Mr L of Muddiford has written to question Capability Brown’s role in the landscaping of Moccas Court. It is not that there is any doubt that he was paid for drawing up plans, but Mr L argues that Brown and his plans had no influence on the place.
Mr L is by no means alone – many other correspondents have been of the same opinion. Each makes a convincing case, none deny that Brown was paid, the one point on which they differ is in the site that they wish to see ejected from the canon – Aske, Badminton, Doddington, Eywood, Holkham, The Hoo, Latimer, Wentworth Castle – if I had more space I could throw in another dozen. This calls to mind an earlier series of exchanges relating to the oeuvre of Brown’s successor, Humphry Repton, in which we were led to the inescapable conclusion that he had only ever been employed to paint his pretty water-colours of the landscape, and that he was not actually a practical gardener at all, but a whimsical theorist. Now without inquiring too deeply into Repton’s business, may I question the wisdom of this argument? Though these deniers attacked Repton with great panache and style, it will always be somewhat quixotic to attempt to prove that a thing evidently true is evidently false.
Let us however for the present humour their line of thinking, for it has a sort of logic to it: Repton, if he was not a landscaper, did at least produce a handsome red book of designs for his clients – he could at least charge for that. Brown however offered no such compensation – his rather dull maps will never have enlivened a room. But if he were charging his clients for work he had no intention of carrying out, if he never did anything at so many of the landscapes where he was employed, we are led to ask how he made his money and then to ask how he managed to persuade so many clients to part with theirs?
I would discourage my fellow-enthusiasts from bringing those who would deny Brown together in one place. It would take only a few moments for them to show that Brown never did anything anywhere; in short, that he was a a mere rogue, a ruffianly rascal and renegade. They might even prove that he never existed.