Before recommending to our public Tom Williamson and David Brown’s Lancelot Brown and the Capability Men (London: Reacktion Books, 2016), the new basket of bouquets to that ‘Tractor of True Taste, Capability Brown, my friends and I decided we would each select some bonbon from the book that would justify such a purchase.
Captain Ken is an excellent and reliable fellow, if inclined to extreme scepticism when he comes across any suggestion of the Brown Advisor’s. He numbers archery amongst his past-times and it was while we were amusing ourselves at the butts that he asked me whether I was sticking to the notion that Capability Brown preferred to show off his houses in a head-on view. I said I did, for Brown was a friend to freedom and a foe to forced solutions: if head-on was the most obvious way to see a house, then head-on is what he would provide. Indeed I had already published my opinion on the matter (note 12 for example).
Miss S writes to tell me that being newly arrived in Berkhamstead she took herself to view the town’s great landmark, known as the Golden Valley, and she wonders now if that master of beech-hung beauty, Capability Brown, whom she knew by reputation, could have worked his wizardry there.
I find myself caught in a dilemma in respect of the plants used by the King’s gardener Capability Brown. On the one hand, Dr L writes from Essex to ask for more practical detail, as she is encouraging her students to consult the Brown Advisor. On the other hand Mr R of Finsbury Park, London, would prefer a deeper, more abstract, probe into the meaning of the formidable Capability Brown, if there be such.
When it comes to master-classes, it is not only ‘what are master-classes for?’, but ‘who they are for?’, and even, with apologies to grammar, ‘why they are for?’ The best I can do by way of response to these questions is to summarise the sentiments of our head honcho, John Phibbs, who will be leading the April series.
The proud answer is yes and yes, and furthermore this day (20th January) could be the birthday of that elegant moulder of the elements, Capability Brown (note 143).