e a m harris

Roaming the byways of literature

Garden thoughts of Alexander Pope

A garden Pope would have likedAt school I was made to read The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope, but since then have read none of his poetry and have barely remembered his existence.

Recently, however, I stumbled on an article on Pope the gardener in the blog Eighteenth Century Media. Apparently Pope was famous, not only as a poet, but also as a gardener, and friends and fans frequently asked his advice on major and minor aspects of gardening. He may have designed gardens; he certainly had things to say about them.

He favoured the classical style (modern in his day) in which there was a balance between nature and artifice, display and restraint, variety and simplicity. This balance was not just aesthetically pleasing but morally as well. Restraint and ‘consulting the genius of the place’ showed good taste and self control.

Among his writings are a number of Epistles written in verse. One of these, The Epistle to Richard Boyle, Earl of Burlington, although about the use and abuse of riches, also contains a lot of advice on gardening. As a detailed  how-to of horticulture it might not be very useful but it’s aesthetics might be useful for any kind of design.

Oft have you hinted to your brother peer
A certain truth, which many buy too dear:
Something there is, more needful than expense,
And something previous even to taste – ’tis sense:

For those of us who don’t have a fortune to spend on our gardens, it’s comforting to think that all we need is sense, which is free.

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