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Pour'd forth profuse on hill, and dale, and plain;
A hill covered with trees, appears more beautiful, as well as more lofty, than when naked. To distribute, trees in a plain requires more art: near the dwelling-house they ought to be scattered so distant from each other as not to break the unity of the field; and even at the greatest distance of distinct vision, they ought never to be so crowded as to hide any beautiful object.
In the manner of planting a wood, or thicket, much art may be displayed. A common centre of walks, termed a star, from whence are seen remarkable objects, appears too artificial, and consequently too stiff and formal to be agreeable: the crowding withal so many objects together lessens the pleasure that would be felt in a slower succession. Abandoning, therefore, the star, let us try to substitute some form more natural, that will display all the remarkable objects in the neighbourhood. This may be done by various apertures in the wood, purposely contrived to lay open successively every such object; sometimes a single object, sometimes a plurality in a line, and sometimes a rapid succession of them: the mind at intervals is roused and cheered by agreeable objects; and by surprise upon viewing objects of which it had no expectation.
Attending to the influence of contrast, explained in the eighth chapter, we discover why the lowness of the ceiling increases in appearance the size of a large room, and why a long room appears still longer by being very narrow, as is remarkable in a gallery; by the same means, an object terminating a narrow opening in a wood, appears at a double distance. This suggests another rule for distributing trees in some quarter near the dwelling-house: which is, to place a number of thickets in a line, with an opening in each, directing the eye from one to another, which will make them appear more distant from each other than they are in reality, and in appearance enlarge the size of the whole field. To give this plan its utmost effect, the space between the thickets ought to be considerable; and, in order that each may be seen distinctly, the opening nearest the eye ought to be wider than the second, the second wider than the third, and so on to the end.*
By a judicious distribution of trees, other beauties may be produced. A landscape so rich as to engross the whole attention, and so limited as sweetly to be comprehended under a single view, has a much finer effect than the most extensive landscape that requires a wandering of the eye through successive scenes. This observation suggests a capital rule in laying out a field; which is, never at any one station to admit a larger prospect than can easily be taken in at once. A field so happily situated as to command a
* An object will appear more distant than it really is, if different coloured evergreens be planted between it and the eye. Suppose holly and laurel, and the holly, which is of the deeper colour, nearer the eye: the degradation of colour in the laurel makes it appear at a great distance from the holly, and consequently removes the object, in appearance, to a greater distance than it really is
great extent of prospect, is a delightful subject for applying this rule let the prospect be split into proper parts by means of trees; studying, at the same time, to introduce all the variety possible. A plan of this kind, executed with taste, will produce charming ef fects: the beautiful prospects are multiplied; each of them is much more agreeable than the entire prospect was originally; and, to crown the whole, the scenery is greatly diversified.
As gardening is not an inventive art, but an imitation of nature, or rather nature itself ornamented, it follows necessarily, that every thing unnatural ought to be rejected with disdain. Statues of wild beasts vomiting water, a common ornament in gardens, prevail in those of Versailles. Is that ornament in a good taste? A jet d'eau, being purely artificial, may, without disgust, be tortured into a thousand shapes; but a representation of what really exists in nature admits not any unnatural circumstance. In the statues of Versailles the artist has displayed his vicious taste without the least colour or disguise. A lifeless statue of an animal pouring out water may be endured without much disgust; but here the lions and wolves are put in violent action; each has seized its prey, a deer or a lamb, in act to devour, and yet, as by hocus-pocus, the whole is converted into a different scene: the lion, forgetting his prey, pours out water plentifully; and the deer, forgetting its danger, performs the same work:-a representation no less absurd than that in the opera, where Alexander the Great, after mounting the wall of a town besieged, turns his back to the enemy, and entertains his army with a song.*
In gardening, every lively exhibition of what is beautiful in nature has a fine effect; on the other hand, distant and faint imitations are displeasing to every one of taste. The cutting evergreens in the shape of animals is very ancient, as appears from the epistles of Pliny, who seems to be a great admirer of the conceit. The propensity to imitation gave birth to that practice, and has supported it wonderfully long, considering how faint and insipid the imitation is. But the vulgar, great and small, are entertained with the oddness and singularity of a resemblance, however distant, between a tree and an animal. An attempt in the gardens of Versailles to imitate a grove of trees by a group of jets d'eau, appears, for the same reason, no less childish.
In designing a garden, every thing trivial or whimsical ought to be avoided. Is a labyrinth then to be justified? It is a mere conceit, like that of composing verses in the shape of an axe or an egg: the walks and hedges may be agreeable; but in the form of a labyrinth, they serve to no end but to puzzle: a riddle is a conceit not so mean; because the solution is a proof of sagacity, which affords no aid in tracing a labyrinth.
* Ulloa, a Spanish writer, describing the city of Lima, says that the great square is finely ornamented. "In the centre is a fountain, equally remarkable for its grandeur and capacity. Raised above the fountain is a bronze statue of Fame, and four small basins on the angles. The water issues from the trumpet of the statue, and from the mouths of eight lions surrounding it, which (in his opinion) greatly heighten the beauty of the whole."
The gardens of Versailles, executed with boundless expense by the best artists of that age, are a lasting monument of a taste the most depraved; the faults above-mentioned, instead of being avoided, are chosen as beauties, and multiplied without end. Nature, it would seem, was deemed too vulgar to be imitated in the works of a magnificent monarch and for that reason, preference was given to things unnatural, which probably were mistaken for supernatural. I have often amused myself with a fanciful resem. blance between these gardens and the Arabian tales; each of them is a performance intended for the amusement of a great king: in the sixteen gardens of Versailles there is no unity of design more than in the thousand and one Arabian tales; and, lastly, they are equally unnatural: groves of jets d'eau, statues of animals conversing in the manner of Æsop, water issuing out of the mouths of wild beasts, give an impression of fairy-land and witchcraft, no less than diamond palaces, invisible rings, spells, and incantations.
A straight road is the most agreeable, because it shortens the journey. But in an embellished field, a straight walk has as an air of formality and confinement; and at any rate is less agreeable than a winding or waving walk; for in surveying the beauties of an ornamented field, we love to roam from place to place at freedom. Winding walks have another advantage; at every step they open new views. In short, the walks in pleasure-ground ought not to have any appearance of a road; my intention is not make a journey, but to feast my eye on the beauties of art and nature. This rule excludes not openings directing the eye to distant objects. Such openings, beside variety, are agreeable in various respects: first, as observed above, they extend in appearance the size of the field next, an object, at whatever distance, continues the opening, and deludes the spectator into a conviction, that the trees which confine the view are continued till they join the object. Straight walks in recesses do well; they vary the scenery, and are favourable to meditation.
Avoid a straight avenue directed upon a dwelling house; better far an oblique approach in a waving line with single trees and other scattered objects interposed. In a direct approach, the first appearance is continued to the end; we see a house at a distance, and we see it all along in the same spot without any variety. In an oblique approach, the interposed objects put the house seemingly in motion; it moves with the passenger, and appears to direct its course so as hospitably to intercept him. An oblique approach contributes also to variety; the house, seen successively in different directions, assumes at each step a new figure.
A garden on a flat ought to be highly and variously ornamented, in order to occupy the mind and prevent our regretting the insipidity of an uniform plain. Artificial mounts in that view are cominon; but no person has thought of an artificial walk elevated high above the plain. Such a walk is airy, and tends to elevate the mind; it extends and varies the prospect; and it makes the plain, seen from a height, appear more agreeable.
Whether should a ruin be in the Gothic or Grecian form? In
the former, I think; because it exhibits the triumph of time over strength; a melancholy, but not unpleasant thought: a Grecian ruin suggests rather the triumph of barbarity over taste; a gloomy and discouraging thought.
There are not many fountains in a good taste. Statues of animals vomiting water which prevail everywhere, stand condemned as unnatural. A statue of a whale spouting water upward from its head is in one sense natural, as certain whales have that power; but it is a sufficient objection, that its singularity would make it appear unnatural; there is another reason against it, that the figure of a whale is in itself not agreeable. In many Roman fountains, statues of fishes are employed to support a large basin of water. This unnatural conceit is not accountable, unless from the connexion that water hath with the fish that swim in it; which by the way shews the influence of even the slighter relations. The best design for a fountain I have met with, is what follows. In an artificial rock, rugged and abrupt, there is a cavity out of sight at the top the water, conveyed to it by a pipe, pours or trickles down the broken parts of the rock, and is collected into a basin at the foot it is so contrived as to make the water fall in sheets or in rills at pleasure.
Hitherto a garden has been treated as a work intended solely for . pleasure, or in other words, for giving impressions of intrinsic beauty. What comes next in order, is the beauty of a garden destined for use, termed relative beauty ;* and this branch shall be dispatched in a few words. In gardening, luckily relative beauty need never stand in opposition to intrinsic beauty all the ground that can be requisite for use, makes but a small proportion of an ornamented field; and may be put in any corner without obstructing the disposition of the capital parts. At the same time, a kitchen. garden or an orchard is susceptible of intrinsic beauty; and may be so artfully disposed among the other parts, as by variety and contrast to contribute to the beauty of the whole. In this respect, architecture requires a greater stretch of art, as will be seen imme. diately for as intrinsic and relative beauty must often be blended in the same building, it becomes a difficult task to attain both in any perfection.
In a hot country it is a capital object to have what may be termed a summer-garden; that is, a spot of ground disposed by art and by nature to exclude the sun, but to give free access to the air. In a cold country, the capital object should be a winter-garden, open to the sun, sheltered from wind, dry under foot, and taking on the appearance of summer by a variety of evergreens. The relish of a country life, totally extinct in France, is decaying fast in Britain. But as still many people of fashion, and some of taste, pass the winter, or part of it, in the country, it is amazing that winter gardens should be overlooked. During summer every field is a garden; but during half of the year, the weather is seldom so good in Britain as to afford comfort in the open air without shelter; and yet
* See these terms defined, chap. 3.
seldom so bad as not to afford comfort with shelter. I say more, that beside providing for exercise and health, a winter-garden may be made subservient to education, by introducing a habit of thinking. In youth, lively spirits give too great a propensity to pleasure and amusement, making us averse to serious occupation. That untoward bias may be corrected in some degree by a wintergarden, which produces in the mind a calm satisfaction, free from agitation of passion, whether gay or gloomy; a fine tone of mind for meditation and reasoning.*
Gardening being in China brought to greater perfection than in any other known country, we shall close our present subject with a slight view of Chinese gardens, which are found entirely obsequious to the principles that govern every one of the fine arts. In general, it is an indispensable law there, never to deviate from nature; but in order to produce that degree of variety which is pleasing, every method consistent with nature is put in practice. Nature is strictly imitated in the banks of their artificial lakes and rivers; which sometimes are bare and gravelly, sometimes covered with wood quite to the brink of the water. To flat spots adorned with flowers and shrubs are opposed others steep and rocky. We see meadows covered with cattle; rice-grounds that run into lakes; groves into which enter navigable creeks and rivulets: these generally conduct to some interesting object, a magnificent building, terraces cut in a mountain, a cascade, a grotto, an artificial rock. Their artificial rivers are generally serpentine; sometimes narrow, noisy, and rapid; sometimes deep, broad, and slow and to make the scene still more active, mills and other moving machines are often erected. In the lakes are interspersed islands; some barren, surrounded with rocks and shoals; others enriched with every thing that art and nature can furnish. Even in their cascades they avoid regularity, as forcing nature out of its course: the waters are seen bursting from the caverns and windings of the artificial rocks, here a roaring cataract, there many gentle falls; and the stream often impeded by trees and stones, that seem brought down by the violence of the current. Straight lines are sometimes indulged, in order to keep in view some interesting object at a distance.
Sensible of the influence of contrast, the Chinese artists deal in sudden transitions, and in opposing to each other, forms, colours, and shades. The eye is conducted from limited to extensive views,
* A correspondent, whose name I hitherto have concealed, that I might not be thought vain, and which I can no longer conceal (Mrs. Montagu), writes to me as follows: "In life we generally lay our account with prosperity, and seldom, very seldom, prepare for adversity. We carry that propensity even into the structure of our gardens: we cultivate the gay ornaments of summer, relishing no plants but what flourish by mild dews and gracious sunshine: we banish from our thoughts ghastly winter, when the benign influences of the sun cheering us no more, are doubly regretted by yielding to the piercing north wind and nipping frost. Sage is the gardener, in the metaphorical as well as literal sense, who procures a friendly shelter to protect us from December storms, and cultivates the plants that adorn and enliven that dreary season. He is no philosopher who cannot retire into the Stoic's walk when the gardens of Epicurus are out of bloom: he is too much a philosopher who will rigidly proscribe the flowers and aromatics of summer, to sit constantly under the cypress-shade."