The more than distinguished Professor H of Pennsylvania has communicated and in his communication he makes it clear in his by-the-way fashion that when Sir William Chambers described the designs of the master-illusionist, Capability Brown, as little more than a walk around a common field, he meant ‘common field’ in the sense ‘common or garden’, that is, ordinary, everyday.
At the crack of his observation I realised that I had always taken the word ‘common’ in the sense of a field that is cultivated by a number of people, the commoners, and I am indebted to him for questioning my assumption.
Frankly however the distinction matters little. If my reading is preferred, then we need look no further than Broadlands or Southill and see that Brown, effortlessly evolving and eager to end creative entropy, did indeed create landscapes around common fields, neither owned nor cultivated by his clients. Those who tend to Professor H’s opinion on the other hand need look no further than Milton Abbey, where Chambers was working with Brown at the time when the book in which he made this comment was published, where Brown did indeed create a 1,000 acre lawn, or hay meadow, for Lord Damer and where both Brown and his client would have regarded themselves as creating a farm or a series of everyday fields. In short Chambers was absolutely correct in his observation, no matter how we interpret it. The shame is that, far from feeling aggrieved, Brown would have agreed with him, indeed would have congratulated him for his perception.
A second query, similar in the importance that some have attached to it, relates to the distinction between English and British. That is to say, it confuses people to find the English style developed so strongly in the British Isles. The answer, intoned like the Lenten bell by the Brown Advisor (see for example my notes 88 and 209), is that the English style with its emphasis on liberty descends, if a style may be said to descend, from the Constitutional Settlement which established a constitutional monarchy a generation before the Act of Union brought England and Scotland together under a single monarch.
Thus Horace Walpole, observer of his times, and wit: ‘The English Taste in Gardening is thus the growth of the English constitution, & must perish with it’.
Let us therefore conclude that the careful consideration of terms, pedantry though it may be to some, yet brings illumination to others.