I am asked for an insight into the character of our hero, Capability Brown. Here is an opinion, supported by an anecdote.

First the opinion, which one can find in Spencer Cowper’s advice, given as early as 1756 ‘As to Brown’s Sauciness, I believe you have nothing to combat it with, but Patience.’

Then the anecdote, which was recorded by James Boswell in 1779: ‘The ingenious Mr Brown, distinguished by the name of Capability Brown, told me, that he was once at the seat of Lord Clive, who had returned from India with great wealth; and that he shewed him at the door of his bed-chamber a large chest, which he said he had once had full of gold; upon which Brown observed, “I am glad you can bear it so near your bed-chamber.”’ – Boswell’s inference from the exchange being not that Lord Clive might have been attacked by burglars, but that the money, ill-gotten in India, might give him bad dreams.

He may not have been impertinent in the 1770s, but I think we may call him dangerously direct. His humour nonetheless we must mark as ‘zzz’. Our preferred response will be to sink into deep sleep.