John Dixon Hunt at The Hudson Review:
One of the perennial issues regarding Brown was that he was and still is thought of “as being picturesque”; his foremost commentator, Dorothy Stroud, was unusual and absolutely right when she treats the picturesque as a later aesthetic whose proponents misunderstand Brown’s work. The picturesque experts usually relished an appreciation of fragments, fissures and deformities of nature, which Uvedale Price often celebrates in Three Essays on the Picturesque (1810). The way in which Brown has become tangled with the picturesque dates to the work of both Horace Walpole and William Mason, whose works overlap during the last twenty years of the eighteenth century (so much of this commentary comes after Brown’s death in 1783).
The history of Brown’s enthronement as the great landscaper began with the indifferent and clumsy verses of William Mason in The English Garden and with an essay of Horace Walpole, whose wonderfully tendentious argument prevailed for much of the later eighteenth century and continues to seduce people today. Mason and Walpole were friends and clearly followed each other’s writings and publications. Part of the reason to wrap Brown in the picturesque mantle is that therefore he can be hailed as the final, glorious climax of “natural” gardening in England.