« PreviousContinue »
“ NEVER was protection and great wealth,"* says an able judge of the subject, “ more generously and judiciously diffused than by this great person (Lord Burlington), who had every quality of a genius and artist, except envy. Though his own designs were more chaste and classic than Kent's, he entertained him in his house till his death, and was more studious to extend his friend's fame than his own. As we have few samples of architecture more antique and imposing than the colonnade within the court of his house in Piccadilly, I cannot help mentioning the effect it had on myself. I had not only never seen it, but had never heard of it, at least with any attention, when, soon after my return from Italy, I was invited to a ball at Burlington-house. As I passed under the gate by night, it could not strike me. At day-break, looking out of the window to see the sun rise, I was surprised with the vision of the colonnade that fronted me. It seemed one of those edifices in Fairy tales, that are raised by genii in a night's time." Pope having appeared an excellent moralist in the foregoing Epistles, in this appears to be as excellent a connoisseur, and has given not only some of our first, but our best rules and observations on architecture and gardening, but particularly on the latter of these useful and entertaining arts, on which he has dwelt more largely, and with rather more knowledge of the subject. The following is copied verbatim from a little paper which he gave to Mr. Spence: “ Arts are taken from nature; and, after a thousand vain efforts for improvements, are best when they return to their first simplicity. A sketch or analysis of the first principles of each art, with their first consequences, might be a thing of most excellent service. Thus, for instance, all the rules of architecture might
reducible to three or four heads; the justness of the openings; bearings upon bearings; the regularity of the pillars, &c. That which is not just in buildings is disagreeable to the eye (as a greater upon a lesser, &c.), and this may be called the reasoning of the eye. In laying out a garden, the first and chief thing to be considered is the ĝenius of the place. Thus at Riskins, now called Piercy Lodge, Lord *** should have raised two or three mounts, because his situation is all a plain, and nothing can please without variety.” * Mr. Walpole, p. 108. Aneedotes of Painting, vol. iv.
Mr. Walpole, in his elegant and entertaining History of Modern Gardening, has clearly proved that Kent was the artist to whom the English nation was chiefly indebted for diffusing a taste in laying out grounds, of which the French and Italians have no idea. But he adds, much to the credit of our author, that Pope undoubtedly contributed to form Kent's taste. The design of the Prince of Wales's garden at Carlton House was evidently borrowed from the Poet's at Twickenham. There was a little affected modesty in the latter, when he said, of all his works he was most proud of his garden. And yet it was a singular effort of art and
' taste, to impress so much variety and scenery on a spot of five acres. The passing through the gloom from the grotto to the opening day, the retiring and again assembling shades, the dusky groves, the larger lawn, and the solemnity of the termination at the cypresses that lead up to his mother's tomb, are managed with ex
, quisite judgment; and though Lord Peterborough assisted him
“ To form his quincunx, and to rank his vines,” those were not the most pleasing ingredients of his little perspective. I do not know whether the disposition of the garden at Rousham, laid out by General Dormer, and, in my opinion, the most engaging of all Kent's works, was not planned on the model of Mr. Pope's, at least in the opening and retiring “ shades of Venus's Vale."
It ought to be observed, that many years before this Epistle was written, and before Kent was employed as an improver of grounds, even so early as the year 1713, Pope seems to have been the very first
person that censured and ridiculed the formal French, Dutch, false and unnatural mode in gardening, by a paper in the Guardian, No. 173, levelled against capricious operations of art, and every species of verdant sculpture and inverted nature; which paper abounds with wit as well as taste, and ends with a ridiculous catalogue of various figures cut in evergreens. Neither do I think that these four lines in this Epistle,
“ Here Amphitrite sails thro' myrtle bowers;
There gladiators fight, or die in flowers :
And swallows roost on Nilus' dusty urn;"
“ A citizen is no sooner proprietor of a couple of yews, but he entertains thoughts of erecting them into giants, like those of
Guildhall. I know of an eminent cook who beautified his country-seat with a coronation dinner in greens, where you see the champion flourishing on horseback at the end of the table, and the queen in perpetual youth at the other.”
But it was the vigorous and creative imagination of Milton, superior to the prejudices of his time, that exhibited in his Eden the first hints and outlines of what a beautiful garden should be ; for even his beloved Ariosto and Tasso, in their luxuriant pictures of the gardens of Alcina and Armida, shewed they were not free from the unnatural and narrow taste of their countrymen; and even his master, Spenser, has an artificial fountain in the midst of his bower of bliss.
I cannot forbear taking occasion to remark in this place, that in the sacred drama, intitled L’Adamo, written and published at Milan, in the year 1617, by Gio. Battista Andreini, a Florentine, which Milton certainly had read, (and of which Voltaire has given so false and so imperfect an account in his Essays on the Epic Poets,) the prints that are to represent Paradise are full of clipped hedges, square parterres, straight walks, trees uniformly lopped, regular knots and carpets of flowers, groves nodding at groves, marble fountains, and water-works. And yet these prints were designed by Carlo Antonio Proccaccini, a celebrated landscape painter of his time, and of the school of the Carraccis: many of those works are still admired at Milan. To every scene of this drama is prefixed a print of this artist's designing. The poem, though wild and incorrect, has many strokes of genius. The author was an actor.
It hence appears, that this enchanting art of modern gardening, in which this kingdom claims a preference over every nation in Europe, chiefly owes its origin and its improvements to two great poets, Milton and Pope. May I be suffered to add, in behalf of a favourite author, and who would have been a first-rate poet,
if his style had been equal to his conceptions, that the Seasons of Thomson have been very instrumental in diffusing a general taste for the beauties of nature and landscape ?
This was written the first of the author's Moral Epistles, and published in 1731, under the title “ On False Taste," but was afterwards arranged as the fourth in the edition of 1735, in which they were first united; it being supposed by the author that they
corresponded better, in this order, with the general plan which he had formed of a very extensive work, of which these were only to be the detached parts. This may serve to vindicate Warburton against the charge of Johnson, who says, that “in the Epistles to Lords Bathurst and Burlington, Warburton has endeavoured to find a train of thought which never was in the writer's head; and to support his hypothesis has printed that first which was published last.” Warburton has printed them in the same order in which they were arranged by Pope, and in which they were reprinted several times before Warburton's edition.