Garden Views

Joseph Addison
Spectator No. 63
[The forms of wit: an allegorical analysis]
edited by John Loftis

The essay outlines in a Spenser-like fashion the domain of the goddess of Falsehood and the minions of mixed wit to culminate. At the essays end the domains left behind. The essay culminates in what is a descriptive passage that could serve as the locus classicus of enumeration of the aspects of the English garden and countryside.

As at the rising of the sun the constellations grow thin and the stars go out one after another till the whole hemisphere is extinguished, such was the vanishing of the goddess, and not only of the goddess herself but of the whole army that attended her, which sympathized with their leader and shrunk into nothing in proportion as the goddess disappeared. At the same time the whole temple sunk, the fish betook themselves to the streams and the wild beasts to the woods, the fountains recovered their murmurs, the birds their voices, the trees their leaves, the flowers their scents, and the whole face of nature its true and genuine appearance. Though I still continued asleep, I fancied myself, as it were, awakened out of a dream when I saw this region of prodigies restored to woods and rivers, fields and meadows.
As Addison gives us sunrise on domestic empire, we do well to recall that plant collecting amassed in imperial expeditions provided the foundation.
The collection of plants, as indeed of other categories of exotica, was contingent upon wealth and leisure, and was motivated by curiosity, novelty, exoticism and rarity. Those who established notable gardens were royalty and aristocracy, merchants, bishops, people with independent incomes. The act of collecting was part of the commercial exchange with, and exploitation of, other cultures. It is not surprising therefore that the collection, study and depiction of plants in the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was focused on Holland, Germany, northern France, and England — the great centres of trade and colonial power. Sometimes plants were traded as a commodity — as with the tulip during the great speculative mania of the 1630s — or they themselves became the currency of exchange between botanists and collectors. Images were also exchanged, or produced in one locale and sent to another to be reproduced in books, as in the eighteenth century many of [Georg Dionysus] Ehret's works were made in England and sent to Trew for publication in Nuremberg.
Gill Saunders. Picturing Plants: An Analytical History of Botanical Illustration

The bridge here the importation of plant materials from the colonies as is as documented in The Planters of the English Landscape Garden: Botany, Trees, and the Georgics by Douglas C. Chambers.

And so for day 1442
24.11.2010