I learnt at my mother’s knee, as the saying goes, that a bantam egg starts the day better than any other kind. You get more yoke to your white, and thus a greater concentration of goodness.
Perhaps it was that egg that convinced me that my post today would be a good one. Sure enough, I am delighted to say that I found a good-length letter from Monsieur B of Orléans? in my toast-rack. He asks me, among other things, whether Brown ever planted dead trees.
Who can ever tell, Monsieur? He may have planted many trees that died, but I suspect that he never set out to do so. The story given out by Uvedale Price, of the dead trees planted by the well-worthy Brown’s worthy master, William Kent, began I’m sure, as a joke against Kent, who was not a practising horticulturist.
The beauty of dead trees, however, had already been recognised by the Dutch school, by Jacob van Ruisdael in the 1680s for example – and there is a proposal for Burton Constable, by the architect Timothy Lightoler, which has what seems to be a dead tree on the drawing. This is undated but seems to predate Brown’s commission. For further evidence I would add that within 20 years of Brown’s death Jane Austen was able to report that Henry Tilney was for planting a dead tree at the summit of Beechen Cliff. However I must regard these last two as humorous sallies. Brown was known to get rid of diseased and decayed trees and he is unlikely to have planted a dead one.