Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, 1716-1783: The Omnipotent Magician, 1716-1783

Rosemary Hill writes:

In the summer of 1771 William Constable had just returned to Burton Constable, his house in the East Riding of Yorkshire, after a lavish Grand Tour. He and his sister Winifred had spent £7000 and came home laden with pictures, sculptures, books and miscellaneous antiquities. Constable now regarded himself as a connoisseur or, as he put it, ‘a bit of a Vertu’. When the treasures were unpacked and tastefully disposed around the house, he turned his attention to the view from the windows and decided that it too needed bringing up to date in line with informed modern taste. ‘How to Clump my Avenues,’ he wondered in his notes, ‘How to Fence the Kitchen Garden, south Border etc, Whether the Road to the House would not be better Higher Up … consult about Water in the park … which kind of Evergreens for the W Front?’ These were the questions he intended to put to Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, then at the peak of his career as the most famous and sought after landscape designer of the day, who had been booked to make an inspection of Burton Constable and give his opinion of its ‘capabilities’ for improvement.

(LRB 5 January 2012)

Other Titles of Interest