The Garden Guide

Book: Sketches and Hints on Landscape Gardening, 1795
Chapter: Chapter 7: Concerning approaches, with some remarks on the affinity betwixt painting and gardening

Knight's criticism of Repton

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The first essential of greatness in a place, is the appearance of united and uninterrupted property; and it is in vain that this is studied within the pale, if it is too visibly contradicted without it. It is not to be expected that a large manufacturing town, like Knutsford, can be the entire property of one individual; but the proportion of interest belonging to the adjoining family, should impress the mind with a sense of its influence. There are various ways by which this effect is occasionally produced, and I will mention some of them,-viz., the church, and churchyard, may be decorated in a style that shall in some degree correspond with that of the mansion;-the market-house, or other public edifice, an obelisk, or even a mere stone,* with distances, may be made an ornament to the town, and bear the arms of the family; or the same arms may be the sign of the principal inn of the place; but there are no means so effectual as that which presents itself at Knutsford, of which I have given a hint in the slide [our fig. 36] of the following sketch:- By taking down a few miserable cottages, and rebuilding them as tenements, in a plain, uniform manner, the end of the street will be opened, to shew the entrance of the park through a simple, handsome arch. The arch should be of stone colour; but the tenements of red brick, as according better with the other houses in the town. *[This passage having excited a very severe attack from Mr. Knight, I must beg leave to transcribe the following note from his poem, entitled "THE LANDSCAPE:"- "That I may not be supposed to deal unfairly with the modern improvers of places, or landscape gardeners, I must inform the reader, that I have taken this passage from one, who will be readily and universally allowed to be the most skilful and eminent among them. Mr. Repton, in his plan for improving Tatton Park, in Cheshire, with which he means to favour the public in the general collection of his works, and in which he has confessedly detailed the principles of his art, suggests many expedients for shewing the extent of property; and, among others, that of placing the family arms upon the neighbouring mile-stones; but as difficulties might arise among the trustees of the turnpikes, who might each wish to have his own arms on some particular stone, I flatter myself that the more direct and explicit means of gratifying purse-proud vanity, which I here propose, may not be thought unworthy of the attention of those improvers who make this gratification the object of their labours." The expedient proposed, is to hang up a map of every estate at the porter's lodge. This introduces a sarcasm on WEALTH and RANK.-But whatever reasons Mr. Knight may be able to assign for indulging his spleen on these subjects, all his ingenuity will not qualify him to gloss over the injustice, to say no more, of misrepresenting my sentiments, and mistaking my expressions. "But in your grand approach (the critic cries), Magnificence requires some sacrifice:- As you advance unto the palace gate, Each object should announce the owner's state; His vast possessions, and his wide domains, His waving woods, and rich unbounded plains. He therefore leads you many a tedious round, To show th' extent of his employer's ground; Climbs o'er the hills, and to the vales descends; Then mounts again, through lawn that never ends." How far the poet's licence may have been used with fairness and discretion, will appear, by comparing the sentiments conveyed in my observations on Tatton, and his poem. But it seems to be the opinion of this writer, that any approach is a defective part of modern gardening; because, in some instances, it has been injudiciously made to display the whole beauties of the place at the first entrance. I perfectly agree with him, that those ostentatious approaches, from whence the whole scenery is spread before the stranger's eye, as upon a map, are not to be justified, because they rob the mind of that pleasure which arises from novelty and variety, from expectation and surprise; but surely there is no more incongruity in marking the entrance of a park with some distinction, and displaying some of its beauties in the course of a road that must run through it, than in shewing, by the external appearance of a house, that it is the residence of great wealth or exalted station.]