Virginia Gazette (Parks), Williamsburg , From November 10 to November 17, 1738.
Saturday, November 30, 2019
Virginia Gazette (Parks), Williamsburg , From November 10 to November 17, 1738.
Friday, November 29, 2019
This native perennial, also known as False Dragon Head and Virginia Dragon Head, was introduced to gardens in 1683. The corolla of Physostegia will stay indefinitely in whatever position it is turned (hence the common name "obedient plant"), which makes it very popular for floral arrangements. It was recommended by many garden writers of the early 20th century as a companion plant in the back of the perennial border. Heirloom cultivars of this plant include: 'Alba', a white form offered in 1908; and 'Vivid', a bright rosy pink form introduced in 1931. Flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies.
Thursday, November 28, 2019
The Chelsea garden under his direction attained an international reputation boosted by his various publications, especially The Gardeners Dictionary. Carl von Linne (Linnaeus), the great Swedish botanist and organizer, made several visits to the Physic Garden in the 1730s, meeting with the garden's curator Philip Miller.
Miller's Dictionary went into 8 updated editions to 1768 , with the 7th edition of 1756 including the new nomenclature details of Linnaeus; it was translated into several European languages.
Because he became so well known, Miller received propagation material from around the world and his practical and experimental work earned him an unparalleled horticultural reputation. He became famous throughout Europe for all of the plants sent from North America, which he grew at the garden. He redistributed many of his horticultural successes throughout Europe and America. Miller remained at the Physic Garden, until he was nearly 80, finally retiring on 6 February 1771 .
Chelsea Physic Garden still exists today as one of Britain's oldest botanical gardens, a unique piece of living history with a collection of more than 5,000 medicinal and unusual plants. Over 30,000 people visit the 4 acre site each year.
The first physic garden was established in Italy in 1543, and the Chelsea Physic Garden was planted in London in 1673. Only the physic garden in Oxford preceded it in England. The 4 acre Chelsea site sat on the banks of the River Thames.
The Chelsea Physic Garden was founded as the Apothecaries' Garden, with the purpose of training apprentices in identifying plants. The location was chosen as the proximity to the river created a warmer microclimate allowing the survival of many non-native plants during harsh British winters. The river was also important as a transportation route facilitating easy movements of both plants and botanists.
In 1722, Dr. Hans Sloane, Lord of the Manor, after whom the nearby locations of Sloane Square and Sloane Street were named, purchased the Manor of Chelsea from Charles Cheyne. This purchase of about 4 acres was leased to the Society of Apothecaries for £5 a year in perpetuity. That amount is still paid each year to the heirs of that owner, Dr. Hans Sloane.
I know this blog is about American gardens, but I just can't resist including photos of the Chelsea garden which had so much influence on colonial gardens. The lovely little garden, which sits smack in the middle of busy London, is a beautiful, fragrant retreat from the near frantic bustle of the 21st century clattering around it.
19th Century Map of London showing Chelsea Physic Garden.
19th Century view of London's Chelsea Physic Garden from the south showing the famous cedars of Lebanon planted here in 1683. They were among the first to be planted in England. The last cedar died in 1903.
21st Century photo of Chelsea Physic Garden in London
21st Century photo of Chelsea Physic Garden in London
21st Century photo of Chelsea Physic Garden in London
21st Century photo of Chelsea Physic Garden in London
21st Century photo of Chelsea Physic Garden in London
21st Century photo of Chelsea Physic Garden in London.
Wednesday, November 27, 2019
This is a climbing sport of the ancient ‘Old Blush’ China, which was first introduced to America in 1752 and reintroduced in 1793. ‘Old Blush’, also known as ‘Parson’s Pink China’ and Monthly Rose, was one of the first repeat-blooming roses brought to the West, and consequently was very popular in the early 19th century. Considered one of the most garden worthy of the old Chinas, this important cultivar provided part of the parentage of rose hybrids to come.
Tuesday, November 26, 2019
New York native Briggs was the proprietor of the Briggs Seed House, Rochester, New York. In 1877 he had 20,000 merchants and dealers who sold his seeds. He had a large payroll with most of his employees being girls who filled orders, made paper bags, then labeled and filled them, and worked the printing presses.
Charles Briggs...commenced business here as a clerk about thirty years ago, & today has one of the largest seed houses in the city. His immense business is thoroughly systematized, each floor being devoted to some particular branch. In passing through the establishment one is likely to become astonished at the magnitude of the concern. His trade in vegetable seeds is enormous; but not to that alone is it confined, as flower seeds & bulbs form an important feature. He does a very large trade among merchants & dealers, of whom there are about twenty thousand who sell his seeds. Mr. Briggs' payroll is very large; the greater number of the employees, however, are girls, who do such work as filling the orders, making paper bags, labeling, filling, & packing them for market, besides operating tbe printing presses. The space used for this business amounts to over one hundred & thirty-six thousand feet. He has a large seed store in Chicago, & also a seed farm at Clinton, Iowa. Mr. B. has passed an active life in this business, & is justly entitled to the rank this establishment holds among the leading seed houses in this country.
From History of Monroe County, New York by W. H. McIntosh & W.E. Morrison, 1877
Monday, November 25, 2019
Also known as ‘Agrippina’ and ‘Lady Brisbane’, this stunning China rose was first bred by unknown Belgian breeders before 1823, then in France by M. Coquereau of Angers (1832), and finally introduced by Jean Baptist-Paillet as ‘Cramoisi Supérieur’ in 1834. It was celebrated by early 20th-century British garden writer Gertrude Jekyll and an old garden favorite in America’s Deep South and in Bermuda where it has naturalized. This rose is drought and heat tolerant.
Sunday, November 24, 2019
Saturday, November 23, 2019
This is the popular cottage garden Lady’s Mantle introduced from the Caucasus in 1874. Like its European relative, Alchemilla vulgaris, its felt-like leaves curiously hold water like beads of mercury. This property made it a favorite of the early apothecaries or alchemists, hence its scientific name. The delicate, airy blossoms are popular as cut flowers and for drying, and the fuzzy leaves are deer and rabbit resistant.
Friday, November 22, 2019
This time of year, when the gardens in our part of the country are just past & the local fruit and vegetable stands are closed, I think of James Peale's still lifes; where he captures forever the Mid-Atlantic freshness, that we are about to lose.
1795 Detail. James Peale (1739-1741). The Artist & His Family. Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia.
In 1771, American painter Charles Willson Peale wrote to his London teacher, Pennsylvania expatriate artist Benjamin West, about his youngest sibling Jemmie,the Youngest will be a painter, he coppys very well, and has painted a little from life." James Peale (1749-1831) was 23, and the die was cast.
James Peale (1749-1831). A Porcelain Bowl with Fruit.
James, who lost his father when he was an infant, was raised by his widowed mother & trained by his oldest brother Charles, to be a saddle maker & a painter. Charles Willson Peale had completed his apprenticeship in saddlery in 1762, just as James was reaching the age when a colonial boy might enter his apprenticeship. Charles had married, opened his saddle shop, and then fled creditors for Boston, leaving James to be apprenticed to a cabinetmaker-carpenter in Charlestown, Maryland, in 1765.
James Peale (1749-1831). c 1820 Still Life Balsam Apples and Vegetables.
James Peale began working in his brother’s painting studio about 1769, when Charles returned to Annapolis after 2 years of training in London under Benjamin West. James' carpentry skills made him indispensable in making frames for his brother’s paintings. In return Charles gave his brother lessons in keeping a sketchbook for drawing & in painting.
James Peale (1749-1831). c 1824 Still Life with Watermelon.
James Peale continued working in his brother’s Annapolis studio; until January 14, 1776, when he accepted a commission as an ensign in the army. Within 3 months he was promoted to captain, and after 3 years in the Revolutionary army, he received a personal letter from George Washington asking him to remain in service.\
James Peale (1749-1831). c 1824 Still Life with Chinese Basket.
But in 1779, James Peale resigned his commission and moved to Philadelphia. He rejoined his brother Charles, who had moved there with his wife and family, & once again lived & worked in his brother’s studio. James Peale lived with his brother until 1782, when he married Mary Claypoole (1753–1829), sister of artist James Claypoole, Jr. (c 1743–1800).
James Peale (1749-1831). c 1824 Still Life.
During the 18th century, James continued to make frames for Charles’s oil paintings & began painting his own delicate miniature portraits as well as landscapes dotted with people, especially his family members. The brothers worked together painting & on a variety of projects such as making floats for the 1788 Federal Procession, the grand parade held in Philadelphia to commemorate the new United States Constitution. And the brothers worked apart developing their own distinctive styles & projects.
James Peale (1749-1831). c 1829 Still Life with Fruit on a Tabletop.
By the turn of the century, James began painting successful history paintings & exquisite neoclassical fruit still-life paintings. He continued to paint ivory miniatures, until his eyesight began to fail about 1820. Toward the end of his life, James Peale explored the romantic sublime in landscapes including thunderstorms, violently uprooted trees, & grand mountains.
James Peale (1749-1831). c 1829 Still Life
Just like his brother Charles Willson Peale, James Peale taught his children to paint. Three of his gifted daughters became accomplished painters. Anna Claypoole Peale (1798–1871) became a miniaturist & still-life painter. Margaretta Angelica Peale (1795–1882) painted trompe l’oeil subjects (similar to those of her cousin Raphaelle), fruit still lifes, & oil portraits. Sarah Miriam Peale (1800–1885) also became a fine portraitist & still-life painter.
James Peale (1749-1831). Fruit in a Basket.
James Peale painted miniatures, portraits, & historical paintings in his early career when he was working with his brother Charles Willson Peale.
James Peale (1749-1831). Fruits of Autumn
By the turn of the century, he began to explore still lifes & landscapes on his own. These are the still lifes from that period.
James Peale (1749-1831). Still Life with An Abundance of Fruit.
Between the period Peale began painting these still lifes & the end of his life, when he painted the fearsome sublime in landscapes of thunderstorms, violently uprooted trees, & towering mountains, Peale painted continued to paint these exquisite neo-classical still lifes.
James Peale (1749-1831). Still Life with Apples, Grapes, Pear.
James Peale (1749-1831). Still Life with Grapes and Apples on a Plate.
James Peale (1749-1831). Vegetable Still Life.
Thursday, November 21, 2019
Martha Washington (1731-1802) - From the Garden to the Table
While George Washington oversaw most aspects of managing Mount Vernon's pleasure gardens & grounds, Martha Washington oversaw the Kitchen Garden (The Lower Garden), allowing her to keep fruits and vegetables on the table year round.
“…impress it on the gardener to have every thing in his garden that will be nece]ssary in the House keeping way — as vegetable is the best part of our living in the country.” – Martha Washington, 1792
Inside the Kitchen at Mount Vernon
In the matter of eating & drinking George Washington was temperate. For breakfast he ordinarily had tea & Indian cakes with butter & perhaps honey, of which he was very fond. His supper was equally light, consisting of perhaps tea & toast, with wine, & he usually retired at nine o'clock. Dinner was the main meal of the day at Mount Vernon, & usually was served at two o'clock. One such meal is thus described by a guest: "He thanked us, desired us to be seated, & to excuse him a few moments.... The President came & desired us to walk in to dinner & directed us where to sit, (no grace was said).... The dinner was very good, a small roasted pigg, boiled leg of lamb, roasted fowls, beef, peas, lettice, cucumbers, artichokes, etc., puddings, tarts, etc. etc." The General ordinarily confined himself to a few courses & if offered anything very rich, he would protest, "That is too good for me." He often drank beer with the meal, with one or two glasses of wine & perhaps as many more afterward, often eating nuts, another delicacy with him, as he sipped the wine.
George Washington's papers contain many references to corn, a popular vegetable that was enjoyed fresh during the summer, or dried for winter use, ground into meal for bread, or made into mush.
This recipe, virtually identical to most modern versions, was adapted by culinary historian Nancy Carter Crump from one in the Mary Custis Lee Papers at the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond.
3 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup half-and-half
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups fresh corn kernels (about 12 ears corn)
About 1 cup lard or vegetable oil
In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks until foamy. Add the half-and-half, flour, and salt, combining well. Stir in the corn.
Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. Gently fold into the corn mixture until well combined.
Melt the lard in a frying pan over medium-high heat. (Once melted, it should be about 2 inches deep.) Heat until the oil sizzles when a small amount of batter is dropped into it.
Reduce the heat to medium, and drop in tablespoonfuls of the batter, frying the fritters on both sides until golden brown. (To prevent the fritters from touching and maintain the oil's temperature, do not crowd the pan.) Set the fritters on paper towels to remove the excess oil, and set each batch aside to keep warm while frying the remaining batter.
Pile the fritters into a serving bowl, and serve hot.
Research plus images & much more are available from the Mount Vernon website, MountVernon.org.
Regarded as the “king of all white sweet corn varieties,” this home-garden favorite was developed in 1848 by Nathaniel Newman Stowell of Burlington, New Jersey, who crossed the Menomony Soft Corn with Northern Sugar Corn. It was later marketed by Grant Thorburn & Co. in 1856. As its name implies, Stowell’s Evergreen White Corn matures slowly, remaining in the milk stage over a long period, and is considered one of the best heirloom, open-pollinated varieties for table, canning, and freezing.
Wednesday, November 20, 2019
Bernard M'Mahon's 1806 American Gardener's Calendar published in Philadelphia
Work to be Done in the Kitchen Garden in January
IN such parts of the Union, where the ground is not at this time bound up with frost, continue to dig the waste quarters of your kitchen garden, first giving them such manure as they require; laying them in high sloping ridges, to sweeten and be improved by the frost, &e. more especially if the soil be of a stiff nature: by which method, its adhesion is destroyed, the pores are opened for the admission of air, frost, rain and dews, all of which abounding with nitrous salts, contribute, in a high degree, towards its melioration and fertility ; and besides a great quantity of ground thus prepared, can be soon leveled in the spring for sowing or planting; which, if neglected, would require much time to dig in a proper manner, and that at a period, when the throng of business requires every advantage of previous preparation.
When the ground at this time is frozen so hard as not to be dug, which is generally the case in the middle and eastern states, you may carry manure into the different quarters and spread it, repair fences, rub out and clean your seeds, prepare shreds, nails and twigs, for the wall and espalier trees, which are to be pruned in this and the next month; get all the garden-tools in repair, and purchase such as are wanting; provide from the woods a sufficient quantity of pea-rods, and poles for your Lima and other running beans; dress and point them, so as to be ready for use when wanted.
Here it may be well to remark, that many people who neglect to provide themselves with pea-rods at this season, when it can be so conveniently done, are necessitated, when the hurry of business overtakes them in spring, to sow their peas and let them trail on the ground ; in Which situation they will never produce, especially the tall growing kinds, one third as many as if they were properly rodded.
The various kinds of Early-Hotspur Peas, will require rods from four to five feet high, the Marrowfat, Glory of England, White and Green Rouncival, Spanish Morotto, and other tall growing kinds; will require them to be from six to seven fcet high, exclusive of the part to be inserted in the earth ; they ought to be formed or dressed fan fashion, the lower ends pointed, for the ease of pushing them into the earth, and laid by, either under some shed, or in any convenient place till wanted; one set of rods, will with care last for three years. The same kind of rods, that the tall growing peas require, will answer for the generality of running Kidney-Beans; the Lima-Beans require strong poles from eight to nine feet high.
If in this, and the next month, you neglect forwarding every thing that can possibly be done, in and for the garden, you will materially find the loss of such inattention, when the hurry and pressure of spring business overtake you. Every active and well inclined gardener will find abundant employment in the various departments of the garden at this season, and need not be idle, if disposed to be industrious, or to serve either himself or his employer.
Tuesday, November 19, 2019
In March 1804, at the start of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, Meriwether Lewis sent "some slips of the Osage Plums, and Apples" to Jefferson from a garden in St. Louis owned by Pierre Choteau. On his return journey in 1807 Lewis collected seed and personally brought them back to Washington and Philadelphia. These were distributed to Philadelphia nurseryman Bernard McMahon and wealthy plantsman William Hamilton, and were successfully grown and distributed.
Philadelphia botanist and plant explorer William Bartram first discovered this handsome shrub of the southeastern United States during his travels in Carolina, Georgia, and Florida in 1773-78; a specimen, believed planted by William, still grew in the Bartram’s nursery in 1930. John Fraser introduced the shrub to England in 1785; by 1820, the bottlebrush buckeye was “to be met with in most of our nurseries” in Great Britain. It has outstanding spring and autumn foliage color and is very attractive to butterflies.
Monday, November 18, 2019
The Monthly Kalender [1775-1779]
In the beginning of this month, if the weather is open, sow Almans Hotspur Pease, Hotspur Beans or the long podded Bean;
In frost weather break the dead wood, from your Raspberry Bushes, and get in Dung,
The first of this month, sow Ormans Master Hotspur, Charltons Hot Spur and Marrow fat Peas, and plant Windsor Beans, Flip Currant and Gooseberry Bushes, and set out the flips.
On the day that the Moon fulls, sow Onions and throw Lettuce, and Rhadish with your Onions.
In the Decrease of the Moon, sow carrots, Parsnips, Spinach, Parseley, Celery, Garden Crefses white Mustard, Cabbage and Colworts.
In the Middle of this Month plant out Cabbages and Colworts, In the last week set out flips of Box.
This is too early for Carrots they will many of them go to seed, ---even if sowed in February. About the 12 or 15 of March I think the best time for sowing Carrots and Parsnips.
Sow all kinds of Peas and Beans, and all forts of feeds. Plant Broad and French Beans, set out Cabbages and Colworts, the flips of Raspberries and Currants, and Gooseberries,
Thyme, fage Baum, Winter favory HySsop, Featherfew Rue, Wormwood, Pot Marjoram, Mint, Tansey, Lavender, Burnett, Scellendine, and Rosemary.
After a rain plnat out Cucumber feed.
Set out Asparagus as follows,
Dig a trench as wide as you intend your beds to be, and two feed deep, lay a layer of Oyster Shells, six Inches, then lay on Six Inches of Horse Dung, and as much Mould, continue so to do, till the Bed is done. Take your Roots raised from feed, and set them out in Rows, a foot Wide let there be a space of about a foot between each Row.
The first of this Month sow, your last Crop of Peas; plant French Beans; Spade up your Artichoak Bed and flip the Plants; leaving two of the Strongest in a Hill.
Sow Cabbage, Lettuce, Rhadish, White Mustard and Cresses Seeds.
Plant our your Cabbages. Sow Colliflower Seed Celery, Cresses, Nasturian Lettuce. Salsafy early in the Month.
Sow Colliflower, and Cabbage Seeds. Last of this month sow Brocoli, Celery, Cucumbers for Pickles Endive: Featherfew Le Melons, Peas, Radishes -twice- , Kidney Beans.
Plant Cucumbers and Broad Beans---or french Beans.
About the Middle of this Month sow Brocoli Seed. Sow Cabbages, also Rhadishes twice, transplant your Cabbages, prick out Colliflowers, and Brocoli. Draw up all your Weeds by the Roots.
The first of this month plant out Cabbages, and Celery; observing to Water to Ground if it is dry.
About the middle of this Month plant Colliflowers 3 ½ feet distances in very rich Ground. The last of this month sow Carrots and Peas. Transplant your Brocoli to stand, take up your onions. Sow Turnep Seed, plant Kidney Beans.
Sow Onion Seed, the first day of this Month with Rhadish and Lettuce, also Garden Cresses and White Mustard, Carrots may now be sown.
12th August, Sow peas for the Fall, about the same time sow Spinach, Turneps, Rhadishes.
The first of this Month sow Colliflower and Cabbage Seed, and also some Rhadish. After the full of the Moon, sow Spinage. The last of this Month, take your Colliflowers, and plnat them on Beds, to stand till November. This will prevent their flowering.
About the 10th sow your Colliflower Seed, plant cuttings of Currants, also of Gooseberrys, plant layers of Raspberries, plant out Strawberries dress your Strawberry Borders.
Dung your Ground, in order to plant Cabbages set them out on Beds to prevent the Waters standing. Dress your Borders.
20th transplant your Colliflowers, Last of this Month cut down your Asparagus and cover the Beds well with Manure.
In the beginning of this Month lay up the Earth to your artichokes, and fill the space between with Horse Dung, and Litter.
The first Week in this Month, plant out your Colliflowers as follows; Prepare your Ground as for as Hot Bed, then dig a trench Spade Deep; and two feed and a half Wide, make holes at convenient distances, set five Plants in each hole, put your Glasses on, raise them on the South side, when it is warm; plant out three of these plants in the first week in March.
During this month cut your asparagus close to the Ground, cover the Beds, with Horse Dung, then throw the Earth, out of the Vallies over the Horse Dung. Fork them up in March, and fill the allies again from the Beds.
Plant every thing of the Tree or Shrub kind. Prune your Trees and Vines. Take up your Colliflowers, if flowered, and House them.
The first of this Month, take up your Carrots, cut the tops off; and put them in a hole. When the Frost has bit your Parsnips; dispose of them in the same Manner.
If the weather be open, about the 20th of this Month, sow Almans Hotspur Peas, when they come up, earth them up to the Tops, don’t cover them.
Cover your Celery and every thing else that can be destroyed by the Frost.
Sunday, November 17, 2019
This elegant Mediterranean perennial was first documented in Italian gardens by 1548 but was grown much earlier by the Romans and Greeks. The bold leaves of this species inspired the architectural crown of Corinthian columns. It was not likely common in America, however, before the mid 19th century. The British garden writer William Robinson revived interest in the Acanthus by extolling its virtues in his classic book, The Wild Garden, 1870. New Jersey nurseryman Peter Henderson admired both Acanthus mollis and A. spinosus as “stately” and remarkably beautiful ornamentals in his Handbook of Plants, 1890. Large, dramatic flowers are attractive to bees.
Saturday, November 16, 2019
Mary Randolph was born in Virginia, the daughter of Anne Cary and Thomas Mann Randolph, a legislator and wealthy plantation owner. Her tombstone lists Ampthill, her mother's family home near Richmond, as her birthplace, though some genealogists believe she may have been born at her father's plantation called "Tuckahoe," in Goochland County. The oldest of thirteen children, "Molly," as she was called, grew up among southern aristocracy. Her father (1741 - 1793), orphaned at infancy, was raised by Thomas Jefferson's parents; the Randolphs were distant cousins of the Jeffersons, and the families saw each other often. Her father served Virginia in the colonial house of burgesses, the Revolutionary conventions of 1775 and 1776, and later in the state legislature. Her mother was the daughter of Archibald Cary, plantation owner and statesman. Her brother, Thomas Mann Randolph, became a Congressman and governor of Virginia and married Martha Jefferson, daughter of Thomas Jefferson.
Mary Randolph's education consisted of reading, writing, arithmetic, training in the household arts, and lessons in dancing, music, and drawing. In December 1780, at age eighteen, Randolph was married to a first cousin once removed named David Meade Randolph (1760 - 1830), a revolutionary war officer and tobacco planter. They settled at Randolph's James River plantation called "Presqu'Ile" in Chesterfield County, and the couple had eight children, four of whom lived to adulthood. Around 1795 President George Washington appointed David Randolph the U.S. marshal of Virginia (a federal court official), and the couple moved to Richmond. There, at the turn of the century, the Randolphs built Moldavia, an elegant residence named after the two of them. They held sparkling social gatherings that quickly made Mary Randolph a celebrated hostess, known for her well-set table and her knowledge of cooking. David Randolph, however, was a champion of Federalism and an open critic of Thomas Jefferson. President Jefferson removed Randolph from his post in 1801, and the Randolph family was forced to sell Moldavia and many of their plantation lands as a result of their declining fortunes.
Eventually, in 1807, Mary Randolph opened a tasteful boardinghouse in Richmond to supplement their income. At the time, boardinghouses were particularly popular in cities, where large numbers of workers and visitors were in need of meals and lodging. Restaurants barely existed at the time. Randolph's boardinghouse was known as "the Queen," after the name her boarders gave her. It was one of the most popular places in Richmond. As chronicler Samuel Mordecai attests in 1856, "There were few more festive boards . . .Wit, humor and good-fellowship prevailed, but excess rarely." They closed the boardinghouse in 1820 and moved to Washington D.C. In 1824, just four years before her death, Randolph published her one and only cookbook, The Virginia Housewife. She writes in the Preface:
The greater part of the following receipts have been written from memory, where they were impressed by long continued practice. Should they prove serviceable to the young inexperienced housekeeper, it will add greatly to that gratification which an extensive circulation of the work will be likely to confer.
Randolph's hope for success was fully realized. A second edition was published in 1825, and it was often republished - in Baltimore in 1831 and 1838, in Philadelphia in 1850, and at least nineteen editions before the outbreak of the Civil War. Replacing English cookbooks which until then were the standard in America, The Virginia Housewife became the most influential American cookbook of the nineteenth century. Practical and specific in weights and measures, it was simpler to follow than English cookbooks. Broad in its range of recipes, it called on the bounty of Virginia's pastures, fields, waterways and woods, revealing the remarkable variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs, berries, meats, wild game and fish of that place and time, matched only by the author's remarkably varied and masterful methods of preparation. Not surprisingly, the book's regional emphasis made it especially popular in the South, where every Virginia housewife, according to a later writer, Letitia Burwell, "knew how to compound all the various dishes in Mrs. Randolph's cookery book."
Mary Randolph lived for less than four years after the first publication of her cookbook. She was caring for an invalid son near the time of her death, which may have taxed her emotions and strength, for her gravestone describes her as "a victim of maternal love and duty." According to her wishes, she was buried at Arlington, the home of her cousin George Washington Parke Custis, stepson of George Washington and father of Mary Custis (Mrs. Robert E.) Lee. This final detail of her life reflects what historian Karen Hess points out, in her introduction to a facsimile of the 1824 edition:
So it can be seen that, in addition to her culinary prowess, nobody was more qualified by reason of family and social milieu to record the cookery of Virginia, the home of so many of our founding fathers, and of our nation's capital as well, in those early days. From the Historic American Cookbook Project: Feeding America
Keene, Ann T., American National Biography. Vol. 20. Eds. John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes. New York: Oxford, 1999.
Randolph, Mary. The Virginia Housewife: or Methodical Cook. Baltimore: Plaskitt, Fite, 1838.
----The Virginia House-Wife. With introduction by Karen Hess. Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press, 1985.
----The Virginia Housewife: or Methodical Cook. With introduction by Janice Bluestein Longone. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, 1993.
Rutledge, Anna Wells, Notable American Women 1607 - 1950: A Biographical Dictionary. Eds. Edward James, Janet James, Paul Boyer. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971.
Friday, November 15, 2019
This North American species is native from Nova Scotia to British Columbia and south to Georgia and Arkansas. Although delicate in appearance, this beautiful fern transplants easily and spreads quickly to create a voluminous, soft green ground cover. The Swedish naturalist Peter Kalm observed in Travels in North America (1753) that "the English in their plantations call it 'maiden hair'; it grows in all their North American colonies." The fronds were considered superior to European species for use in surgery and large quantities were shipped to France during the late 18th century.
Thursday, November 14, 2019
This is considered by some to be the first truly American cookbook and by all to be the first regional American cookbook. This work is still in print and still forms the basis of traditional Virginia cooking. It has been praised by many culinary authorities both for its delineation of authentic Virginia foods and its careful attention to detail.
Upon its first appearance in 1824 it was an immediate success and it was republished at least nineteen times before the outbreak of the Civil War. In addition, copies appeared in the late nineteenth century and modern Southern authors aften reference it.
Anyone who doubts that early Americans savored salads and vegetables need only look at what Mrs. Randolph offers. There are recipes for artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, French beans, Jerusalem artichokes, lima beans, mushrooms, onions, parsnips, peas, peppers, potatoes, potato pumpkin, red beet roots, salsify, savoy cabbage, sea kale, sorrel, spinach, sprouts and young greens, squash, sweet potatoes, turnips, turnip tops, winter squash, onions, and tomatoes.
Indeed, Mrs. Randolph has seventeen recipes using tomatoes in the various editions of her cookbook. This provides further evidence to correct the misinformation that Americans did not use tomatoes prior to the mid-nineteenth century. From the Historic American Cookbook Project: Feeding America.
Wednesday, November 13, 2019
This choice North American native was discovered in 1759 and named for Charles Amson, an 18th-century Virginia doctor and scientific traveler. Blue Star was likely not cultivated as a garden plant until the mid-1800s, but was recommended by Peter Henderson by the end of the century. It has since become a popular flower for the perennial border and the cut-flower garden.
Tuesday, November 12, 2019
American Monthly Magazine 1 (January 1836)
The essay, which is here offered, is a mere sketch of an almost illimitable subject--American Scenery; and in selecting the theme the writer placed more confidence in its overflowing richness, than in his own capacity for treating it in a manner worthy of its vastness and importance.
It is a subject that to every American ought to be of surpassing interest; for, whether he beholds the Hudson mingling waters with the Atlantic--explores the central wilds of this vast continent, or stands on the margin of the distant Oregon, he is still in the midst of American scenery--it is his own land; its beauty, its magnificence, its sublimity--all are his; and how undeserving of such a birthright, if he can turn towards it an unobserving eye, an unaffected heart!
Before entering into the proposed subject, in which I shall treat more particularly of the scenery of the Northern and Eastern States, I shall be excused for saying a few words on the advantages of cultivating a taste for scenery, and for exclaiming against the apathy with which the beauties of external nature are regarded by the great mass, even of our refined community.
1. The Contemplation of Scenery as a Source of Delight and Improvement
It is generally admitted that the liberal arts tend to soften our manners; but they do more--they carry with them the power to mend our hearts.
Poetry and Painting sublime and purify thought, by grasping the past, the present, and the future--they give the mind a foretaste of its immortality, and thus prepare it for performing an exalted part amid the realities of life. And rural nature is full of the same quickening spirit--it is, in fact, the exhaustless mine from which the poet and the painter have brought such wondrous treasures--an unfailing fountain of intellectual enjoyment, where all may drink, and be awakened to a deeper feeling of the works of genius, and a keener perception of the beauty of our existence. For those whose days are all consumed in the low pursuits of avarice, or the gaudy frivolities of fashion, unobservant of nature's loveliness, are unconscious of the harmony of creation--
Heaven's roof to them Is but a painted ceiling hung with lamps; No more--that lights them to their purposes-- They wander 'loose about;' they nothing see, Themselves except, and creatures like themselves, Short lived, short sighted.
What to them is the page of the poet where he describes or personifies the skies, the mountains, or the streams, if those objects themselves have never awakened observation or excited pleasure? What to them is the wild Salvator Rosa, or the aerial Claude Lorrain?
There is in the human mind an almost inseparable connection between the beautiful and the good, so that if we contemplate the one the other seems present; and an excellent author has said, "it is difficult to look at any objects with pleasure--unless where it arises from brutal and tumultuous emotions--without feeling that disposition of mind which tends towards kindness and benevolence; and surely, whatever creates such a disposition, by increasing our pleasures and enjoyments, cannot be too much cultivated."
It would seem unnecessary to those who can see and feel, for me to expatiate on the loveliness of verdant fields, the sublimity of lofty mountains, or the varied magnificence of the sky; but that the number of those who seek enjoyment in such sources is comparatively small. From the indifference with which the multitude regard the beauties of nature, it might be inferred that she had been unnecessarily lavish in adorning this world for beings who take no pleasure in its adornment. Who in grovelling pursuits forget their glorious heritage. Why was the earth made so beautiful, or the sun so clad in glory at his rising and setting, when all might be unrobed of beauty without affecting the insensate multitude, so they can be "lighted to their purposes?"
It has not been in vain--the good, the enlightened of all ages and nations, have found pleasure and consolation in the beauty of the rural earth. Prophets of old retired into the solitudes of nature to wait the inspiration of heaven. It was on Mount Horeb that Elijah witnessed the mighty wind, the earthquake, and the fire; and heard the "still small voice"--that voice is YET heard among the mountains! St. John preached in the desert;--the wilderness is YET a fitting place to speak of God. The solitary Anchorites of Syria and Egypt, though ignorant that the busy world is man's noblest sphere of usefulness, well knew how congenial to religious musings are the pathless solitudes.
He who looks on nature with a "loving eye," cannot move from his dwelling without the salutation of beauty; even in the city the deep blue sky and the drifting clouds appeal to him. And if to escape its turmoil--if only to obtain a free horizon, land and water in the play of light and shadow yields delight--let him be transported to those favored regions, where the features of the earth are more varied, or yet add the sunset, that wreath of glory daily bound around the world, and he, indeed, drinks from pleasure's purest cup. The delight such a man experiences is not merely sensual, or selfish, that passes with the occasion leaving no trace behind; but in gazing on the pure creations of the Almighty, he feels a calm religious tone steal through his mind, and when he has turned to mingle with his fellow men, the chords which have been struck in that sweet communion cease not to vibrate.
In what has been said I have alluded to wild and uncultivated scenery; but the cultivated must not be forgotten, for it is still more important to man in his social capacity--necessarily bringing him in contact with the cultured; it encompasses our homes, and, though devoid of the stern sublimity of the wild, its quieter spirit steals tenderly into our bosoms mingled with a thousand domestic affections and heart-touching associations--human hands have wrought, and human deeds hallowed all around.
And it is here that taste, which is the perception of the beautiful, and the knowledge of the principles on which nature works, can be applied, and our dwelling-places made fitting for refined and intellectual beings.
2. The Advantages of Cultivating a Taste for Scenery
If, then, it is indeed true that the contemplation of scenery can be so abundant a source of delight and improvement, a taste for it is certainly worthy of particular cultivation; for the capacity for enjoyment increases with the knowledge of the true means of obtaining it.
In this age, when a meager utilitarianism seems ready to absorb every feeling and sentiment, and what is sometimes called improvement in its march makes us fear that the bright and tender flowers of the imagination shall all be crushed beneath its iron tramp, it would be well to cultivate the oasis that yet remains to us, and thus preserve the germs of a future and a purer system. And now, when the sway of fashion is extending widely over society--poisoning the healthful streams of true refinement, and turning men from the love of simplicity and beauty, to a senseless idolatry of their own follies--to lead them gently into the pleasant paths of Taste would be an object worthy of the highest efforts of genius and benevolence. The spirit of our society is to contrive but not to enjoy--toiling to produce more toil-accumulating in order to aggrandize. The pleasures of the imagination, among which the love of scenery holds a conspicuous place, will alone temper the harshness of such a state; and, like the atmosphere that softens the most rugged forms of the landscape, cast a veil of tender beauty over the asperities of life.
Did our limits permit I would endeavor more fully to show how necessary to the complete appreciation of the Fine Arts is the study of scenery, and how conducive to our happiness and well-being is that study and those arts; but I must now proceed to the proposed subject of this essay--American Scenery!
II. The Elements of American Scenery
There are those who through ignorance or prejudice strive to maintain that American scenery possesses little that is interesting or truly beautiful--that it is rude without picturesqueness, and monotonous without sublimity--that being destitute of those vestiges of antiquity, whose associations so strongly affect the mind, it may not be compared with European scenery. But from whom do these opinions come? From those who have read of European scenery, of Grecian mountains, and Italian skies, and never troubled themselves to look at their own; and from those travelled ones whose eyes were never opened to the beauties of nature until they beheld foreign lands, and when those lands faded from the sight were again closed and forever; disdaining to destroy their trans-atlantic impressions by the observation of the less fashionable and unfamed American scenery. Let such persons shut themselves up in their narrow shell of prejudice--I hope they are few,--and the community increasing in intelligence, will know better how to appreciate the treasures of their own country.
I am by no means desirous of lessening in your estimation the glorious scenes of the old world--that ground which has been the great theater of human events--those mountains, woods, and streams, made sacred in our minds by heroic deeds and immortal song--over which time and genius have suspended an imperishable halo. No! But I would have it remembered that nature has shed over this land beauty and magnificence, and although the character of its scenery may differ from the old world's, yet inferiority must not therefore be inferred; for though American scenery is destitute of many of those circumstances that give value to the European, still it has features, and glorious ones, unknown to Europe.
A very few generations have passed away since this vast tract of the American continent, now the United States, rested in the shadow of primeval forests, whose gloom was peopled by savage beasts, and scarcely less savage men; or lay in those wide grassy plains called prairies--
The Gardens of the Desert, these The unshorn fields, boundless and beautiful.
And, although an enlightened and increasing people have broken in upon the solitude, and with activity and power wrought changes that seem magical, yet the most distinctive, and perhaps the most impressive, characteristic of American scenery is its wildness.
It is the most distinctive, because in civilized Europe the primitive features of scenery have long since been destroyed or modified--the extensive forests that once overshadowed a great part of it have been felled--rugged mountains have been smoothed, and impetuous rivers turned from their courses to accommodate the tastes and necessities of a dense population--the once tangled wood is now a grassy lawn; the turbulent brook a navigable stream--crags that could not be removed have been crowned with towers, and the rudest valleys tamed by the plough.
And to this cultivated state our western world is fast approaching; but nature is still predominant, and there are those who regret that with the improvements of cultivation the sublimity of the wilderness should pass away: for those scenes of solitude from which the hand of nature has never been lifted, affect the mind with a more deep toned emotion than aught which the hand of man has touched. Amid them the consequent associations are of God the creator--they are his undefiled works, and the mind is cast into the contemplation of eternal things.
As mountains are the most conspicuous objects in landscape, they will take the precedence in what I may say on the elements of American scenery.
It is true that in the eastern part of this continent there are no mountains that vie in altitude with the snow-crowned Alps--that the Alleghanies and the Catskills are in no point higher than five thousand feet; but this is no inconsiderable height; Snowdon in Wales, and Ben-Nevis in Scotland, are not more lofty; and in New Hampshire, which has been called the Switzerland of the United States, the White Mountains almost pierce the region of perpetual snow. The Alleghanies are in general heavy in form; but the Catskills, although not broken into abrupt angles like the most picturesque mountains of Italy, have varied, undulating, and exceedingly beautiful outlines--they heave from the valley of the Hudson like the subsiding billows of the ocean after a storm.
American mountains are generally clothed to the summit by dense forests, while those of Europe are mostly bare, or merely tinted by grass or heath. It may be that the mountains of Europe are on this account more picturesque in form, and there is a grandeur in their nakedness; but in the gorgeous garb of the American mountains there is more than an equivalent; and when the woods "have put their glory on," as an American poet has beautifully said, the purple heath and yellow furze of Europe's mountains are in comparison but as the faint secondary rainbow to the primal one.
But in the mountains of New Hampshire there is a union of the picturesque, the sublime, and the magnificent; there the bare peaks of granite, broken and desolate, cradle the clouds; while the vallies and broad bases of the mountains rest under the shadow of noble and varied forests; and the traveller who passes the Sandwich range on his way to the White Mountains, of which it is a spur, cannot but acknowledge, that although in some regions of the globe nature has wrought on a more stupendous scale, yet she has nowhere so completely married together grandeur and loveliness--there he sees the sublime melting into the beautiful, the savage tempered by the magnificent.
I will now speak of another component of scenery, without which every landscape is defective--it is water. Like the eye in the human countenance, it is a most expressive feature: in the unrippled lake, which mirrors all surrounding objects, we have the expression of tranquillity and peace--in the rapid stream, the headlong cataract, that of turbulence and impetuosity.
In this great element of scenery, what land is so rich? I would not speak of the Great Lakes, which are in fact inland seas--possessing some of the attributes of the ocean, though destitute of its sublimity; but of those smaller lakes, such as Lake George, Champlain, Winnipisiogee, Otsego, Seneca, and a hundred others, that stud like gems the bosom of this country. There is one delightful quality in nearly all these lakes--the purity and transparency of the water. In speaking of scenery it might seem unnecessary to mention this; but independent of the pleasure that we all have in beholding pure water, it is a circumstance which contributes greatly to the beauty of landscape; for the reflections of surrounding objects, trees, mountains, sky, are most perfect in the clearest water; and the most perfect is the most beautiful.
I would rather persuade you to visit the "Holy Lake," the beautiful "Horican," than attempt to describe its scenery--to behold you rambling on its storied shores, where its southern expanse is spread, begernmed with isles of emerald, and curtained by green receding hills--or to see you gliding over its bosom, where the steep and rugged mountains approach from either side, shadowing with black precipices the innumerable islets--some of which bearing a solitary tree, others a group of two or three, or a "goodly company," seem to have been sprinkled over the smiling deep in Nature's frolic hour. These scenes are classic--History and Genius have hallowed them. War's shrill clarion once waked the echoes from these now silent hills--the pen of a living master has portrayed them in the pages of romance--and they are worthy of the admiration of the enlightened and the graphic hand of Genius.
Though differing from Lake George, Winnipisiogee resembles it in multitudinous and uncounted islands. Its mountains do not stoop to the water's edge, but through varied screens of forest may be seen ascending the sky softened by the blue haze of distance--on the one hand rise the Gunstock Mountains; on the other the dark Ossipees, while above and far beyond, rear the "cloud capt" peaks of the Sandwich and White Mountains.
I will not fatigue with a vain attempt to describe the lakes that I have named; but would turn your attention to those exquisitely beautiful lakes that are so numerous in the Northern States, and particularly in New Hampshire. In character they are truly and peculiarly American. I know nothing in Europe which they resemble; the famous lakes of Albano and Nemi, and the small and exceedingly picturesque lakes of Great Britain may be compared in size, but are dissimilar in almost every other respect. Embosomed in the primitive forest, and sometimes overshadowed by huge mountains, they are the chosen places of tranquillity; and when the deer issues from the surrounding woods to drink the cool waters, he beholds his own image as in a polished mirror,--the flight of the eagle can be seen in the lower sky; and if a leaf falls, the circling undulations chase each other to the shores unvexed by contending tides.
There are two lakes of this description, situated in a wild mountain gorge called the Franconia Notch, in New Hampshire. They lie within a few hundred feet of each other, but are remarkable as having no communication--one being the source of the wild Amonoosuck, the other of the Pemigiwasset. Shut in by stupendous mountains which rest on crags that tower more than a thousand feet above the water, whose rugged brows and shadowy breaks are clothed by dark and tangled woods, they have such an aspect of deep seclusion, of utter and unbroken solitude, that, when standing on their brink a lonely traveller, I was overwhelmed with an emotion of the sublime, such as I have rarely felt. It was not that the jagged precipices were lofty, that the encircling woods were of the dimmest shade, or that the waters were profoundly deep; but that over all, rocks, wood, and water, brooded the spirit of repose, and the silent energy of nature stirred the soul to its inmost depths.
I would not be understood that these lakes are always tranquil; but that tranquillity is their great characteristic. There are times when they take a far different expression; but in scenes like these the richest chords are those struck by the gentler hand of nature.
And now I must turn to another of the beautifiers of the earth--the Waterfall; which in the same object at once presents to the mind the beautiful, but apparently incongruous idea, of fixedness and motion--a single existence in which we perceive unceasing change and everlasting duration. The waterfall may be called the voice of the landscape, for, unlike the rocks and woods which utter sounds as the passive instruments played on by the elements, the waterfall strikes its own chords, and rocks and mountains re-echo in rich unison. And this is a land abounding in cataracts; in these Northern States where shall we turn and not find them? Have we not Kaaterskill, Trenton, the Flume, the Genesee, stupendous Niagara, and a hundred others named and nameless ones, whose exceeding beauty must be acknowledged when the hand of taste shall point them out?
In the Kaaterskill we have a stream, diminutive indeed, but throwing itself headlong over a fearful precipice into a deep gorge of the densely wooded mountains--and possessing a singular feature in the vast arched cave that extends beneath and behind the cataract. At Trenton there is a chain of waterfalls of remarkable beauty, where the foaming waters, shadowed by steep cliffs, break over rocks of architectural formation, and tangled and picturesque trees mantle abrupt precipices, which it would be easy to imagine crumbling and "time disparting towers."
And Niagara! that wonder of the world!--where the sublime and beautiful are bound together in an indissoluble chain. In gazing on it we feel as though a great void had been filled in our minds--our conceptions expand--we become a part of what we behold! At our feet the floods of a thousand rivers are poured out--the contents of vast inland seas. In its volume we conceive immensity; in its course, everlasting duration; in its impetuosity, uncontrollable power. These are the elements of its sublimity. Its beauty is garlanded around in the varied hues of the water, in the spray that ascends the sky, and in that unrivalled bow which forms a complete cincture round the unresting floods.
The river scenery of the United States is a rich and boundless theme. The Hudson for natural magnificence is unsurpassed. What can be more beautiful than the lake-like expanses of Tapaan and Haverstraw, as seen from the rich orchards of the surrounding hills? hills that have a legend, which has been so sweetly and admirably told that it shall not perish but with the language of the land. What can be more imposing than the precipitous Highlands; whose dark foundations have been rent to make a passage for the deep-flowing river? And, ascending still, where can be found scenes more enchanting? The lofty Catskills stand afar off-the green hills gently rising from the flood, recede like steps by which we may ascend to a great temple, whose pillars are those everlasting hills, and whose dome is the blue boundless vault of heaven.
The Rhine has its castled crags, its vine-clad hills, and ancient villages; the Hudson has its wooded mountains, its rugged precipices, its green undulating shores--a natural majesty, and an unbounded capacity for improvement by art. Its shores are not besprinkled with venerated ruins, or the palaces of princes; but there are flourishing towns, and neat villas, and the hand of taste has already been at work. Without any great stretch of the imagination we may anticipate the time when the ample waters shall reflect temple, and tower, and dome, in every variety of picturesqueness and magnificence.
In the Connecticut we behold a river that differs widely from the Hudson. Its sources are amid the wild mountains of New Hampshire; but it soon breaks into a luxuriant valley, and flows for more than a hundred miles, sometimes beneath the shadow of wooded hills, and sometimes glancing through the green expanse of elm-besprinkled meadows. Whether we see it at Haverhill, Northampton, or Hartford, it still possesses that gentle aspect; and the imagination can scarcely conceive Arcadian vales more lovely or more peaceful than the valley of the Connecticut--its villages are rural places where trees overspread every dwelling, and the fields upon its margin have the richest verdure.
Nor ought the Ohio, the Susqueharmah, the Potomac, with their tributaries, and a thousand others, be omitted in the rich list of the American rivers--they are a glorious brotherhood; but volumes would be insufficient for their description.
In the Forest scenery of the United States we have that which occupies the greatest space, and is not the least remarkable; being primitive, it differs widely from the European. In the American forest we find trees in every stage of vegetable life and decay--the slender sapling rises in the shadow of the lofty tree, and the giant in his prime stands by the hoary patriarch of the wood--on the ground lie prostrate decaying ranks that once waved their verdant heads in the sun and wind. These are circumstances productive of great variety and picturesqueness--green umbrageous masses--lofty and scathed trunks--contorted branches thrust athwart the sky--the mouldering dead below, shrouded in moss of every hue and texture, from richer combinations than can be found in the trimmed and planted grove. It is true that the thinned and cultivated wood offers less obstruction to the feet, and the trees throw out their branches more horizontally, and are consequently more umbrageous when taken singly; but the true lover of the picturesque is seldom fatigued--and trees that grow widely apart are often heavy in form, and resemble each other too much for picturesqueness. Trees are like men, differing widely in character; in sheltered spots, or under the influence of culture, they show few contrasting points; peculiarities are pruned and trained away, until there is a general resemblance. But in exposed situations, wild and uncultivated, battling with the elements and with one another for the possession of a morsel of soil, or a favoring rock to which they may cling--they exhibit striking peculiarities, and sometimes grand originality.
For variety, the American forest is unrivalled: in some districts are found oaks, elms, birches, beeches, planes, pines, hemlocks, and many other kinds of trees, commingled--clothing the hills with every tint of green, and every variety of light and shade.
There is a peculiarity observable in some mountainous regions, where trees of a genus band together--there often may be seen a mountain whose foot is clothed with deciduous trees, while on its brow is a sable crown of pines; and sometimes belts of dark green encircle a mountain horizontally, or are stretched in well-defined lines from the summit to the base. The nature of the soil, or the courses of rivulets, are the causes of this variety;--and it is a beautiful instance of the exhaustlessness of nature; often where we should expect unvarying monotony, we behold a charming diversity. Time will not permit me to speak of the American forest trees individually; but I must notice the elm, that paragon of beauty and shade; the maple, with its rainbow hues; and the hemlock, the sublime of trees, which rises from the gloom of the forest like a dark and ivy-mantled tower.
There is one season when the American forest surpasses all the world in gorgeousness--that is the autumnal;--then every hill and dale is riant in the luxury of color--every hue is there, from the liveliest green to deepest purple from the most golden yellow to the intensest crimson. The artist looks despairingly upon the glowing landscape, and in the old world his truest imitations of the American forest, at this season, are called falsely bright, and scenes in Fairy Land.
The sky will next demand our attention. The soul of all scenery, in it are the fountains of light, and shade, and color. Whatever expression the sky takes, the features of the landscape are affected in unison, whether it be the serenity of the summer's blue, or the dark tumult of the storm. It is the sky that makes the earth so lovely at sunrise, and so splendid at sunset. In the one it breathes over the earth the crystal-like ether, in the other liquid gold. The climate of a great part of the United States is subject to great vicissitudes, and we complain; but nature offers a compensation. These very vicissitudes are the abundant sources of beauty--as we have the temperature of every clime, so have we the skies--we have the blue unsearchable depths of the northern sky--we have the upheaped thunder-clouds of the Torrid Zone, fraught with gorgeousness and sublimity--we have the silver haze of England, and the golden atmosphere of Italy. And if he who has travelled and observed the skies of other climes will spend a few months on the banks of the Hudson, he must be constrained to acknowledge that for variety and magnificence American skies are unsurpassed. Italian skies have been lauded by every tongue, and sung by every poet, and who will deny their wonderful beauty? At sunset the serene arch is filled with alchemy that transmutes mountains, and streams, and temples, into living gold.
But the American summer never passes without many sunsets that might vie with the Italian, and many still more gorgeous--that seem peculiar to this clime.
Look at the heavens when the thunder shower has passed, and the sun stoops behind the western mountains--there the low purple clouds hang in festoons around the steeps--in the higher heaven are crimson bands interwoven with feathers of gold, fit for the wings of angels--and still above is spread that interminable field of ether, whose color is too beautiful to have a name.
It is not in the summer only that American skies are beautiful; for the winter evening often comes robed in purple and gold, and in the westering sun the iced groves glitter as beneath a shower of diamonds--and through the twilight heaven innumerable stars shine with a purer light than summer ever knows.
III. The Want of Associations
I will now venture a few remarks on what has been considered a grand defect in American scenery--the want of associations, such as arise amid the scenes of the old world.
We have many a spot as umbrageous as Vallombrosa, and as picturesque as the solitudes of Vaucluse; but Milton and Petrarch have not hallowed them by their footsteps and immortal verse. He who stands on Mont Albano and looks down on ancient Rome, has his mind peopled with the gigantic associations of the storied past; but he who stands on the mounds of the West, the most venerable remains of American antiquity, may experience the emotion of the sublime, but it is the sublimity of a shoreless ocean un-islanded by the recorded deeds of man.
Yet American scenes are not destitute of historical and legendary associations--the great struggle for freedom has sanctified many a spot, and many a mountain, stream, and rock has its legend, worthy of poet's pen or the painter's pencil. But American associations are not so much of the past as of the present and the future. Seated on a pleasant knoll, look down into the bosom of that secluded valley, begin with wooded hills--through those enamelled meadows and wide waving fields of grain, a silver stream winds lingeringly along--here, seeking the green shade of trees--there, glancing in the sunshine: on its banks are rural dwellings shaded by elms and garlanded by flowers--from yonder dark mass of foliage the village spire beams like a star. You see no ruined tower to tell of outrage--no gorgeous temple to speak of ostentation; but freedom's offspring--peace, security, and happiness, dwell there, the spirits of the scene. On the margin of that gentle river the village girls may ramble unmolested--and the glad school-boy, with hook and line, pass his bright holiday--those neat dwellings, unpretending to magnificence, are the abodes of plenty, virtue, and refinement. And in looking over the yet uncultivated scene, the mind's eye may see far into futurity. Where the wolf roams, the plough shall glisten; on the gray crag shall rise temple and tower--mighty deeds shall be done in the now pathless wilderness; and poets yet unborn shall sanctify the soil.
1. The Destruction of Beautiful Landscapes
It was my intention to attempt a description of several districts remarkable for their picturesqueness and truly American character; but I fear to trespass longer on your time and patience. Yet I cannot but express my sorrow that the beauty of such landscapes are quickly passing away--the ravages of the axe are daily increasing--the most noble scenes are made desolate, and oftentimes with a wantonness and barbarism scarcely credible in a civilized nation. The wayside is becoming shadeless, and another generation will behold spots, now rife with beauty, desecrated by what is called improvement; which, as yet, generally destroys Nature's beauty without substituting that of Art. This is a regret rather than a complaint; such is the road society has to travel; it may lead to refinement in the end, but the traveller who sees the place of rest close at hand, dislikes the road that has so many unnecessary windings.
2. We Are Still in Eden
I will now conclude, in the hope that, though feebly urged, the importance of cultivating a taste for scenery will not be forgotten. Nature has spread for us a rich and delightful banquet. Shall we turn from it? We are still in Eden; the wall that shuts us out of the garden is our own ignorance and folly. We should not allow the poet's words to be applicable to us--
Deep in rich pasture do thy flocks complain? Not so; but to their master is denied To share the sweet serene.
May we at times turn from the ordinary pursuits of life to the pure enjoyment of rural nature; which is in the soul like a fountain of cool waters to the way-worn traveller; and let us
Learn The laws by which the Eternal doth sublime And sanctify his works, that we may see The hidden glory veiled from vulgar eyes.