Mr R.S. has written from Devon to ask our editor why Repton cross-references from red book to red book

Oofy here: Editorial: Stupid question. Advertising. Simple.

A gloss from the Type-Setter. The perspicacity of our editor is admirable, but his case will take some building. I have edited the Professor’s commentary in what follows, for it is not always easy to reconcile the Czech bludgeon with the rapier thrust of our editor.

‘By way of introduction: Repton cited his red book for Rudding Park and quoted from it in his volume for Tatton, when he came to advocate gravel approach roads. At first sight, however, the idea that he cross-referenced in order to advertise his red books, or boast of his success, makes little sense. How many people after all were going to read them, shut up as they might be in the library of his client, as he suggested himself at Burley-on-the-Hill, at Attingham. Woburn Abbey and Wanstead? Only at Plas Newydd did he suggest that the book might be kept in London for ‘”those who may not have sufficient resolution to make so long a journey … thus the beauties of Plan Newydd are in a manner brought into the library of Uxbridge house.” It is true that he asked William Egerton to allow him to display the red book for Tatton in London, but Tatton itself collected only four references in other red books (Culford, Stoke Park, Purley, and Hanslope). Nor did he do this cross-referencing in order to make his clients feel part of an exclusive network. Repton worked for the Duke of Bedford for years, yet Woburn Abbey is only referenced in his red book for Hewell Grange (he also referred to it in notes he wrote for Ashridge and at Endsleigh, but his client at Endsleigh was the Duke). Had Repton wished to compile a more comprehensive index of the places where he worked, he could have included cross-references to a great many more than he did.

Nor did he solely cross-reference to demonstrate the general rules that (in his early career at least) he believed should underlie rational landscape gardening. Again, had he wished to do so, he could have included many more cross-references to make his point.

I draw attention instead to his red books for Lamer (January 1792) and Stoke Park (June 1792). For in his Stoke red book, Repton copied his rules for making an approach from the Lamer red book, written earlier in the same year, without acknowledgement. This is an unusual exception in Repton’s oeuvre to the use of a cross-reference when copying ideas from one red book to another – another is the discussion of the browsing line in the red book for Culford; this adopts the text of the Milton red book without acknowledgement. These exceptions however prove the rule and provide an answer to the question: Repton used cross-referencing because he was concerned that he should not be accused of plagiarising himself; so where he found himself wanting to repeat advice from one place to another he was anxious to acknowledge the borrowing. It also implies that rather than impose a single set of rules on the landscape, he was concerned, whether consciously or not, to make each landscape different and so was anxious to admit to any similarities before they were pointed out to him by his critics. They were a means of keeping faith with his clients.

Here I turn to that great Janeite, Thomas Babington Macaulay, who declared in 1842 that Jane Austen was second only to Shakespeare in the creation of character: “There are, for example, four clergymen, none of whom we should be surprised to find in any parsonage in the kingdom, Mr Edward Ferrars, Mr Henry Tilney, Mr Edmund Bertram, and Mr Elton. They are all specimens of the upper part of the middle class. They have all been liberally educated. They all lie under the restraints of the same sacred profession. They are all young. They are all in love. Not one of them has any hobbyhorse…Not one has a ruling passion… Who would not have expected them to be insipid likenesses of each other? No such thing. … [No characters in literature are more unlike] than every one of Miss Austen’s young divines to all his reverend brethren. And all this is done by touches so delicate, that they elude analysis, that they defy the powers of description, and that we know them to exist only by the general effect to which they have contributed.”

In short, we praise Jane Austen for the variety of her creation. Yet we are wont to criticise Repton for the variety of his, casting him as a journeyman, hired to carry out the wishes of his clients, whatever they might be. In this use of cross-referencing, we see that he was anxious to be known for the range and variety of his designs, and consciously sought variety and freely acknowledged when he was reusing an old trope.’ [Notes from the Professor, trans. the Type-Setter]

A further gloss from the Type-Setter. As our editor has convincingly concluded – Repton used cross-references not to boast but to advertise and what he was advertising was his integrity.