The Garden Guide

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

Picturesque criticism of landscape garden style

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587. The monotonous style was most ably exposed by Price and Knight. The Essays on the Picturesque of the former, and the poem of the latter, though verging on the opposite extreme of the evil they wished to remove, both greatly improved the taste of proprietors and patrons. The object of The Landscape, a didactic poem, was to teach the art of creating scenery more congruous and picturesque than what is met with in that 'tiresome and monotonous scene called Pleasure-ground.' Price's Essays on the Picturesque, and on the Use of studying Pictures, with a View to the Improvement of real Landscape, are written with the same intention; but, as might be expected from a prose work, enter on the subject much more at length. The first answer to Price's work was a letter by Repton, in which candour obliges us to state that the latter has misrepresented his antagonist's meaning, by confounding the study of pictures with that of the study of the principles of painting. Price published an able answer to this production, which, he informs us, was even more read than his original essays. Two anonymous poems of no merit made their appearance, as satires on The Landscape, and, indirectly, on the Essays on the Picturesque. The Review of the Landscape, and of an Essay on the Picturesque, &c., by Marshall, was published in 1795. There can scarcely be any thing more violent than this publication. The periodical critics also brought forward all sorts of reasons against the study of pictures, and denied (perhaps with truth, as to their perception of it) the distinct character of the picturesque. Sir U. Price they treated as 'a mere visionary amateur,' and Knight as 'a Grub-street poet, who has probably no other garden than the pot of mint before his windows.' The increased liberality which has taken place in the minds of literary men since that period is perhaps as great as the improvements which have taken place within the same period in the application of science to the useful arts. A great mass of country gentlemen, tourists, and temporary authors, also, taking the word 'picturesque,' in its extreme sense, and supposing it intended to regulate what was useful, as well as what was ornamental, concluded that Price's object was to destroy all comfort and neatness in country-seats, and to reduce them to mere portions of dingle or jungle scenery.