My good friends Captain Ken and Mr Honey profess themselves both keen fishermen, yet their ways of proceeding could not be more distinct. The Captain will cast his fly, chin-proudly forward, gazing across the water, immobile as a heron. Mr H will snooze until he spies a craft of women punting by, then he will thrash the water with his line, with much cursing and joshing, then will he heave mightily in the waters. Now that’s real fishing he will say, a-twirling of his fine moustache.
Strange to relate I have often known him to bring home finer fish than the Captain. But just as two people may have different ends in life and different means of achieving them, so may two races of people, though outwardly identical, flourish in concert despite having manners and cultures of quite opposite kinds.
Thus have I often wondered what it is that makes citizens of the United States at once more clear and direct than the subjects of Great Britain, and at the same time so far beyond the reach of European understanding, and thus was I brought up short by Mr W of Miami who commented that he could not understand why works of the human hand should not be proudly and conspicuously human, and why a versatile gardener like Capability Brown (Mr W did acknowledge his greatness) should take so much trouble to make something look close to nature.
Having returned home to my own country, and smarting still at the press of his question, I began to frame two forms of reply. First, Mr W, I would take odds with the word ‘natural’. If you set the gardens of Versailles beside those of Blenheim Palace, then you will have little difficulty in describing the latter as more natural. However if you take the landscape at Blenheim Palace and then set that beside a little spring in Dovedale, bubbling as nature intended, as it makes its way out of the Pennine rocks, then you will have little difficulty either in saying that the spring is more natural than the lakes of Blenheim.
Might we not conclude that there is more than one definition of natural, and that to be natural is not necessarily to be Nature?
Second – that is to say the second argument that I would like to try on Mr W – I would propose that the desire for anonymity, though common enough in England and amongst the master-craftsmen who built the great cathedrals of Europe, is something that few Americans will understand – Emily Dickinson perhaps.