The Garden Guide

Book: The Principles of Landscape Gardening
Chapter: Chapter 1: Principles of Landscape Gardening

Regular forms - Leibnitz and Montesquieu

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1464. Regular forms are satisfactory, Stewart observes (Philosophical Essays, 238.), 'from the principle of a sufficient reason, adopted by Leibnitz. What is it that, in any thing which is merely ornamental, and which at the same time does not profess to be an imitation of nature, renders irregular forms displeasing ? Is it not, at least, in part, that irregularities are infinite; and that no circumstance can be imagined which should have decided the choice of the artist in favour of that particular figure which he has selected ? The variety of regular figures, it must be acknowledged, is infinite also; but, supposing the choice to be once fixed about the number of sides, no apparent caprice of the artist, in adjusting their relative proportions, presents a disagreeable and inexplicable puzzle to the spectator.' Wherever symmetry 'is useful to the mind, and may assist its functions, it is agreeable; but wherever symmetry is useless, it becomes distasteful, because it takes away variety: therefore, things that we see in succession ought to have variety, as our minds have no difficulty in comprehending them: those, on the contrary, that we see at one glance, ought to have symmetry; thus at one glance we see the front of a building, a parterre, a temple; in such things there is always a symmetry which satisfies the mind, by the facility it gives of taking in the whole object at once.' (Montesquieu.)