Landscape Companionship

From Human Intercourse (1884), by Philip Gilbert Hamerton.

A powerful support to some minds is the constantly changing beauty of the natural world, which becomes like a great and ever-present companion. I am anxious to avoid any exaggeration of this benefit, because I know that to many it counts for nothing; and an author ought not to think only of those who have his own mental constitution; but although natural beauty is of little use to one solitary mind, it may be like a living friend to another. As a paragraph of real experience is worth pages of speculation, I may say that I have always found it possible to live happily in solitude, provided that the place was surrounded by varied, beautiful, and changeful scenery, but that in ugly or even monotonous places I have felt society to be as necessary as it was welcome. Byron’s expression,–

      “I made me friends of mountains,”

and Wordsworth’s,

      “Nature never did betray
      The heart that loved her,”

are not more than plain statements of the companionship that some minds find in the beauty of landscape. They are often accused of affectation, but in truth I believe that we who have that passion, instead of expressing more than we feel, have generally rather a tendency to be reserved upon the subject, as we seldom expect sympathy. Many of us would rather live in solitude and on small means at Como than on a great income in Manchester. This may be a foolish preference; but let the reader remember the profound utterance of Blake, that if the fool would but persevere in his folly he would become wise.