A Choise Garden of Rarest Flowers: John Parkinson’s "Paradisi in Sole Paradisus Terrestris"
By Shelby Wolfe, Reader Services
Somewhere amid April snow showers, I took my desire to see long-awaited signs of spring into my own hands and dug into a number of volumes here at the MHS regarding all things flora. I spent some time in A Little Book of Perennials (1927) by Alfred C. Hottes, consulted the floral clock in the appendix of Christopher Dresser’s Art of Decorative Design (1862) in anticipation of near-future blooms, and found the not-so-secret language of flowers outlined in a miniature Burnett's Floral Handbook and Ladies' Calendar for 1866 intriguing and rather amusing (if someone sends you laurestinus flowers, they may be trying to convey the sentiment “I die if neglected”; lettuce expresses cold-heartedness, a yellow carnation disdain).
I slowed down when I started paging through John Parkinson’s 1656 volume on horticulture, descriptively titled Paradisi in Sole Paradisus Terrestris, or, A choise Garden of all sorts of Rarest Flowers, with their Nature, place of Birth, time of flowring, Names, and Vertues to each Plant, useful in Physick, or admired for Beauty. To which is annext a Kitchin-Garden furnished with all manner of Herbs, Roots, and Fruits, for Meat or Sawce used with us. With the Art of planting an Orchard of all sorts of fruit-bearing Trees and Shrubs, shewing the nature of Grafting, Inoculating, and pruning of them. Together with the right ordering, planting, and preserving of them, with their select vertues : All unmentioned in former Herbals. Parkinson, who held the distinctions of Apothecary of London and the King’s Herbalist, preludes this work with a dedication to the queen. Our 1659 copy of Paradisi in Sole is a later edition of the original, first printed in 1629, making this a dedication to Henrietta Maria of France, wife of Charles I of England. Parkinson writes, “Accept, I beseech your Majesty, this Speaking Garden, that may inform you in all the particulars of your store, as well as wants, when you cannot see any of them fresh upon the ground.” As I had yet to see any signs of spring fresh upon the ground and was indeed in want of them, I decided to give this Speaking Garden a try.
I wasn’t disappointed – Parkinson’s collection of horticultural advice, wisdom, and instruction includes a number of beautiful woodcut illustrations. An early section, “The ordering of the Garden of pleasure,” includes intricate designs as suggestions for attractive garden layouts.
"The ordering of the Garden of pleasure."
"The Garden of pleasant Flowers," showing various specimen of Peony.
Some illustrations near the beginning of the book bear signs of a previous owner, having been partially colored. Other sections of the text have been underlined or annotated. Evidently one reader wanted to remember when planting Tulipas, “if you set them deep, they will be the safer from frosts if your ground be cold, which will also cause them to be a little later before they be in flower …” as it has been called out with a manicule.
In addition to the main text with its beautiful illustrations, Paradisi in Sole includes helpful appendices to help navigate a volume brimming with knowledge, insight, and sometimes seemingly strange advice. My favorite was “A Table of the Virtues and Properties of the HEARBS contained in this BOOK,” which provides a concise guide to locating remedies for standard ailments and even one’s most obscure complaint.
How could I not turn to pages 364, 436, 502, 506, 513, or 533 to see what I should do “For cold and moyst Brains”? Apparently Tabacco [sic], the Tree of life, Garden Mustard, Cabbages and Coleworts, Leeks, or Licorice would do the trick and clear the lungs of phlegm. What are Parkinson’s nineteen suggestions for a “Cordiall to comfort the heart”? Among them he includes Saffron, Monkeshood, Marigolds, Roses, and Strawberries. Plenty more “virtues” had me flipping back and forth, from index to referenced page, out of sheer curiosity and bewilderment. If you would like to do the same, visit the library to work with this volume and others that pique your interest.
As I finish this blog post and prepare to reshelve Paradisi in Sole, I see a bed of daffodils and tulips through a window in the reading room.
| Published: Wednesday, 2 May, 2018, 12:00 AM
The Bygone Celebrations of May Day in Boston
By Rakashi Chand, Reader Services
Today is the 1st of May, a day once celebrated with merriment, song, dance and baskets. The celebration of May Day originated in pre-Christian Europe as a festival to celebrate the coming of Spring and the first planting. The boisterous celebrations of May Day suffered a bit with the onset of Christianity, but what emerged was a more innocent and beautiful festival. It was this festival, brought over from Europe, which reached its peak in nineteenth century America. Bostonians celebrated May Day with concerts, dances, and by making May Day Baskets.
May Day exhibition of the Sabbath School connected with the Universalist Society of Methuen, Mass...
The May Day holiday was perhaps the loveliest of all celebrations. Adorned in flowers and beautiful colors, this was a day to truly celebrate beauty, friendship and happiness, as well as the coming of spring and all the wonderful sights, smells, tastes and feelings that accompany the warmer months. The holiday was as sweet and as beautiful as the season it heralded. May Day baskets were often homemade baskets that would be filled with freshly picked flowers, sweets, and sometimes even small gifts, to be left on the doors of friends, neighbors and possibly even a romantic interest. The May baskets were secretly hung on the door of friends and loved ones on May 1st.
In 1850, a Massachusetts man named Thomas Power composed an ode (below) to an unknown woman who presented him with a May Day basket.
To the Unknown Lady: who sent to the Writer, on May morning, a bouquet, exceedingly beautiful, and very fragrant
…Lady, so beautiful the gift you send,
It might to others beauteous objects lend
A wealth of loveliness, and still be seen
The favorite talisman of May’s fair queen;
Blended so gracefully, its tints compare
With show of Iris painted on the air.
What welcome perfume! –Ever shall it be
Thus fresh is grateful memory to me:
Each coming May-day shall new fragrance bring,
And Time decree one bright, unending Spring.
150 years ago the city was rife with concerts and dances to celebrate May Day. Children jubilantly danced around May Poles as their rite of Spring, and schools held assemblies and choral concerts. Adults and children alike enjoyed the festivities, songs, and dances that accompanied the festivals.
One such event was sponsored by the Warren Street Chapel in 1860. The festivities that took place at the Boston Music Hall included poems, songs like Dr. Parson's "A Song for the Children. May Day," and the very fashionable tableaux, "The Living Pictures," which had swept over Europe and then became vogue in America. The entire thing wrapped up with a "Social Assembly, Fourteen Dances, at Eight O'Clock, P.M."
May Day, 1860: Boston Music Hall
Another celebration held in 1858 featured songs specially arranged for the day and to be sung at specific times; "Fancy Dances" held at set times throughout the day; "Games, Graces, &c." to occupy revelers during lulls in the music and dancing; and in the evening, a "Grand Promenade Concert" performed by the Germania Reed, Brass, Militrary Band and Full Orchestra." In addition, visitors could purchase bouquets and potted flowers to take home (with delivery to any part of the city an option).
Programme for May-Day...
So, consider rekindling some of these bygone May Day traditions and festivities. Prepare a basket, sing a song, and dance a dance, and celebrate the season with these words:
Oh! Mild be the wind! And clear be the sky!
As we wake another May-morning.
Before the sun rises, abroad we fly,
Dull sleep and our drowsy beds scorning,
To dance! Then, my dear ones, and away!
Bright splendor the hills are adorning.
The face of all nature looks gay,
‘Tis a beautiful, joy-breathing morning!
Hark! hark! forward! tantara! tantara!
Have a lovely May Day!
- Encyclopaedia Britannica online, "May Day: European seasonal holiday." Accessed 30 April 2018 at https://www.britannica.com/topic/May-Day-European-seasonal-holiday.
- Weeks, Linton, "A Forgotten Tradition: May Basket Day." NPR History Department, 30 April 2015. Accessed 30 April 2018 at https://www.npr.org/sections/npr-history-dept/2015/04/30/402817821/a-forgotten-tradition-may-basket-day.
- "The May-Day Festival: Symposium," Francis W. Parker School Year Book, Vol. 2, The Morning Exercise As A Socializing Influence (June 1913), p. 150-157. Accessed 30 April 2018 at http://www.jstor.org/stable/41102642
| Published: Tuesday, 1 May, 2018, 11:48 AM
Barbara Hillard Smith’s Diary, April 1918
By Lindsay Bina, Intern and Anna Clutterbuck-Cook, Reader Services
Today we return to the 1918 diary of Newton teenager Barbara Hillard Smith. You may read our introduction to the diary, and Barbara’s January, February, and March entries, here:
January | February | March | April
May | June | July | August
September | October | November | December
As regular readers of the Beehive know, we are following Barbara throughout 1918 with monthly blog posts that present Barbara’s daily life -- going to school, seeing friends, playing basketball, and caring for family members -- in the words she wrote a century ago. Here is Barbara’s April, day by day.
* * *
MON. 1 APRIL
School. Mrs. Reeds. Muriel’s. Mrs. Reeds.
Mother went to New York. Muriel’s. Mrs. Reed.
Mrs. Reed’s. Dance at Spud’s. Night at Pegs.
Mrs. Reed’s all day. Red Cross Rally. Muriel Over Night. Hurt Knee
Liberty Loan parade. In Town. Addressed cards for Dr. Godfrey
Mother came home
Sunday School. Studied.
School. Mrs. Reed’s
School. Rehearsed for Dancing.
School. Knee hurt so came home at end of third. Mrs. Reeds
School. Rehearsal for Camp Fire. Snow. Practice Kitchen for dinner
Mrs. Reeds. Camp Reunion. “Pete” for week-end
Church. Sunday School. Lasell Vespers
[Editor’s Note: Private college in Newton, est 1851, at this point would have been Lasell Seminary for Young Women]
School. In town. To lawyer. Awful Cold.
Mrs. Reeds. Mrs. Bigelow here.
School. Rehearsal for dancing. Mrs. Reed’s
School. Mrs. Reed’s. Surgical Dressings. Pegs over night
Worked on Costume. Rehearsal for pageant. Missed Cousin Bert
Mrs Redmond’s girls here. (Awful) ([fony]) Pageant Feast behind the scenes.
Sick? Sunday School.
School. Rehearsed dance. Tennis.
School. Took care of sonny.
School. Rehearsed for meet
School. Took care of sonny.
School. Gym. Meet. Tennis
Washed my hair. Took care of sonny. Swimming
Sunday School. Everyone Blue. Wendell showed me about the bugle
Headache? In town. Got material for skirt + dress
School. Took care of the baby. Clark Reed wounded.
* * *
If you are interested in viewing the diary in person in our library or have other questions about the collection, please visit the library or contact a member of the library staff for further assistance.
*Please note that the diary transcription is a rough-and-ready version, not an authoritative transcript. Researchers wishing to use the diary in the course of their own work should verify the version found here with the manuscript original. The catalog record for the Barbara Hillard Smith collection may be found here.
| Published: Monday, 23 April, 2018, 12:00 AM
Charles Cornish Pearson and the Great War, Part V
By Susan Martin, Collections Services
This is the fifth post in a series about the wartime experience of Charles Cornish Pearson. Go back and read Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV for the full story.
Today we return to the letters of Sgt. Charles Cornish Pearson of the 101st Machine Gun Battalion, serving in France during World War I. By the early summer of 1918, Charles had been serving for a year, and he wrote more often about specific things at home that he missed. His letters are peppered with wistful reminiscences of family vacations and home-cooked food. He longed to spend an evening just listening to records or taking in a movie (though war movies had lost their appeal, he said). He also missed his young nieces and nephews. In early June, he wrote to his sister-in-law:
Glad to hear the “kiddies” are well. My how I would like to see them. Believe me I think of them often, especially when I run across French youngsters. It is quite a common occurence when in a town for a couple of the youngsters to run up to you, & grab hold of your hand & walk along with you, & you know that cann’t help but make you think of the little ones at home & wonder how they are.
The month of June was fortunately short on “hair raising experiences.” As always, Charles reassured his family that he felt well and optimistic about his chances of survival. He lovingly scolded his mother for worrying, telling her, “They haven’t got me yet.” To his brother Bill he wrote, “I am a great little shell dodger […] but when they come down OH MY, what a sensation, makes you long for home & a little peaceful scenery.” However, while no fan of the military life, he wondered if he’d be able to adjust after the war.
Haven’t sat down to a table to a meal for so long that I am afraid I wouldn’t know how to act. […] Fear greatly that I will get so accustomed to this life that when I get back in the states, I will have to build me a dugout in the backyard to live in, won’t be able to live in a steam heated apartment. Will be kind of tough on my wife.
At the end of the month, the 101st Machine Gun Battalion was on the move again. Of course, Charles was circumspect about his location, so I consulted Philip S. Wainwright’s History of the 101st to fill in the details. Wainwright describes several stops on the way to the battalion’s final destination in the woods near Montreuil-aux-Lions. This was an active sector.
Charles wrote to his parents from this position on 15 July 1918. It would be almost two weeks before he wrote another letter to anyone—an unusually long gap in his correspondence. What happened during that gap? The Battle of Château-Thierry.
Wainwright’s history contains a detailed description of the fighting at Château-Thierry, including troop movements, strategy, etc., as well as the battalion’s pursuit of the retreating German army to Trugny. But Charles was taciturn. In a brief and apologetic letter dated 28 July, his first after the battle, he explained to his parents that he didn’t “feel much in the mood for going into details […] One sure does lead a pace when things are breaking the way they have and you often wonder how you keep going.” He was clearly shaken.
Charles opened up about the battle a few days later, in a series of longer letters to his family. His account is harrowing. There were no trenches, dugouts, or sheltered emplacements in this sector, so the troops’ position was unprotected except for a few sparse patches of woods and hastily dug holes. The men of the 101st were forced to haul their heavy machine guns, sometimes by hand, back and forth over many kilometers of damaged roads. Rations were small to nonexistent. To top it all off, the fighting took place during a heavy thunderstorm. As Charles wrote to his brother Bill on 4 August:
Would like to relate to you all my experiences of the past month but […] certain of them are not pleasant ones and the less said about them the better.
Sure have had my belly full of war the past month & suppose have come as near to being killed as I ever will be until my time comes. One gets to be a fatalist over here (except when one is dodging shells) as often times one gets the hardest knock when things are seemingly most peaceful.
The details of Charles’ account are confirmed by Wainwright, who states that “more was learned in the short time between the 18th and 26th than could possibly have been taught by years of maneuvers” (p. 43). Wainwright’s book also helped me to identify one of the photographs that came to the MHS with Charles’ papers. Below is an image of the graves of William Alfred Bruton, Paul Watson Butler, and Andrew Smith (a.k.a. “Duke”) Wellington. The three men were killed by shell fire on 25 July 1918 and buried in La Fère Woods. All were members of Charles’ company.
Beginning on 2 August, the men of the 101st were billeted in the peaceful town of Courteron and enjoyed ten well-deserved days of rest. They swam in the Marne River and caught up on their letters home. Officers and non-commissioned officers, including Charles, were granted a 48-hour leave to see the sights in Paris.
Join me in a few weeks for Part VI!
| Published: Friday, 20 April, 2018, 12:08 PM
“Vast awful & never ending Eternity”: Personal Accounts of Mourning
By Erin Weinman, Reader Services
I recently came across the Elizabeth Craft White diary, written in 1770 when the death of her husband left her distraught. “Life seems a burden to me since Death, Cruel, & unrelenting Death- has snacht from me the Partner of my heart: O fated Death how could you come, tho he called for thee why did you not pass by him, turn from him & flee away.” Elizabeth White’s diary lasted from December 26, 1770 until its sudden end on January 23, 1771. Throughout its passages, she questions the fate of her husband’s soul and laments over the ultimate fate of her own soul. The entries read more of a reflection of her own spiritual awareness as she makes it clear that she has accepted death’s presence and hopes that her daughter would be properly guided into heaven.
“Jan ye 10th 1771”
The diary is heartbreaking, but Elizabeth White’s thoughts were not uncommon during a period in which mourning became intertwined with religious culture. In early Massachusetts, it wasn’t uncommon for people to use the death of a loved one as a time to reflect upon their own souls and ask God to forgive their sins, faced with the reality that their own end could be near. Ministers often encouraged their parishioners to keep diaries to embellish their faith in Heaven, viewing this as another way to become closer to God and to understand what death meant. Sermons often revolved around the topic of dying, such as Timothy Edwards’ All the living must surely die, and go to judgement.
Man is born to trouble as the Sparks fly upward tears sorrow & Death is the Portion of every person that is Born into the world. I have been born, most certainly & it is as certain that I must die & I know not how soon. Die I must! & die I shall! (Elizabeth White, January 18, 1771).
While Elizabeth White would live another 60 years, her words reflected those of many others who faced the prospect of death. While writing a diary was certainly a way to privately grieve and bring routine back into one’s life, the sentimentality can be found in countless other accounts. Public displays of mourning were common through sermons and poetry, much of which told personal stories to illustrate the importance of accepting our demise. In an undated poem titled A few lines to a Friend: Mourning the loss of a Beloved Wife, the author clearly states the purpose of a loved one’s death is to remember our own mortality.
“A few lines to a Friend: Mourning the loss of a Beloved WIFE,” n.d.
“O may we all now heart his call,
Prepare for Death I say,
That we may stand, at Christ’s Right-hand
In the great Judgement Day.
And hear Christ say to us that day,
Come enter into Reît,
Then we shall go, to see and know,
And be forever Blest.”
Such expressions were also common in letters of correspondence. In a Letter from William and Mary Pepperrell to their children, the Pepperrell’s express a similar sentiment at the death of their son.
Your kind & symathiseing Letter of this day we received for wich are oblig’d to you and as you justly observe that if this Great affliction may be wich we have meet with in ye Death of our Dear Son may be sancthifyed so as to warn our hearts from our Earthly Enjoyments & to set them more & more upon our Great Creator […]
As the living hoped to reflect upon death, there was also importance placed upon a person’s final words. Tracts were commonly produced to teach people of the importance of dying properly and to share examples of good Christians, such as The Triumphant Christian: or The dying words and extraordinary behavior of a gentleman. Rev. Mr. Clarke later wrote in 1756 The real Christians hope in death, or, An account of the edifying behavior of several persons of piety in their last moments. The resting words of young children and women were of particular interest and were commonly published for the public to learn from. This model became embedded in New England culture. Dying words reflected one’s entire life. To speak such proper final words meant that one had led a pious life and was ready to accept their fate. It meant they would make amends with any sin they had caused and reassured those close by that they were off to heaven.
Mourning Picture, ca. 1810. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
To die quietly or without any resting words often caused distress to the living. Oftentimes, many would suspect that silence meant the person led a sinful life and that their fate was eternity in Hell. Elizabeth White’s husband died quietly after succumbing to fever, leaving her to question his fate.
When I think of home it seems to hurt me, once I had a home but now I have none. O that it was with me as in time past- But alas I shall never see a good day, more in the Land of the Living, once I was a girl then was I happy; once I was a married woman & was very happy till it Pleased the Lord to visit the pasture of my joys & cares, with a violent likeness that; deprived him of his senses so that he was never himself not long together to his dying day- now alas he is gone from whence he will never return, even to the Land of darkness, & ye shadow of death: a Land of darkness, as darkness itself & of ye shadow of death without any order- if he had died upon a sick bed, I should have some Peace concerning him: but now I have none- he is gone, I know not how it is with him […]
Such a prescribed mentality towards death is found across hundreds of letters and diaries, but they certainly don’t discredit the sentimentality of the writer’s feelings. It is simply part of human nature to cope with tragedy. In a society where religion played a vital role in everyday life, it is not at all surprising that death became a lesson to remind oneself of their ultimate ending.
To see what other related materials are held are at the Society, try searching our online catalog, ABIGAIL, then consider Visiting the Library.
Seeman, Eric R. “’She died like good old Jacob’: deathbed scenes and inversions of power in New England, 1675-1775.” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, v. 104 (1994), p. 285-314.
Vinovskis, Maris. “Angels’ heads and weeping willows: death in early America.” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, v. 86, pt. 2 (1977), p. 273-302.
| Published: Friday, 13 April, 2018, 12:00 AM