Rural Essays Downing

Rural Essays Downing-69
He was a dreamer and a schemer, a Ben Franklin crossed with a Phineas T.

He was a dreamer and a schemer, a Ben Franklin crossed with a Phineas T.

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2: Devoted to Horticulture, Landscape Gardening, Rural Architecture, Botany, Pomology, Entomology, Rural Economy, &c.; July 1847 June 1848The Horticulturist, and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste, Vol.

Downing was, and remains, a culture hero despite dying young; his life story, full of bravado and singular accomplishment, has been neglected in recent years.

In 1847, for but one example, condemned him for “corrupting the public taste, and infecting the parvenues with a mania of Gothic Castle-building.” To which his advocates would say, better to have humble board-and-batten construction, in woodland colors, than stark white Grecian temples.

So before I come down on the side of the churls or the defenders, let me tell you a bit about this romantic yet scientific, darkly brooding yet cheerfully companionate bundle of contradictions.

But, when smiling lawns and tasteful cottages begin to embellish a country, we know that order and culture are established.” But Downing was not merely an apostle of taste, an Emily Post arbiter for the masses.

Architect, landscaper, pomologist, and author, he campaigned for the artful domestication of America’s wilderness in book after book, as well as in his monthly editorial in He was truly one of the most celebrated figures of the pre-Civil War period, and that he accomplished so much in the mere 36 years of his life is a marvel and a reproach to slackers like me.

Cut off in his prime, he joined other such deified national figures — mostly martial ones like Nathan Hale or Davy Crockett.

Those golden boys who die young, from Arthur Rimbaud to Buddy Holly, from Stephen Crane to Elvis, are forever young in the land of might have been, safe.

Twombly has selected 33 influential essays, most from The Horticulturist, grouped them by subject, and provided them with concise introductions and annotations.

In them we can see exactly how Downing encouraged the move away from orthogonal, classical design practices toward the irregular, curving, and picturesque and how he inspired similar improvements in the public realm: “we confidently wait for the time when public park, public gardens, public galleries and tasteful villages shall be among the peculiar features of our happy republic.” Yglesias, who is a practicing architect in Washington, D. as well as a Ph D in the history and theory of architecture, combines these interests in her book, beginning with a summary of Downing’s life, well-illustrated in black and white.


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