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KING'S GREAT STAIRCASE PAINTED BY VERRIO. 325
out of principle,” we cannot, for our own part, see that it is much worse than most of his other efforts—unless, indeed, that being larger, there is more of it, and we hold the view that the less of Verrio the better.
In his own day, at any rate, his performances were held in
very high esteem. Evelyn thought "his design and colouring and exuberance of invention comparable to the greatest old masters, or what they do in France”; while others grew so enthusiastic as to give vent to their feelings in verse :
“Great Verrio's hand hath drawn
His fame, however, was short-lived, and Pope's couplet :
“On painted ceilings you devoutly stare
has given the cue to all criticism since.
The painting of this staircase, which is 43 feet long, 37 feet wide, and about 40 feet high, affords us a characteristic and glaring example of the tasteless exuberance of Verrio's pencil: Gods and Goddesses, Nymphs and Satyrs, Bacchanalians and River Deities, Virtues and Attributes, Zephyrs and Cupids, Apollo and the Nine Muses, Æneas and the twelve Cæsars, Juno and her peacock, Diana and the rainbow, Ganymede and the eagle, Fame blowing her trumpet, Fate slitting the thread of life, Ceres with a wheatsheaf, Peace with an olive branch, Pan with his reeds, Hercules with his club, Romulus and the wolf, Julian the Apostate, with Mercury as his secretary, all jostle one another in amazing confusion, in impossible attitudes and wonderful attire, sitting on reeds, floating on clouds, sailing between columns, and reclining beneath canopies of rainbows, flowers, and zephyrs' heads.
The general effect, however, if one does not linger over the details, is striking and gorgeous, and the whole decoration of the staircase, with its walls in their lower part painted in monochrome with emblems and trophies of war, its broad steps of Irish stone, and its handsome baluster of wrought iron, is splendid and magnificent enough, even for the most sumptuous fancy, and forms as good a specimen as there is anywhere in England of that gaudy French taste, which in this reign finally triumphed over our less pretentious, but more picturesque native style.
But the improvements were not confined to the interior of the palace. Orders were at the same time given by the King for increasing the number of fountains in the great semicircular garden, for designing the magnificent terrace, or Broad Walk, no less than 2,300 feet, or nearly half a mile long, in front of the eastern façade, and for laying out the two oblong divisions of the gardens on both sides of the central part, between the Broad Walk and the House Park. William himself attended to all the details, "particularly the
LONDON AND WISE'S STYLE OF GARDENING. 327
dimensions of the fountains, and what quantity of water they should cast up, and increased the number of them after the first design.” The items during the summer months amounted to about £5,000.
The estimate for these works bears the date 1699, and the signature “George London,” who, as we have seen, was one of the King's head gardeners; and to him, in conjunc
tion with Henry Wise, his coadjutor, belongs the credit of laying out all the gardens and parks at Hampton Court in their present general form.
Their style, as carried out here, as well as at Chatsworth, which they had laid out five years before, and at Blenheim, which they undertook subsequently, combined the special features of the French taste, such as fountains, terraces, flights of steps, statues, etc., and those of the Dutch, such as box, clipped yews, and borders of plants and flowers figured like lace patterns. Indeed, they comprehended in their scheme almost as many things as are declared by Evelyn to be necessary for a royal garden, namely: “knots, trayle-work, parterres, compartments, borders, banks, embossments, labyrinths, dædals, cabinets, cradleś, close-walls, galleries, pavilions, porticoes, lanthorns, and other relievos of topiary and horticular architecture; fountaines, jettes, cascades, pisceries, rocks, grottoes, cryptæ, mounts, precipices, ventiducts, gazon theatres, artificial echoes, automate and hydraulic music.”
It is to this period that belongs the beautiful old gate, known by the name of the “Flower-Pot Gate,” which stands at the end of the Great Broad Walk. It is flanked by two handsomely carved piers of Portland stone, which, among other ornaments, have panels carved with William III.'s initials, and a sceptre and sword crossed, with the crown above. The piers are surmounted by charming figures of boys bearing baskets or pots of flowers, whence the name of
To the same time, also, we may ascribe the Labyrinth or Maze, now one of the best known and most popular attractions of Hampton Court, which has afforded infinite amusement and delight to three generations of English boys and girls. The winding walks, though they do not cover a space of more than a quarter of an acre, amount to nearly half a mile. There is a stand adjacent, in which the custodian places himself, in order to extricate you by his directions, should you acknowledge that you are completely tired and puzzled. Switzer, however, condemned this maze for having but four stops, whereas he had given a plan for one with twenty !
Besides the account, belonging to the summer of this year 1699, for improving the Great Fountain Garden, there is another one, signed Henry Wise,” in the same volume of the Treasury Papers, relating to the laying out of Bushey Park in the form which it now presents, with its stately lime-tree groves, its great circular basin, and its chestnut trees, which stretch away on the north side of it, in a magnificent avenue a mile long. Some of the items of charges, which show how a bare flat piece of ground was transformed into one of the noblest parks in England, may
LAYING OUT OF BUSHEY PARK.
be not uninteresting to gardening antiquaries; and are therefore collected in the appendix to the third volume of the author's "History of Hampton Court Palace."
Here we will only observe that the works consisted in making a great drive through the park, 60 feet in width and about a mile in length; in forming, near the Hampton Court end, a circle, in the centre of which was dug a great Basin—now called “the Diana”—400 feet in diameter and 5 feet in depth ; in planting, on both sides of the road and parallel to it, and also round the circle, four rows of lime trees, with a row of horse-chestnuts next to the road, to form the great Chestnut Avenue, leading from Teddington to the north entrance of Hampton Court; and in making
two other avenues, each originally about three-quarters of a mile in length, divergent from the circle and at right angles to the great avenue, one leading to the Paddock, and the other leading to Hampton. The trees numbered altogether 732 limes and 274 chestnuts; and all these works, such was the cheapness of labour and materials, cost but £4,300.
This Great Chestnut Avenue was evidently laid out with the object of forming a grand approach, not merely to the Lion Gates and the Wilderness, which now close its vista, but also to a new and stately Entrance Court, which in size and splendour would have been adequate to the importance of the palace, and in keeping with the magnificence of Wren's Quadrangle. The plan for these improvements, which is preserved in the Office of Her Majesty's Works, shows that