Mr H of Redruth reprimands me for slackness and for failing to explain in sufficient detail why our great gardener, Capability Brown, did no work in Cornwall (my note 62).
The absence of evidence can never quite allow us to conclude that he did not work there, which renders me reluctant to accept his rebuke without quibble or qualm – the absence of evidence can never quite allow us to conclude that he did not work in Cornwall. However the other night as we partook of a hot toddy in the snug of the Tatler’s Waste-Bin with a copy of the football particulars – it was a Saturday night and it is my custom then to take a plate of beans on toast garnished with celery salt before venturing in search of society to the T W-B – at any rate, as we celebrated the coming of winter in this fashion it struck me of a sudden that Brown also had relatively few contracts in Wales, a lack of any, so far as we know, in Scotland, and a strong reluctance to visit Ireland. I tried out the idea on Captain Ken, a peppery man of Celtic extraction, but I made little headway. He would have none of it, since if it were true it might make his criticism of Brown appear prejudiced.
Still I wondered how familiar Brown might have been with Edward Lluyd’s Archaeologia Britannia, and on my return home, reached for my tattered copy of the old volume. Let me give you its full title: ‘Archaeologia Britannica, giving some account Additional to what has hitherto Publish’d, of the Languages, Histories and Customs of the Original Inhabitants of Great Britain: from Collections and Observations in Travels through Wales, Cornwal, Bas-Bretagne, Ireland and Scotland’.
Lluyd published in 1707, some time before the age of standardised spelling but he produced the evidence for a lost Celtic language and culture, surviving on the peripheries of England, to which the Anglo-Saxon invasions had driven it.
Could it be then that the England that Brown was so reluctant to leave before he had finished it, was for him Anglo-Saxon land, and that he wished to steer clear of the defeated Celts – along with all the other peoples of mainland Europe. Turning to the list of subscribers to Lluyd’s volume, I found the ancestors of a number of Brown’s clients: the Duke of Beaufort, Earl of Denbigh, Earl of Pembroke, Charles Lord Spencer, among them.
No reason why Brown shouldn’t have thumbed through the volume himself.