The Garden Guide

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

The peculiar beauties of landscape gardening

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1475. Landscape-gardening has, however, beauties peculiar to itself. Every one has experienced the delightful feelings which are raised in the mind by a beautiful scene in a romantic country. At such a time all paltry vanities, all bad passions, seem to fade away, and, as the poet has so beautifully expressed it, the mind seems elevated From Nature unto Nature's God. It seems, indeed, almost impossible to gaze upon the beauties of hills and dales, and wood and water, without some of the higher feelings being awakened; and, though the best endeavours of man to imitate the beauties of nature must in some degree fall short of the original, yet still it is in the power of the landscape-gardener to change a barren waste, the sight of which can only raise up painful feelings in the mind, to a smiling landscape which cannot be contemplated without a glow of pleasurable sensations. Viewed in this light, landscape-gardening assumes a more important character than it would at first sight appear to have any claim to: it is no longer a mere arrangement of lines and forms; but an art which requires the exertion of imagination, feeling, and taste. In this respect, the professors of the modern style have a striking advantage over their predecessors. Landscape-gardeners in the old style, even in the largest places, were confined to long straight avenues bordered by tall trees which impeded the free circulation of air and light, and were calculated alike to depress the spirits and injure the health; and though many felt the inconveniences and, even absurdities of this style, it was long before any one had courage to effect a change. Old prejudices are always difficult to conquer, and in this case they appeared almost insurmountable. The first English landscape-gardener who had courage to adopt the modern style was Kent, who had been originally brought up as a painter, and who, consequently, had a lively feeling for the beautiful in landscape-scenery; and the first place on which he tried his skill was at Esher in Surrey. The beautiful variation of the grounds at this place, with the water and rich distant scenery, made it an excellent subject to work upon; and here Mr. Kent boldly deviated from the straight lines of his predecessors. It is, however, interesting to remark the difficulty that existed in overcoming established prejudices; for this place, which was considered a most daring innovation, appears to us now excessively formal and precise.