I came across an excellent piece of advice the other day in a commonplace volume on planning a garden. It was in regard to the place of statuary in a garden. But the writer is very timid in this matter. He writes as if he hoped no one would overhear him when he says that he has no rooted objection, although many people have, to a few bits of statuary; but on no plea would he allow them the freedom of the garden; their place should be close to the house, and they should be admitted even to that restricted territory only with the greatest caution. On no account should anything of that sort be allowed to put a foot beyond where the real garden begins—the real clearly being the herbaceous part, though the formal is never referred to as the ideal.

He gives advice regarding the figures as does a “friend of the family” when consulted about the boys who are Inclined to be wild or the girls who are a bit skittish. No, no; one should be very firm with Hermes; from the stories that somehow get about regarding him, he is certainly inclined to be fast; he must not be given a latch-key; and as for Artemis—well, it is most likely only thoughtlessness on her part, but she should not be allowed to hunt more than two days a week. Still, if looked after, both Hermy and Arty will be all right; above all things, however, the list of their associates should be carefully revised: the fewer companions they have the better it will be for all concerned.

Now, I venture to agree with all this advice generally. Fond as I am of statuary, whether stone or lead, I am sure that it is safest in or about the House Garden; and no figure that I possess is in any other part of my ground; but this is only because I do not possess a single Faun or Dryad or Daphne. If I were lucky enough to have these, I should know where to place them and it would not be in a place of formality, but just the opposite. They have no business with formalities, and would look as incongruous among the divinities who seem quite happy on pedestals as would Pan in modern evening dress, or a Russian danceuse in corsets, or a Polish in anything at all.

If I had a Pan I would not be afraid to locate him in the densest part of a shrubbery, where only his ears and the grin between them could be seen among the foliage and his goat's shank among the lower branches. His effigy is shown n its legitimate place in Gabe's Picture, “Fête Galante.” That is the correct habitat of Pan, and that is where he would be shown in the hall of the Natural History Museum where every “exhibit” has its natural entourage. If I had a Dryad and had not a pond with reeds about its marge, I would make one for her accommodation, for, except with such surroundings she should not be seen in a garden. I have a Daphne, but she is an indoor one, being frailly made, and with a year's work of undercutting, in Greek marble—a precious copy of Bernini's masterpiece. But if I had an outdoor Daphne, I would not rest easy unless I knew that she was within easy touch of her laurel.

That is why I do not think that any hard and fast rule should be laid down in the matter of the disposal of statuary in a garden ground. But on the general principle of “the proper place,” I certainly am of the opinion expressed by the writer to whom I have referred—that this element of interest and beauty should be found mainly in connection with the stonework of the house. In any part of an Italian garden stone figures seem properly placed; because so much of that form of garden is made up of sculptured stone; but in the best examples of the art you will find that the statuary is placed with due regard to the “feature” it is meant to illustrate. It is, in fact, part of the design and eminently decorative, as well as being stimulating to the memory and suggestive to the imagination. In most of the English gardens that were planned and carried out during the greater part of the nineteenth century, the stone and lead figures that formed a portion of the original design of the earlier days were thrown about without the least reference to their fitness for the places they were forced to occupy; and the consequence was that they never seemed right: they seemed to have no business where they were; hence the creation of a prejudice against such things. Happily, however, now that it is taken for granted that garden design is the work of some one who is more of an architect than a horticulturist, though capability in the one direction is intolerable without its complement in the other, the garden ornamental is coming into its own again; and the prices which even ordinary and by no means unique examples fetch under the hammer show that they are being properly appreciated.

It is mainly in public parks that one finds the horticultural skill overbalanced, not by the architectural, but by the “Parks Committee” of the Town Council; consequently knowing, as every one must, the usual type of the Town Council Committee-man, one can only look for a display of ignorance, stupidity, and bad taste, the result of a combination of the three being sheer vulgarity. The Town Council usually have a highly competent horticulturist, and his part of the business is done well; but I have known many cases of the professional man being overruled by a vulgar, conceited member of the Committee even on a professional point, such as the arrangement of colour in a bed of single dahlias.

“My missus abominates yaller,” was enough to veto a thoroughly artistic scheme for a portion of a public garden.

I was in the studio of a distinguished portrait painter in London on what was called “Show Sunday”—the Sunday previous to the sending of the pictures to the Hanging Committee of the Royal Academy, and there I was introduced by the artist, who wanted to throw the fellow at somebody's head, not having anything handy that he could, without discourtesy, throw at the fellow's head, to a gentleman representing the Committee of Selection of a movement in one of the most important towns in the Midlands, to present the outgoing Lord Mayor with a portrait of himself. With so aggressively blatant a specimen of cast-iron conceit I had never previously been brought in contact. At least three of the portraits on the easels in the studio were superb. At the Academy Exhibition they attracted a great deal of attention and the most laudatory criticism. But the delegate from the Midlands shook his head at them and gave a derisive snuffle.

“Not up to much,” he muttered to me. “I reckon I'll deal in another shop. I ain't the sort as is carried away by the sound of a name. I may not be one of your crickets; but I know what I like and I know what I don't like, and these likenesses is them. Who's that old cock with the heyglass—I somehow seem to feel that I've seen him before?”

I told him that the person whom he indicated was Lord Goschen.

“I guessed he was something in that line—wears the heyglass to make people fancy he's something swagger. Well, so long.”

That was the last we saw of the delegate. He was not one of the horny-handed, I found out; but he had some connection with these art-arbiters; he was the owner of a restaurant that catered for artisans of the lower grade.

I had the curiosity to inquire of a friend living in the town he represented so efficiently, respecting the commission for the portrait, and he gave me the name of a flashy meretricious painter whose work was treated with derision from Chelsea to St. John's Wood. But my informant added that the Committee of the Council were quite pleased with the portrait, and had drunk the health of the painter on the day of its presentation.

When a distinguished writer expressed the opinion that there is safety in a multitude of councillors, he certainly did not mean Town Councillors. If he did he was wrong.

When on the subject of the garden ornamental, I should like to venture to express my opinion that it is a mistake to fancy that it is not possible to furnish your grounds tastefully and in a way that will add immensely to their interest unless with conventional objects—in the way of sundials or bird baths or vases or seats. I know that the Venetian well-heads which look so effective, cost a great deal of money, and so does the wrought-iron work if it is at all good, and unless it is good it is not worth possessing. But if you have an uncontrollable ambition to possess a wellhead, why not get the local builder to construct one for you, with rubble facing of hits of stone of varying colour, only asking a mason to make a sandstone coping for the rim and carve the edge? This could be done for three or four pounds, and if properly designed would make a most interesting and suggestive ornament.

There is scarcely a stonemason's yard in any town that will not furnish a person of some resource with many bits of spoilt carving that could be used to advantage if the fault is not obtrusive. If you live in a brick villa, you may consider yourself fortunate in some ways; for you need not trouble about stonework—brick-coloured terra-cotta ornaments will give a delightful sense of warmth to a garden, and these may be bought for very little if you go to the right place for them; and your builder's catalogue will enable you to see what an endless variety of sizes and shapes there is available in the form of enrichments for shop façades. Only a little imagination is required to allow of your seeing how you can work in some of these to advantage.

But, in my opinion, nothing looks better in a villa garden than a few large flower-pots of what I might perhaps call the natural shape. These never seem out of place and never in bad taste. Several that I have seen have a little enrichment, and if you get your builder to make up a low brick pedestal for each, using angle bricks and pier bricks, you will be out of pocket to the amount of a few shillings and you will have obtained an effect that will never pall on you. But you must remember that the pedestal—I should call it the stand—should be no more than a foot high. I do not advocate the employment of old terra-cotta drain-pipes for anything in a garden. Nothing can be made out of drain-pipes except a drain.

There is, of course, no need for any garden to depend on ornaments for good effect; a garden is well furnished with its flowers, and you will find great pleasure in realising your ideas and your ideals if you devote yourself to growth and growth only; all that I do affirm is that your pleasure will be greatly increased if you try by all the means in your power to make your garden worthy of the flowers. The “love that beauty should go beautifully,” will, I think, meet with its reward.

Of course, if you have a large piece of ground and take my advice in making several gardens instead of one only, you may make a red garden of some portion by using terra-cotta freely, and I am sure that the effect would be pleasing. I have often thought of doing this; but somehow I was never in possession of a piece of ground that would lend itself to such a treatment, though I have made a free use of terracotta vases along the rose border of my house garden, and I found that the placing of a large well-weathered Italian oil-jar between the pillars of a colonnade, inserting a pot of coloured daisies, was very effective, and intensely stimulating to the pantomime erudition of our visitors, for never did one catch a glimpse of these jars without crying, “Hallo! Ali Baba.” I promised to forfeit a sum of money equivalent to the price of one of the jars to a member of our family on the day when a friend walks round the place failing to mention the name of that wily Oriental. It is quite likely that behind my back they allude to the rose colonnade as “The Ali Baba place.”

Before I leave the subject of the garden ornamental, I must say a word as to the use of marble.

I have seen in many of those volumes of such good advice as will result, if it is followed, in the creation of a thoroughly conventional garden, that in England the use of marble out-of-doors cannot be tolerated. It may pass muster in Italy, where there are quarries of varions marbles, but it is quite unsuited to the English climate. The material is condemned as cold, and that is the last thing we want to achieve in these latitudes, and it is also “out of place”—so one book assures me, but without explaining on what grounds it is so, an omission which turns the assertion into a begging of the question.

But I am really at a loss to know why marble should be thought out of place in England. As a matter of fact, it is not so considered, for in most cemeteries five out of every six tombstones are of marble, and all the more important pieces of statuary—the life-size angels—I do not know exactly what is the life-size of an angel, or whether the angel has been standardised, so I am compelled to assume the human dimensions—and the groups of cherubs' heads supported on pigeon's wings are almost invariably carved in marble. These are the objects which are supposed to endure for centuries (the worst of it is that they do), so that the material cannot be condemned on account of its being liable to disintegrate under English climatic conditions: the mortality of marble cannot cease the moment it is brought into a graveyard.

The fact of its being mainly white accounts for the complaint that it conveys the impression of coldness; but it seems to me that this is just the impression which people look to acquire in some part of a garden. How many times has one not heard the exclamation from persons passing out of the sunshine into the grateful shade,—

“How delightfully cool!”

The finest chimney-pieces in the world are of white marble, and a chimney-piece should certainly not suggest cold.

That polished marble loses its gloss when it has been for some time in the open air is undeniable. But I wonder if it is not improved by the process, considering that in such a condition it assumes a delicate gray hue in the course of its “weathering” and a texture of its own of a much finer quality than can be found in ordinary Portland, Bath, or Caen stones.

I really see no reason why we should be told that marble—white marble—is unsuited to an English garden. In Italy we know how beautiful is its appearance, and I do not think that any one should be sarcastic in referring to the façades of some of the mansions in Fifth Avenue, New York City. At least three of these represent the best that can be bought combined with the best that can be thought. They do not look aggressively ostentatious, any more than does Milan Cathedral or Westminster Abbey, or Lyons' restaurants. Marble enters largely into the “frontages” of Fifth Avenue as well as those of other abodes of the wealthy in some of the cities of the United States; but we are warned off its use in the open air in England by writers who are not timid in formulating canons of what they call “good taste.” In the façade of the Cathedral at Pisa, there is a black column among the gray ones which are so effectively introduced in the Romanesque “blind arcading.” I am sorry that I forget what is the technical name for this treatment; but I have always thought, when feasting upon the architectural masterpiece, that the master-builder called each of these little columns by the name of one of his supporters, but that there was one member of the Consistory who was always nagging him, and he determined to set a black mark opposite his name; and did so very effectively by introducing the dark column, taking good care to let all his friends know the why and wherefore for his freak. I can see very plainly the grins of the townsfolk of the period when they saw what had been done, and hear the whispers of “Signor Antonio della colonna nigra,” when the grumbler walked by. The master-builders of those times were merry fellows, and some of them carried their jests—a few of them of doubtful humour—into the interior of a sacred building, as we may see when we inspect the carving of the underneath woodwork of many a miserere.

I should like to set down in black and white my protest against the calumniator of marble for garden ornaments in England, when we have so splendid an example of its employment in the Queen Victoria Memorial opposite Buckingham Palace—the noblest work of this character in England.

I should like also to write something scathing about the superior person who sneers at what I have heard called “Gin Palace Art.” This person is ready to condemn unreservedly the association of art with the public-house, the hotel, and even the tea-room. Now, considering the recent slump in real palaces—the bishops have begun calling their palaces houses—I think that some gratitude should be shown to those licensed persons who so amply recognise the fact that upon them devolves the responsibility of carrying on the tradition of the Palace. Long ago, in the days when there were real Emperors and Kings and Popes, it was an understood thing that a Royal Residence should be a depository of all the arts, and in every country except England, this assumption was nobly acted upon. If it had not been for the magnificent patronage—that is the right word, for it means protection—of many arts by the Church and by the State of many countries, we should know very little about the arts to-day. But when the men of many licences had the name “gin-palace” given to their edifices—it was given to them in the same spirit of obloquy as animated the scoffers of Antioch when they invented the name “Christian”—they nobly resolved to act as the Christians did, by trying to live up to their new name. We see how far success has crowned their resolution. The representative hostelries of these days go beyond the traditional king's house which was all glorious within—they are all glorious—so far as is consistent with educated taste—as to their exterior as well. A “tied house” really means nowadays one that is tied down to the resolution that the best traditions of the palace shall be maintained.

Let any one who can remember what the hotels and public-houses and eating-houses of forty years ago were like, say if the change that has been brought about is not an improvement that may be considered almost miraculous. In the old days when a man left the zinc counters of one of these places of refreshment, he was usually in a condition that was alluded to euphemistically as “elevated but nowadays the man who pays a visit to a properly equipped tavern is elevated in no euphemistic sense. I remember the cockroaches of the old Albion—they were so tame that they would eat out of your hand. But if they did, the habitués of that tavern had their revenge: some of these expert gastronomes professed to be able to tell from the flavour of the soup whether it had been seasoned with the cockroaches of the table or the black beetles of the kitchen.

“What do you mean, sir?” cried an indignant diner to the waiter—“I ordered portions for three, and yet there are only two cockroaches.”

I recollect in the old days of The Cock tavern in Fleet Street it was said when the report was circulated that it was enlarging its borders, that the name on the sign should be appropriately enlarged from the Cock to the Cockroach.

I heard an explanation given of the toleration shown by some of the frequenters of these places to the cockroach and the blackbeetle.

“They're afraid to complain,” said my informant, “lest it should be thought that they were seeing them, again.”

I shall never forget the awful dewey stare of a man who was facing a tumbler (his third) of hot punch in the Cheshire Cheese, at a mouse which made its appearance only a yard or two from where we were sitting shortly before closing time one night. He wiped his forehead and still stared. The aspect of relief that he showed when I made a remark about the tameness of the mouse, quite rewarded me for my interposition between old acquaintances.

Having mentioned the Cheshire Cheese in connection with the transition period from zinc to marble—marble is really my theme—I cannot resist the temptation to refer to the well-preserved tradition of Dr. Johnson's association with this place. Visitors were shown the place where Dr. Johnson was wont to sit night after night with his friends—nay, the very chair that he so fully occupied was on view; and among the most cherished memories of seeing “Old London” which people from America acquired, was that of being brought into such close touch with the eighteenth century by taking lunch in this famous place.

“There it was just as it had been in good old Samuel's day,” said a man who knew all about it. “Nothing in the dear old tavern had been changed since his day—nothing whatever—not even the sand or the sawdust or the smells.”

But it so happens that in the hundreds of volumes of contemporary Johnsoniana, not excepting Boswell's biography, there is no mention of the name of the Cheshire Cheese. There is not a shred of evidence to support the belief that Johnson was ever within its doors. The furthest that conjecture can reasonably go in this connection is that one has no right to assume that from the list of the taverns frequented by Johnson the name of the Cheshire Cheese should be excluded.

The fate of the Cheshire Cheese, however, proves that while tradition as an asset may be of great value to such a place, yet it has its limits. Just as soap and the “spellin' school” have done away with the romance of the noble Red Man, so against the influence of the marble of modernity, even the full flavoured aura of Dr. Johnson was unable to hold its own.

Thus I am brought back—not too late, I hope—to my original theme, which 1 think took the form of a protest against the protestations of those writers who believe that marble should not find its way into the ornamentation of an English garden. I have had seats and tables and vases and columns of various marbles in my House Garden—I have even had a fountain basin and carved panels of flowers and birds of the same material—but although some of them show signs of being affected by the climate, yet nothing has suffered in this way—on the contrary, I find that Sicilian and “dove” marbles have improved by “weathering.”

I have a large round table, the top of which is inlaid with a variety of coloured marbles, and as I allow this to remain out-of-doors during seven months of the year, I know what sorts best withstand the rigours of an English South Coast June; and I am inclined to believe that the ordinary “dove” shows the least sign of hardship at the end of the season. Of course, the top has lost all its polish, but the cost of repolishing such a table is not more than ten shillings—I had another one done some years ago, and that is the sum I was charged for the work by a well-known firm on the Fulham Road; so that if I should get tired of seeing it weather-beaten, I can get it restored without impoverishing the household.

And the mention of this leads me on to another point which should not be lost sight of in considering any scheme of garden decoration.

My Garden of Peace has never been one of “peace at any price.” I have happily been compelled to give the most inflexible attention to the price of everything. I like those books on garden design which tell you how easily you can get leaden figures and magnificent chased vases of bronze if you wish, but perhaps you would prefer carved stone. You have only to go to a well-known importer with a cheque-book and a consciousness of a workable bank balance, and the thing is done. So you will find in the pre-war cookery books the recipe beginning: “Take two dozen new-laid eggs, a quart of cream, and a pint of old brandy,” etc. These bits of advice make very good reading, and doubtless may be read with composure by some people, but I am not among their number.

That table, with the twelve panels and a heavy pedestal set on castors, cost me exactly half a crown at an auction. When new it was probably bought for twelve or fourteen pounds: it is by no means a piece of work of the highest class; for a first-class inlaid table one would have to pay something like forty or fifty pounds: I have seen one fetch £150 at an auction. But my specimen happened to be the Lot 1 in the catalogue, and people had not begun to warm to their bidding, marble, as I have already said, is regarded as cold. Another accident that told against its chances of inspiring a buyer was the fact that the pedestal wanted a screw, without which the top would not be in its place, and this made people think it imperfect and incapable of being put right except at great expense. The chief reason for its not getting beyond the initial bid was, however, that no one wanted it. The mothers, particularly those of “the better class,” in Yardley, are lacking in imagination. If they want a deal table for a kitchen, they will pay fifteen shillings for one, and ten shillings for a slab of marble to make their pastry on; but they would not give half a crown for a marble table which would serve for kitchen purposes a great deal better than a wooden one, and make a baking slab—it usually gets broken within a month—unnecessary.


Why I make so free a use of marble and advise others to do so, is not merely because I admire it in every form and colour, but because it can be bought so very cheaply upon occasions—infinitely more so than Portland or Bath stone. These two rarely come into the second-hand market, and in the mason's yard a slab is worth so much a square foot or a cubic foot. But people are now constantly turning out their shapeless marble mantelpieces and getting wooden ones instead, and the only person who will buy the former is the general dealer, and the most that he will give for one that cost £10 or £12 fifty years ago is 10s. or 12s. I have bought from dealers or builders possibly two dozen of these, never paying more than 10s. each for the best—actually for the one which I know was beyond question the best, I paid 6s., the price at which it was offered to me. An exceptionally fine one of statuary marble with fluted columns and beautifully carved Corinthian capitals and panels cost me 10s. This mantelpiece was discarded through one of those funny blunders which enable one to get a bargain. The owner of the house fancied that it was a production of 1860, when it really was a hundred years earlier. There are marble mantelpieces and marble mantelpieces. Some fetch 10s. and others £175. I knew a dealer who bought a large house solely to acquire the five Bossi mantelpieces which it contained. Occasionally one may pick up an eighteenth century crystal chandelier which has been discarded on the supposition that it was one of those shapeless and tasteless gasaliers which delighted our grandmothers in the days of rep and Berlin wool.

But from these confessions I hope no one will be so ungenerous as to fancy that my prediction for marble is to be accounted for only because of the chances of buying it cheaply. While I admit that I prefer buying a beautiful thing for a tenth of its value, I would certainly refuse to have anything to do with an ugly thing if it were offered to me for nothing. But the beauty of marble is unassailable. It has been recognised in every quarter of the world for thousands of years. The only question upon which opinion is divided is in regard to its suitability to the English climate. In this connection I beg leave to record my experience. I take it for granted that when I allude to marble, it will not be supposed that I include that soft gypsum—sulphate of lime—which masquerades under the name of alabaster, and is carved with the tools of a woodcarver, supplemented by a drill and a file, in many forms by Italian craftsmen. This material will last in the open air very little longer than the plaster of Paris, by which its numerous component parts are held together. It is worth nothing. True alabaster is quite a different substance. It is carbonate of lime and disintegrates very slowly. The tomb of Machiavelli in the Santa Croce in Florence is of the true alabaster, as are all the fifteenth and sixteenth century sarcophagi in the same quarter of the church; but none can be said to have suffered materially. It was widely used in memorial tablets three hundred or four hundred years ago. Shakespeare makes Othello refer to the sleeping Desdemona,—

“That whiter skin of hers than snow,

And smooth as monumental alabaster.”

We know that it was the musical word “alabaster” that found favour with Shakespeare, just as it was, according to Miss Ethel Smyth, Mus. Doc., the musical word “Tipperary,” that helped to make a song containing that word a favourite with Shakespeare's countrymen, who have never been found lacking in appreciation of a musical word or a rag-time inanity.

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