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|The Accustomed Circuit
Written by JulieW
(6/6/2007 9:21 a.m.)
So..what was the "accustomed circuit"?
I think it might be helpful if we looked a little at one of the best , earliest and most famous landscape gardens in England : Stourhead, in Wiltshire.
Here is a plan of the garden as it is now, but it gives you a good idea of its original layout around a central lake, which though it looks natural is in fact man-made.
This garden was designed in the 1740s by the owner,Henry Hoare II, a scion of the fabulously rich banking dynasty and not for northing was he known as “Henry the Magnificent”. He and his architect, Henry Flitcroft created an idealised landscape, in a natural valley on part of the estate, quite a way form the house and the formal gardens near it (as you can see on the plan)
Dotted with eye catching pavilions ,temples and grottoes in a valley surrounding a lake(made by damming the river) this is one of the most influential gardens of this type, and it conformed to the view of the serpentine line as a thing of beauty and to references to the classical past.
Stourhead was the perfect realization of the eighteenth-century yearning for a Vergilian and Claudian Arcady. The Stourhead park was created in a luxuriant valley, which Flitcroft made into a lake with a path around it that provided a sequence of Picturesque views and encounters with temples, statuary, springs and grotto, all involving layers of visual, literary, and even personal allusion. One of the principal Picturesque views at Stourhead is known to reflect Claude Lorrain's Coast View of Delos with Aeneas and the passage from Vergil on which it was based, relating Aeneas's account of his experience in the Temple of Apollo at Delos...The architectural set-pieces, each in a Picturesque location, include a Temple of Apollo, a Temple of Flora, a Pantheon (from the Claude painting), and a Palladian bridge."
The garden included elements of classical architecture- the eagle eyed amongst you will remember that the Temple of Apollo was used for the proposal scene in P+P3- landscape painting and elements of art theory, such as the beauty of a serpentine line as advocated by artisits like Hogarth.
Here is Hogarth’s influential engraving from his work The Analysis of Beauty(1753) which advocated the desiribility of using a beautiful serpentine line :
Below is his explainaition of why a serpentine line is thought to be so ideal:
Of COMPOSITIONS with the SERPENTINE-LINE
THE very great difficulty there is in describing this line, either in words, or by the pencil (as was hinted before, when I first mention'd it) will make it necessary for me to proceed very slowly in what I have to say in this chapter, and to beg the reader's patience whilst I lead him step by step into the knowledge of what I think the sublime in form, so remarkably display'd in the human body; in which, I believe, when he is once acquainted with the idea of them, he will find this species of lines to be principally concern'd.
First, then, let him consider fig. [, plate 2 bottom), which represents a straight horn, with its contents, and he will find, as it varies like the cone, it is a form of some beauty, merely on that account.
Next let him observe in what manner, and in what degree the beauty of this horn is increas'd, in fig. [, plate 2 bottom) where it is supposed to be bent two different ways.
And lastly, let him attend to the vast increase of beauty, even to grace and elegance, in the same horn, fig. [8, plate 2 bottom), where it is supposed to have been twisted round, at the same time, that it was bent two different ways, (as in the last figure).
In the first of these figures, the dotted line down the middle expresses the straight lines of which it is composed; which, without the assistance of curve lines, or light and shade, would hardly shew it to have contents.
The same is true of the second, tho' by the bending of the horn, the straight dotted line is changed into the beautiful waving-line.
But in the last, this dotted line, by the twisting as well as the bending of the horn, is changed from the waving into the serpentineline; which, as it dips out of sight behind the horn in the middle, and returns again at the smaller end, not only gives play to the imagination, and delights the eye, on that account; but informs it likewise of the quantity and variety of the contents.
I have chosen this simple example, as the easiest way of giving a plain and general idea of the peculiar qualities of these serpentine-lines, and the advantages of bringing them into compositions, where the contents you are to express, admit of grace and elegance.
And I beg the same things may be understood of these serpentinelines, that I have said before of the waving-lines. For as among the vast variety of waving-lines that may be conceiv'd, there is but one that truly deserves the name of the line of beauty, so there is only one precise serpentine-line that I call the line of grace. Yet, even when they are made too bulging, or too tapering, though they certainly lose of their beauty and grace, they do not become so wholly void of it, as not to be of excellent service in compositions, where beauty and grace are not particularly design'd to be express'd in their greatest perfection.
Though I have distinguish'd these lines so particularly as to give them the titles of the lines of beauty and grace, I mean that the use and application of them should still be confined by the principles I have laid down for composition in general; and that they should be judiciously mixt and combined with one another, and even with those I may term plain lines, (in opposition to these) as the subject in hand requires. Thus the cornu-copia, fig. plate 2 bottom), is twisted and bent after the same manner, as the last figure of the horn; but more ornamented, and with a greater number of other lines of the same twisted kind, winding round it with as quick returns as those of a screw.
Visitors to the garden would not traverse the whole of the estate but would take “ the accustomed circuit” around the lake to see the main points of beauty.
The gardens at Stourhead were open to the public from the first : indeed our friend Mrs Lybbe Powys visited it when the garden was quite young in 1776.The first official guidebook was published in 1800.
So- this would be I think something similar to the landscape at Pemberley(set in Derbyshire countryside instead of Wiltshire ,of course!),and I hope this gives you some idea of the type of garden that the Gardiners and Elizabeth found so delightful.
I’ve linked the NT website for Stourhead, and also here is a link to Sky Arts wonderful programme on Stourhead. If you are interested do revisit it in a week or so and they should put up a more detailed tour of the garden, complete with video clips, which really helps you imagine experiencing a visit a great landcape garden
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