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"King George ... set out with the Electoral Prince from Herrenhausen on the thirty-first day of August 1714; and in five days arrived at The Hague.... On the sixteenth day of September he embarked at Orange Poldar, under convoy of an English and Dutch squadron, commanded by the Earl of Berkeley, and next day arrived at The Hope. In the afternoon, the yacht sailed up the river, and His Majesty, with the Prince, were landed from a barge, at Greenwich, about six in the evening." Thus wrote Tobias Smollett in his History of England; the Georgian Age had begun.
The exchange of the Hanovers for the Stuarts had no immediate impact on issues so peripheral to the State as garden design, and, in any case, some of the first shots in the revolution of taste in such matters had already been fired. However, no garden in the revolutionary new style had yet been attempted. The period covered by this book is, in fact, rather shorter than that covered by the reign of the four Georges. It runs from 1730, by which time George II was on the throne, to the death of George IV in 1830.
Only by 1730 had the change from the formal gardens of very ancient lineage become inevitable. The new gardens were informal and 'naturalistic', and by 1730 the first few exemplars had been planned and planted. I had hoped, too, that by starting in 1730, I would be absolved from repeating the story of the rise of the landscape garden. This has been often, and often admirably, told by others. The central and last sections of the book do restrict themselves to the original plan.
However, I found that in the first section it was impossible to explain the development of garden design (and especially some of its ironies) without describing many things that happened before 1730. I have, though, tried to make as much use as possible of purely gardening sources (which gives the story some new details) and to avoid too much 'art history'. I hope that gardeners will not mind my occasional digressions into architectural matters. My excuse, if one is needed, is that throughout the period theories of design in architecture and gardening were closely related; I hope any architect reader will not find the summaries too crudely done.
I have used the word 'garden' in its very widest sense. Wherever deliberate planting has been carried out, and wherever that planting has been done for its 'looks' (even if at the same time designed for profit), and on whatever scale, it has been regarded as part of the garden. Thus, it includes not only the flower garden and the pleasure ground but the kitchen garden, wilderness, deer park and even, in some rather specialized cases, forest and agricultural land. Each of these aspects of the garden (except for the remarkably conservative, but very interesting, kitchen garden) has played an important part in the rise and fall of the British landscape garden; each aspect has at some point in the story become the dominant one.
My aim has been not only to describe this cycle in taste but to give as much of a feeling as I could of the 'reality' of gardens in my chosen hundred years: of the way they were planted, of the plants in them, of the ways in which they were used and enjoyed, and of the way in which they were created and maintained. I hope that gardeners interested in the history of their hobby (or obsession) will find that the first two sections of the book will illumine at least a little of that past and may perhaps provide a few ideas for the future of their own gardens. I hope, too, that they will help to make a visit to any of the Georgian gardens still extant more rewarding, and that it will help to increase their appreciation of them as much as the writing of it has done mine.
The final section, as well as being a general description of the interesting and almost undocumented urban and suburban gardens, lists many larger ones attached to country houses. All of these were, or still are, important or very beautiful examples of various aspects of Georgian gardening. I have tried to concentrate as much as possible on gardens that remain without too much later alteration, and which are open to the public. I have, however, had to include a number that no longer exist, as well as some that, even if now at the full pitch of their beauty, are still completely private.
Space and time have not permitted a very extensive documentation. I am well aware that even the longest of the descriptions is woefully inadequate. However, I hope that even the shortest will give the reader a basic context in which to place the garden and, if he can visit it, a little increase in his enjoyment.
Sets, Scenery, and Sentiment
Beauty and Function
Cracks in Arcadia
The New Language
The British Garden Abroad
Flowers and the Flower Garden
Books and Magazines
The Final Elements
Mansions and Demesnes
to 100 important Georgian
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