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.
LANDSCAPE Gardeners and Architects sometimes use a phrase that has much meaning., "Expression of Purpose" has a significance in many cases which no other simple phrase conveys. The builder who erects a mansion having a few little port-holes for third story windows, ex-presses a determined purpose of making a hot chamber for those who may have to sleep in the attic; the gardener who omits to mow his lawn at the proper time, says to the spectator, either that he is careless, or that his purposed neatness has been interfered with; and so through the whole catalogue of building, planting, and garden or farm work. The commercial gardener who is a beginner, and with his capital to make, if he erects a grapery or a rosary of a height that is too small for ornament, or with inferior or second-hand materials, until he can do better, violates none of the proprieties; his purpose is fully expressed, and we are not pained to consider how ornamental a few hundred dollars more might have made his project.
Violations of the proper expression of purpose are so common that we are only puzzled to keep down our illustrations. They result too often from ignorance, and rom a want of observation when good examples are before us. We have lately seen an attempt to conceal a kitchen which has a frontage on a parallel with the mansion, by planting the Weymouth pine in front of each window, trees which notoriously produce but partially the desired screen, and are almost certain to lose their lower limbs; hemlocks regularly sheared twice a year, would have a different and happier result. The stable, again, is too often at a distance from the kitchen garden; the manure for enriching the crops is placed inconveniently, from the time employed in transporting it; the kitchen garden is often removed far from the dwelling, and the fruit has to be carried to such a distance that it is injured, and when it is growing it is not under the eye of the master; the purposed object of having fine fruit when it is wanted, or a spear or two of celery for the soup, in a hurry, is defeated.
We pardon the nearness of the kitchen garden to the house, because the purpose is expressed, at the same time that the full exposure of the manure heap to the windows is entirely needless; the processes may nearly all be concealed, while the object is fully attained; the growing fruit interspersed among the vegetables, will take off, to the cultivated eye, anything like disgust; the stables within reach in stormy weather also express the care which the inmates of the house exercise over their useful animals.
Again, a distinction must be made between the words ornament and decoration. "The former should include," says a judicious critic, " every enrichment bearing the semblance of utility; the latter is supposed to have no relation whatever to the uses or construction of the building; thus, for instance, a house may answer all the purposes of habitation without a column, a pilaster, an entablature, a pediment, a dome, an arcade, or a balustrade, which I call the external ornaments of Grecian architecture. I include under the word decorations - statues, vases, basso-relievos, sculpture, etc., which have no use, but as additional enrichments to the ornaments of architecture; on the contrary, where these decoration* are applied to plain buildings without ornaments, thay are marks of bad taste".
Overloading a small garden with buildings, fountains, and statuary (statutes at large, as a legal friend calls the latter), expresses a purpose of getting more delight from the garden, and of a kind that it is too well known it does not often afford, especially when they are displayed with the utmost effort. A quiet seat in a secluded nook, sheltered from the sun and rain, with a book-shelf partially filled, and surmounted by a modest bust of Thomson or Milton, expresses a purpose that no one can mistake, and if the seat commands a view of interest - as of a busy city, at the time when its toiling thousands are making up their bank payments, or the sailor is unfurling his artificial wings for a distant clime, everything is combined to make one hug his solitude, and to entice us to useful retirement and contemplation. Place the same building in a conspicuous walk, frequented by every transient passer, in a glaring sun, and looking upon an unsightly object, and the entire solace of agreeable associations is lost, even though the same poets court your attention.
A double row of evergreens placed so as to keep off the northern blast, and feathered to the ground, forms, on the southern side*, a winter's walk, genial to the mind as well as the body, where one can stroll defiant of nature's gusts, with the feeling of admiration for the mind that planned and the hand that directed so purposed and excellent a result. Visit this man's neighbor, who has not assisted nature to come to his aid, and you find his family complaining of the bitter cold, afraid to venture abroad least they lose their hats or their tempers, deprived of wholesome air and exercise, without animation and devoid of purpose.
In the interior of a dwelling the same expressions strike you or not in proportion as forethought and refinement have planned and executed. Well-assorted colors in furniture, hangings and carpets, are not combined without study aided by taste; how often do we see green, purple, and orange colours congregated, without their owner being aware that they are almost annihilated by mixture, and much improved by contiguity with red, yellow, and blue colors respectively. The most expensively furnished room may be utterly valueless and even painful to the eye of taste where well-known rules in this respect are violated. The dining room should not be hung with pictures calling forth melancholy associations, but rather with portraits of game and sporting scenes; venison is a more agreeable thought at dinner than the head of "St. John the Baptist in a charger," borne by an awkward damsel in a short apron. The very paper on the walls should have its expression, and the light should be admitted so as to cast cheerfulness over the guests; these are not such entirely artificial feelings and results, but that they may be introduced more or less into the humblest cottage where the owner thinks it due to his wife and children to sit down to dine with clean hands and his coat on his back.
The dining room naturally suggests the connection that exists between it and the kitchen; where the latter is buried under ground, as we too often see in Country houses, the naked, solitary appearance of the house is unrelieved. Few things give importance and consequence, and even variety to a mansion as the accompaniment or attendance of the inferior parts in their different gradations. Even the stables may be made to contribute to the beauty of the whole scene, and to raise, not degrade, the principal part. The "cellar kitchen" in the country is only tolerable where the house is situated on a declivity; the expression of purpose is here palpable and even agreeable, as we know at once the object, and do not feel that the inmates are troubled with the dampness which more or less accompanies all underground rooms, and is so needless where space is abundant in the country. A terraced garden on a sleep declivity has the expression we are enforcing, in the same degree as a covered walk from the house to the conservatory; or a covered porch for the carriage to drive under at the door; they may even be somewhat out of keeping with the architecture of the place, but the expression of purpose satisfies the mind; the utility is at once apparent.
An ambitious tower, too high for the mansion, has evidently a purpose, but we never see one without reflecting on the toils of the resident, and of how very soon his ascending steps to obtain the view, give way to ennui and fatigue; a view to be thoroughly enjoyed must be within reach without fatigue; indeed, should present itself when the enjoyment of repose after needful toil inclines to rest and contemplation. A high tower, after a certain number of ascents, is apt to be only a part of the exterior aspect of the mansion and is then left to its own enjoyment. The purpose was a cherished one to the builder; the view is exhibited to visitors, and then forgotten; whereas if it occurred in a stroll through the grounds, or was the accompaniment of a bower in the garden, it would be a perpetual source of delight. We have known a site selected purely because a great city could be seen from the roof, and the owner has confessed that he goes up on an average but once a year.