We talk of course, we discuss, we chat, and at the Tatler’s Waste-bin we may even disagree. But may I say that we learn less from any fact that may be gleaned from this harvest of words, than from the lively and generous nature in which our disputes are conducted. A certain benign mood will descend upon the company and impart its blessing.
Reality stands apart from mere speech. It can bring me at a rush to rethink my position, and I have therefore concluded that one should never judge a position secure until it has been tested in the real world, beyond the succouring arms of the T W-b.
Thus it was when I contemplated in the flesh the Thomas Bardwell painting of the landscape at Wentworth Castle, currently on display at the Mercer Gallery. We had of course seen photographs of it, and these had led to discussion at which Captain Ken and insisted that there was a flaw in the photograph that made it look as though there were ponds running away at right angles to the Serpentine. Now having seen the painting itself I have to correct the Captain: the water is real enough on the painting, mirabile dictu, even if there is no sign that it was ever there in real life. It changes my understanding of the picture. This is not then the record of a completed landscape, though a good deal of it is accurate – instead it might be a projected landscape, made before the Palladian wing of the house was built. So I came to consider the picture more closely – it shows the formal pond in front of the house and the Serpentine – so could the two additional ponds be precursors of the ponds that were later made elsewhere (in front of the Rotunda)?
But then Mrs L, who had accompanied me and Ms K to the exhibition on this occasion, asked why the lady and gentleman in the foreground have their backs to us, and what were the other people in the painting doing – small figures apparently admiring the water and the buildings of the park? The more one looks, the more puzzling the picture becomes – but if it were not intended to be not topographically accurate, would we be more correct to read it as a riddle?