Just as the sun when it sinks to its rest in the western sky may appear vanquished by the forces of the dark, so on occasion the hopes of mankind will sink like balloons, their speculations punctured by cold facts.

Yet still we wake to a new dawn, and on some lucky occasions our speculations find wing, defy the dark and fly out to the clear light. Thus it has been perhaps with the uncertain endorsement of the hand of the marmalade-making gardener, Capability Brown in the landscaping of Hulne Park at Alnwick (note 238), a speculation lately entered into by the Brown Advisor. For here in apparently unconnected fashion breaks in Mrs L of Ilkley, as busy as ever,  with a letter written by William Constable in 1782 at Burton Constable – Mr Honey would have us get on with the meat, but let us cleeve to a seasoning of such facts as we have at our disposal. Here then is William Constable writing a recommendation for James Clarke who had just finished ten years working as foreman to the said Brown – ‘What What What!’ calls out Mr H, ‘Slice the pie and spill the juice!’

Well, here it is, Mr H: James Clarke was never paid by Brown, but was employed directly by his client, William Constable. It’s an arrangement we would know nothing about but for this letter of recommendation – and why should we ? – Brown was paid for his visits, Clarke was paid to follow his instructions – why should we connect the two? – yet this is the very arrangement proposed in note 238 for Griffin and Call at Alnwick, in note 239 for Milican and Doody, and in note 218 for Emes at Wimpole.

Alas, if this is true, it makes Brown’s hand still less easy to trace through a trawl of the facts that the estate papers may contain.