For a scholarly description of the garden at Betz and its creation, the English-speaking reader is referred to Gabriel Wick's article, which is available on H-Net.
The Spell of the Heart of France. I am reproducing it (from Gutenberg) mainly because I enjoyed the prose. Hallys provides some record of the fabriques which still stood in the early twentieth century. The rest of his text is is derived mainly from the poem by Joseph-Antoine-Joachim Cérutti Les Jardins de Betz, written in 1785 (though published only in 1792). This is a verbose piece, so it is nice to have a few snippets of English translation!
Cérutti is an interesting character. An inveterate writer and versifier, he started out his career as a Jesuit schoolmaster, but later became a prominent Revolutionary journalist. (It was he who delivered the eulogy at Mirabeau's funeral in 1791) . In the 1780s he had various aristocratic patrons, and had clearly been charged with composing inscriptions and mottoes for the garden at Betz. His poem, which was no doubt originally intended for the entertainment of the princesse de Monaco's guests, was modelled on the abbé Delille's highly popular Les Jardins, our l'art d'embellir les paysages (1782). André Hallys has no difficulty in finding plenty of anti-clerical and anti-despotic sentiments in the text. [Most prescient was the final comment in Cérutti's notes to the poem: For two hundred year, France has been pregnant with revolution; she will give birth before the end of the century.]
|The lake and bridge. Plate from Gustave Macon, Les jardins de Betz (1908)|
|Postcard published on Geneanet|
Poor little Grivette!
This "circular bed" was also a poetic invention. A document, discovered by M. de Ségur in the archives of Beauvais, shows us that Cérutti was commissioned to "furnish" the Temple of Friendship. As his archaeological knowledge was insufficient, he addressed himself to the author of the Voyage du jeune Anacharsis. We possess the reply of Abbé Barthélémy. The latter seems quite embarrassed: he states that the ancients prayed standing, on their knees or seated on the ground, and that there were no seats in the temples; he thinks that one might take as a model either the curule chair of the Senators, or the throne on which the gods were represented as seated, or even a bench, a sofa.... "Besides," he ended, "I believe, like M. Cérutti, that as friendship is a goddess of all times, we may furnish her as we will." Quatrains, sensibilities and puerilities, all these do not prevent the temple of Betz from being one, of the most perfect works of the Greco-Roman Renaissance of the last years of the eighteenth century. 27 In the gardens of the Little Trianon, Mique produced nothing more exquisite than this work of Le Roy. And how adorable they are, these little monuments, supreme witnesses of classic tradition, suddenly revivified by the discoveries of the antiquaries, by the Voyages of the Count de Caylus, by the first excavations at Herculaneum and Pompeii! With what surety of taste, with what subtlety of imagination, have the lines and the forms of ancient art been accommodated to the adornment of the northern landscape! It is the last flower of our architecture.
It is necessary to hearken to and meditate upon the instruction, the eternal instruction given us by this temple so gracefully placed before the verdant meadows of a valley of the Ile-de-France. The caprice of a sentimental princess dedicated it to friendship. Let us dedicate it in our grateful thought to the strong and charming god whose decrees were respected and whose power was venerated for three centuries by poets and artists without an ingratitude, without a blasphemy. This sanctuary was doubtless the homage of a disappearing piety: already those who built it celebrated in the neighboring groves the rites of a new cult; there they deified disorder, ruin and melancholy; there they abandoned themselves to childish and dangerous superstitions; already romanticism and exoticism mastered hearts and imaginations. The more reason for admiring and cherishing the last altars where men sacrificed to reason, order and beauty. Besides, behold: a century has elapsed; the false ruins are ruined; the false tombs are no more than rubbish; the Chinese kiosks have disappeared; yet, upon the hillside, the four Ionic columns still show the immortal grace of their spreading bases and their fine volutes.
The Graces sometimes came to rest themselves there
Seated near these benches, we easily forget ourselves;
Voluptuousness follows the shadow and melancholy....