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TO Sir WILLIAM CHAMBERS, Knt. Comptroller General of his Majesty's Works, and Author
of a late Dissertation on Oriental Gardening.*
Non omnes arbusta juvant, humilesque myrica. Virg.
KNIGHT of the Polar Star! by Fortune plac'd
* Readers of the present generation are so very inattentive to what they read, that it is probable one half of Sir William's may have forgotten the principles which his book inculcates. Let these, then, be reminded, that it is the author's professed aim, in extolling the taste of the Chinese, to condemn that mean and paltry manner which Kent introduced; which Southcote, Hamilton, and Brown, followed ; and which, to our national disgrace, is called the English
And spread their lustre in so broad a blaze, 5 That kings themselves are dazzled, while they gaze.
style of gardening. He shews the poverty of this taste, by aptly comparing it to a dinner, which consisted of three gross pieces, three times repeated; and proves to a demonstration, that Nature herself is incapable of pleasing, without the assistance of Art, and that too of the most luxuriant kind; in short, such art as is displayed in the Emperor's garden of Yven-Ming-Yven, near Pekin, where fine lizards and fine women, human giants and giant-baboons, make bat a small part of the superb scenery. He teaches us, that a perfect garden must contain within itself all the amusements of a great city; that urbs in rure, not rus in urbe, is the thing, which an improver of true taste ought to aim at. He says—but it is impossible to abridge all that he says:-“ Let this therefore suffice to tempt the reader again to peruse his invaluable Dissertation, since, without it, he will never relish half the beauties of the following epistle; for (if her Majesty's Zebra, and the powder-mills at Hounslow, be excepted) there is scarce a single image in it, which is not taken from that work.”
But though the images be borrowed, the author claims some small merit from the application of them. Sir William says too modestly, “ that European artists must not hope to rival Oriental splendor.” The poet shews, that European artists may easily rival it; and that Richmond gardens, with only the addition of a new bridge to join them to Brentford, may be new modelled, perfectly “ à la Chinoise.” He exhorts his Knight to undertake the glorious task, and leaves no cause to doubt, but that, under
O let the Muse attend thy march sublime,
the auspicious patronage he now so justly enjoys, added to the READY vote of those who furnish ways and means, the royal work will speedily be completed.
Verse 2. Cynosure of British taste.] Cynosure, an affected phrase. Cynosura is the constellation of Ursa Minor, or the Lesser Bear, the next star to the Pole. Dr. Newton, on the word in Milton.
Verse 10. With scenes of Yven-Ming.) One of the Imperial gardens at Pekin. (Sayings of Li-Tsong.) “ Many trees, shrubs, and flowers,” sayeth Li-Tsong, a Chinese author of great antiquity, “ thrive best in low, moist situations; many on hills and mountains: some require a rich soil; but others will grow on clay, in sand, or even upon rocks, and in the water: to some a sunny exposition is necessary; but for others the shade is preferable. There are plants which thrive best in exposed situations; but, in general, shelter is requisite. The skilful gardener, to whom study and experience have taught these qualities, carefully attends to them in his operations; knowing that thereon depend the health and growth of his plants, and consequently the beauty of his plantations.” Vide Diss. p. 77. The reader, I presume, will readily allow, that he never met with so much recondite truth, as this ancient Chinese here exhibits.
Like thee to scorn Dame Nature's simple fence;
And, like old Orpheus, make some strong effort To come from Hell, and warble Truth at Court.
• There was a time,“ in Esher's peaceful grove 35
Verse 34. Truth at Court.] Vide (if it be extant) a poem under this title, for which (or for the publication of Lord Bolingbroke's philosophical writings) the person here mentioned received a considerable pension in the time of Lord B-te's administration.
Verse 45. For what is Nature?] This is the great and fundamental axiom on which the Oriental taste is founded; it is therefore expressed here with the greatest precision, and in the identical phrase of the great original. The figurative terms, and even tlie explanatory simile, are en
? . B 3