Blog post alert: A post at Jane Austen's World, Sydney Gardens Restoration in Bath, provides information on an upcoming celebration of a restored garden in the English city of Bath—and much more. I loved the video on laying out a labyrinth and followed the links to renting Jane Austen's house (£165 a night for the end of September 2022). The image is from an article, The History of Sydney Gardens at The Bath Magazine on-line. It shows the bandstand as Jeanette and Edward might have seen it if they visited on their honeymoon (for a larger version, click here).
Picturing a World
Post alert: The drought in England has revealed many features in the landscape, including the bones of a 1699 garden built for the 1st Duke of Devonshire. The BBC story, Chatsworth's hidden 17th Century garden revealed in drone footage shows intricacies that have become visible. Many people are attune to the layers of time in a landscape. How suggestive these haunting emergences may prove!
Michael Garrick's photograph of exuberant, overflowing, flowering, abundant life taking over an abandoned greenhouse (used here under a Creative Commons License) was just the tonic I needed on a very cold morning in New England . Sure, there's the pandemic, worrying political news, and the terrifying prospect of all that climate change will bring. And still, wildness breaks through our structures, constrictions, and failures to bring subversive glee and wonder.
The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity by David Graeber and David Wengrow is full of interesting discoveries and arguments. One idea grabbed my attention. Neuroscience, they say, seems to show that self-aware thoughts on a problem generally last about seven seconds. "[T]he great exception to this is when we're talking to someone else. In conversation, we can hold thoughts and reflect on problems for hours on end" (p. 94). Graeber and Wengrow point out that many ancient philosophers framed their writings as dialogue. I would add, think how often writers have written as though there were a devil and an angel or two sides of personality arguing with each other when they want to depict a mental struggle. The device can seem contrived, but maybe it arises out of more than convention.
Oddly enough, I remembered this watercolor as "Lady Pole in Her Library." Nope, the artist was Thomas Pole, an American transplant to Bristol, England, a doctor and Quaker preacher—no titled lady involved. Still, you know me: it's all about using images to prompt story ideas. And quiet as it is, In the Library has some suggestive clues.
As a follow-up to my previous post about a potted-plant ornament, here's a detail from a portrait of Henry VIII and his family by an unknown painter of the British School. Glimpses of gardens through doorways and windows always lure me, but maybe you'll be more drawn to the monkey, the crewcut, or the man purse!
Surfing the web, I've just come across this painting of a young girl by Rotius. The costume is worth studying; but with my interest in garden history, what struck me most was the figurine on a stake in the potted carnations. It reminds me of Tudor heraldic figures on poles, but I've never seen a miniature decoration like this. Does anybody know anything about such them?
Blog post alert: My interest in gardening history keeps me on the lookout for humble gardens, flower boxes, and pots grown in windows. In this image, other writers might take note of the laundry, the broken window panes, the proximity of the ramshackle building to the wall. And this is just a detail! For the full image and many more, see John Thomas Smith's Antient Topography at the ever rich Spitalfields Life.
On my walk yesterday, I talked with a friend—outdoors at six feet apart—who is planning to celebrate Christmas next July when her family can gather safely. Then this morning while I was mulling blog topics, I happened across Miss Jasper's Garden illustrated by one of my artists, N. M. Bodecker. Perfect. In this time of pandemic, why not a momentary break to July at Christmas?
An edition of Frances Hodgson Burnett's Secret Garden illustrated by Inga Moore has been my bedtime reading for the last few days of the presidential campaign and should get me through to tomorrow's aftermath. It's lovely. I'm not sure when I last read the novel—maybe as much as thirty years ago when Ruth Sanderson's beautiful edition was published. When I opened this book, I knew I would have adored it as a child and was going to enjoy it now. In my conceit as a garden historian, though, I thought its illustrations of the Misselthwaite grounds were a bit over the top—much too complicated and big to be maintained by the one gardener I remembered from the story. Well, I was wrong.