Miss K, a woman of great probity, writes from Leeds to ask if Capability Brown the 18th century gardener was a lip-smacking ‘mmm’ of a bodice-ripper. Mrs O of Chalford has asked if Brown was a success with the ladies, and Dr F writes from Fittleworth to ask if there is any evidence that women swooned at Brown’s presence.
When no less than three correspondents, unknown to each other, make the same inquiry, then the Advisor must try to address it. Three lines of attack are possible: 1) is there any evidence that any of his clients or their wives formed an attachment of any kind to Brown? Some of his clients were very much attached – Lord Coventry and William Pitt for example – but this was an attachment of mutual respect. No, there is no evidence. 2) did Brown behave in a way that might have led to such attachments? No, on the contrary, he is known to have visited several clients and patrons, such as the Duke of Bedford, with one of his sons (probably Lance), and there is good evidence that he remained very attached to his wife. 3) would it have been socially possible or such an attachment to have formed? – I think not; however respected Brown was, he was in trade and was never accepted by any of his clients as an equal.
I think these ladies may have been pressed by their publishers to celebrate Brown’s tercentenary with something for the book bin at Tescos: an 18th century Lady Chatterly, with Brown standing in for Mellors. Good luck to ‘em say I.
I should add that on receiving a draft of this note, Miss K reported a comment of Catherine Morland’s, overheard in conversation with her friend Isabella Thorpe. Isabella having asked her whether she preferred men dark or fair, Catherine replies ‘I hardly know. I never much thought about it. Something between both I think. Brown – not fair, and not very dark.’ It is an accurate description of our hero, but I would dispute with Miss K whether she had the man himself in mind.