This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
THE increase of a taste for Rural Life among us Americans is one of the best features of the times in which we live. The enormous fortunes in Europe have had their uses in exhibiting examples of what superb results may be produced by grouping, gardening, and fine single specimens of trees. Americans have seen the beautiful parks and grounds abroad, and have said to themselves, There is no reason why we should not have beauties of equal interest; we can enjoy at least as much as the nobleman; and we too will plant. Scarcely a traveller returns from Europe without having his ideas of beautiful scenery strengthened and improved. He has seen what effects time produces, aided by industry and taste; and no sooner does he touch his natal soil than he discovers that we possess the means of pursuing rural art, and have trees and sites for improvement not rivalled by any nation on the earth. He projects his rural home, studies the subject, and soon posesses a residence which contains within itself the means of as much true enjoyment as the most palatial mansion. Architects of no mean pretensions, and with a knowledge of our climatic influences, are not now rare among us.
With a little study of the hardy trees and shrubs by himself, aided by the advice of those who have already experimented, there have grown in America in every State, and in every direction, beautiful residences, handsome grounds, and intelligent inhabitants, which a national pride rejoices to see, and a mind which can appreciate the true and the beautiful in human nature, no less than in landscape, may well take pleasure in contemplating.
The American citizen, as he acquires the means of repose, eschews the topics and the conversation which cities engender; his local attachments to a street give place to the love of a garden; business is thrown aside as a burthen too great in his contemplation of the brief space he is allotted on earth; and he feels that a quiet mind is the grand desideratum for age, and possibly of infirmity. It was the habit of our immediate ancestry to make the country their home during the warm season only. Thousands who have now their houses amid rural scenes would only have visited the country in summer in former times. Our intercourse with such is mostly attended by the remark that " the winter is the pleasantest part of the year in the country." Winter, to the citizen, comprises all the months between August and July! How erroneous 1 They miss the season of buds and early flowers, and feel not the pleasures of watching the ripening fruit; they know not the beauties of the early snowdrop, and rarely witness the changing colors of the forest, those seasons most in favor with the true lover of the country. When they arrive in summer at the rural retreat, the heat and dust are the reigning tyrants, and they are but too glad to escape the annoyance.
Not so the real lover; he enjoys the society of the moving clouds; admires the winter sunsets, and as he paces the south side of his evergreen hedge, wonders that any one can prefer the gas light of city streets, or pay tribute to the awkward representations of theatrical scenery. No - No! - The real enjoyments of country life begin just as the citizen adjourns to town.
The sleigh-ride of winter, the frozen stream, the evergreens covered with their white robes, the gathering of the ice, the cozy winter evening with one's book, or a friend with sympathetic mind; the closed shutter which keeps safely out the wintry blast, the sense that. our care has secured all the inhabitants, as well as the dumb beasts dependent upon us for shelter, from the terrors of the storm; all these feelings have a charm which we never enjoy in cities. The evening chat, its reading, or its innocent music or game of chess, a call upon a neighbor, perhaps ensconced in snow boots, or raised on pattens or gum elastics, a walk in the invigorating wind, and an appetite for a cold cut and a salad of one's own raising, or nuts and fruit from your own garden - where can you find the counterpart? Certainly not in the party illumined by diamonds, and the artificial glow of animated imbecility.
The rational portions of great cities have well considered these things; and now every railroad which can convey the pent up denizen of closely packed squares, carries to the country the sensible father or the youthful husband, in numbers which statistics render perfectly wonderful. We know there are many remain who would wish to do likewise, and to such we would give encouragement by occasionally adverting to the pleasures to be enjoyed, and the moral influences which the country calls forth. But we have a word of caution too. Prepare for this by a little study of vegetable life; learn to know one form of vegetation from another; call as many trees and roses by their proper names as possible; read books on rural topics, and the more you love the best books the better will you enjoy either town or country.