There are none quicker to anger than Staffordshire folk. It may be their dogs and it has been put to me that the time they and their ancestors have spent firing clay, dull and dumb, in their bottle kilns has taught them that only the fire of extreme anger can bring forth the civilised charm of Wedgwood china – or maybe it is spending too much time with the bottle alone that does it.
Dr J of Staffordshire however is an exception in the county, and a note from him prompts me to leave for the present the causes of anger, and to ask instead how memory and landscape intertwine. Of the first landscapes where I worked my memory provides an accurate record. However as the number I visited overtook 100, I became confused. That is to say, I would retain a perfect memory of a place which was almost entirely imaginary – so far have I gone with this process of forgetting that I find myself constantly at a loss – to know why I should remember this so clearly (which is some tiny detail hugely exaggerated in my imagination) while yet I have no recollection whatever of that (which is clearly the leading feature of the design). So Dr J, whom I clearly remember to have told me that a plan of Uppark before Humphry Repton got there had been drawn by the ‘destroyer’ Capability Brown or one of his clerks, has no recollection of the conversation. It is equally clear then that my memory may be playing me false, and I could ascribe this to a penalty of age and pay it no further attention.
However it strikes me that there may be something about landscape as a class of thing that obstructs accurate recall. Just as we recognise primroses each spring not because they are the same primroses that we saw the previous year, but because each flower though different is also recognisably the same. Might it not be the case with the landscapes of Brown that it is hard to tell them apart because although each is quite different we tend to see them as a class of objects, and hence they mix in memory and fuse into one?
Therefore I would counsel one and all to turn from anger. Memory, like all things human, is fallible but still there is more to wonder at than to irritate in this world.