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About the book
  • Published: 1 May 2012
  • ISBN: 9781845951795
  • Imprint: Pimlico
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 400
  • RRP: $42.99

Lancelot 'Capability' Brown

The Omnipotent Magician, 1716-1783

Formats & editions

The first fully-rounded biography of Lancelot 'Capability' Brown, the genius who created the English landscape garden.

Lancelot Brown changed the face of eighteenth-century England, designing country estates and mansions, moving hills and making flowing lakes and serpentine rivers, a magical world of green. This English landscape style spread across Europe and the world. At home, it proved so pleasing that Brown's influence spread into the lowland landscape at large, and into landscape painting. He stands behind our vision, and fantasy, of rural England.

In this vivid, lively biography, based on detailed research, Jane Brown paints an unforgettable picture of the man, his work, his happy domestic life, and his crowded world. She follows the life of the jovial yet elusive Mr Brown, from his childhood and apprenticeship in rural Northumberland, through his formative years at Stowe, the most famous garden of the day. His innovative ideas, and his affable and generous nature, led to a meteoric rise to a Royal Appointment in 1764 and his clients and friends ranged from statesmen like the elder Pitt to artists and actors like David Garrick. Riding constantly across England, Brown never ceased working until he collapsed and died in February 1783 after visiting one of his oldest clients. He was a practical man but also a visionary, always willing to try something new. As this delightful, and beautifully illustrated biography shows, Brown filled England with enchantment – follies, cascades, lakes, bridges, ornaments, monuments, meadows and woods – creating views that still delight us today.

  • Pub date: 1 May 2012
  • ISBN: 9781845951795
  • Imprint: Pimlico
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 400
  • RRP: $42.99

About the Author

Jane Brown

Jane Brown is the author of seventeen books on varied subjects, including Vita Sackville-West, Gertrude Jekyll, Edwin Lutyens, Henrietta Luxborough and Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, and the critically-acclaimed classic Gardens of a Golden Afternoon. All of her earlier books inform Dorothy. Jane has lectured in the UK and in America and enjoyed a Harvard fellowship for her biography of the landscape architect Beatrix Farrand (1995). She has also curated exhibitions and written garden histories for three Cambridge colleges.

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Praise for Lancelot 'Capability' Brown

“Brown's book is a good read”

Jane Owen, Financial Times

“Jane Brown has dug deep into the archives and has written an exhaustive and beautifully illustrated biography that has been long overdue... Those who love his gardens...will be delighted with this book”

Andrea Wulf, Mail on Sunday

“Robust and revealing”


“Her book should find a home in any garden-lovers' glove compartment , offering a detailed map of Lancelot's England”


“Sympathetic, beautifully illustrated study”

Maggie Fergusson, Intelligent Life

“This remarkably exhaustive survey is full of intricacies - physical and psychological, financial and geographical. For lovers of abundantly detailed biographies, this tome will not disappoint”

Claire Masset, English Garden

“Revealing the backstory of our best-loved landscapes will open many, newly appreciative, eyes”

Stephanie Cross, The Lady

“This informative biography shows [Lancelot Brown's[ achievements were, like the man himself, full of charm”

Waterstone's Books Quarterly

“Brown's meticulous research and almost scholarly approach to the subject in hand means the reader is treated to an in-depth look at the man”

Press Association

“The Omnipotent Magician is a valuable work of reference”

Anthony Gardner, The Tablet

“Close attention to detail and brisk and vigorous prose”

Times Literary Supplement

“Where this book excels is in the writers' impressive untangling of the web of family interconnections betweens Brown's patrons”

Timothy Mowl, Times Higher Educational Supplement

“A worthwhile account of the designer of choice for the wealthy late-18th-century landowner”

Caroline Donald, Sunday Times, Books of the Year


Good Book Guide

“In her exhaustive biography, Jane Brown leads us from Brown’s modest beginnings… to his fatal collapse in a Piccadilly street…Her strength is to show, by carefully extrapolating associations and commissions, how Lancelot’s star rose and rose in the crowded firmament of eighteenth-century society”

Adrian Brewer, The Tablet

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