A couple of late additions on the nick-name of Lancelot Brown (note 3): Mrs L of Harrogate has lately moved up in the world and now resides in Ilkley where her near neighbour Lord C recalls a comment made of the Drury Lane Theatre by his ancestor Lord Chalkstone in 1757: ‘The place … has “fine capabilities” … the whole wants variety, extent, contrast, and inequality.’
Four aces at the ancient anvil! A tube of smarties for Lord C, and a whole family pack of Mars bars for Mrs L, please. This is our earliest reference yet, and the first Lord Chalkstone’s observation will not have carried weight unless the nick-name was already current. Mrs L rams home the significance of Chalkstone when she reflects that in October 1762 Boswell was in Scotland with Sir William and commented on the estate that ‘as Lord Chalkstone says’ it had great capabilities.
Of course this might have been an in-joke for a small circle of friends, including Brown and Johnson that revolved around David Garrick. However Miss F. from Horsforth has also sent in a later reference from the diary of Walter Spencer Stanhope (20th August 1779) ‘went to Horsforth in the evening. Capability Brown, his son Beaumont Mon[s/f]itt, Rastrick, my uncle and aunt dine with me’. This may be our first credible account of Brown being called Capability to his face.
Keep these references to ‘Capability’ a-coming!