Wise, Henry (DNB00)

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WISE, HENRY (1653–1738), gardener to William III, Anne, and George I, was born in 1653, and claimed descent from Richard Wise of Cadiston, Warwickshire. He studied horticulture under George London, and during the reign of James II was admitted as sole partner in London's lucrative nursery at Brompton, the largest at that time near London. Shortly after William III's accession Wise was appointed deputy-ranger of Hyde Park and superintendent of the royal gardens at Hampton Court, Kensington, and elsewhere. In April 1694 Evelyn speaks of the methodical manner in which the ‘noble nursery’ at Brompton was cultivated, and he describes another visit to Wise's plantations and gardens on 2 Sept. 1701. Besides the royal gardens, London and Wise directed most of the great gardens of England, including Blenheim, Wanstead, Edger, and Melbourne in Derbyshire. This last was a splendid example of the French style of formal garden handed down to London by his master Rose, who had studied under André Le Nôtre, the French gardener of Charles II. The Melbourne gardens were remodelled from designs by Wise between 1704 and 1711, including a bosquet after the Versailles pattern, and ‘a water-piece.’ Meanwhile, on the death of William III, Anne committed the royal gardens to the care of Wise in preference to London, who had the mortification of seeing the demolition of all the box-work which he had designed at Hampton Court in conformity with the Dutch taste. In 1706 London and Wise laid out a town garden at Nottingham for Count Tallard, the French general who had fallen into Marlborough's hands at the battle of Blenheim. A description of this garden was appended to London and Wise's ‘The Retir'd Gard'ner, being a translation of “Le Jardinier Solitaire”’ [from the French of the Sieur Louis Liger], or rather a combination of two French manuals on gardening, with a small admixture of original matter (for Jacob Tonson, 2 vols. 8vo, 1706). In one of his papers in the ‘Spectator,’ ridiculing the newly introduced opera, Addison writes, on 6 March 1711: ‘I hear there is a treaty on foot with London and Wise (who will be appointed Gardeners of the Play-house) to furnish the Opera of “Rinaldo and Armida” with an Orange Grove; and that the next time it is acted, the Singing Birds will be personated by Tom-Tits.’ In the same journal, on 6 Sept. 1712, Addison describes the partners as ‘the heroic poets’ of gardening, citing the upper garden at Kensington as a signal example of their skill. By this time the famous nursery at Brompton had passed into the hands of a gardener named Swinhoe; but Wise had not yet definitely quitted his profession, for in 1714 he was reappointed head-gardener to George I. In 1709 Wise had bought the estate and mansion of the Priory, Warwick, where he spent his declining years. He died at Warwick on 15 Dec. 1738, being then ‘worth 200,000l.,’ and was buried in St. Mary's Church. By his wife, Patience Banks, he had issue Matthew (d. 12 Sept. 1776), Henry, and John. Horace Walpole visited the Priory, and declares that he unintentionally offended one of the sons by asking him if he had planted much. A portrait of the gardener is in the possession of the Wise family of Woodcote in Warwickshire.

Elwin represents Pope's ‘Fourth Moral Essay’ on false taste as especially directed against Wise; but Wise was less a typical representative of the formal Dutch style than his predecessors and teachers, though he was one of the last upholders of the old French tradition against the innovations of Bridgeman and Kent. In addition to the ‘Retir'd Gard'ner’ Wise collaborated with London in ‘The Compleat Gard'ner, or Directions for cultivating and right ordering of Fruit Gardens and Kitchen Gardens,’ abridged and improved from John Evelyn's translation from the French of J. de La Quintinye (London, 1699, 1704, 1710, 1725, enlarged).

[Gent. Mag. 1738 p. 660, 1818 ii. 392; Hist. Reg. 1738 (Chron. Diary); Burke's Landed Gentry; Colvile's Warwickshire Worthies; Switzer's Ichnographia Rustica, 1718; Beeverell's Les Délices de la Grande Bretagne, Leyden, 1727; Johnson's Hist. of English Gardening, 1829, pp. 124, 145, 146; Sedding's Garden Craft, p. 102; Hazlitt's Gleanings in Old Garden Lit. 1887; Hazlitt's Collections and Notes; Smith's Hist. Recollections of Hyde Park, p. 36; Law's Hampton Court; Blomfield and Thomas's Formal Garden in England, 1892, pp. 65, 76, 119, 162; Manning and Bray's Surrey, ii. 191; Walpole's Correspondence, vi. 442, vii. 337; Pope's Works, ed. Elwin and Courthope, iii. 180, v. 183, ix. 118; Delany's Corresp. i. 146, 148, 190, 202, 472; Evelyn's Works, ii. 341, 379.]

T. S.