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The Faber Book of Gardens by Philip Robinson

The Faber Book of Gardens

by Philip Robinson (Editor)

Other authors: Hans Christian Andersen (Contributor), Jane Austen (Contributor), Alfred Austin (Contributor), Matsuo Basho (Contributor), Charlotte Bronte (Contributor)56 more, Frances Hodgson Burnett (Contributor), Willa Cather (Contributor), Marcus Porcius Cato (Contributor), Geoffrey Chaucer (Contributor), Lucius Junius Columella (Contributor), Marion Cran (Contributor), Sylvia Crowe (Contributor), Reginald Farrer (Contributor), Margery Fish (Contributor), F. Scott Fitzgerald (Contributor), Venantius Fortunatus (Contributor), Robin Lane Fox (Contributor), Geoffrey Grigson (Contributor), George Herbert (Contributor), Penelope Hobhouse (Contributor), Homer (Contributor), Ebenezer Howard (Contributor), Spike Hughes (Contributor), Ted Hughes (Contributor), Edward Hyams (Contributor), James I of Scotland (Contributor), Gertrude Jekyll (Contributor), G.A. Jellicoe (Contributor), Donald Justice (Contributor), John Keats (Contributor), Diogenes Laertius (Contributor), Batty Langley (Contributor), Li Ho (Contributor), Li Po (Contributor), Edwin Lutyens (Contributor), Andrew Marvell (Contributor), George Mason (Contributor), Harold Nicolson (Contributor), Eden Phillpotts (Contributor), Sylvia Plath (Contributor), Pliny the Elder (Contributor), Po Chu-I (Contributor), Marco Polo (Contributor), Alexander Pope (Contributor), Humphrey Repton (Contributor), Rainer Maria Rilke (Contributor), Vita Sackville-West (Contributor), Sei Shonagon (Contributor), Percy Bysshe Shelley (Contributor), Izumi Shikibu (Contributor), Diodorus Siculus (Contributor), George Sitwell (Contributor), Ken Smith (Contributor), Edmund Spenser (Contributor), Edward Thomas (Contributor), R.S. Thomas (Contributor), Marcus Terentius Varro (Contributor), Rosemary Verey (Contributor), Virgil (Contributor), Horace Walpole (Contributor), William Wordsworth (Contributor)

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You don’t have to enjoy cooking to appreciate fine food: similarly, mankind, even those with fingers as black as a winter’s frost, has a love for gardens matched only by its need for sustenance, surpassing even that for generation.

Humanity had its genesis in the Garden of Eden, after all, and it was not sex or pride but rather succumbing to the lure of the apple that caused our expulsion from Paradise.

And, it would appear, we have been trying to regain that harmony of man and nature ever since, whether it manifests in a Zen stone garden, a Japanese miniature garden, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, or the traditional walled suburban garden.

The Faber Book of Gardens is a collection of writings in every genre – poems, prose, songs and sagas – about gardens, dating from ‘Eden’ – the beginning of time according to the People of the Book – to the present.

Most of the passages are in English [although a fair number are translations] and we can trace a horticultural literary path dating from Homer [ca 800 BC] and winding its way through Bible Times to the Roman Empire and on to England – with occasional side trips to Europe.

A book about gardens, not gardening, so this is hardly the forum in which to search for tips: an essay by Marcus Porcius Cato gives advice on Planting Asparagus which is probably still practical today, but ‘how to’ essays are few and far between.

To say this is an anthology of Inspirational Extracts smacks of Born-Again New-Ageism and Pseudo-Spirituality – yet how else to describe a book that includes a piece on ‘Poison Gardens’, rare, beautiful and deadly plants with a fascinatingly fatal history?

More intriguing still are the pages on ‘Living Roofs’: why use tin, tile or thatch over your garage, sheds or balconies when you could plant an eco-friendly fairy tale moss, lichen or wildflower roof, making you the most popular home-owner in your suburb with all the birds, bees and butterflies?

Then there is the charmingly innocent section on Garden Nuisances in which an English gardener in the 1940s bemoans the hares, rabbits, badgers, moles, mice, rats, adders, slugs, ants, snails and rose beetles that threaten his plants.

For the most part however this book contains elements from plays, poems and popular fictional prose which are motivated or inspired by gardens and everything they represent.

Shakespeare, in King Richard II, compares a Kingdom to a garden in that both need to be nurtured and governed: DH Lawrence is sexual in his metaphors involving cultivated landscapes – references to a bush might not necessarily mean a leafy shrub...

Tennyson’s Marianna in her lonely moated grange, Keats Ode to Melancholy, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s Secret Garden, Pope and his Essays, Lewis Carroll with his Garden of Live Flowers from Through the Looking Glass, Bronte’s description of a stroll through the grounds in Jane Eyre…

Pliny, Shelly, Flaubert, Homer, Browning, Yeats, Virgil, Hans Christian Andersen, Thomas Hardy – all famous, all wrote fairly extensively on the delights of the garden, yet none of them come close to the heartfelt lines by an obscure Victorian which, unaccountably, are missing from this book.

A Garden is a lovesome thing, God wot!
Rose plot
Fringed pool
Fern’d grot –
The veriest school
Of peace: and yet the fool
Contends that God is not –
Not God! In gardens! When eve is cool?
Nay, but I have a sign;
‘Tis very sure God walks in mine.

Thomas Edward Browne
1830 – 1897

Browne found the proof of God’s existence in a garden and indeed literature and scripture are determined to intertwine Godhead and humanity – like bindweed and honeysuckle – in a symbolic spiritual/horticultural sacrament.

Atheists, agriculturalists and agnostics, anyone soothed by fragrance, perfume, greenery – or merely organised aesthetics – will love the Faber Book of Gardens, a charming compilation and inspiration aesthetic instruction all in one. ( )
  adpaton | Aug 27, 2009 |
This book is the child of the author’s depression when, as a result of a back injury he could no longer work at his chosen profession. The depression is reflected in the curious purple brown dust jacket, in the introduction and epitome, and in the inclusion of a sado-masochistic description of pig killing (presumably this is justified by the pig sty being in the garden).

However this is the bad news. The good news is that it includes, along with literary and poetical gardens, pieces not widely anthologised elsewhere. The lengthy excerpts from the influential garden designers of the past make for thoughtful, and very enjoyable, reading; it is nice to see Sir George Sitwell in full Edwardian Baroque flow. This is a book compiled by a real professional.

The excerpt from “The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon” describing a Japanese garden after a storm is magical; and is a refreshing reminder that gardens do not only exist in Europe. It would have been nice to have an excerpt from Cao Xueqin's “Dream of the Red Chamber”, but let us leave the anthologist with Po Chü-I, sitting on the terrace in Suzhou surrounded by almonds, cherries and plums, all in bloom

“The people of Pa do not care for the flowers;
All the spring no one has come to look
But their Governor General, alone with his cup of wine
Sits till evening and will not move from this place”

A sort of contentment in resignation…
  infopt2000 | Feb 23, 2008 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Robinson, PhilipEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Andersen, Hans ChristianContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Austen, JaneContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Austin, AlfredContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Basho, MatsuoContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bronte, CharlotteContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Burnett, Frances HodgsonContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cather, WillaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cato, Marcus PorciusContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Chaucer, GeoffreyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Columella, Lucius JuniusContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cran, MarionContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Crowe, SylviaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Farrer, ReginaldContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fish, MargeryContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fitzgerald, F. ScottContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fortunatus, VenantiusContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fox, Robin LaneContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Grigson, GeoffreyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Herbert, GeorgeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hobhouse, PenelopeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
HomerContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Howard, EbenezerContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hughes, SpikeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hughes, TedContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hyams, EdwardContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
James I of ScotlandContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jekyll, GertrudeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jellicoe, G.A.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Justice, DonaldContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Keats, JohnContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Laertius, DiogenesContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Langley, BattyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Li HoContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Li PoContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lutyens, EdwinContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Marvell, AndrewContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Mason, GeorgeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Nicolson, HaroldContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Phillpotts, EdenContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Plath, SylviaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pliny the ElderContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Po Chu-IContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Polo, MarcoContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pope, AlexanderContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Repton, HumphreyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rilke, Rainer MariaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sackville-West, VitaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sei ShonagonContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Shelley, Percy ByssheContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Shikibu, IzumiContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Siculus, DiodorusContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sitwell, GeorgeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Smith, KenContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Spenser, EdmundContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Thomas, EdwardContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Thomas, R.S.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Varro, Marcus TerentiusContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Verey, RosemaryContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
VirgilContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Walpole, HoraceContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wordsworth, WilliamContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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"Gardening is both the most democratic of the arts and the most elitist. Gardens are strange confections of human desire and vegetable life - highly managed, yet remaining subject to forces more powerful than human agency. They can range from a utilitarian allotment for the production of food, to physical expressions of the metaphysical." "Philip Robinson presents here a reading of gardens that spans centuries and cultures. He is as interested in the small, private plot as he is in the grand aristocratic and imperial gardens - from medieval Japan to suburban Arizona. The motivations for gardens fascinate him, and his choices here are informed by the belief that the gardens we create reveal more about ourselves than we would ever otherwise admit."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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