Character Areas Tour
William Gilpin wrote the following fictional account of two visitors walking through the gardens at Stowe as a way of outlining some of the issues raised by landscape garden design and the expense of creating and developing a garden. Note that you may view garden features mentioned in the poem by clicking on highlighted words and phrases. Images will appear in a pop-up window, which you should close when you are ready to proceed with the dialogue. The photographic images are mine. The others are scans of engravings from the supplement to the Seeley Guidebooks (1750), from the Beauties of Stowe by George Bickham (1750), and from the series by Jacques Rigaud published by Sarah Bridgeman in 1739.
But in Excuse for the Meanness of the Performance it may be said, that it is not designed to be considered as a finished Piece: This View was not taken upon the Spot, as it ought to have been, but only from my Memory ana a few loose Scratches; if the Public therefire will call it only a rough Draught, or at best a coloured Sketch, my Ambition will be fully satisfied. The curious therefore must purchase it rather from their Necessity than its Merit; as they do meaner Engravings of the Cartoons, where Dorigny's are not to be had: " 'Tis true, Gentlemen, says the Print-seller, they are far from being good, but take my Word for it, you will meet with no better."
Why, here is a View that gives me a kind of Earnest of what my Expectation is raised to!
It is a very fine one indeed (replied Callophilus:) I do not wonder it should catch your sight: The old Ruin upon the left of the Canal, the Opening to the Pyramid, the View towards the House, the River, the beautiful Disposition of the Trees on the other side of it, and that venerable old Temple, make a fine Variety of Objects. But your Eye is so taken up with Views at a distance, that you neglect something here at hand very well worth your notice. What do you think of these two Pavilions?
Polypth. Why they are light, genteel Buildings enough. I like these rough Paintings too; they are done in a very free, masterly Manner. Pray, Sir, do you know the Stories?
Calloph. They are both taken from Pastor Fido; the disconsolate Nymph there, poor Dorinda, had long been in love with Sylvio, a wild Hunter, of barbarous Manners, in whose Breast she had no reason to believe she had raised an answering Passion. As she was roving in the Woods, she accidentally met his Dog, and saw her beloved Hunter himself at a distance hollowing, and running after it. She immediately calls the Hound to her, and hides it amongst the Bushes. Sylvio comes up to her, and enquires very eagerly after his Dog: The poor Nymph puts him off, and tries all her Art to inspire him with Love, but to no purpose; the cold Youth was quite insensible, and his Thoughts could admit no other Object but his Dog. Almost despairing, she at length hopes to bribe his Affections, and lets him know she has his Dog, which she will return if he will promise to love her, and give her a Kiss; Sylvio is overjoyed at the Proposal, and promises to give her ten thousand Kisses. Dorinda upon this brings the Dog: but alas! see there the Success of all her Pains: the Youth transported at the sight of his Dog, throws his Arms round its Neck, and lavishes upon it those Kisses and Endearments, in the very Sight of the poor afflicted Lady, which she had been flattering herself would have fallen to her Share. ----- On this other Wall Disdain and Love have taken different Sides; the Youth is warm, and the Nymph is coy: Poor Myrtillo had long loved Amarillis; the Lady was engaged to another, and rejected his Passion. Gladly would he only have spoke his Grief; but the cruel fair One absolutely forbid him her Presence. At length a Scheme was laid by Corisca, the young Lover's Confidant, which was to gain him Admission into his dear Amarillis's Company. The Lady is enticed into the Fields with some of Corisca's Companions, (who were let into the Plot) to play a Blindman's Buff, where Myrtillo was to surprize her. See there he stands hesitating what use to make of so favourable an Opportunity, which Love has put into his Hands. ----- If you have satisfied your Curiosity here, let us walk towards the Temple of Venus. But hold: we had better first go down towards that Wilderness, and take a View of the Lake.
Polypth. Upon my Word here is a noble Piece of Water!
Calloph. Not many Years ago I remember it only a Marsh; it surprized me prodigiously when I first saw it floated in this manner with a Lake. Observe, pray, what a fine Effect that old Ruin has at the Head of it: Its Ornaments too, the Cascade, the Trees and Shrubs, half concealing, and half discovering the ragged View, and the Obelisk rising beyond it, are Objects happily disposed.
Polypth. Yes, indeed, I think the Ruin a great Addition to the Beauty of the Lake. There is something so vastly picturesque, and pleasing to the Imagination in such Objects, that they are a great Addition to every Landskip. And yet perhaps it would be hard to assign a reason, why we are more taken with Prospects of this ruinous kind, than with Views of Plenty and Prosperity in their greatest Perfection: Benevolence and Good-nature, methinks, are more concerned in the latter kind.
Calloph. Yes: but cannot you make a distinction between natural and moral Beauties? Our social Affections undoubtedly find their Enjoyment the most compleat when they contemplate, a Country smiling in the midst of Plenty, where Houses are well-built, Plantations regular, and every thing the most commodious and useful. But such Regularity and Exactness excites no manner of Pleasure in the Imagination, unless they are made use of to contrast with something of an opposite kind. The Fancy is struck by Nature alone; and if Art does any thing more than improve her, we think she grows impertinent, and wish she had left off a little sooner. Thus a regular Building perhaps gives very little pleasure; and yet a fine Rock, beautifully set off in Claro-obscuro, and garnished with flourishing Bushes, Ivy, and dead Branches, may afford us a great deal; and a ragged Ruin, with venerable old Oaks, and Pines nodding over it, may perhaps please the Fancy yet more than either of the other two Objects. ----- Yon old Hermitage, situated in the midst of this delightful Wilderness, has an exceeding good Effect: it is of the romantick Kind; and Beauties of this sort, where a probable Nature is not exceeded, are generally pleasing. ----- This Opening will lead us again into the Terrace. ----- That large Building, the Inscription lets you see, is a Temple dedicated to Venus.
Polypth. Upon my Word a Master has been at work here! I cannot way I have met with any modern Touching, this long time, that has pleased me better. I see very little to be cavilled at, with regard either to the Design, Colouring, or Drawing. These Stories are taken from the Fairy-Queen, I dare say; they look like Spencer's Ideas.
Calloph. Yes: that Lady is the fair Hellinore, who having left a disagreeable Husband, and wandering into the Woods, was met by the polite Sett of Gentry she is dancing with: She likes their Manner of Life, and resolves to enjoy it with them. Her old Spouse Malbecco is inconsolable for his Loss: he wanders many Days in search of her, and at length finds her (you see him at a distance peeping from behind a Tree) revelling with a beastly Herd of Satyrs. When the Evening comes on, he takes a commodious stand, and to his great Torment sees every thing that passes among them. After they were all laid asleep, he creeps gently to his Lady, and you see him in the other Painting offering to be reconciled to her again, if she will return back with him. But Hellinore threatens to awake the Satyrs, and get him severely handled if he does not immediately leave her. Upon which the poor Cuckold is obliged to fly, and soon after runs distracted.
Polypth. This loose Story, these luxurious Couches, and the Embellishments round the Walls, give the Place quite a Cyprian Air, and make it a very proper Retreat for its incontinent Inhabitant upon the Roof. ----- But let us move forward towards yon cubico-pyramidical Building. It looks like a mighty substantial one: I fancy it is Sir John's; he is generally pretty liberal of his Stone. However, it terminates this Terrace extremely well: the Ascent up to it too has a good Effect. ----- Pray, do you know what that Field there, upon the right, is to be improved into?
Calloph. I am surprized the Beauty of it, in its present Form, does not strike you at first sight. It is designed, like a Glass of Bitters before Dinner, to quicken your Appetite for the elegant Entertainment that is to follow. For my part, I assure you, I find it a very great Relief to my Eye, to take it from these grand Objects, and cast it for a few Minutes upon such a rural Scene as this. Do not you think that Haycock contrasts extremely well with this Temple? Such oppositions, in my Opinion, are highly pleasing. ----- That Building there is called, The Belvidere. Whatever you may think of it, from this Stand, it has its Use, I assure you, in several Prospects in the Gardens. ----- There is a very good Copy of the Roman Boxers.
Polypth. I like its Situation extreamly: it terminates these Alleys, and that Opening from the Terrace, very beautifully; much better, I think, than the fighting Gladiator, and Sampson killing the Philistine, do that other vast Terrace; the Objects there, in my Opinion, are too small for the Distance: Here both are justly proportioned.
Calloph. Your Criticism, I think, is rather too refined: I cannot see what occasion there is always for a confined View; a more open one sometimes makes Variety.
Polypth. You mistake me: I am not against a Prospect's being bounded even by the blue Hills in the Country. All I mean is this, that where Objects are set up to terminate a View, they ought to be of such a Nature as to afford Pleasure at any Distance they are designed to be viewed from. These Statues I have been mentioning, are Objects so small, that at one end of the Terrace it is impossible to make out what is offered you at the other. ----- I have too much Envy in my Temper, you must know, to bear to see any thing perfect; and I came in here fully determined to cavil, if I saw the least Grounds. But this is a sad Place, I find, for a malicious Spirit to enter: He whose chief Entertainment is finding fault, will here meet with a very slender Repast: As the Devil did at Sight of the Creation, in spite of Envy he must cry out,
Terrestrial Heaven! -----But what have we got here?
Calloph. This is the Building we took notice of from the Temple of Venus. I know you are no Friend to a cloathed Statue; so I question whether you will meet with any thing here to your Taste.
Polypth. There is something extremely grand and noble, I have always thought, in several of the old cloathed Statues, and particularly in some of the Roman consular ones; yet I must confess I am always better pleased when I find them without their Finery. Marble, tho' admirably fitted to express the Roundness of a Muscle, very often fails when it attempts to give you the Folds of Drapery. The Ancients, it must be owned, even in their Draperies are often successful; but amongst our modern Attempts in this Way, how many horrid Pieces of Rock-work have I beheld!
----- ----- ----- atramMichael Angelo, whenever he found himself obliged to cloath his Statues, used to do it with Linnen; which is unquestionably the most advantageous kind of Cloathing for a Statue.
Calloph. Since you are not to be pleased here, let us pass on to something else. There is no Occasion to turn down to that Pyramid; it is an Object not designed to be viewed at a Yard's Distance; but you will see its Use by and by, in a Variety of beautiful Views: Let us pursue our Walk along this Terrace.
Polypth. Why here we entirely lose sight of the Garden; our elegant Prospects are all vanished: I cannot conceive what this impertinent Hedge does here.
Calloph. Did you never experience in a Concert vast Pleasure when the whole Band for a few Moments made a full Pause? The Case is parallel: You have already had a great many fine Views, and that you may not be cloyed, this Hedge steps in to keep your Attention awake. One Extreme recommends another: The Moralists observe, that a little Adversity quickens our Relish for the Enjoyment of Life; and it is the Man of Taste's Care not to distribute his Beauties with too profuse a Hand, for a Reason of the same kind.
Let not each Beauty every where be spy'dBut if you must have something to look at, the Park there upon your left Hand affords you some very fine Views. I like that Equestrian Statue extremely: It is, in my Opinion, a very beautiful Circumstance. What a Number of fine Vistas it terminates thro' the Trees, varying its Appearance in each of them. ----- There you have a charming View struck out towards the Temple of Ancient Virtue.
Polypth. Methinks that Statue of the Faun stands a little aukwardly: He might at least, I should think, have fixed himself in the Middle of the Semi-circle.
Calloph. You do not certainly attend to his Use: He stands there to receive the Eye placed at the other End of that Opening. ----- That elegant little Building I think they call Nelson's Seat.
Polypth. The Painting is done masterly enough: The Inscriptions, I see, explain the Designs. Those Boys fixing the Trophies are prettily imagined. From hence that round Building terminates the View extremely well. Let us walk to it.
Calloph. Hold ----- turn to the Right a little: We must first pay a Visit here to the Temple of Bacchus.
Polypth. We have had a pretty long Walk, suppose we sit down here a Moment: These Walls seem to promise us some Entertainment.
Calloph. Here, Sir, you see represented the Triumphs and Happiness of Drunkenness. Those musical Ladies too are not improper Companions to this mirthfully-disposed Deity.
Polypth. Some of those smaller Figures are really done extremely well: And those two Vases are delightfully touched. I cannot say I am so much pleased with the jolly Inhabitant: Even Bacchus himself certainly never made so enormous a Figure.
Calloph. I am admiring the fine View from hence: So great a Variety of beautiful Objects, and all so happily disposed, make a most delightful Picture. Don't you think this Building too is a very genteel one, and is extremely well situated? These Trees give it an agreeable, cool Air, and make it, I think, as elegant a Retreat for the Enjoyment of a Summer's Evening, as can well be imagined. ----- But it is mere trifling to sit here: Let us walk towards the Rotunda. ----- This little Alley will carry us to Dido's Cave.
Polypth. Dido's Cave! Why 'tis built of hewn Stone! Here she is however, and her pious Companion along with her.
Calloph. Those two Cupids joining their Torches, I never see but I admire extremely: they are very finely painted.
Polypth. I think they are indeed. But let us be a little complaisant, and not interrupt these kind Lovers too long. I want to see this Rotunda.
Calloph. There then you have it: I hope you cannot complain of an heavy Building here. I do not know of any Piece of Stonework in the whole Garden that shews itself to more advantage than this does, or makes a more beautiful Figure in a Variety of fine Views from several Parts of the Garden: Several Parts of the Garden likewise return the Compliment, by offering a great many very elegant Prospects to it. There you have an Opening laid out with all the Decorations of Art; a spacious Theatre; the Area floated by a Canal, and peopled with Swans and Wild-ducks: Her late Majesty is the principal Figure in the Scene, and around her a merry Company of Nymphs and Swains enjoying themselves in the Shade.
Polypth. I must confess I cannot very much admire -----
Calloph. Come; none of your Cavils. ----- Observe how this View is beautifully contrasted by one on the opposite Side of a different kind; in which we are almost solely obliged to Nature. You must know I look upon this as a very noble Prospect! The Field is formed by that Semi-circle of Trees into a very grand Theatre. The Point of Sight is centred in a beautiful manner by the Pyramid, which appears to great Advantage amongst those venerable Oaks: Two or three other Buildings, half hid amongst the Trees, come in for their Share in the Prospect, and add much to the Beauty of it.
Polypth. I agree with you entirely; nor do I think this other View inferior to it. That Variety of different Shades amongst the Trees; the Lake spread so elegantly amongst them, and glittering here and there thro' the Bushes, with the Temple of Venus as a Termination to the View, make up a very beautiful Landskip.
Calloph. Here is a Vista likewise very happily terminated by the Canal, and the Obelisk rising in the Midst of it. There is another close View likewise towards Nelson's Seat.
Polypth. Upon my Word, we have a Variety of very elegant Prospects centred in this Point. I could sit here very agreeably a little longer.
Calloph. Nay, if you are inclined to rest, come along with me: I'll carry you to where you may indulge your Humour with great Propriety. Deep in the Retirement of that Wood, the God of Sleep has reared his Habitation, where he will afford you every Convenience to make a Nap agreeable ----- It comes into my Head that I forgot to carry you to a little Place, which it is hardly worth while to travel back to from this Distance: It is called St. Austin's Cave, and answers its Title very well; it appears quite Cell-like, stands retired, and is made of no other Materials but Roots and Moss. In the Inside a Straw Couch offers you an hard Seat, and the Walls three humorous Inscriptions, in Monkish Verse. You may buy them, bound up with Copies of all the other Inscriptions, in a Six-penny Pamphlet, that will be offered us at the Inn. ----- There, Sir, is the Temple of Sleep.
Polypth. Why really I must confess Ovid himself could scarce have buried the senseless God in an happier Retirement. This gloomy Darkness, these easy Couches, and that excellent Epicurean Argument above the Door, would incline me wonderfully to indulge a little, if these beautiful Ornaments did not keep my Attention awake. There is wanting too a purling Stream, to sing a Requiem to the Senses; tho' the Want is in some measure made up by the drowsy Lullibies of that murmuring Swarm, which this Shade has invited to wanton beneath it. You would laugh at me, or I should certainly throw myself down upon one of these Couches; I am persuaded I should need no Opium to close my Eyes.
Calloph. I own sleeping is a Compliment as much due to this Place, as Admiration and Attention are to Raphael at Hampton-Court. But try if your Curiosity cannot keep you awake. Come, leave these drowsy Abodes, they are infectious; like luscious Food they will blunt your Appetite before the Entertainment is half over. Walk down that Alley and pop your Head into the first Door you come to.
Polypth. What the D---l have we got here? What wretched Scrawler has been at work upon these Walls?
Calloph. I assure you, Sir, I look upon this as a very great Master-piece. You must know this House is inhabited by a Necromancer; and that the Inscription lets you see the Hand that has been employed to paint it. The Composition, Drawing, and Pencilling, I can allow you, are not the most elegant; yet if the Design and Figures are the Artist's own, I can assure you he has shewn excellent Humour, and an exceeding good Invention. That Consultation is well imagined; and so are these Witches and Wizards; their Employments likewise, and their Forms and Attitudes are well varied. ----- But I see this is a Scene not suited to your Taste: Our next, I hope, will please you better.
Polypth. Pray, what Building is that before us? I cannot say I dislike the Taste it is designed in. It seems an Antique.
Calloph. It is the Temple, Sir, of Ancient Virtue; the Place I am now conducting you to. You will meet within it a very illustrious Assembly of great Men; the wisest Lawgiver, the best Philosopher, the most divine Poet, and the most able Captain, that perhaps ever lived.
Polypth. You may possibly, Sir, engage yourself in a Dispute, by fixing your Epithets in such an absolute manner; there are so many Competitors in each of these Ways, that altho' Numbers may be called truly eminent, it will be a difficult matter to fix Pre-eminence upon any.
Calloph. You will hardly, I fancy, dissent from me, when I introduce you to these great Heroes of Antiquity: There stands Lycurgus; there Socrates; there Homer; and there Epaminondas. Illustrious Chiefs, who made Virtue their only Pursuit, and the Welfare of Mankind their only Study; in whose Breasts mean Self-interest had no Possession. To establish a well-regulated Constitution; to dictate the soundest Morality, to place Virtue in the most amiable Light; and bravely to defend a People's Liberty, were Ends which neither the Difficulty in overcoming the Prejudices, and taming the savage Manners of a barbarous State; the Corruptions of a licentious Age, and the Ill-usage of an invidious City; neither the vast Pains of searching into Nature, and laying up a Stock of Knowledge sufficient to produce the noblest Work of Art; nor popular Tumults at Home, and the most threatning Dangers Abroad, could ever tempt them to lose Sight of, or in the least abate that Ardency of Temper with which they pursued them.
Polypth. A noble Panegyric upon my Word! Why, Sir, these great Spirits have inspired you with the very Soul of Oratory. However, in earnest, I confess your Encomium is pretty just; and I am apt to believe that if any of those worthy Gentlemen should take it into his Head to walk from his Nitch, it would puzzle the World to find his Equal to fix in his Room. ----- That old Ruin, I suppose, is intended to contrast with this new Building.
Calloph. Yes, Sir, it is intended to contrast with it not only in the Landskip, but likewise in its Name and Design. Walk a little nearer, and you will see its Intention.
Polypth. I can see nothing here to let me into its design, except this old Gentleman; neither can I find any thing extraordinary in him, except that he has met with a Fate that he is entirely deserving of, which is more than falls to the Share of every worthless Fellow.
Calloph. Have you observed how the Statue is decorated?
Polypth. O! I see the whole Design: A very elegant Piece of Satyr, upon my Word! This pompous Edifice is intended, I suppose, to represent the flourishing Condition, in which ancient Virtue still exists; and those poor shattered Remains of what has never been very beautiful (notwithstanding, I see, they are placed within a few Yards of a Parish-church) are designed to let us see the ruinous State of decayed modern Virtue. And the Moral is, that Glory founded upon true Worth and Honour, will exist, when Fame, built upon Conquest and popular Applause, will fade away. This is really the best thing I have seen: I am most prodigiously taken with it.
Calloph. I intend next to carry you to a Scene of another kind. I am going to shew you the Grotto, a Place generally very taking with Strangers. ----- I thought that Piece of Satyr would catch your Attention: I hope likewise you will be as well pleased here. This Gate will carry us into the romantic Retirement. What do you think of this Scene?
Polypth. Why really, Sir, it is quite a Novelty: This Profusion of Mirrors has a very extraordinary Effect: the Place seems divided into a thousand beautiful Apartments, and appears fifty times as large as it is. The Prospects without are likewise transferred to the Walls within: And the Sides of the Room are elegantly adorned with Landskips, beyond the Pencil of Titian; with this farther Advantage, that every View, as you change your Situation, varies itself into another Form, and presents you with something new.
Calloph. Don't you think that serpentine River, as it is called, is a great Addition to the Beauty of the Place?
Polypth. Undoubtedly it is. Water is of as much Use in a Landskip, as Blood is in a Body; without these two Essentials, it is impossible there should be Life in either one or the other. Yet methinks it is a prodigious Pity that this stagnate Pool should not by some Magic be metamorphosed into a crystal Stream, rolling over a Bed of Pebbles. Such a quick Circulation would give an infinite Spirit to the View. I could wish his Lordship had such a Stream at his Command; he would shew it, I dare say, to the best Advantage, in its Passage thro' the Gardens. But we cannot make Nature, the utmost we can do is to mend her. ----- I have heard a Scotch Gentleman speak of the River, upon which the Town of Sterling stands, which is as remarkable a Meander as I have ever heard of. From Sterling to a little Village upon the Banks of this River, by Land it is only four Miles, and yet if you should follow the Course of the Water, you will find it above twenty. ----- There is an House likewise that stands upon a narrow Isthmus of a Peninsula, formed by this same River, which is mighty remarkable: The Water runs close to both Ends of it, and yet if you sail from one to the other, you will be carried a Compass of four Miles. ----- Such a River winding about this Place, would make it a Paradise indeed!
As we are got into the North, I must confess I do not know any part of the Kingdom that abounds more with elegant natural Views: Our well-cultivated Plains, as you observed before, are certainly not comparable to their rough Nature in point of Prospect. About three years ago I rode the Northern Circuit: The Weather was extremely fine; and I scarce remember being more agreeably entertained than I was with the several charming Views exhibited to me in the northern Counties. Curiosity indeed, rather than Business, carried me down: And as I had my Time pretty much to myself, I spent it in a great measure in hunting after beautiful Objects. Sometimes I found myself hemmed within an Amphitheatre of Mountains, which were variously ornamented, some with scattered Trees, some with tufted Wood, some with grazing Cattle, and some with smoaking Cottages. Here and there an elegant View likewise was opened into the Country. ----- A Mile's riding, perhaps, would have carried me to the Foot of a steep Precipice, down which thundered the whole Weight of some vast River, which was dashed into Foam at the Bottom, by the craggy Points of several rising Rocks: a deep Gloom overspread the Prospect, occasioned by the close Wood that hung round it on every Side. ----- I could describe to you a Variety of other Views I met with there, if we here wanted Entertainment in the Way of Landskip. One, however, I cannot forbear mentioning, and wishing at the same time that his Lordship had such Materials to work with, and it could not be but he would make a most noble Picture. ----- The Place I have in view is upon the Banks of the River Eden (which is indeed one of the finest Rivers I ever saw). I scarce know a fitter Place for a Genius in this Way to exert itself in. There is the greatest Variety of garnished Rocks, shattered Precipices, rising Hills, ornamented with the finest Woods, thro' which are opened the most enchanting Views up and down the River, which winds itself in such a manner as to shew its Banks to the best Advantage, which, together with very charming Prospects into the Country, terminated by the blue Hills at a Distance, make as fine a Piece of Nature, as perhaps can any where be met with.
Calloph. I admire your Taste in Landskip extremely; you have marked out just such Circumstances as would take me most in a View. I am I find almost as enthusiastic a Lover of Nature as you are. Yet tho' I can allow her to have an excellent Fancy, I do not think she has the best Judgment. Tho' Nature is an admirable Colourist, her Composition is very often liable to Censure. For which Reason I am for having her placed under the Direction of Art: And the Rule I would go by should be Mr. Pope's
-----Treat the Goddess like a modest Fair,Suppose, therefore, we leave your romantic Nature, and continue our View of her here, where she is treated according to this Prescription of the Poet. ----- That Building is called the Temple of Contemplation; those Bas-relief Heads it is adorned with, are, I assure you, extremely good ones.
Polypth. Pray, Sir, what kind of a Building have we yonder, that struck our Sight as we crossed that Alley?
Calloph. We will walk up to it if you please: It is a Chinese House.
Polypth. A mighty whimsical Appearance it makes truly.
Calloph. In my Opinion it is a pretty Object enough, and varies our View in a very becoming manner. Its cool stand upon the Lake, and those canvas Windows, designed as well to keep out the Sun, as let in the Air, give us a good Notion of the Manner of living in an hot Country. It is finely painted in the Inside: Will you look into it?
Polyph. Finely painted indeed! Our Travellers tell us the Chinese are a very ingenious People; and that Arts and Sciences flourish amongst them in great Beauty. But for my Part, whenever I see any of their Paintings, I am apt, I must confess, in every thing else to call their Taste into question. It is impossible for one Art to be in Perfection, without introducing the rest. They are all Links of the same Chain: If you draw up one, you must expect the rest will follow. Cognoscitur ex socio, is an old Rule you know in judging of Men; and I believe it may be applied with as much Propriety in judging of Arts. It is hardly to be imagined that any Art, perfect in its Kind, would claim any Kindred, or even bear to keep Company with such a wretched Art of Painting as prevails amongst the Chinese: Its whole Mystery consists in dawbing on glaring Colours: Correctness of Drawing, Beauty of Composition, and Harmony of colouring, they seem not to have even the least Notion of.
Calloph. I like your Reflections extremely. We should certainly have some more elegant Productions from China, if they were able to answer the Character I have sometimes heard given of them. They have very little of true, manly Taste, I fancy, among them: Their Ingenuity lies chiefly in the knick-knack Way; and is, I imagine, pretty much of the Dutch kind. ----- Hold, Sir: This Way if you please. We will walk again towards the River, and pursue it to the Canal. ----- It is divided, you see, into three Parts; one takes its Rise from the Grotto; another from the Pebble Bridge (as it is called) which is, I think, a pretty Object; and the third issues from a dark Wood. ----- There, Sir, let me present you to an illustrious set of your gallant Countrymen. This is called the Temple of British Worthies; and is gloriously filled, you see, with the greatest Wits, Patriots, and Heroes, that are to be met with in our Chronicles.
Unspotted Names, and memorable long!Does not your Pulse beat high, while you thus stand before such an awful Assembly? Is not your Breast warmed by a Variety of grand Ideas, which this Sight must give Birth to? ----- There you have a View of the calm Philosophers, who sought Virtue in her Retirement, and benefited Mankind by Thought and Meditation. ----- Some took the human Mind for their Theme, examined the various Powers it is endowed with, and gave us, to know ourselves. ----- Others took Nature for their Subject, looked thro' all her Works, and enlarged our Notions of a God. ----- While other, warmed with a generous Resentment against Vice and Folly, made Morality their Care: To the cool Reasoner serious Philosophy, without any Ornament but Truth, was recommended: To the gayer Disposition the moral Song was directed, and the Heart was improved, while the Fancy was delighted: To those who were yet harder to work upon, the Force of Example was made use of: Folly is put to the Test of Ridicule, and laughed out of Countenance, while the moral Scene, like a distorting Mirror, shews the Villain his Features in so deformed a Manner, that he starts at his own Image with Horror and Affright. ----- On the other Side you are presented with a View of those illustrious Worthies, who spent their Lives in Action; who left Retirement to the cool Philosopher, entered into the Bustle of Mankind, and purified Virtue in the dazling Light in which she appears to Patriots and Heroes. Inspired by every generous Sentiment, these gallant Spirits founded Constitutions, stemmed the Torrent of Corruption, battled for the State, ventured their Lives in the Defense of their Country, and gloriously bled in the Cause of Liberty.
Polypth. What an happy Man you are, thus to find an Opportunity of moralizing upon every Occasion! What a noble View you have displayed before me: when perhaps if I had been alone, I should have entertained myself no otherwise than in examining the Busts; or if I read the Inscriptions, they would only have drawn a Remark from me, that they were well wrote. ----- The Assembly yonder on the opposite side of the Water, will be, I suppose, the next Subject for your Rapsody. Pray what Titles are those Gentry distinguished by? At this Distance I can hardly find out whether they are Philosophers or Milk-maids.
Calloph. Why, Sir, you have there a View of the Kingdom of Parnassus: That Assembly is composed of Apollo and his Privy-council. But as I believe they will hardly pay us, by any Beauty in their Workmanship, for our Trouble, should we go round and make them a Visit; it is my Advice that we walk directly from hence to the Temple of Friendship, and so return by that Terrace back again to those Parts of the Garden that remain yet unseen.
Polypth. With all my Heart: But let us turn in here, I beseech you, and walk as much in the Shade as possible, for the Day grows vastly warm.
Calloph. I am ready to follow you amongst the Trees, not more out of Complaisance than Inclination: I like a cool Retreat as well as you. When I plan a Garden, I believe, I shall deal much in shady Walks; wherever I open a grand Terrace, I intend to lengthen out by its Side a close Vista: through the one I shall lead Strangers, in the other enjoy my Friends. I am a great Admirer of walking in a Shade; it is a kind of Emblem of the most agreeable Situation in Life, the retired one: Every fantastic View is hid from us, and we may if se please, be Poets, or Philosophers, or what we will. I own I admire the Taste of these buzzing Insects, sporting themselves in the Shade; a glaring Sun-shine neither in the World, nor in a Walk, is agreeable to my Way of thinking.
Polypth. If all the World thought as you do, we should have neither Statesmen to mend our Laws, nor Coblers to mend our Shoes: We should all run and hide ourselves amongst Trees, and what then would become of Society?
Calloph. If I thought you did not willfully mistake my Meaning, I would take the Trouble of telling you that I am an Advocate for not other Retirement than such as is consistent with the Duties of Life. A Love for which kind of Retirement, properly qualified, is Health to the Mind; but when it is made up unskillfully, it throws us into a fatal Lethargy, from whence begins the Date of an useless Life. Every virtuous Mind, in a greater or less Degree, has a turn this Way, and the best, I believe, ought to be at the most Pains to guard against carrying this Inclination into the Extreme.
Polypth. And yet the Annals of most Nations let us see that their greatest Men have often indulged it; and much for the Benefit of Mankind too; witness many of the illustrious Worthies we have just been visiting: You forget the Panegyric you bestowed upon them.
Calloph. No, Sir: But do you remember that I placed these cool Reasoners on the best side of a Comparison with those who entered into the World, and spent their Lives in Action? On the contrary, this latter kind of Men have always stood fairest in my Esteem. The Life of a Recluse I would recommend to none but a Valetudinarian. We were intended to assist each other as much as we are able. For my Part, it has always been my Opinion, that one good Man does more Service in the World, than a thousand good Books. ----- But we'll drop our Argument at present, because I see we have finished our Walk.
Polypth. Is that Building the Temple of Friendship? I cannot say that I extremely admire it: but I hope I shall meet with more Entertainment within, than I am able to do without. ----- Well: This is elegant I must confess.
Calloph. Ay, look round, and tell me if you are not struck by several very beautiful Objects. Those Busts I assure you are all pretty well done, and some of them extremely well.
Polypth. So they are indeed: But I am chiefly intent upon the Painting, which I am much taken with: It is by the same Hand, I dare say, with that in the Temple of Venus. That Emblem of Friendship above the Door, those of Justice and Liberty, and those other Ornaments upon the Walls, are well touched. What is that Painting upon the Ceiling? I do not rightly understand it.
Calloph. Why, Sir, it is a Piece of Satyr: I am sure you will like it if you will give yourself the Trouble to examine it: It is in your Taste I know exactly. ----- There you see sits Britannia; upon one Side are held the Glory of her Annals, the Reigns of Queen Elizabeth and Edward III. And on the other is offered the Reign of -----, which she frowns upon, and puts by with her Hand.
Polypth. Excellent, upon my Word! Faith, this is good! Never accept it, honest Lady, till Corruption is at an End, and public Spirit revives.
Calloph. With so little Malevolence as I know you are possessed of, I do not think I ever met with any body in my Life so eager to catch at any thing to blame; or to whom an Opportunity of that kind afforded a more seeming real Pleasure than it does to you. ----- But I know it proceeds from an honest Nature. ----- Well: Suppose we continue our Walk. ----- I look upon that Statue as one of the finest in the World: I would give all the Money in my Pocket for a Sight of the Original.
Polypth. The Posture always to me appears a little too much strained. I can scarce throw myself into such an Attitude. Yet it is fine I must confess.
Calloph. You have the best View of it, Sir, from hence. Most of the Engravings I have met with give us the back View, but I think the Statue appears infinitely to the best Advantage when taken in Front. The Air of the Head is delightful, and cannot be hid without depriving the Figure of half its Life. ----- I am leading you now to that genteel Piece of Building which goes by the Name of the Palladian Bridge.
Polypth. I have seen, I think, something like it at my Lord Pembroke's.
Calloph. I believe, Sir, the Model was taken from thence. Tho' if I remember right, the Roof is there supported by Pillars on both Sides.
Polypth. I think it is. ----- But what have we got there? You are taking me past something curious.
Calloph. I beg your Pardon: Indeed I had almost forgot the Imperial Closet: And I wonder I should, for I assure you I have the greatest Veneration for its Inhabitants. ----- There, Sir, is a noble Triumvirate. Titus, Trajan, and Aurelius, are Names which want not the Pomp of Title to add a Lustre to them.
Polypth. I wish you could persuade all the Kings in Europe to take them as Patterns. But, God knows, public Spirit is now at a low Ebb amongst us: There is more of it in that single honest Sentiment, Pro me: si merear, in me, than I believe is to be found in this degenerate Age in half a Kingdom.
Calloph. I see, my good Friend, you can moralize upon Occasion too.
Polypth. Moralize! The D---l take me, if I would not this Moment, in spite of -----
Calloph. Nay, come, don't grow serious: You know I have long since laid it down as a Rule, to stop my Ears when you get into your political Vein. I am not now to learn that there is no keeping you within the Bounds of Temperance upon that Topic.
Polypth. Well, then, let us have something else to talk about. ----- Yon Wall at this Distance seems to promise us some Bas-relief.
Calloph. Yes, Sir; you are there presented with a View of the different Quarters of the World, bringing their various Products to Britannia. It is a pretty Ornament enough for a Bridge, which, like the Art of Navigation, joins one Land to another.
Polypth. I can't say I much admire the Workmanship. There is a great Degree of Aukwardness in several of the Figures.
Calloph. Why really I am so far of your way of thinking, that I must own that I am no great Admirer of this kind of Work, except it be extremely fine. ----- The best thing in this Way, that ever I met with, is a Piece of Alt-relief which his Lordship keeps within Doors. We shall scarce, I believe have time how, but we must take an Opportunity of seeing it before you leave the Country. You will meet with likewise in those Apartments several very good Pictures: I remember spending an Afternoon about half a Year ago, in a very agreeable Manner amongst them. But this Piece of Alt-relief struck me beyond every thing. The Story is Darius's Tent; and it is so charmingly told, that I have had, I can tell you, a meaner Opinion of Le Brun upon that Subject, ever since I have seen it: The Composition is so just, the Figures so graceful and correct, nay, the very Drapery so free and easy, that I declare I was altogether astonished at the Sight of it.
Polypth. Well; I shall find some Opportunity of paying it a Visit. There is so much Art required, and so much Difficulty attends doing any thing in this Way as it ought to be, that when we do meet with a good Piece of Workmanship of this kind it affords us an extreme Pleasure. ----- So, Sir William, have I met you here! I should rather have expected to have seen you among the British Worthies. ----- This same Penn, Sir, I assure you, is a great Favourite of mine. I esteem him one of the most worthy Legislators upon Record. His Laws, I am told, act still with great Force in Pensylvania, and keep the honest, inoffensive People there in extreme good Order.
Calloph. Our Sailors mention his Colony as a very happy Set of People; they live entirely at Peace amongst themselves; and (bred up in a strict Observance of Probity) without any knowledge of an Art Military amongst them, are able to preserve the most sociable Terms with their Neighbors. ----- These Busts seem to have escaped your Observation.
Polypth. No, Sir, I am not so incurious as to suffer any thing that has been in Italy to slip my Notice: Some of those particularly that stand on the Side next Rawleigh, I was exceedingly taken with.
Calloph. Pray what is your Opinion of chequered Marble's being made use of in Busts?
Polypth. Why, Sir, I never see any of these party-coloured Faces, but I am moved with Indignation at the Sculptor's ridiculous Humor. It is so absurd a Taste, that I cannot conceive how it should enter into a Workman's Head, to make every Feature of a Man's Face of a different Colour; and it amazes me, I assure you, that we meet with daily so many Instances of such Absurdity. ----- In several Parts of the Garden, I have had various Views of that old Gothic Building; we are now at last I hope moving towards it. I am so wonderfully pleased with its outward Appearance, that I shall be disappointed if I don't meet something answerable within.
Calloph. Why, Sir, as old as it looks, I assure you it is not yet finished. You will meet with nothing ornamental in the Inside; so I would have you persuade yourself it has already done all in its Power to entertain you. And upon my Word I think it has done a great deal: Without it, I am sure this Part of the Garden would be quite naked and lifeless; nor would any other Part appear with so much Beauty. It puts one in Mind of some generous Patriot in his Retirement; his own Neighborhood feels most the Effects of that Bounty, which in some measure spreads itself over a whole Country.
Polypth. I like this Disposition within, I assure you, altogether as well as its Form without. ----- There are two or three Pieces of the best painted Glass that I have any where met with: Those little historical Pieces are exceedingly beautiful; and so are those Landskips likewise. ----- This Hill I think appears rather too naked.
Calloph. Throw your Eye over it then, and tell me if you are not ravished with the View before you. Nothing certainly in the kind can be more beautiful or great, than that pompous Pile rising in so magnificent a manner above the Wood. The Building cannot possibly be shewn to greater Advantage: The Appearance it makes presents you with an Idea sufficiently grand; yet your Imagination cannot be persuaded but that it is in face much grander, and that the Wood hides a great Part of what is to be seen from your Eye. This is a most delightful manner of pleasing: A grand Object left to a good Imagination to improve upon, seldom loses by its Assistance. Our View likewise is greatly added to in point of Beauty, by those several other smaller Buildings which offer themselves, some only half hid amongst the Branches, and others just peeping from amongst tufted Trees, which make very beautiful little garnished Dishes in this most elegant Entertainment.
Polypth. As you have thus painted the near Objects, let my Pencil, I beg, come in for a few rough Touches in the backgrounds: Without something of an Offskip, your Man of Art, you know, seldom esteems his View perfect. And in this Landskip there are as many beautiful Objects thrown off to a Distance as can well be imagined: That Variety of fine Wood; that bright Surface of Water, with the pointed Obelisk in the Midst of it; those two Pavilions upon the Banks of the Canal; and the still more distant View into the Country, are Objects which, in my Opinion, make no small Addition to the Beauty of your Landskip; or, to carry on your Allusion, may very well come in as a second Course in your Entertainment. ----- Our Attention, I think, in the next Place, is demanded by this venerable Assembly. That old Gentleman there sits with great Dignity: I like his Attitude extremely: If I understood the Runic Character, I might have known probably (for this Inscription I fancy would inform me) by what Title he is distinguished. But the Gracefulness of his Posture discovers him to have been nothing less than an Hero of the first Rank. He puts me in Mind of a Roman Senator, sitting in his Curule Chair to receive the Gauls.
Calloph. Why, Sir, you have done him great Honour I must own; but you have not yet honoured him according to his Dignity: He is nothing less, Sir, I assure you, than the Representative of a Saxon Deity. You see here
Thor and Woden fabled Gods -----with the whole System of your Ancestor's Theology. Walk round the Assembly, they will smile upon a true Briton, and try if you can acknowledge each by his difficult Symbol.
Polypth. I must confess they do not to me seem accoutered like Gods: For my Part, I should rather suspect them to be Statues of Heroes and Lawgivers, metamorphised into Divinities by the Courtesy of the Place: I shall not however go about to dispute their Titles; but like my good Ancestors before me, acquiesce piously in what other People tell me. ----- Tho' I cannot say but that Lady there, bearing the Sun (who represents I suppose Sunday) looks whimsical enough; and makes just such an Appearance as I could imagine the misled Conception of an enthusiastic Saxon might mould his Deities into. But in these other Figures I must own I cannot see Superstition at all characterized, which you may observe generally forms its Objects of Worship into the most mis-created things that can possibly enter the Imagination of Man.
Calloph. Why, Sir, amongst the Greeks and Romans, you may observe several very well-shaped Deities: The Hercules, the Apollo, and the Venus, are at this Day Standards of Beauty.
Polypth. Yes; but I am apt to attribute this rather to the Imagination of their Sculptors, than their Priests. To shew Art, rather than to express Religion, was the Point aimed at in these enchanting Pieces of Workmanship. ----- But when Superstition acted without Controul; when the fanatic Notions of Priests were put into the Hands of ordinary Workmen, even amongst the polite Greeks and Romans themselves, Lord! what misshapen Monsters crouded into Temples, and reared themselves aloft above Altars! Search other Countries likewise, Egypt and Africa, China and Japan, or any Place either ancient or modern, where Superstition prevails, and I dare engage in the whole Catalogue of their Deities you will scarce meet with one that bears any thing like the human Shape.
Calloph. Why their Demi-Gods, or canonized Heroes, of which all pagan Nations had Abundance, were generally I fancy represented in the human Form. And these Saxon Divinities, I suppose, pretend not to any superior Rank ----- But however, as no Degree of Veneration is exacted from you, you may I think let them rest quietly upon their Pedestals, without any farther Molestation. ----- We have a good View into the Country from hence. Those Woods are extremely elegant in their kind; we must certainly contrive to take a Ride thither some Evening. They are laid out in a very fine Manner, and cut into very beautiful Ridings.
Polypth. Ay, that is the kind of Improvement that takes most with me (let us step in here a Moment, we are caught I see in a Shower) I am altogether of the Poet's Opinion that
'Tis Use alone that sanctifies Expence.Were I a Nobleman, I should endeavour to turn my Estate into a Garden, and make my Tenants my Gardeners: Instead of useless Temples, I would build Farm-houses; and instead of cutting out unmeaning Vistas, I would beautify and mend Highways: The Country should smile upon my Labours, and the Public should partake in my Pleasures. What signifies all this ostentatious Work? Is any Man the better for it? Is not Money most vilely squandered away?
Calloph. So far from it, that I assure you, considered even in a public Light, I look upon it as an Expence that may very properly be said to be sanctified by Use.
Polypth. I suppose you are going to tell me that it feeds tow or three poor Labourers; and when you have said this, I know not what more you can say to defend it. But how is it possible for a Man to throw away his Money without doing some Service in the World?
Calloph. How? Why by spending it in gaming, to the Encouragement of Cheats and Sharpers: By squandering it away upon Lusts and Appetites, in the Support of Stews and Bawdy-houses: Or by Dealing it out in Bribes, in opposition to Honesty, and to advance Corruption. In Arts like these, what Numbers consume their Wealth! It is not enough for them to prevent Mankind's being benefited by their affluent Circumstances; but they do their utmost, while they diminish their Fortunes, to make all they can influence as worthless as themselves. So that I assure you I should look upon it as a very great Point gained, if all our Men of Fortune would only take care that Wealth proves of no Disservice to Mankind. Tho' I am far from desiring they should stop there: I would have them endeavor to turn it into some useful Channel. And in my Opinion, it is laid out in a very laudable Manner, when it is spent, as it is here, in circulating thro' a Variety of Trades, in supporting a Number of poor Families, and in the Encouragement of Art and Industry.
Polypth. Well, Sir, I confess Wealth thus laid out, is beneficial to a Country; but still you keep from the Point: I ask whether all these good Ends would not be answered, and more too, were this Wealth laid out according to my Scheme, in public Works, or something of an useful Nature.
Calloph. And so you have no Notion of any Use arising from these elegant Productions of Art: You cannot conceive how they should be of any Service to the Public. Why you are a mere Goth, an unpolished Vandal; were you impowered to reform the Age, I suppose I should see you, like one of those wild misguided People, coursing furiously round the Land, and laying desolate every thing beautiful you met with. But in my Opinion, Sir, these noble Productions of Art, considered merely as such, may be looked upon as Works of a very public Nature. Do you think no End is answered when a Nation's Taste is regulated with regard to the most innocent, the most refined, and elegant of its Pleasures? In all polite Countries the Amusements of the People were thought highly deserving a Legislator's Inspection. To establish a just Taste in these, was esteemed in some measure as advancing the Interest of Virtue, and can be considered as a Work entirely of a private Nature, for a superior Genius to exert itself in an Endeavor to fix a true Standard of Beauty in any of these allowed and useful Kinds of Pleasure? In the Way of Gardening particularly, the Taste of the Nation has long been so depraved, that I should think we might be obliged to any one that would undertake to reform it. While a Taste for Painting, Music, Architecture, and other polite Arts, in some measure prevailed amongst us, our Gardens for the most Part were laid out in so formal, aukward, and wretched a Manner, that they were really a Scandal to the very Genius of the Nation; a Man of Taste was shocked whenever he set his Foot into them. But Stow, it is to be hoped, may work some Reformation: I would have our Country Squires flock hither two or three times in a Year, by way of Improvement, and after they have looked about them a little, return Home with new Notions, and begin to see the Absurdity of their clipped Yews, their Box-wood Borders, their flourished Parterres, and their lofty Brick-walls. ----- You may smile, but I assure you such an Improvement of public Taste, tho' there is no Occasion to consider it as a matter of the first Importance, is certainly a Concern that ought by no means to be neglected. Perhaps indeed I may carry the Matter farther than the generality of People; but to me I must own there appears a very visible Connection between an improved Taste for Pleasure, and a Taste for Virtue: When I sit ravished at an Oratorio, or stand astonished before the Cartoons, or enjoy myself in these happy Walks, I can feel my Mind expand itself, my Notions enlarge, and my Heart better disposed either for a religious Thought, or a benevolent Action: In a Word, I cannot help imagining a Taste for these exalted Pleasures contributes towards making me a better Man.
Polypth. Good God! what an Enthusiast you are! Polite Arts improve Virtue! an Assertion indeed for a Philosopher to make. Why are they not always considered as having a natural Tendency to Luxury, to Riot, and Licentiousness?
Calloph. No more, in my Opinion, than a wholesome Meal has to a Surfeit, or reading the Scriptures to Heresy: All things are capable, we know, of Abuse; and perhaps the best things the most capable: And tho' this may indeed argue a Depravity in us, yet it by no means, I think, argues a Tendency in them to deprave us. However, (to let what I have yet said stand for nothing) I can tell you one very great Piece of Service arising to the Country from Wealth laid out in this elegant manner, which you seem so much to grumble at; and that is, the Money spent in the Neighbourhood by the Company daily crouding hither to satisfy their Curiosity. We have a kind of continual Fair; and I have heard several of the Inhabitants of the neighbouring Town assert, that it is one of the best Trades they have: Their Inns, their Shops, their Farms, and Shambles, all find their Account in it: So that, in my Opinion, viewed in this Light only, such productions of Art may be considered as very great Advantages to every Neighbourhood that enjoys the lucky Situation of being placed near them. ----- To this Advantage might be added, the great Degree of Pleasure from hence derived daily to such Numbers of People: A Place like this is a kind of keeping open House, there is a Repast at all times ready for the Entertainment of Strangers. And sure if you have any Degree of Benevolence, you must think an useful End answered in thus affording an innocent Gratification to so many of your Fellow-creatures. A Sunday Evening spent here, adds a new Relish to the Day of Rest, and makes the Sabbath appear more chearful to the Labourer after a toilsome Week. For my Part, I assure you I have scarce experienced a greater Pleasure than I have often felt upon meeting a Variety of pleased Faces in these Walks: All Care and Uneasiness seems to be left behind at the Garden-door, and People enter here fully resolved to enjoy themselves, and the several beautiful Objects around them: In one Part a Face presents itself marked with the Passion of gaping Wonder; in another you meet a Countenance bearing the Appearance of a more rational Pleasure; and in a third, a Sett of Features composed into serene Joy; while the Man of Taste is seen examining every Beauty with a curious Eye, and discovering his Approbation in an half-formed Smile. ----- To this I might still add another Advantage, of a public Nature, derived from these elegant Productions of Art; and that is their Tendency to raise us in the Opinion of Foreigners. If our Nation had nothing of this kind to boast of, all our Neighbors would look upon us a stupid, tasteless Set of People, and not worth visiting. So that for the Credit of this Country, I think, something of this kind ought to be exhibited amongst us. Our public Virtues, if we have any, would not, I dare say, appear to less Advantage when recommended by these Embellishments of Art.
Polypth. I wonder you should not know me better than to imagine I am always in earnest when I find fault. My Thoughts and yours, I assure you, agree exactly upon this Subject. I only wanted to engage you in some Discourse till the Shower was over; and as the Sky seems now quite clear, if you will, we'll venture out, and visit what we have yet to see.
Calloph. You are a humorous Fellow: This is not the first time you have made me play my Lungs to no purpose. ----- As we walk along this Terrace, you may observe the great Advantage of low Walls: By this means the Garden is extended beyond its Limits, and takes in every thing entertaining that is to be met with in the range of half a County. Villages, Works of Husbandry, Groups of Cattle, Herds of Deer, and a Variety of other beautiful Objects, are brought into the Garden, and make a Part of the Plan. Even to the nicest Taste these rural Scenes are highly delightful.
Polypth. Nay you may add, that whoever has no Relish for them, gives Reason for a Suspicion that he has no Taste at all.
Straight mine Eye hath caught new Pleasures,
Calloph. Can you repeat no more? I could have listened with great Pleasure if you had gone on with the whole Piece. It is quite Nature: That View of an old Castle, bosom'd high in tufted Trees, pleases me exceedingly: and the two following Lines,
Where perhaps some Beauty lies,give it an elegant, romantic Air; and add greatly to the Idea before conceived. ----- But to pursue our former Argument: It must be owned indeed that these Walks want such Openings into the Country as little as any Place can well be imagined to do; yet even Stow itself, I assure you, is much improved by them. They contrast beautifully with this more polished Nature, and set it off to greater Advantage. After surfeiting itself with the Feast here provided for it, the Eye by using a little Exercise in travelling about the Country, grows hungry again, and returns to the Entertainment with fresh Appetite. Besides, there is nothing so distasteful to the Eye as a confined Prospect (where the Reasonableness of it does not appear) especially if a dead Wall, or any other such disagreeable Object steps in between. The Eye naturally loves Liberty, and when it is in quest of Prospects, will not rest content with the most beautiful Dispositions of Art, confined within a narrow Compass, but (as soon as the Novelty of the Sight is over) will begin to grow dissatisfied, till the whole Limits of the Horizon be given it to range through.
Polypth. The Eye, according to your Account, seems to be something like a Bee: Plant as many Flowers as you will near its Hive, yet still the little Insect will be discontented, unless it be allowed to wander o'er the Country, and be its own Caterer. ----- I have got a few very severe Exclamations at my Tongue's End, which I will not vent till you have told me the Architect's Name, who has loaded the Ground with that monstrous Piece of Building, tho' I can guess him without your Information.
Calloph. Suffer me to intercede in his behalf. You are so unmerciful a Reprover, that I have not Patience to hear you. The Room above is designed, I am told, to be fitted up in a very elegant manner; but as very little is yet done to it, we shall find nothing I fancy to answer the Trouble of going up Stairs. ----- This Part of the Garden, you see, is yet unfinished. If we have the Pleasure of you Company in this Country next Year, you will see I dare say great Alterations here. That Base is to shoot up into a lofty Monument: and several of those Objects you see before you are to take new Forms upon them.
Polypth. Yonder likewise seems to be a Monument* rising: Pray who is it intended to do Honour to?
Calloph. Why, Sir, it is intended to do Honour to a Gentleman, who has done Honour to his Country: It is dedicated to the Memory of Captain Grenville, and joins with the Nation in applauding a Man, who pushed forwards by Honour, and a Love for his Country, met Danger and Death with the Spirit of a Roman. ----- Well, how do you like the Plan which you see laid out before you?
Polypth. As far as I can judge of the future Landskip from this Sketch, it will be an admirable one. I am extremely taken with it. That Bason has a very fine Effect. ----- I could return back the same Round with great Pleasure, but my Watch informs me that Mr. ---, has been expecting us this half Hour.
Calloph. Is it so late? The Time has stole off very slily. However you need be under no Apprehensions; that honest Gentleman is seldom very hasty in his Motions.
Having thus finished their round, our Two Gentlemen directed their Faces back again towards the Gate.
Polypthon, notwithstanding the sour Humor he had given so many Evidences of in his Walk, began now to relent, and could talk of nothing but the agreeable Entertainment that had been afforded him. Sometimes he would run out into the highest Encomiums of the many beautiful Terminations of the several Walks and Vistas; and observe how many Uses each Object served, and in how many different Lights it was made to vary itself. "For Instance, says he, the Pavilion you shewed me from the Temple of Venus, terminates that Terrace in a very grand Manner; and makes likewise a very magnificent Appearance, where it corresponds with another of the same Form, at the Entrance into the Park: Yet the same Building, like a Person acquainted with the World, who can suit his Behavior to Time and Place, can vary itself upon occasion into a more humble Shape, and when viewed thro' a retired Vista, can take upon it the lowly Form of a close Retreat." ----- When he had enlarged pretty copiously upon this Subject, he would next launch out into the highest Praises of the vast Variety of Objects that was every where to be met with: "Men of all Humors, says he, will here find something pleasing and suited to their Taste. The thoughtful may meet with retired Walks calculated in the best Manner for Contemplation: The gay and chearful may see Nature in her loveliest Dress, and meet Objects corresponding with their most lively Flights. The romantic Genius may entertain itself with several very beautiful Objects in its own Taste, and grow wild with Ideas of the inchanted kind. The disconsolate Lover may hide himself in shady Groves, or melancholy wander along the Banks of Lakes and Canals; where he may sigh to the gentle Zephyrs; mingle his Tears with the bubbling Water; or where he may have the best Opportunity, if his Malady be grown to such an Height, of ending his Despair, and finishing his Life with all the Decendy and Pomp of a Lover in a Romance. In short, says he, these Gardens are a very good Epitome of the World: They are calculated for Minds of every Stamp, and give free Scope to Inclinations of every kind: And if it be said that in some Parts they too much humour the debauched Taste of the Sensualist, it cannot be denied on the other hand, but that they afford several very noble Incitements to Honour and Virtue." ----- But what beyond all other things seemed most to please him, was the amicable and beautiful Conjunction of Art and Nature thro' the whole: He observed that the former never appeared stiff, or the latter extravagant.
Upon many other Topicks of Praise Polypthon run out with great Warmth. Callophilus seemed surprized, and could not forbear asking him, By what means his Opinions became so suddenly changed? "Why, says he, Sir, I have said nothing now that contradicts any thing I said before. I own I met with two or three Objects that were not entirely to my Taste, which I am far from condemning for that reason; tho' if I should, it is nothing to the purpose, because I am now taking a Survey of the whole together; in which Light I must confess I am quite astonished with the View before me. Besides, I hate one of your wondering Mortals, who is perpetually breaking out into a Note of Admiration at every thing he sees: I am always apt to suspect his Taste or his Sincerity. It is impossible that all Genius's can alike agree in their Opinions of any Work of Art; and the Man who never blames, I can scarce believe is qualified to commend. Besides, finding fault now and then, adds Weight to Commendation, and makes us believed to be in earnest. However, notwithstanding what you may think of my frequent Cavils, I assure you, with the greatest Sincerity, I never before saw any thing of the kind at all comparable to what I have here seen: I shall by no means close this Day with a Diem perdidi; nor would the Roman Emperor himself, I believe, have made the Reflection if he had spent his condemned Hours in this Place."
By this time the Gentlemen were come to the Gate, thro' which Polypthon assured his Friend he passed with the greatest Reluctance, and went growling out of this delightful Garden, as the Devil is said to have done out of Paradise.
* Since this View of the Garden was taken, the Monument here spoken of has been finished. The following Lines are a Translation of its Inscription, which in the Original is wrote in Latin.
To testify both his Applause and Grief,
RICHARD Lord Viscount COBHAM
Erected this Naval Pillar to the Memory of his Nephew
Who commanding a Ship of War in the British Fleet
Under ADMIRAL ANSON,
In an Engagement with the French, was
Mortally wounded upon the Thigh
By a Fragment of this shattered Ship;
Yet with his last Breath had the Bravery to cry out,
"How much more desireable it is thus to meet Death,
"Than, convicted of Cowardice, to meet Justice!"
May this noble Instance of Virtue
Prove instructive to an abandoned Age,
And teach Britons how to act
In their Country's Cause!
John D. Tatter, Birmingham-Southern College, firstname.lastname@example.org