The Garden Guide

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

Early criticism of landscape gardening

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586. The first symptoms of disapprobation that were ventured to be uttered against the degradation of the new taste appear to be contained in an epistolary novel, entitled Village Memoirs, written by the Rev. J. Cradock, and published in 1775, in which the professors of gardening are satirised under the name of Layout. A better taste, however, than that of Mr. Layout is acknowledged to exist, which the author states 'Shen-stone and nature to have brought us acquainted with.' Most of the large gardens are said to be laid out by some general undertaker, 'who introduces the same objects at the same distances, in all.' (p. 143.) The translation of Gerardin, De la Composition des Paysages, ou des Moyens d'embellir la Nature autour des Habitations, en y joignant l'agreable a l'utile, &c., accompanied with an excellent historical preface in 1783, must have had considerable influence in purifying the taste of its renders; as must a poem entitled Some Thoughts on Building and Planting. But the Essay on Prints, and the various picturesque tours of Gilpin, published at different intervals from 1768, to 1790, had the principal influence on persons of taste. The beauties of light and shade, outline, grouping, and other ingredients of picturesque scenery, were never before exhibited to the English public in popular writings. These works were eagerly read, and brought about that general study of drawing and sketching landscape among the then rising generation, which has ever since prevailed; and will do more, perhaps, than any other class of studies, towards forming a taste for the harmony and connection of natural scenery; the only secure antidote to the revival of the monotony which characterises that which we have been condemning.