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.
You probably recollect the story in "Salmagundi," told by the meditative Launcelot Langstaff, of his "Uncle John," when on a visit to him, then in his country retirement, enjoying a cheerful and merry old age; and how the old gentleman related to his nephew, with all the vivacious garrulity of a boy, what improvements he had made, and what more he was going to make; and how, a few months after, our narrator was sorely shocked at the news of his ancle's death, just as he had worked down comfortably into a bed of rocks, where he was blowing out a fish-pond?
I fear the example of " Uncle John," is too often followed now-a-days, for either the enjoyment or the profit of many " retired citizens." If a great many people who determine to retire to country residences, after making their fortunes in codfish and candles, or other honest and praiseworthy vocations, equally distinct from the cultivation of a taste of what truly belongs to an American country place, would first employ some honest man of capacity in such matters, to fit them up a place by contract, it would save many a dollar to their pockets, and a world of groaning over their folly, when they had cooled down from the excitement of over-looking the outlay of their money. The difficulty is, that every man who knows, experimentally, nothing about it, thinks he knows it all, and can get up just as good a place on a bleak side hill, or on a leaching gravelly piece of plain, as another one has done, who has availed himself of a century of nature's industry, in strewing her trees over a beautiful undulating surface, and only combed her out, and thrown her tortuous twistings into agreeable shape. But I am satisfied there is no help for it. Os-tentation in expenditure has as much to do with the absurdities of getting up country places, as the desire to provide an agreeable residence.
How would their rustic neighbors know they had money, unless they saw them spend it?
Nine men in every ten, who get up a country place themselves, get tired of, and abandon it, in less than ten years after it is completed - or more frequently in half the time. The philosophy of country life they never studied when young, or while toiling in the every-day excitement of business, in accumulating their estates; and when they think they want to enjoy retirement, are too old to learn it. A man, to enjoy the country in the decline of life, must know the country when young. He must keep up a constant intimacy with it all the while. ' He must love it too, and appreciate its pleasures. If he cannot do this, better to stay in the city, and only pass out now and then, for a jaunt to Saratoga, Newport, or Niagara, and spend the rest of his sunshine in his old haunts of the crowded city, and amid the noisome atmosphere of the docks, the sinuosities of the chambers of Nassau-street, or the nicer moral influence of the board of brokers!