chapter  19
9 Pages

Revolutions in the garden

English garden design tends to be in a revolution condition at the close of the century (Figure 1).

In England, the middle years of the seventeenth century were a time of revolution. A king was executed and the country flooded with republican ideas. The restoration of a king who had lived his adult life in France, in 1660, brought an influx of late-Renaissance ideas. Another king was brought from Holland, in 1688, bringing the enlightened ideas of a very advanced country. The stage was set, by 1690, for England to take the lead in world development. A philosophical movement, empiricism, revolutionized science and had a profound influence on garden design. Rationalists believed that human reason is the ultimate source of certainty in knowledge. Empiricists believed that observation of the ex­ ternal world is the ultimate test. In gardens, this led to an increasing dislike of straight lines and to a love of irregularity. Sir William Temple pub­ lished his essay Upon the Gardens o f Epicurus in 1692, with the following remark:

What I have said, of the best Forms of Gardens, is meant only of such as are in some Sort regular; for there may be other Forms wholly irregular, that may, for aught I know, have more Beauty than any of the others; but they must owe it to some extra­ ordinary Dispositions of Nature in the Seat, or some great Race of Fancy or Judgement in the Contrivance . . .