Observations on Modern Gardening, published in 1770, is the grand fundamental and standard work on English gardening. It is entirely analytical; treating, first, of the materials, then of the scenes, and, lastly, of the subjects, of gardening. Its style has been pronounced, by the learned Ensor, inimitable; and the descriptions with which his investigations are accompanied, have been largely copied and amply praised by Alison, in his work on taste. The book was soon translated into the continental languages, and is judiciously praised in the Mercure de France, Journal Encyclopedique, and Wieland's Journal. G. Mason alone dissents from the general opinion, enlarging on the very few faults or peculiarities which are to be found in the book. Whately was the brother of the then proprietor of Nonesuch Park, near Epsom, in Surrey, which place, as has been already mentioned (554.), he mainly assisted in laying out. He was for a short time secretary to the Earl of Suffolk. He published only this work, and two anonymous political pamphlets; soon after which, in 1772, he died. After his death, some remarks on Shakespeare, from his pen, were published, in a small 12mo volume, in 1785, by his brother, the Rev. Dr. J. Whately, and afterwards a second edition was printed in 1808, by his nephew, Dr. Richard Whately, who in 1831 was made Archbishop of Dublin. The English Garden, a poem by W. Mason, was published in four different books, the first of which appeared in 1772, and the last in 1782. With the exception of the fourth book, it was received with very great applause. The precepts for planting are particularly instructive. On the whole, the work may be classed with the Observations of Whately; and these two books may be said to exhibit a clear view of the modern style, as first introduced and followed by liberal and cultivated minds; while the Dissertation on Oriental Gardening, by Sir William Chambers, published in 1772, holds up to ridicule the absurd imitations of uncultivated amateurs and professors, who have no other qualifications than those acquired in labouring with the spade under some celebrated artist. Mason, who died in 1797, was a residentiary of York Cathedral, prehendary of Driflield, and rector of Aston: he was the author of Elfrida, and Caractacus, tragedies; the English Garden, a poem; Memoirs of Gray the poet, &c.