Lady Nature's Second Husband
1783 Today is the anniversary of the death of the renowned landscape gardener Lancelot Capability Brown.
In the 1730s, Lancelot ended up at Stowe, working for the great William Kent - the eminent painter and Landscape Architect. The garden at Stowe was a landscape garden with lots of straight lines and formality. The end result was a garden that looked like a painting with an 11-acre lake. The main area of the garden was the Elysian Fields ("uh·li·zhn"); 40 acres featuring buildings and monuments that flank two narrow lakes called the River Styx. The monuments in the garden honor virtuous men of Britain.
The time Lancelot spent with Kent at Stowe transformed not only the land but also Lancelot - from a gardener to a Landscape Architect. It was his big break, and it gave him the confidence to set out on his own.
After Stowe, Lancelot traveled all over England. When working for clients, he would stare out at the blank canvas of a new project and seek to find the "capabilities" of the Landscape - removing worker's cottages or older gardens when he felt the need to do so. It earned him the unshakeable nickname of Capability.
Capability Brown's skill of seeing landscapes and then creating them made him very popular. Everyone with means wanted a Capability Brown landscape - they craved his signature look, his garden designs, and garden temples. What everyone essentially wanted was beauty - and Capability created beautiful gardens. For 19 years, Capability served as the King's Master Gardener. Today, at least 20 Capability gardens still exist and are under the care of England's National Trust.
When Lancelot died, the English writer Horace Walpole, sent word to the noblewoman Anne FitzPatrick that, "Lady Nature's second husband," was dead.
He also sent a poem about Capability to the poet and gardener William Mason:
"With one Lost Paradise the name
Of our first ancestor is stained;
Brown shall enjoy unsullied fame
For many a Paradise, he regained."