The Natural History of Wiltshire eBook

John Aubrey
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 207 pages of information about The Natural History of Wiltshire.

[The stately gardens of the seventeenth century were less remarkable for the cultivation of useful or ornamental plants than for the formal arrangement of their walks, arbours, parterres, and hedges.  Amongst the various decorations introduced were jets d’eau, or fountains, artificial cascades, columns, statues, grottoes, rock-work, mazes or labyrinths, terraces communicating with each other by flights of steps, and similar puerilities.  This style of gardening was introduced from France; where the celebrated Le Notre had displayed his skill in laying out the gardens of the palace of Versailles; the most important specimens of their class.  The same person was afterwards employed by several of the English nobility.

The gardens at Wilton, described in the last chapter, were completely in the style referred to.  Solomon de Caus, to whom they are attributed by Aubrey, is supposed by Mr. Loudon, in his valuable “Encyclopaedia of Gardening”, to have been the inventor of greenhouses.  The last mentioned work contains the best account yet published of the gardens of the olden time.  Britton’s “History of Cassiobury” (folio, 1837), p. 17, also contains some curious particulars of the original plantations and pleasure grounds of that interesting mansion.

The gardens at Lavington, which are described in the present chapter, were evidently of the same character with those of Wilton.  Chelsey-garden is very minutely described by Aubrey, but our limits forbid its insertion, especially as it is irrelevant to a History of Wiltshire.- J. B.]

        O janitores, villiciq{ue} felices: 
        Dominis parantur isti, serviunt vobis. 
                Martial, Epigramm. 29, lib. x.

To write in the praise of gardens is besides my designe.  The pleasure and use of them were unknown to our great-grandfathers.  They were contented with pot-herbs, and did mind chiefly their stables.  The chronicle tells us, that in the reign of King Henry the 8th pear-mains were so great a rarity that a baskett full of them was a present to the great Cardinall Wolsey.

Henry Lyte, of Lyte’s Cary, in Somerset, Esq. translated Dodoens’ Herball into English, which he dedicated to Q. Elizabeth, about the beginning of her reigne [1578].  He had a pretty good collection of plants for that age; some few whereof are yet alive, 1660:  and no question but Dr. Gilbert, &c. did furnish their gardens as well as they could so long ago, which could be but meanly.  But the first peer that stored his garden with exotick plants was William Earle of Salisbury, [1612-1668] at his garden at [Hatfield? — J. B.] a catalogue whereof, fairly writt in a skin of vellum, consisting of 830 plants, is in the hands of Elias Ashmole, Esq. at South Lambeth.

But ’twas Sir John Danvers, of Chelsey, who first taught us the way of Italian gardens.  He had well travelled France and Italy, and made good observations.  He had in a fair body an harmonicall mind.  In his youth his complexion was so exceeding beautiful and fine that Thomas Bond, Esq. of Ogbourne St. .... in Wiltshire, who was his companion in his travells, did say that the people would come after him in the street to admire him.  He had a very fine fancy, which lay chiefly for gardens and architecture.

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The Natural History of Wiltshire from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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