The Landscape Guide
Petworth Park Lancelot Brown
Petworth, West Sussex, designed by Brown in 1752, has been described by the National Trust as 'one of the supreme achievements of eighteenth century landscape gardening in Europe'
Illustrations on CD edition of Garden Visit and Travel Guide - see Blenheim, Oxfordshire, is one of Brown.s most famous and successful schemes. The gentle 'nature' he sought to 'imitate' was that of the English lowlands with its  flowing curves.

During the eighteenth century estate owners, no longer content merely to dream of an 'earthly paradise', set about giving reality to the dream. They brought about what has been described as a 'great revolution in taste'. Some authors have tried to single out one factor, such as 'love of nature', 'a revolt against formality', 'Romanticism' or 'Chinese influence' as the cause of the revolution , but this is misleading. The objective was to make an ideal landscape and it is not surprising that ideas were collected from many sources to build up the ideal. They came from philosophy, art, politics, economics, horticulture, agriculture, forestry, and science; from Greece, Italy, Holland, England, France, and China. The grand coalition was then assembled in an English garden.

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It appears that the political genius who first brought the coalition together was Charles Addison. Dobree describes him as 'a very able, very well-read, and intelligent populariser of astonishing literary skill' who made known 'the most advanced thought of his time, both philosophically and aesthetically'. Addison's essays of 1712 on the Pleasures of the Imagination contain most of the key ideas which went to make up the ideal. The assembly of the following ideas is particularly significant: rural retirement, Neoplatonism, Lockeian empiricism, landscape painting, and the idea that a country estate can be improved by gardening, forestry and agriculture. None of the ideas was new but several were new bedfellows in 1712. The coalition gained strength from Addison's clear formulation and the resultant impetus launched garden and landscape design onto a path of dynamic change.  

Many landscape designers who have been influenced by the ideal have given verbal expression to the objectives of their art. The following quotations have been selected from authors who have written in the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Some of the authors alternate between ideals and practicalities in true Virgilian style. Most of the quotations are concerned only with the making of gardens but the last two are from designers who have an interest in gardening but whose work extends well beyond the garden wall.

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Stephen Switzer (1682-1745) summarised his philosophy in two lines of 'rustic verse' which he borrowed from Horace's Ars Poetica. They are quoted here in the original Latin and in Christopher Hussey's translation:

Utile quimiscens, ingentia Rura,
Simplex Munditis ornat, punctum hic tulit omne.

He that the beautiful and useful blends,
Simplicity with greatness, gains all ends.

Lancelot Brown (1716-1783) was remiss in not leaving us a full account of his objectives, but a letter has been found by Dorothy Stroud which gives some idea of his opinion on how to make a landscape: In France they do not exactly comprehend our ideas on Gardening and Place-making which when rightly understood will supply all the elegance and all the comforts which Mankind wants in the Country and (I will add) if right, be exactly fit for the owner, the Poet and the Painter. To produce these effects there wants a good plan, good execution, a perfect knowledge of the country and the objects in it, whether natural or artificial, and infinite delicacy in the planting &c.

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Sir Uvedale Price, (1747-1829) was a critic of Lancelot Brown's style but the following quotation makes it clear that he would not have disagreed with Brown's objectives. It is a most charming statement of the landscape ideal: The peculiar beauty of the most beautiful of all landscape painters is characterised by il riposo di Claudio, and when the mind of man is in the delightful state of repose, of which Claude's pictures are the image - when he feels that mild and equal sunshine of the soul which warms and cheers, but neither inflames nor irritates - his heart seems to dilate with happiness, he is disposed to every act of kindness and benevolence, to love and cherish all around him.

 Humphry Repton (1725-1818) was not as confident of his theoretical abilities as of his design skills, and gives rather a conventional description of his professional role: the 'whole art of landscape gardening may properly be defined, the pleasing combination of art and nature adapted to the use of man'.

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Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932) made few references to the eighteenth century theorists in her writings but the following passage shows how well she understood their importance: The free school........teaches us to form and respect large quiet spaces of lawn, unbroken by flower-beds or any encumbrance; it teaches the simple grouping of noble types of hardy vegetation, whether their beauty be that of flower or foliage or general aspect. It insists on the importance of putting the right thing in the right place, a matter which involves both technical knowledge and artistic ability...... It teaches us to study the best means of treatment of different sites; to see how to join house to garden and garden to woodland. Repton says most truly: 'all rational improvement of grounds is necessarily founded of a due attention to the character and situation of the place to be improved; the former teaches us what is advisable, and the latter what is possible to be done'. 

Patrick Geddes (1854-1930) was a contemporary of Jekyll's and became the first British designer to use the professional title 'landscape architect'. He believed that 'City improvers, like the gardeners from whom they develop, fall into two broadly contrasted schools, which are really, just as in gardening itself, the formal and the naturalistic' . The following quotation from his book Cities in evolution is interesting for its use of the word 'landscape' instead of his own word 'eutopia' to describe the objectives of the planning process: Such synoptic vision of Nature, such constructive conservation of its order and more than engineering: it is a master-art; vaster than that of street planning, it is landscape making; and thus it meets and combines with city design.

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Ian McHarg (b 1920) is a Scots-American landscape architect who shares Geddes' objectives and also makes use of his famous survey-analysis-plan sequence. The first quotation reveals McHarg's Virgilian objectives and the second his Geddesian approach to bringing about a state of harmony between man and nature: This book is a personal testament to the power and importance of sun, moon and stars, the changing seasons, seedtime and harvest, clouds, rain and rivers, the oceans and the forests, the creatures and the herbs. ..... Such is the method - a simple sequential examination of the place in order to understand it. This understanding reveals the place as an interacting system, a storehouse and a value system. From this information it is possible to prescribe potential land uses - not as single activities, but as associations of these. It is not a small claim, it is not a small contribution: but it would appear that the ecological method can be employed to ...... design with nature.  

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The theme which unites the above quotations from landscape designers can be described as the objective of creating harmony between man and his environment, or man and the land. The 1976 supplement to the Oxford English Dictionary has sanctioned the use of the verb 'to landscape' to describe the process of achieving this objective. It defines 'to landscape' as 'to lay out (a garden etc) as a landscape; to conceal or embellish (a building, road etc) by making it part of a continuous and harmonious landscape'. When used in this way 'landscape' is an evaluative word and should only be applied to a particular kind of place: a place where there is harmony between man and the land. Unfortunately this specialised use of 'landscape' is totally overshadowed by its descriptive use by geologists and geographers to mean 'a tract of land with its distinguishing characteristics and features, especially considered as a product of modifying or shaping processes and agents' (OED 1976). 

The earliest use of 'landscape' as a descriptive term is given by the OED as 1886, when A Geikie used it in a textbook on geology. W G Hoskins has since popularised its use in this sense with the title of his book The making of the English landscape .  

When 'landscape' is used as a purely descriptive word meaning 'a tract of land' it becomes difficult to comprehend the arts of landscape gardening and landscape design. One wonders how a landscape, or even a garden, can be made without having full control over the sun, wind and rain, and over the movements of men, animals and plants. If, on the other hand 'landscape' is used as an evaluative word then landscape design becomes comprehensible. It is simply the art of improving places by whatever means are to hand.  

The shift in the meaning of 'landscape' between 1650 and 1850 was a consequence of the changes in the use of the word 'nature' between the same dates.  

Illustrations on CD edition of Garden Visit and Travel Guide - see
The 'thumbnail' diagrams above show the evolution of the styles which dominated English garden design in the eighteenth century.
The idea of forming a transition from regularity near the house to an irregular background retained its popularity until the mid-twentieth century.

'Landscape' was introduced into modern English from Dutch towards the end of the sixteenth century and at that time was exclusively a painter's term. A 'landscape' was not something which you could walk across or build or buy. It was a Platonic Form; an ideal place beyond the everyday world of reality and sharing some qualaities with paradise itself. Landscape painters hoped to paint a perfect place on canvas after detailed observation and deep reflection on the world as it appeared to their senses. Instructions on how to do this were given by William Salmon in his Polygraphice, published in 1672, 'you are to observe the excellences and beauties of the piece but to refuse its vices', he said. And 'by designing each part after that pattern which was perfect might at last present something perfect in the whole'. Salmon also gives a definition of landscape: 'Landskip is that which appeareth in lines the perfect vision of the earth, and all things thereupon, placed above the horizon, as towns, villages, castles, promontories, mountains, rocks, valleys, ruins, woods, forests, chases, trees, houses, and all other buildings, both beautiful and ruinous'.  

The OED gives 1598 as the earliest use of 'landscape' as a painters' term but by 1616 Michael Drayton seems to be anticipating a later use of the word. He describes the River Rothers in the Isle of Oxney as:  

Appearing to the flood, most bravely like a queen,
Clad (all) from head to foot in gaudy summers green......
With villages amongst, oft powdered here and there
And (that the same more like to landskip should appear)
With lakes and lesser fords to mitigate the heat.

Drayton is using 'landskip' as if it was a design objective and this is exactly what it became during the eighteenth century. Addison adopted the usage and remarked in his 1712 essays that 'a man might make a pretty landskip of his own possessions'. Walpole, looking back on sixty years of efforts to do just this, stated in 1771, 'I should choose to call it the art of creating landscape'. He is using the word partly in an evaluative sense and partly in a descriptive sense. The geographical meaning 'a tract of land' is purely descriptive and seems to have arisen out of the belief that landscape should be made to imitate nature. By the end of the nineteenth century 'nature' had ceased to be a Platonic ideal and since 'landscape' was made to imitate her, she too ended up on the ground as something formed by 'modifying or shaping  processes and agents'.  

The changes in the use of the words 'nature' and 'landscape' were a key factor in the development of new styles of garden design. At the end of the seventeenth century garden plans were based on the primary geometrical forms, especially the circle and the square, which were believed to occupy the highest positions in the hierarchy of shapes. In the course of the eighteenth century there was a move towards serpentine and then irregular lines, as the concepts of nature and landscape continued their path downwads from the world of the forms. The pattern of evolution is shown on the thumbnail style diagrams and is described in more detail in chapters 2 and 3.

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During the nineteenth century it was recognised that all the above shapes have a place in nature and a style developed which was based on a transition from geometrical shapes in the foreground, through serpentine curves in the middle distance, and outwards to an irregular background.  

The geometrical concept of a Transition has had an enormous influence on nineteenth and twentieth century British garden design. It is however primarily a plan style and has been overlaid with stylistic details from a variety of sources, as will be described in chapters 4 and 5. They include Italian Renaissance gardens, the Arts and Crafts movement, and architecture in the International Style.  

Illustrations on CD edition of Garden Visit and Travel Guide - see The River Derwent at Chatsworth, Derbyshire, was converted by Brown from a tumbling mountain stream into a calm serpentine river. Repton criticised him for 'checking its noisy course, to produce the glassy surface of a slow moving river'
Illustrations on CD edition of Garden Visit and Travel Guide - see By the end of the eighteenth century Repton, and the general public, had come to appreciate the wild scenery of the Lake District, epitomised by Wasdale Head. This represents the sublime 'nature' which influenced garden design during the nineteenth century.

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