Whatever, therefore, leads man to assemble the comforts and elegancies of life around his habitation, tends to increase local attachments, and render domestic life more delightful; thus, not only augmenting his own enjoyment, but strengthening his patriotism, and making him a better citizen. And there is no employment or recreation which affords the mind greater or more permanent satisfaction than that of cultivating the earth and adorning our own property. 'God Almighty first planted a garden; and, indeed, it is the parent of human pleasures,' says Lord Bacon. And as the first man was shut out from the garden, in the cultivation of which no alloy was mixed with his happiness, the desire to return to it seems to be implanted by nature, more or less strongly, in every heart".
This book passed to instant popularity, and became a classic, invaluable to the thousands in every part of the country who were waiting for the master-word which should tell them what to do to make their homes as beautiful as they wished. Its fine scholarship in the literature and history of rural art; its singular dexterity in stating the great principles of taste, and their application to actual circumstances, with a clearness that satisfied the dullest mind; its genial grace of style, illuminated by the sense of that beauty which it was its aim to indicate, and with a cheerfulness which is one of the marked characteristics of Downing as an author; the easy mastery of the subject, and its intrinsic interest; - all these combined to secure to the book the position it has always occupied. The testimony of the men most competent to speak with authority in the matter was grateful, because deserved, praise. Loudon, the editor of "Repton's Landscape Gardening," and perhaps at the time the greatest living critic in the department of rural art, at once declared it "a masterly work;" and after quoting freely from its pages, remarked: "We have quoted largely from this work, because in so doing we think we shall give a just idea of the great merit of the author." Dr. Lindley, also, in his " Gardener's Chronicle," dissented from "some minor points," but said: "On the whole, we know of no work in which the fundamental principles of this profession are so well or so concisely expressed:" adding, "No English landscape gardener has written so clearly, or with so much real intensity".
The "quiet, thoughtful, and reserved boy" of the Montgomery Academy had thus suddenly displayed the talent which was not suspected by his school-fellows. The younger partner had now justified the expectation he aroused; and the long, silent, careful years of study and experience insured the permanent value of the results he announced. The following year saw the publication of the " Cottage Residences," in which the principles. of the. first volume were applied in detail. For the same reason it achieved a success similar to the "Landscape Gardening." Rural England recognized its great value. Loudon said: "It cannot fail to be of great service." Another said: "We stretch our arm across the 'big water' to tender our Yankee coadjutor an'English shake and a cordial recognition." These welcomes from those who knew what and why they welcomed, founded Downing's authority in the minds of the less learned, while the simplicity of his own statements confirmed it. From the publication of the "Landscape Gardening" until his death, he continued to be the chief American authority in rural art.
European honors soon began to seek the young gardener upon the Hudson. He had been for some time in correspondence with Loudon, and the other eminent men of the profession. He was now elected corresponding member of the Royal Botanic Society of London, of the Horticultural Societies of Berlin, the Low Countries, etc. Queen Anne of Denmark sent him "a magnificent ring," in acknowledgment of her pleasure in his works. But, as the years slowly passed, a sweeter praise saluted him than the Queen's ring, namely, the gradual improvement of the national rural taste, and the universal testimony that it was due to Downing. It was found as easy to live in a handsome house as in one that shocked all sense of propriety and beauty. The capabilities of the landscape began to develop themselves to the man who looked at it from his windows, with Downing's books in his hand. Mr. Wilder says that a gentleman "who is eminently qualified to form an enlightened judgment," declared that much of the improvement that has taken place in this country during the last twelve years, in rural architecture and in ornamental gardening and planting, may be ascribed to him.
Another gentleman, "speaking of suburban cottages'in the West," says: "I asked the origin of so much taste, and was told it might principally be traced to 'Downing's Cottage Residences' and the 'Horticulturist.'" He was naturally elected an honorary member of most of the Horticultural Societies in the country; and as his interest in rural life was universal, embracing no less the soil and cultivation, than the plant, and flower, and fruit, with the residence of the cultivator, he received the same honor from the Agricultural Associations.
Meanwhile his studies were unremitting; and in 1845 Wiley & Putnam published in New York and London "The Fruits and Fruit Trees of America," a volume of six hundred pages. The duodecimo edition had only lineal drawings. The large octavo was illustrated with finely colored plates, executed in Paris, from drawings made in this country from the original fruits. It is a masterly resume of the results of American experience in the history, character, and growth of fruit, to the date of its publication. The fourteenth edition was published in the year 1852.