The Garden Guide

Book: Observations on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening, 1803
Chapter: Preface, Containing some observations on taste

Taste and understanding

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Both taste and understanding require cultivation and improvement. Natural taste, like natural genius, may exist to a certain degree, but without study, observation, and experience, they lead to error: there is, perhaps, no circumstance which so strongly marks the decline of public taste, as the extravagant applause bestowed on early efforts of unlettered and uncultivated genius: extraordinary instances of prematurity deserve to be patronised, fostered, and encouraged, provided they excite admiration from excellence, independent of peculiar circumstances; but the public taste is endangered by the circulation of such crude productions as are curious only from the youth or ignorance of their authors. Such an apology to the learned will not compensate for the defects of grammar in Poetry, nor to the scientific artist for the defects of proportion and design in Architecture; while the incorrectness of such efforts is hardly visible to the bulk of mankind, incapable of comparing their excellence with works of established reputation. Thus in poetry, in painting, and in architecture, false taste is propagated by the sanction given to mediocrity.