England’s Greatest Gardener


The Grecian Valley, Stowe

From Literary Review:

‘Capability’ Brown, the most famous of all eighteenth-century landscape designers – and the father of the landscape garden – never wrote a manual or recorded his musings for posterity. In fact, were it not for an illuminating conversation with Hannah More in 1782, the year before he died, critics might have got away with the accusation that he possessed nothing but a good eye for effect.

Fortunately for Brown’s reputation, More recorded the encounter. The two were at Hampton Court Palace when Brown directed her attention to the landscape:

‘Now there’, said he, pointing his finger, ‘I make a comma, and there’, pointing to another spot, ‘where a more decided turn is proper, I make a colon; at another part, where an interruption is desirable to break the view, a parenthesis; now a full stop, and then I begin another subject.’

Thus Brown revealed that his ‘natural’ designs were the epitome of the expert grammarian’s art.

Blenheim Palace, Baxter print, c1880

“The Earth Moved For Him”, Amanda Foreman, Literary Review