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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 81 pages of information about Headlong Hall.

CHAPTER IV The Grounds

“I perceive,” said Mr Milestone, after they had walked a few paces, “these grounds have never been touched by the finger of taste.”

“The place is quite a wilderness,” said Squire Headlong:  “for, during the latter part of my father’s life, while I was finishing my education, he troubled himself about nothing but the cellar, and suffered everything else to go to rack and ruin.  A mere wilderness, as you see, even now in December; but in summer a complete nursery of briers, a forest of thistles, a plantation of nettles, without any live stock but goats, that have eaten up all the bark of the trees.  Here you see is the pedestal of a statue, with only half a leg and four toes remaining:  there were many here once.  When I was a boy, I used to sit every day on the shoulders of Hercules:  what became of him I have never been able to ascertain.  Neptune has been lying these seven years in the dust-hole; Atlas had his head knocked off to fit him for propping a shed; and only the day before yesterday we fished Bacchus out of the horse-pond.”

“My dear sir,” said Mr Milestone, “accord me your permission to wave the wand of enchantment over your grounds.  The rocks shall be blown up, the trees shall be cut down, the wilderness and all its goats shall vanish like mist.  Pagodas and Chinese bridges, gravel walks and shrubberies, bowling-greens, canals, and clumps of larch, shall rise upon its ruins.  One age, sir, has brought to light the treasures of ancient learning; a second has penetrated into the depths of metaphysics; a third has brought to perfection the science of astronomy; but it was reserved for the exclusive genius of the present times, to invent the noble art of picturesque gardening, which has given, as it were, a new tint to the complexion of nature, and a new outline to the physiognomy of the universe!”

“Give me leave,” said Sir Patrick O’Prism, “to take an exception to that same.  Your system of levelling, and trimming, and clipping, and docking, and clumping, and polishing, and cropping, and shaving, destroys all the beautiful intricacies of natural luxuriance, and all the graduated harmonies of light and shade, melting into one another, as you see them on that rock over yonder.  I never saw one of your improved places, as you call them, and which are nothing but big bowling-greens, like sheets of green paper, with a parcel of round clumps scattered over them, like so many spots of ink, flicked at random out of a pen,[4.1] and a solitary animal here and there looking as if it were lost, that I did not think it was for all the world like Hounslow Heath, thinly sprinkled over with bushes and highwaymen.”

“Sir,” said Mr Milestone, “you will have the goodness to make a distinction between the picturesque and the beautiful.”

“Will I?” said Sir Patrick, “och! but I won’t.  For what is beautiful?  That what pleases the eye.  And what pleases the eye?  Tints variously broken and blended.  Now, tints variously broken and blended constitute the picturesque.”

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