« AnteriorContinuar »
the mote, and the orchardes withoutė, wer exceedingly fair. And yn the orchardes, wer mountes, opere topiario, writhen about with degrees like turninges of cokil shilles, to cum to the top withoute payn. Such a mount may still be seen in the ancient garden of the Castle-Inn at Marlborough; but instead of the steps (or degrees) the summit is to be attained, with patience and perseverance, by a winding walk.
The well known descriptions of the gardens at Nonsuch and Theobalds, show the state of the art in the reigns of Henry the Eighth and Elizabeth; after which, it seems to have made little progress, till Charles the Second introduced the French style in the Canal, and rows of trees in St. James's Park, where, instead of Leland's imitation, we are surprised to find that the central walk in the Mall was actually covered with the cockle shells themselves, and the office of cockle strewer instituted.
This was no sinecure, for his cockle shell walk was so well kept, that Wal. ler calls it the polished walk; and it must indeed have been highly polished, to make his story probable, that Charles the Second, in playing at his favourite game of Mall, was able to strike the ball more than half the length of the walk.
The Grand Monarque himself, (Louis XIV.) from whom these ideas were borrowed, frequently superintended his own improvements; and the master's eye must have, no doubt, contributed to the correctness of the work; for when one of the gardeners was reproved by the king for not having made the beds of a parterre exactly answer to each other, instead of immediately acknowledging his mistake, he pretended to measure the ground with the greatest care, and then gravely justified himself by saying, that the king's eye was truer than his line.
Not being satisfied with our own clumsy imitations of the grand French style, we called in Le Notre himself, who, with the assist. ance of levellers,carpenters and masons, proceeded to build gardens, raise mounds and extend straight avenues and vistas to the very extremity of the park, and often miles beyond it. Nature had no chance irith artists like these; and we should perhaps long have continued to walk up and down stairs in the open air,' upon terraces that might have rivalled those of Marli and Versailles, had not a circumstance occurred that lessened our expense, if it did not improve our taste; this was no less than the accession of William to the throne of these realms.
He was not likely to encourage the costly absurdities of his rival, and the mason and carpenter were dismissed to make room for Dutch garderers, whose skill was displayed in regular grass slopes, emhioidered parterres, and all the various forms of vegetable sculpture. In this taste, Sir George Napier's house, at More
Critchet, was guarded by two troopers on horseback in yew; and in a survey of the principal gardens near London, 1691, we find a myrtle cui in the shape of a chair, that was at least six feet high from the case, and, although not quite perfect, the lower part being thin of leaves, yet it might have formed an appropriate seat for the prim Old Maid of Honour in Wormwood, in the list of vegetable worthies in Pope's admirable satire, which coupde-grâce to these puerile conceits.
The arts were now at their lowest ebb; and with Batty and Langley for our Gothic architects, and London and Wise for our landscape gardeners, we appear to have reached the ne plus ultra of absurdity.
Before we enter upon the history of modern gardening in England, it may not be uninteresting to take a rapid view of the gardens of other countries.
In Italy, the art of gardening was revived by the Medici family, and the most celebrated gardens were those of Lorenzo de' Medici, and of the wealthy Bernard Rucellai in the beginning of the sixteenth century. The latter served as a model for the famous Boboli Garden at Florence, and those of the Vatican, and of the Medici, Borghese, Aldobrandini, and other palaces in Rome. In all these, however, gardening appears to have been made subservient to architecture, and the garden was only an appendage to the palace. The principal ornaments were statues injudiciously crowded together, and innumerable fountains and jets d'eau, sometimes magnificent, but generally on too small a scale, and tou in. significant in their forms. The general arrangement was that of the formal style of French and Dutch gardens, from which however they were distinguished by natural advantages of climate and situation; by serene skies, and a profusion of fragrant flowers and luscious fruits ; the myrtle, the almond blossoms, and the aloe, the orange and the palm, the citron, the olive, and the vine. We almost envy them the enchanting scenery of the Isola Bella rising from the bosom of the Lago Maggiore, with its terraces resembling the hanging gardens of Babylon, and its prospects over the limpid lake, surrounded by vineyards and richly cultivated valleys, and terminated by the dark forests and icy summits of the distant Alps.
In France, Le Notre, as we have said, banished nature, and displayed his artificial scenery at an expense so enormous, that gardening was necessarily confined to the royal palaces, and those of the principal nobility. Le Notre formed the national style, for it was hardly to be expected that a subject of Louis the Fourteenth would attempt to introduce a taste for natural scenery in opposition to that of the court: and the usual avidity for French fashions soon created specimens of this style of gardening in Italy; Spain, Holland, Germany and England. As they were to be formed by the line and compass, and not by attention to natural situation or local advantages, the artist might, from his hotel in Paris, design the same gardens either for Madrid or Mosco.
We are not aware that the Spaniards have any pretensions to originality in their gardens. The only specimens worth notice are those belonging to the royal palaces, which are principally imitations or corruptions of the French style, probably introduced by the Spanish branch of the House of Bourbon.
Little alteration seems to have taken place in the principles of gardening in Holland since the reign of William the Tbird.' The best specimens are on the banks of the Vecht Canal, between Amsterdam and Utrecht. They consist of a succession of small enclosures, which every proprietor arranges according to his own fancy: some with clipped arcades of lime trees or chestnuts, with a painting at the end, to continue a long line of perspective ; others with mazes of various forms, and hedges of yew, linden, or hornbeam; sometimes there are straight lines of trees, or close arbours and berceaux, with banquetting-rooms or summer-houses, of six feet square, by the side of the canal, with many coloured doors and windows, and leaden pine apples with green leaves and golden fruit; parterres of various shapes, with neatly cut box borders, diversified with shells, flinis, coals, brick-dust, and pieces of glass; rows of auriculas in pots, and beds of anemonies, hyacinths, and high priced tulips, with painted figures of the gardener and his assistant. These gardens are separated from each other by a canal or a fish-pond; they resemble those of the French in symmetrical arrangement, and those of the Italians in profusion of ornament. They are however on a smaller scale, and more compact, full of gewgaws and childish devices, and intersected by the stagnant canals or lazy rivers which characterize that singular country:
Baron Hirschfeld, the historian of German gardening, in 1785, complained that his countrymen were afflicted with a singular disease that refused to yield either to irony or to the strength and elevation of the national character. The symptoms of this disease, which he calls Gallomania, were servile imitations of the French. "Ainsi font les François ! voilà ce que j'ai vu en France!! These few words had the magical effect of introducing French fashions of cvery description. Their nobility set the example by creating a little Versailles, a little Marli, or a little Trianon--for these imitations were generally in miniature. A closer acquaintance how. ever with their friend, the late Protector of the confederation of the Rhine, destroyed the enthusiastic admiration of the French; and we may now hope that the Germans will extend the principles of English gardening. Imitation is here out of the question;
for we shall only advise them to study Nature, and from their original genius and powers of deep thinking, we may perhaps anticipate new combinations that will materially contribute to the perfection of the art.
We have not sufficient materials for an inquiry concerning Chinese gardening, and shall therefore only observe, that the Imperial Gardens of Ghe Hol appears to consist of an enclosure of great extent converted by immense labour into pleasure grounds resembling, perhaps, those of England in appearance, but formed upon very different principles.* Lord Macartney observes that
it is our excellence to improve nature,' that of a Chinese gardener to conquer her, his aim is to change every thing from what he found it. If there be a waste, he adorns it with trees; if a dry desert, he waters it with a river, or floats it with a lake; if a smooth flat, he varies it with all possible conversions.' Lord Macartney also notices their . deceptions and eye-traps,' and the frequent recurrence of large porcelain figures of lions and tigers ; and the rough hewn steps and large masses of rock-work which they seem studious of introducing near many of their houses and palaces; and we are upon the whole rather inclined to doubt their pretensions to good taste in gardening, although their style has the merit of originality and variety.--Our leading principles are, that good taste and good sense are inseparable, and that the genius of the place should be consulted, and not annihilated. The mind is more easily reconciled to symmetrical arrangement than to unnatural irregularity; and we perfectly agree with Horace Walpole that ' a straight canal is at least as rational as a meandering bridge.'
Of other Asiatic gardens we shall only remark, that from the little change that has taken place in the manners and customs of Eastern nations, specimens might perhaps there be found of the most apcient style of gardening in the world. These, however, we shall leave to other inquirers, and return to the invention of a new art in our own country.
While the sources of the other arts are lost in tradition, conjecture, or fabulous invention, the history of English gardening may
be traced to its fountain head-a circumstance of rare occurrence in inquiries concerning the progress of human knowledge.
Poets were often the earliest historians, and always the greatest admirers of rural scenery. To them we are indebted for the first glimmerings of good taste in gardening. Juvenal regrets the appearance of art near the fountain of Egeria.
• Thence, slowly winding down the vale, we view
# Barrow's Travels.
Nymph of the Spring ! more honour'd badst thou been,
And marble ne'er profaned thy native stone.'
• E quel, che 'l bello, è 'l caro accresce al opre,
L'Arte che tutto fa, nulla si scuopre.'
• And that which all faire works doth most aggrace,
The art which all that wrought, appeared in no place.' But the genius of Milton alone imagined a garden,
• A happy rural seat of various view,' of which no example could be traced since the creation of the world, except where we are told • The Lord God planted a garden, and out of the ground he made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food.'-(Genesis, c. ii. v. 9.)
Addison, while investigating the causes of the pleasures of the imagination arising from the works of nature, and of their superiority over those of art,* prepared for the new art of gardening the firm basis of philosophical principles. Pope, about the same time,t attacked the prevailing style with his keenest shafts of ridicule : and as he was not one of those reformers who are eager to pull down a palace, without being able to erect a cottage,'1 he afterwards, in his Epistle to Lord Burlington, so completely developed the true principles of gardening, that the theories of succeeding writers have been little more than amplifications of his short general precepts. These, divested of the charms of bis poetry, are, 1. To study nature. 2. To display her beauties, and conceal her defects. 3. To consult the genius of the place. And Lastly, Never to lose sight of good sense.
An artist now arose, who reduced these rules to practice. Kent was a painter, an architect, and a gardener, with genius to feel, and power to realize the dreams of the poet, and the principles of the philosopher.
The most indifferent observer must instantly feel the effect of removing a yew-hedge, or a garden wall, to open an unconfined view over bill and valley, lawns and woods, and distant prospects. But the new management of water was not so soon understood; and we may imagine the surprise of the Londoners to see a string of ponds in Hyde Park metamorphosed into what they called the Serpentine River, from its not being exactly straight, like all the former ornamental canals; and when Lord Bathurst ventured to * 1712, Spectator, No. 414. * 1713, Guardian, No. 173.