Taking up, as it were where my good friend Ken the anarchist has left off (note 66) Dr M, currently circling the globe with the European Space Agency, has written to tell me that she is no longer satisfied by the music of the spheres, and asks instead for a number or two that will call to mind the life and background of Capability Brown, the great 18th century gardener.
My good friend Mrs S of Grantham has already made her the excellent suggestion of a selection of the songs of the actor and friend of Brown, David Garrick, but then she, that is, Dr M, mentions that she will be working with her fine-fingered friend, the pianist William Hancox, and – I apologise for the length and complexity of this sentence, but we are now coming to its end – this gives me the chance to suggest Handel’s keyboard suites, which will have been familiar in most drawing-rooms in Brown’s day, and particularly those of George III.
Rather than describe these suites in any detail, I will lay alongside them the following words which seem to me to reflect the work of both Brown and Handel.
An apparent simplicity
An easy sense of limitlessness
Having set down these words, I look at them, all listed down the page, and it occurs to me that these define pleasing conduct and manners as they were understood from the accession of Queen Anne to the day of the storming of the Bastille. In the words of my mentor, the Spectator, ‘Good Breeding shows it self most, where to an ordinary Eye it appears the least.’
And so I come to the delightful tea-party arranged by Messrs W of Shifnal and G of Allbrighton, who encouraged us to admire their garden and their collection of modern art. It was in their gallery, with a slice of iced beetroot cake in hand, that I overheard the excellent and personable Mrs A of Birmingham extol the virtues of the Rev. John Pixell of Old Edgbaston Church, poet and composer (1725-1784). Mrs A then rapped my knuckles for forgetting that Handel’s organ is at Packington. Music seemed for a moment to swirl around us.