Garden design and architects' gardens; two reviews, [book]

W. Robinson
1892 unpublished
X 284264 PREFACE That we might see, eyes were given us ; and a tongue to tell accurately what we had got to see. It is the alpha and omega of all intellect that man has. No poetry, hardly even that of Goethe, is equal to the true image of reality had one eyes to see that. T. CARLYLE, Letters to Varnhagen Von Ense. The one English thing that has touched the heart of the world is the English garden. Proof of this we have in such noble gardens as the English park at Munich, the garden of the
more » ... garden of the Emperor of Austria at Laxenberg, the Petit Trianon at Versailles, the parks formed of recent years round Paris, and many lovely gardens in Europe and America. The good sense Vin PREFACE of English writers and landscape gardeners refused to accept as right or reasonable the architect's garden, a thing set out as bricks and stones are, and the very trees of which were mutilated to meet his views as to "design" or rather to prove his not being able to see the simplest elements of design in landscape beauty or natural form. And some way or other they destroyed nearly all signs of it throughout our land. In every country where gardens are made we see the idea of the English garden gratefully accepted ; and though there are as yet no effective means of teaching the true art of landscape gardening, we see many good results in Europe and America. No good means have ever been devised for the teaching of this delightful English art. Here and there a man of keen sympathy with Nature does good work, but often it is carried out by men trained for a very different life, as engineers in the great PREFACE Paris parks, and in our own country by surveyors and others whose training often wholly unfits them for the study of the elements of beautiful landscape. Thus we do not often see good examples ofpicturesque garden and park design, while bad work is common. Everywhere unhappily, even in England, the home of landscape gardening the too frequent presence of stupid work in landscape gardening offers some excuse for the two reactionary books which have lately appeared books not worth notice for their own sake, as they contribute nothing to our knowledge of the beautiful art of gardening or garden design. But so many people suppose that artistic matters are mere questions of windy argiiment, that I think it well to show by English gardens and country seats of to-day that the many sweeping statements of their authors may be disproved by reference to actual things, to be seen by all who care PREFACE for them. We live at a time when, through complexity of thought and speech, artistic questions have got into a maze of confusion. Even teachers by profession confuse themselves and their unfortunate pupils with vague and hyper-refined talk about art and "schools" and " styles" while all the time much worse work is done than in days when simpler, clearer views were held. To prove this there is the example of the great Master s work and the eternal laws of nature, on the study of which all serious art must be for ever based. Beneath all art there are laws, however subtle, that cannot be ignored without error and waste ; and in garden design there are lessons innumerable both in wild and cultivated Nature which will guide us well if we seek to understand them simply. These books are made up in great part of quotations from old books on gardening many of them written by men who knew PREFACE xi books better than gardens. Where the authors touch the ground of actuality, they soon show little acquaintance with the subject ; and, indeed, they see no design at all in landscape gardening and admit their ignorance of it. That men should write on things of which they have thought little is unhappily of frequent occurrence, but to find them openly avowing their ignorance of the art they presume to criticise is new. A word or two on the state of architecture itself may not be amiss. From Gower Street to the new Law Courts our architecture does not seem to be in a much better state than landscape gardening is, according to the architects to whom we owe the " Formal Garden " and " Garden Craft " / It is William Morris -whose "design" these authors may respect who calls London houses "mean and idiotic rabbit warrens /" so that there is plenty to do for ambitious xii PREFACE young architects to set their own house in artistic order / As regards "formal gardening" the state of some of the best old houses in England Longleat, Compton -Wynyates, Brympton, and many others, where trees in formal lines, clipped or otherwise, are not seen in connection with the architecture is proof against the need of the practice. As regards the best new houses, Clouds, so well built by Mr. Philip Webb, is not any the worse for its picturesque surroundings, which do not meet the architect's senseless craving for " order and balance " / while Batsford, certainly one of the few really good new houses in England, is not disfigured by the fashions in formality the authors wish to see revived, and of which they give an absurd example in a cut of Badminton. There is, in short, ample proof, furnished both by the beautiful old houses of England and by those new ones PREFACE xin that have any claim to dignity, that the system they seek to revive could only bring costly ugliness to our beautiful home-landscapes.
doi:10.5962/bhl.title.19599 fatcat:kdhaqy7bbfdc5py3oegbpjuewu