The late Mr. Repton, who was one of the most celebrated English practical landscape gardeners, has laid down in one of his works, the following rules on the subject, which we quote, not as applying in all cases, but to show what are generally thought the principal requisites of this road in the modern style.
It ought to be a road to the house, and to that principally.
If it be not naturally the nearest road possible, it ought artificially to be made to appear so.
The artificial obstacles which make this road the nearest, ought to appear natural.
Where an approach quits the high road, it ought not to break from it at right angles, or in such a manner as to rob the entrance of importance, but rather at some bend of the public road, from which a lodge or gate may be more conspicuous; and where the high road may appear to branch from the approach, rather than the approach from the high road.
After the approach enters the park, it should avoid skirting along its boundary, which betrays the want of extent or unity of property.
The house, unless very large and magnificent, should not be seen at so great a distance as to make it appear much less than it really is.
The first view of the house should be from the most pleasing point of sight.
As soon as the house is visible from the approach, there should be no temptation to quit it (which will ever be the case if the road be at all circuitous), unless sufficient obstacles, such as water or inaccessible ground, appear to justify its course.*
Although there are many situations where these rules must be greatly modified in practice, yet the improver will do well to bear them in mind, as it is infinitely more easy to make occasional deviations from general rules, than to carry out a tasteful improvement without any guiding principles.
There are many fine country residences on the banks of the Hudson, Connecticut, and other rivers, where the proprietors are often much perplexed and puzzled, by the situation of their houses; the building presenting really two fronts, while they appear to desire only one. Such is the case when the estate is situated between the public road on one side, and the river on the other; and we have often seen the approach artificially tortured into a long circuitous route, in order finally to arrive at what the proprietor considers the true front, viz., the side nearest the river. When a building is so situated, much the most elegant effect is produced by having two fronts: one, the entrance front, with the porch or portico nearest the road, and the other, the river front, facing the water. The beauty of the whole is often surprisingly enhanced by this arrangement, for the visitor, after passing by the approach through a considerable portion of the grounds, with perhaps but slight and partial glimpses of the river, is most agreeably surprised on entering the house, and looking from the drawing-room windows of the other front, to behold another beautiful scene totally different from the last, enriched and ennobled by the wide-spread sheet of water before him. Much of the effect produced by this agreeable surprise from the interior, it will readily be seen, would be lost, if the stranger had already driven round and alighted on the river front.
* Repton's Inquiry into the Changes of Taste in Landscape Gardening.
The Drive is a variety of road rarely seen among us, yet which may be made a very agreeable feature in some of our country residences, at a small expense. It is intended for exercise more secluded than that upon the public road, and to show the interesting portions of the place from the carriage, or on horseback. Of course it can only be formed upon places of considerable extent; but it enhances the enjoyment of such places very highly, in the estimation of those who are fond of equestrian exercises. It generally commences where the approach terminates, viz., near the house: and from thence, proceeds in the same easy curvilinear manner through various parts of the grounds, farm or estate. Sometimes it sweeps through the pleasure grounds, and returns along the very beach of the river, beneath the fine overhanging foliage of its projecting bank; sometimes it proceeds towards some favorite point of view, or interesting spot on the landscape; or at others it leaves the lawn and traverses the farm, giving the proprietor an opportunity to examine his crops, or exhibit his agricultural resources to his friends.
Walks are laid out for purposes similar to drives, but are much more common, and may be introduced into every scene, however limited. They are intended solely for promenades, or exercise on foot, and should therefore be dry and firm, if possible, at all seasons when it is desirable to use them. Some may be open to the south, sheltered with evergreens, and made dry and hard for a warm promenade in winter; others formed of closely mown turf, and thickly shaded by a leafy canopy of verdure, for a cool retreat in the midst of summer. Others again may lead to some sequestered spot, and terminate in a secluded rustic seat, or conduct to some shaded dell or rugged eminence, where an extensive prospect can be enjoyed. Indeed, the genius of the place must suggest the direction, length, and number of the walks to be laid out, as no fixed rules can be imposed in a subject so everchanging and different. It should, however, never be forgotten, that the walk ought always to correspond to the scene it traverses, being rough where the latter is wild and picturesque, sometimes scarcely differing from a common footpath, and more polished as the surrounding objects show evidences of culture and high keeping. In direction, like the approach, it should take easy flowing curves, though it may often turn more abruptly at the interposition of an obstacle. The chief beauty of curved and bending lines in walks, lies in the new scenes which by means of them are opened to the eye. In the straight walk of half a mile the whole is seen at a glance, and there is too often but little to excite the spectator to pursue the search; but in the modern style, at every few rods, a new turn in the walk opens a new prospect to the beholder, and "leads the eye," as Hogarth graphically expressed it, "a kind of wanton chase," continually affording new refreshment and variety.