By John P. Jewett & Company. 1859.. Boston:
IN an article on “ harming Tate in New England,” published in a former volume of the “ Atlantic,” a valued contributor drew attention to the painful lack of beauty in the lives and homes of our rural population. Some attempts were made to show that his statements were exaggerated ; but we are satisfied that they were true in all essential particulars. The abolition of entails, (however wise in itself,) and the consequent subdivision of estates, will always put country life, in the English sense of the words, out of the question here. Our houses will continue to be tents; trees, without ancestral associations, will be valued by the cord ; and that cumulative charm, the slow result ot associations, of the hereditary taste of many generations, must always be wanting. Age is one of the prime elements of natural beauty ; but among us the love OT what is new so predominates, that we have known the largest oak in a county to be cut down by the .selectmen to make room for a shanty schoolhouee, simply because the tree was of “ no account,' being hollow and gnarled, and otherwise delightfully picturesque. Our people are singularly dead also to the value of beauty in public architecture ; and while they clear away a tree which the seasons have been two centuries in building, they will put up with as little remorse a stone or brick abomination that shall be a waking nightmare for a couple of centuries to come. But selectmen are not chosen with reference to their knowledge of Price or Ruskin.
Mr Copeland’s book is specially adapted to the conditions of a community like ours. Its title might have been “ Rural Æsthetics for Men of Limited Means, or the Laws of Beauty considered in their Application to Small Estates.” It is a volume happily conceived and happily executed, and meets a palpable and increasing want of our civilization. Whatever adds grace to the daily lives of it people, and awakens in them a perception of the beauty of outward Nature and its healthful reaction on the nature of man,— whatever tends to make toil unsordid, and to put it in relations of intelligent sympathy with the beautiful progression of the seasons,— adds incalculably to the wealth of a country, though the increase may not appear in the Report of the Secretary of the Interior.
Mr. Copeland’s volume is calculated to do this, and his own qualifications tor the task he has undertaken are manifold. Chief among them we should reckon a true enthusiasm for the cause he advocates, and a hearty delight in out-of-doors-life. He writes with the zeal and warmth of a reformer; but these are tempered by practical knowledge, and such a respect for the useful as will not sacrifice it to the merely pretty. His volume contains not only suggestions in landscape-gardening, guided always by the true principle of making Nature our ally rather than attempting to subdue her, but minute directions for the greenhouse, grapery, conservatory, farm, and kitchen-garden. One may learn from it how to plant whatever grows, and to care for it afterwards. Engravings and plans make clear whatever needs illustration. The book has also the special merit of not being adapted to the meridian of Greenwich.
We do not always agree with Mr. Copeland ; we dissent especially from his prejudice against the noble horsechestnut-tree, with its grand thunder-cloud of foliage, its bee-haunted cones of bloom, and its polished fruit so uselessly useful to children,— Bushy Park is answer enough on that score; but we cordially appreciate his taste and ability. His book will justify a warm commendation. It is laid out on true principles of landscape-farming. The stiff and square economical details are relieved by passages of great beauty and picturesqueness. The cockney who owns a snoring-privilege in the suburbs will be stimulated to a sense of latent beauty in clouds and fields; and the fanner who looks on the cosmic forces as mere motive-power for the wheels of his money-mill will find the truth of the proverb, that more water runs over the dam than the miller wots of, and learn that Nature is as lavish of Beauty as she is frugal in Use. Even to the editor, whose only fields are those of literature, and whose only leaves grow from a composing-stick, the advent of a book like this is refreshing. It enables him to lay out with a judicious economy the gardens attached to Ids Spanish maiior-llonscs, and to do his farming without risk of loss, in the most charming way of all. (especially in July weather,)-—by proxy. Without leaving our study, we have already raised some astonishing prize-vegetables, and our fat cattle have been approvingly mentioned in the committee's report. We have found an afternoon’s reading in Mr, Copeland’s book almost as good as owning that “place in the country” which almost all men dream of as an ideal to be realized whenever their visionary ship comes in.