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"Women, for foundresses, two seats do own;
SUCH was the lofty panegyric of the author of the Pindaric Ode on Belvoir Castle, written in 1679; or rather more than ten years after the rebuilding had been completed by John, eighth Earl of Rutland. The visitor will have had an opportunity of testing the good taste of the poet, and at the same time of forming a comparison between the present and former Castles, by an examination of the model in the anteroom to the regent's gallery. My present object is to accompany him through "The Demesne." I have in vain endeavoured to find a more appropriate word to describe the marvellously beautiful territory which surrounds the Castle. Park it is not, in its essential character; having neither the ordinary enclosure, nor usual occupants, of a park. Besides the affectation of the expression, "Ferme Ornée," it is far too limited to comprehend the character of the Belvoir domain; which does indeed include an ornamental farm, but a great deal besides, of a much more imposing nature. My readers must, * See page 98.
then, be content with a descriptive term, which, if it fails to convey a precise idea of the subject, is not without authority for the application I have made of it.
The same enthusiastic writer, who has furnished us with an expressive opinion of the former Castle, has also described, though in too many words for entire quotation, the beauties of the gardens as they existed in his time; and indeed, with but few alterations, to the time of Nichols; as may be seen in the two views which he has given of the Castle, in the second volume of the "History of Leicestershire."
"We circled round the wondrous hill, till we,
Like an enchanted vision, see
The hanging gardens, Nature's paradise ;
Where she doth lavish out her store,
As if, grown prodigally careless, she,
To furnish this, had left the whole world poor."
The author then, in a multitude of words, describes the fountains and water-works.
The following is a se
"Behold-with pleasant fury streams break out,
And wander in meanders round about;
And imitate the general dance of Fate."
After a digression on the blessings and terrors of the element of water, the poet gives a somewhat original view
of the aspiring character of the finny race, by way of introducing the fish-ponds :
"I saw the liquid crystal stor'd
With numbers of the finny race,
A mansion in the starry plain."
From this spot, the poet surveys the other essential constituents of a first-rate garden of the day:
"From hence our eyes, with pleasing joys beguil'd,
Breeding delight and love;
Till a surprising wonder bid them stay:
A mixture they appear'd of death and life;
As though these enemies had been at strife,
Which should the empire sway,
Which most its nature should to them bequeath.”
It may appear to some of my readers, that if the object had been to record the taste of former days in garden decorations, I might have translated the inflated language of the poet into common sense prose. But, however inverted the taste of the poet may appear in an age of more simple and correct judgment, it is no less a faithful counterpart of contemporary taste in the matters he describes; as I think will appear, in the course of the following observations.
Terraces connected by flights of steps, guarded by balustrades, and adorned with statues; fountains and other ingenious as well as enormously expensive applications of water-work machinery; straight formal avenues in every direction, terminated by Grecian temples, statues, obelisks,
and grottos; trees clipped and tortured into every variety of shape, to force a resemblance to all things animate or inanimate-men, birds, beasts, and in one instance, a wren's nest capable of containing a man; these were the general features of garden scenery, which prevailed with progressive increase in their cumbrous and unnatural character, from the time of Henry VIII., to the middle of the last century.
The very nomenclature of the art, as recorded in the memoirs of Evelyn, would be sufficient to terrify an artist gardener of modern times. An Eden of Evelyn's invention for the amusement of royal leisure, comprehended "knots, traylework, parterres, compartments, borders, banks, and embossments; labyrinths, dædals, cabinets, cradles, close walks, galleries, pavillions, porticoes, lanthorns, and other relievos of topiary and horticular architecture; fountaines, jettes, cascades, pisceries, rocks, grottoes, cryptæ; mounts, precipices, and ventiducts; gazon theatres, artificial echoes, automate and hydraulic music." The upper garden at Kensington was long known by the name of the " Siege of Troy;" from the circumstance of the shrubs and trees having been taught to imitate the lines, angles, bastions, scarps, and counterscarps of regular fortifications; to please William III., whose ideas were all military. This very
garden was eulogised by Addison in the 477th No. of the Spectator, though in a previous number he had pointed out a better way: surely in the latter number, sacrificing correct taste to courtly adulation.
Many ingenious theories have been propounded, to account for this extraordinary counter movement against the simple as well as beautiful examples offered by nature; the most plausible of which shall be noticed. Pride and a desire of privacy having enclosed with walls the demesnes of royal and noble persons; pomp and solitude combined to call for something that might enrich and enliven the insipid and
unanimated partition. Walpole, to whose Essay on Modern Gardening, I am chiefly indebted for the materials of this section, mentions as not an uncommon instance, that after the circumjacent country had been shut out, attempts were made to recover it, by raising large mounds of earth to peep over the walls of the garden. It should also be remembered, that the gardener was a very subordinate person; scarcely above the condition of a common labourer, even in royal gardens. The architect of the castle, palace, or mansion, was also the designer of the gardens, and viewed every thing through an architectural medium: and it may be observed, that till the discovery of, and our extensive intercourse with, the new world, the indigenous plants and trees of this country afforded so little variety, as scarcely to call forth the exercise of gardening as a science. By this latter observation it is not intended to defend the heavy, formal style of gardening, which formerly prevailed; but to show that gardening, as an art, did not offer the inducements to its cultivation, which the desire of perpetuating foreign plants in this country afterwards did. It thus happened, that nature was subjected to the rule and compasses of the architect.
The dawn of a better taste is discerned in the Essays on Gardens by Lord Bacon; who, though he wished to retain shorn trees and hedges, proposed winter or evergreen gardens, and rude or neglected spots as specimens of wild nature. "As for the making of knots or figures," says he, "with divers coloured earths, they be but toys. I do not like images cut out in juniper, or other garden stuff, they are for children." Milton, in his description of the garden of Eden, paints a landscape wholly different from the models of his time; when he describes the crisped brooks running with mazy error under pendant shades: