Excerpt of The Savage Garden by Mark Mills
(Page 4 of 4)
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Which point was that?
Dont flatter yourself, Mr. Strickland. To my knowledgeand I read it twiceyou
only made one point. The others were lifted straight from the books I suggested
you read. He raised a long, bony finger. And some I didnt suggest...which, I
grant you, displays more initiative than most.
He handed the essay over.
Well discuss it at greater length another time. Now, your thesis. Have you had
any further thoughts?
Adam had flirted with a couple of ideasIslamic iconography in Romanesque
architecture, the use of line in early Renaissance drawingbut the professor
would recognize them for what they were: lazy speculations on some well-trodden
fields of study. No, best to keep quiet.
You still have a year, of course, but its advisable to start applying yourself
now, certainly if you wish to show us something of your true colors. Do you, Mr.
Yes, said Adam. Of course.
Hows your Italian?
Good, then I might have something for you.
The professor explained that he had recently been contacted by an old
acquaintance of his. Signora Docci, the lady in question, was the owner of a
large villa in the hills of Tuscany, just south of Florence. An impressive, if
somewhat pedestrian, example of High Renaissance Tuscan vernacular, was how the
professor described the architecture of the building. He saved his praise for
the garden, not the formal arrangement of Renaissance terraces abutting the
villa, but a later Mannerist addition occupying a sunken grove nearby. Conceived
and laid out by a grieving husband to the memory of his dead wife, this plunging
patch of woodland was fed by a spring and modeled on Roman gardens of the
period, with meandering pathways and rills, statues, inscriptions and
Its a very unusual place, the professor said. Extremely arresting.
You know it?
I did, some years ago. It has never been alteredthats rareand I know for a
fact that no proper study has ever been conducted of it. Which is where you come
in, if you want to, that is. Signora Docci has kindly offered it as a subject
for one of my students.
Mannerist was bad, a little too overblown for Adams taste, and hed have to do
a lot of reading up. Italy, on the other hand, was good, very good.
Maybe a garden isnt quite what you had in mind, but dont dismiss it....Art
and Nature coming together to create a whole new entitya third nature, if you
Adam didnt require any more encouragement. Yes, he said. Yes, please.
Excerpted from The Savage Garden
by Mark Mills, © 2007 by Mark Mills. Excerpted by
permission of Penguin Group USA. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.