The Garden Guide

Book: Sketches and Hints on Landscape Gardening, 1795
Chapter: APPENDIX.

Landscape Gardening, Picture Gardening, William Wyndham of Fellbrig

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I cannot better conclude my remarks on this new theory of Landscape Gardening (though in fact it ought rather to be called Picture Gardening), than by the following abstract of a letter, which I received from a Right Honourable Friend, whose name, *[William Wyndham, Esq., of Fellbrig, Norfolk. See Biographical Notice, p. 11. J. C. L.] were I permitted to mention, would confer lustre on this work, as it does on every cause to which he gives his support. "DEAR SIR, I must not delay to thank you at once for your obliging offer of the use of your house, and for the very agreeable present of your printed letter to Mr. Price. I read it the moment that I received it, and read it in the way most flattering to the writer, by taking it up without any settled purpose, and being carried on by approbation of what I found there. You know of old that I am quite of your side in the question between you, and am certain that the farther you go in this controversy, the more you will have the advantage. Nothing indeed can be so absurd, nor so unphilosophical, as the system which Mr. Knight and Mr. Price seem to set up. It not only is not true in practice, that men should expose themselves to agues and rheumatisms, by removing from their habitations every convenience that may not happen to fall in with the ideas of picturesque beauty; but it is not true that what is adverse to comfort and convenience, is in situations of that sort the most beautiful. The writers of this school, with all their affectation of superior sensibility, shew evidently that they do not trace with any success the causes of their pleasure. Does the pleasure that we receive from the view of parks and gardens result from their affording in their several parts subjects that would appear to advantage in a picture? In the first place, what is most beautiful in nature is not always capable of being represented most advantageously by painting; the instance of an extensive prospect, the most affecting sight that the eye can bring before us, is quite conclusive. I do not know anything that does, and naturally should, so strongly affect the mind, as the sudden transition from such a portion of space as we commonly have in our minds, to such a view of the habitable globe as may be exhibited in the case of some extensive prospects. Many things too, as you illustrate well in the instance of deer, are not capable of representation in a picture at all; and of this sort must everything be that depends on motion and succession. But, in the next place, the beauties of nature itself, and which painting can exhibit, are many, and most of them, probably, of a sort which have nothing to do with the purposes of habitation, and are even wholly inconsistent with them. A scene of a cavern, with banditti sitting by it, is the favourite subject of Salvator Rosa; but are we therefore to live in caves, or encourage the neighbourhood of banditti?-Gainsborough's country girl is a more picturesque object than a child neatly dressed in a white frock; but is that a reason why our children are to go in rags? Yet this is just the proposition which Mr. Knight maintains, in the contrast which he exhibits of the same place, dressed in the modern style, and left, as he thinks, it ought to be. The whole doctrine is so absurd, that when set forth in its true shape, no one will be hardy enough to stand by it, and accordingly they never do set it forth, nor exhibit it in any distinct shape at all; but only take a general credit for their attachment to principles which everybody is attached to as well as they; and where the only question is of the application which they afford you no means of making. They are lovers of picturesque beauty, so is everybody else; but is it contended that in laying out a place, whatever is most picturesque, is most conformable to true taste? If they say so, as they seem to do in many passages, they must be led to consequences which they can never venture to avow: if they do not say so, the whole is a question of how much, or how little; which, without the instances before you, can never be decided; and all that they do is to lay down a system as depending on one principle, which they themselves are obliged to confess afterwards, depends upon many. They either say what is false, or what turns out upon examination to be nothing at all. I hope, therefore, that you will pursue the system which I conceive you to have adopted, and vindicate to the art of laying out ground its true principles, which are wholly different from those which these wild improvers would wish to introduce. Places are not to be laid out with a view to their appearance in a picture, but to their uses, and the enjoyment of them in real life; and their conformity to those purposes is that which constitutes their beauty: with this view, gravel walks, and neat mown lawns, and in some situations, straight alleys, fountains, terraces, and, for aught I know, parterres and cut hedges, are in perfect good taste, and infinitely more conformable to the principles which form the basis of our pleasure in these instances, than the docks and thistles, and litter and disorder, that may make a much better figure in a picture."