ABSTRACT

The fundamental premise of this book has been that gardens signify, but the diversity of the ways in which they do so, particularly in modern or contemporary narratives, is not always obvious. Rather, ‘the garden’, a most familiar topic and trope, is so ubiquitous and over-determined that it also becomes overlooked in any detail. It is used — and read — variously as a shorthand term, or metonym, for: Nature, Eden, Paradise, beauty, leisure, pleasure, harmony and health, and is apprehended more generally, simply as consolatory. Others, however, have seen that to depict or to read the garden in this way is both facile, and as this book has shown, often indefensible. As the well-known poem by Rudyard Kipling, with which this volume opened, puts it ‘the Glory of the Garden lies in more than meets the eye’. In the poem Kipling outlined the labour required behind the scenes to maintain the beautiful easeful façade of the upper-middle-class Victorian English Garden in its heyday. The Glory of the Garden was also a monument to the glory of Empire, of Englishness, of religious Anglicanism, of a consensual hierarchy where everyone, at home and abroad, knew their place. Despite the implicit work ethic ‘Our England is a garden, and such gardens are not made/ By singing: — “Oh, how beautiful! And sitting in the shade”’, 1 this is Eden by proxy. The present book, however, investigates how literature engages with ‘the Glory of the Garden’ once the Victorian certainties have been eroded or replaced. The concept of the ‘Glory of the Garden’ was political, of course, and, in narrative terms, carefully plotted ideologically. After ‘the Fall’ of Victorian certainties, and after the ‘monumental’ narratives of Victorian realist fictions, come the various responses: modernist short fictions; postmodern pastiche and parody; postcolonial ‘writing back’ to the Metropolis; cyber-cultural simulacra. All of these responses share and endorse Kipling’s notion that there’s more to a garden than at first perceived, but the meaning and emphasis is very different, as has been discussed.