Frank Frankfort Moore.

A garden of peace, a medley in quietude online

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garden stone figures seem properly placed; because
so much of that form of garden is made up of sculp-
tured stone; but in the best examples of the art you
will find that the statuary is placed with due regard
to the " feature " it is meant to illustrate. It is, in
fact, part of the design and eminently decorative, as
well as being stimulating to the memory and sugges-
tive to the imagination. In most of the English gar-
dens that were planned and carried out during the
greater part of the nineteenth century, the stone and
lead figures that formed a portion of the original
design of the earlier days were thrown about without
the least reference to their fitness for the places they
were forced to occupy; and the consequence was that
they never seemed right : they seemed to have no busi-
ness where they were; hence the creation of a preju-
dice against such things. Happily, however, now


that it is taken for granted that garden design is the
work of some one who is more of an architect than
a horticulturist, though capability in the one direction
is intolerable without its complement in the other, the
garden ornamental is coming into its own again ; and
the prices which even ordinary and by no means
unique examples fetch under the hammer show that
they are being properly appreciated.

It is mainly in public parks that one finds the hor-
ticultural skill overbalanced, not by the architectural,
but by the " Parks Committee " of the Town Coun-
cil; consequently knowing, as every one must, the
usual type of the Town Council Committee-man, one
can only look for a display of ignorance, stupidity,
and bad taste, the result of a combination of the three
being sheer vulgarity. The Town Council usually
have a highly competent horticulturist, and his part
of the business is done well ; but I have known many
cases of the professional man being overruled by a
vulgar, conceited member of the Committee even on
a professional point, such as the arrangement of
colour in a bed of single dahlias.

" My missus abominates yaller," was enough to
veto a thoroughly artistic scheme for a portion of a
public garden.

I was in the studio of a distinguished portrait
painter in London on what was called " Show Sun-
day " the Sunday previous to the sending of the
pictures to the Hanging Committee of the Royal
Academy, and there I was 'introduced by the artist,
who wanted to throw the fellow at somebody's head,.


not having anything handy that he could, without dis-
courtesy, throw at the fellow's head, to a gentleman
representing the Committee of Selection of a move-
ment in one of the most important towns in the Mid-
lands, to present the outgoing Lord Mayor with a
portrait of himself. With so aggressively blatant a
specimen of cast-iron conceit I had never previously
been brought in contact. At least three of the por-
traits on the easels in the studio were superb. At
the Academy Exhibition they attracted a great deal
of attention and the most laudatory criticism. But
the delegate from the Midlands shook his head at
them and gave a derisive snuffle.

" Not up to much," he muttered to me. " I reckon
I'll deal in another shop. I ain't the sort as is carried
away by the sound of a name. I may not be one of
your crickets; but I know what I like and I know
what I don't like, and these likenesses is them. Who's
that old cock with the heyglass I somehow seem to
feel that I've seen him before?"

I told him that the person whom he indicated was
Lord Goschen.

" I guessed he was something in that line wears
the heyglass to make people fancy he's something
swagger. Well, so long."

That was the last we saw of the delegate. He was
not one of the horny-handed, I found out; but he had
some connection with these art-arbiters; he was the
owner of a restaurant that catered for artisans of the
lower grade.

I had the curiosity to inquire of a friend living in


the town he represented so efficiently, respecting the
commission for the portrait, and he gave me the name
of a flashy meretricious painter whose work was
treated with derision from Chelsea to St. John's
Wood. But my informant added that the Committee
of the Council were quite pleased with the portrait,
and had drunk the health of the painter on the day of
its presentation.

When a distinguished writer expressed the opinion
that there is safety in a multitude of councillors, he
certainly did not mean Town Councillors. If he did
he was wrong.

When on the subject of the garden ornamental, I
should like to venture to express my opinion that it is
a mistake to fancy that it is not possible to furnish
your grounds tastefully and in a way that will add
immensely to their interest unless with conventional
objects in the way of sundials or bird baths or vases
or seats. I know that the Venetian well-heads which
look so effective, cost a great deal of money, and so
does the wrought-iron work if it is at all good, and
unless it is good it is not worth possessing. But if
you have an uncontrollable ambition to possess a well-
head, why not get the local builder to construct one
for you, with rubble facing of bits of stone of varying
colour, only asking a mason to make a sandstone
coping for the rim and carve the edge? This could be
done for three or four pounds, and if properly de-
signed would make a most interesting and suggestive

There is scarcely a stonemason's yard in any town


that will not furnish a person of some resource with
many bits of spoilt carving that could be used to
advantage if the fault is not obtrusive. If you live
in a brick villa, you may consider yourself fortunate
in some ways; for you need not trouble about stone-
work brick-coloured terra-cotta ornaments will give
a delightful sense of warmth to a garden, and these
may be bought for very little if you go to the right
place for them; and your builder's catalogue will
enable you to see what an endless variety of sizes and
shapes there is available in the form of enrichments
for shop fagades. Only a little imagination is re-
quired to allow of your seeing how you can work in
some of these to advantage.

But, in my opinion, nothing looks better in a villa
garden than a few large flower-pots of what I might
perhaps call the natural shape. These never seem out
of place and never in bad taste. Several that I have
seen have a little enrichment, and if you get your
builder to make up a low brick pedestal for each,
using angle bricks and pier bricks, you will be out
of pocket to the amount of a few shillings and you
will have obtained an effect that will never pall on
you. But you must remember that the pedestal
I should call it the stand should be no more than a
foot high. I do not advocate the employment of old
terra-cotta drain-pipes for anything in a garden.
Nothing can be made out of drain-pipes except a

There is, of course, no need for any garden to de-
pend on ornaments for good effect; a garden is well


furnished with its flowers, and you will find great
pleasure in realising your ideas and your ideals if you
devote yourself to growth and growth only; all that
I do affirm is that your pleasure will be greatly in-
creased if you try by all the means in your power
to make your garden worthy of the flowers. The
" love that beauty should go beautifully," will, I
think, meet with its reward.

Of course, if you have a large piece of ground and
take my advice in making several gardens instead of
one only, you may make a red garden of some por-
tion by using terra-cotta freely, and I am sure that
the effect would be pleasing. I have often thought
of doing this; but somehow I was never in possession
of a piece of ground that would lend itself to such a
treatment, though I have made a free use of terra-
cotta vases along the rose border of my house garden,
and I found that the placing of a large well-weathered
Italian oil- jar between the pillars of a colonnade,
inserting a pot of coloured daisies, was very effective,
and intensely stimulating to the pantomime erudition
of our visitors, for never did one catch a glimpse of
these jars without crying, "Hallo! Ali Baba." I
promised to forfeit a sum of money equivalent to the
price of one of the jars to a member of our family on
the day when a friend walks round the place failing
to mention the name of that wily Oriental. It is quite
likely that behind my back they allude to the rose
colonnade as " The Ali Baba place."

Before I leave the subject of the garden orna-
mental, I must say a word as to the use of marble.


I have seen in many of those volumes of such good
advice as will result, if it is followed, in the creation
of a thoroughly conventional garden, that in England
the use of marble out-of-doors cannot be tolerated.
It may pass muster in Italy, where there are quarries
of various marbles, but it is quite unsuited to the
English climate. The material is condemned as cold,
and that is the last thing we want to achieve in these
latitudes, and it is also " out of place " so one book
assures me, but without explaining on what grounds
it is so, an omission which turns the assertion into a
begging of the question.

But I am really at a loss to know why marble
should be thought out of place in England. As a
matter of fact, it is not so considered, for in most
cemeteries five out of every six tombstones are of
marble, and all the more important pieces of statuary
the life-size angels I do not know exactly what is
the life-size of an angel, or whether the angel has been
standardised, so I am compelled to assume the human
dimensions and the groups of cherubs' heads sup-
ported on pigeon's wings are almost invariably carved
in marble. These are the objects which are sup-
posed to endure for centuries (the worst of it is that
they do), so that the material cannot be condemned
on account of its being liable to disintegrate under
English climatic conditions: the mortality of marble
cannot cease the moment it is brought into a grave-

The fact of its being mainly white accounts for the
complaint that it conveys the impression of coldness ;


but it seems to me that this is just the impression
which people look to acquire in some part of a gar-
den. How many times has one not heard the excla-
mation from persons passing out of the sunshine into
the grateful shade,

"How delightfully cool!"

The finest chimney-pieces in the world are of
white marble, and a chimney-piece should certainly
not suggest cold.

That polished marble loses its gloss when it has
been for some time in the open air is undeniable. But
I wonder if it is not improved by the process, consid-
ering that in such a condition it assumes a delicate
gray hue in the course of its " weathering " and a
texture of its own of a much finer quality than
can be found in ordinary Portland, Bath, or Caen

I really see no reason why we should be told that
marble white marble is unsuited to an English
garden. In Italy we know how beautiful is its ap-
pearance, and I do not think that any one should be
sarcastic in referring to the fa9ades of some of the
mansions in Fifth Avenue, New York City. At least
three of these represent the best that can be bought
combined with the best that can be thought. They do
not look aggressively ostentatious, any more than
does Milan Cathedral or Westminster Abbey, or
Lyons' restaurants. Marble enters largely into the
" frontages " of Fifth Avenue as well as those of
other abodes of the wealthy in some of the cities of
the United States; but we are warned off its use in


the open air in England by writers who are not timid
in formulating canons of what they call " good taste."
In the facade of the Cathedral at Pisa, there is a
black column among the gray ones which are so
effectively introduced in the Romanesque " blind
arcading." I am sorry that I forget what is the tech-
nical name for this treatment; but I have always
thought, when feasting upon the architectural mas-
terpiece, that the master-builder called each of these
little columns by the name of one of his supporters,
but that there was one member of the Consistory who
was always nagging him, and he determined to set a
black mark opposite his name; and did so very effec-
tively by introducing the dark column, taking good
care to let all his friends know the why and wherefore
for his freak. I can see very plainly the grins of the
townsfolk of the period when they saw what had been
done, and hear the whispers of " Signor Antonio della
colonna nigra," when the grumbler walked by. The
master-builders of those times were merry fellows,
and some of them carried their jests a few of them
of doubtful humour into the interior of a sacred
building, as we may see when we inspect the carving
of the underneath woodwork of many a miserere.

I should like to set down in black and white my
protest against the calumniator of marble for garden
ornaments in England, when we have so splendid an
example of its employment in the Queen Victoria
Memorial opposite Buckingham Palace the noblest
work of this character in England.

I should like also to write something scathing about


the superior person who sneers at what I have heard
called " Gin Palace Art." This person is ready to
condemn unreservedly the association of art with the
public-house, the hotel, and even the tea-room. Now,
considering the recent slump in real palaces the
bishops have begun calling their palaces houses I
think that some gratitude should be shown to those
licensed persons who so amply recognise the fact that
upon them devolves the responsibiltiy of carrying on
the tradition of the Palace. Long ago, in the days
when there were real Emperors and Kings and
Popes, it was an understood thing that a Royal Resi-
dence should be a depository of all the arts, and in
every country except England, this assumption was
nobly -cted upon. If it had not been for the mag-
nificent patronage that is the right word, for it
means protection of many arts by the Church and
by the State of many countries, we should know very
little about the arts to-day. But when the men of
many licences had the name " gin-palace " given to
their edifices it was given to them in the same spirit
of obloquy as animated the scoffers of Antioch when
they invented the name " Christian " they nobly
resolved to act as the Christians did, by trying to
live up to their new name. We see how far success
has crowned their resolution. The representative
hostelries of these days go beyond the traditional
king's house which was all glorious within they are
all glorious so far as is consistent with educated
taste as to their exterior as well. A " tied house "
really means nowadays one that is tied down to the


resolution that the best traditions of the palace shall
be maintained.

Let any one who can remember what the hotels and
public-houses and eating-houses of forty years ago
were like, say if the change that has been brought
about is not an improvement that may be considered
almost miraculous. In the old days when a man left
the zinc counters of one of these places of refresh-
ment, he was usually in a condition that was alluded
to euphemistically as " elevated "; but nowadays the
man who pays a visit to a properly equipped tavern
is elevated in no euphemistic sense. I remember the
cockroaches of the old Albion they were so tame
that they would eat out of your hand. But if they
did, the habitues of that tavern had their revenge:
some of these expert gastronomes professed to be able
to tell from the flavour of the soup whether it had
been seasoned with the cockroaches of the table or
the black beetles of the kitchen.

"What do you mean, sir?" cried an indignant
diner to the waiter " I ordered portions for three,
and yet there are only two cockroaches."

I recollect in the old days of The Cock tavern in
Fleet Street it was said when the report was cir-
culated that it was enlarging its borders, that the
name on the sign should be appropriately enlarged
from the Cock to the Cockroach.

I heard an explanation given of the toleration
shown by some of the frequenters of these places to
the cockroach and the blackbeetle.

" They're afraid to complain," said my informant,


" lest it should be thought that they were seeing them
again/ 3

I shall never forget the awful dewey stare of a man
who was facing a tumbler (his third) of hot punch
in the Cheshire Cheese, at a mouse which made its ap-
pearance only a yard or two from where we were
sitting shortly before closing time one night. He
wiped his forehead and still stared. The aspect of
relief that he showed when I made a remark about
the tameness of the mouse, quite rewarded me for
my interposition between old acquaintances.

Having mentioned the Cheshire Cheese in connec-
tion with the transition period from zinc to marble
marble is really my theme I cannot resist the
temptation to refer to the well-preserved tradition
of Dr. Johnson's association with this place. Visi-
tors were shown the place where Dr. Johnson was
wont to sit night after night with his friends nay,
the very chair that he so fully occupied was on view;
and among the most cherished memories of seeing
" Old London " which people from America acquired,
was that of being brought into such close touch with
the eighteenth century by taking lunch in this famous

" There it was just as it had been in good old Sam-
uel's day," said a man who knew all about it. " Noth-
ing in the dear old tavern had been changed since his
day nothing whatever not even the sand or the
sawdust or the smells."

But it so happens that in the hundreds of volumes
of contemporary Johnsoniana, not excepting Bos-


well's biography, there is no mention of the name of
the Cheshire Cheese. There is not a shred of evidence
to support the belief that Johnson was ever within
its doors. The furthest that conjecture can reasona-
bly go in this connection is that one has no right to
assume that from the list of the taverns frequented
by Johnson the name of the Cheshire Cheese should
be excluded.

The fate of the Cheshire Cheese, however, proves
that while tradition as an asset may be of great value
to such a place, yet it has its limits. Just as soap
and the " spellin' school " have done away with the
romance of the noble Red Man, so against the in-
fluence of the marble of modernity, even the full fla-
voured aura of Dr. Johnson was unable to hold its

Thus I am brought back not too late, I hope to
my original theme, which I think took the form of
a protest against the protestations of those writers
who believe that marble should not find its way into
the ornamentation of an English garden. I have had
seats and tables and vases and columns of various
marbles in my House Garden I have even had a
fountain basin and carved panels of flowers and birds
of the same material but although some of them
show signs of being affected by the climate, yet noth-
ing has suffered in this way on the contrary, I find
that Sicilian and " dove " marbles have improved by
" weathering."

I have a large round table, the top of which is in-
laid with a variety of coloured marbles, and as I allow


this to remain out-of-doors during seven months of
the year, I know what sorts best withstand the rigours
of an English South Coast June; and I am inclined
to believe that the ordinary " dove " shows the least
sign of hardship at the end of the season. Of course,
the top has lost all its polish, but the cost of repol-
ishing such a table is not more than ten shillings I
had another one done some years ago, and that is the
sum I was charged for the work by a well-known firm
on the Fulham Road ; so that if I should get tired of
seeing it weather-beaten, I can get it restored without
impoverishing the household.

And the mention of this leads me on to another
point which should not be lost sight of in considering
any scheme of garden decoration.

My Garden of Peace has never been one of " peace
at any price." I have happily been compelled to give
the most inflexible attention to the price of everything.
I like those books on garden design which tell you how
easily you can get leaden figures and magnificent
chased vases of bronze if you wish, but perhaps you
would prefer carved stone. You have only to go to
a well-known importer with a cheque-book and a con-
sciousness of a workable bank balance, and the thing
is done. So you will find in the pre-war cookery books
the recipe beginning: " Take two dozen new-laid eggs,
a quart of cream, and a pint of old brandy," etc.
These bits of advice make very good reading, and
doubtless may be read with composure by some peo-
ple, but I am not among their number.

That table, with the twelve panels and a heavy


[Page 20*


pedestal set on castors, cost me exactly half a crown
at an auction. When new it was probably bought for
twelve or fourteen pounds: it is by no means a piece
of work of the highest class; for a first-class inlaid
table one would have to pay something like forty or
fifty pounds: I have seen one fetch 150 at an auc-
tion. But my specimen happened to be the Lot 1 in
the catalogue, and people had not begun to warm to
their bidding, marble, as I have already said, is re-
garded as cold. Another accident that told against its
chances of inspiring a buyer was the fact that the ped-
estal wanted a screw, without which the top would not
lie in its place, and this made people think it imper-
fect and incapable of being put right except at great
expense. The chief reason for its not getting beyond
the initial bid was, however, that no one wanted it.
The mothers, particularly those of " the better class,"
in Yardley, are lacking in imagination. If they want
a deal table for a kitchen, they will pay fifteen shill-
ings for one, and ten shillings for a slab of marble
to make their pastry on ; but they would not give half
a crown for a marble table which would serve for
kitchen purposes a great deal better than a wooden
one, and make a baking slab it usually gets broken
within a month unnecessary.

Why I make so free a use of marble and advise
others to do so, is not merely because I admire it in
every form and colour, but because it can be bought
so very cheaply upon occasions infinitely more so
than Portland or Bath stone. These two rarely come
into the second-hand market, and in the mason's yard


a slab is worth so much a square foot or a cubic foot.
But people are now constantly turning out their
shapeless marble mantelpieces and getting wooden
ones instead, and the only person who will buy the
former is the general dealer, and the most that he
will give for one that cost .10 or <12 fifty years ago
is 10s. or 12s. I have bought from dealers or build-
ers possibly two dozen of these, never paying more
than 10s. each for the best actually for the one which
I know was beyond question the best, I paid 6s., the
price at which it was offered to me. An exceptionally
fine one of statuary marble with fluted columns and
beautifully carved Corinthian capitals and panels cost
me 10s. This mantelpiece was discarded through one
of those funny blunders which enable one to get a
bargain. The owner of the house fancied that it was
a production of 1860, when it really was a hundred
years earlier. There are marble mantelpieces and
marble mantelpieces. Some fetch 10s. and others
175. I knew a dealer who bought a large house
solely to acquire the five Bossi mantelpieces which it
contained. Occasionally one may pick up an eigh-
teenth century crystal chandelier which has been dis-
carded on the supposition that it was one of those
shapeless and tasteless gasaliers which delighted our
grandmothers in the days of rep and Berlin wool.

But from these confessions I hope no one will be
so ungenerous as to fancy that my predilection for
marble is to be accounted for only because of the
chances of buying it cheaply. While I admit that
I prefer buying a beautiful thing for a tenth of its


value, I would certainly refuse to have anything to
do with an ugly thing if it were offered to me for
nothing. But the beauty of marble is unassailable.
It has been recognised in every quarter of the world

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Online LibraryFrank Frankfort MooreA garden of peace, a medley in quietude → online text (page 12 of 18)