The Garden of Earthly Delights (Peter S. Beagle) 1982
[Pan Books, London, 1982, 128 pages]
[Also mentioned in Gibson 1983: 183 (J2)]
Beagle, who talks a lot about himself particularly in the first chapter, approaches Bosch’s paintings in a superficial way. His loosely structured observations are limited to references to earlier hypotheses and insights, mainly those of Dirk Bax. It is clear, though, that the author’s approach is a ‘moderate’ one: Bosch is called a Christian satirist and moralist who was partially influenced by alchemy, although he was not an alchemist himself. In order to understand his panels properly, they have to be interpreted within their sociological context.
Beagle’s text has a number of small errors (for example when he situates the proverb the world is a stack of hay and everyone plucks from it as much as he can around 1500 [p. 67] or when he suggests that Bosch was a musician [p. 108]. The trump card of this edition is the layout: details from Bosch’s paintings are cut away from their context, giving them an unexpected fresh and new cachet.