The epicure, Mr W of Nottingham (noted as the first person of that city to discover that aubergine was not just a paint colour, favoured by folks from London and such, for the bathroom suite) writes again to insist that Capability Brown, the great landscape gardener whose tercentenary we are currently celebrating, is unlikely to have left school at 16, as the great Dorothy Stroud has assumed, but is more likely to have left earlier.

I’m sure that Mr W would agree that so much depends on the exact status of his parents, William and Ursula Brown, within the Kirkharle community. If they were, as has also been supposed, tenant farmers, then it is not too much to suppose that he left at 11, and was on that account, though scarcely unique, the undeniable and undisputed article – that is to say, the unschooled autodidact. As I contemplate the matter myself, I must reflect upon the patronage and respect offered to the Browns by their landlords and employers, the Loraines. I would be inclined to suppose that William Brown was a bailiff of some kind on the estate and managed the Home Farm, but still our Brown might have been out of school by 14.

Nothing would help so much, in a discussion of this kind, as the possession of a few facts.