In Arcadia ego Posted on June 29, 2022

What a wonderful life Lancelot Brown must have had, travelling all over England to assess the Capabilities of one privileged stretch of the countryside after another. It wasn’t comfortable. Humphry Repton later wrote about his own constant carriage journeys; the awful roads, the difficulty of reading, let alone writing, on the road. The spilt ink, the crumpled plans. But when his host led him on horseback to the view from where he was planning his new house: the exhilaration, the prospect of woods and fields, the streaming western light, the marshy ground where he would dig a lake …….

He had researched his host’s fortune and found it adequate. A commission for a temple was likely, too, although Chambers had already been employed to build the house. His contractors were ready with men and wheelbarrows, scores of them, to start reshaping the land. Did he ever pause, though, look at the senior oaks and the massed beeches, the pools of bluebells and the waving grasses, and say to himself England is already Arcadia; I can make this valley more impressive, but I can’t make anything more beautiful. Now, in June, with fleecy clouds shifting the shadows, or in October when beeches turn russet and the oaks here yellow, there a motley green, no scheme of mine can improve on England.

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