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Diary

Gillian Darley: John Evelyn and his gardens

8 June 2006
... Surrey is the Country of my Birth and my delight,’ John Evelyn told John Aubrey; and like Surrey, Evelyn has had more than his fair share of bad press over the years. Yet to picture him as simply the pious sermoniser the Victorians eulogised is as misleading as to write off Surrey as wall-to-wall Weybridge ...

Tuesday Girl

Colin Burrow: Seraphick Love

6 March 2003
Transformations of Love: The Friendship of John Evelyn and Margaret Godolphin 
by Frances Harris.
Oxford, 330 pp., £25, January 2003, 0 19 925257 2
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... John Evelyn was a dry old stick – and here that metaphor has an almost literal force, since his first and greatest love was for trees. In Fumifugium (1661) he argued that smoky workshops should be banished from London, and that the environs of the city should be planted with ‘such Shrubs, as yield the most fragrant and odoriferous Flowers’ to sweeten its stench ...

No High Heels in Paradise

Keith Thomas: John Evelyn’s Elysium Britannicum

19 July 2001
Elysium Britannicum, or the Royal Gardens 
by John Evelyn, edited by John Ingram.
Pennsylvania, 492 pp., £49, December 2000, 0 8122 3536 3
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... On Guy Fawkes Day 1665, Samuel Pepys paid a visit to John Evelyn, his fellow diarist, administrative colleague and lifelong friend. Evelyn had an astonishing range of interests, from numismatics to town planning. He also possessed the leisure in which to pursue them, thanks to a family fortune founded on manufacturing gunpowder for Elizabeth I ...

Short Cuts

Inigo Thomas: Cromwell’s Seal

4 January 2018
... him as an apostle.) The 18th-century engraver George Vertue wrote a book about Thomas Simon; John Evelyn referred to him in Numismata, his discourse on medals, seals and coins. These objects, Evelyn wrote, ‘are the most lasting and vocal monuments of antiquity’. Proof, evidence and art are all involved, and in ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Sedan Stories

8 August 2002
... do you carry the King in a common Cedan, as they carry such as have the Plague?”’ John Evelyn, too, had a low opinion of the contraption, ‘it being held a conveyance for voluptuous persons and women of pleasure to their leu’d Rendivozes incognito’. The Covent Garden Morning Frolick (1747), an engraving by Louis Boitard that’s ...
16 June 1983
The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Vol X: Companion and Vol XI: Index 
edited by Robert Latham.
Bell and Hyman, 626 pp., £19.50, February 1983, 0 7135 1993 2
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The Diary of John Evelyn 
edited by John Bowle.
Oxford, 476 pp., £19.50, April 1983, 0 19 251011 8
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The Brave Courtier: Sir William Temple 
by Richard Faber.
Faber, 187 pp., £15, February 1983, 0 571 11982 4
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... with Matthews), without often being read or assessed as literature. Books such as Boswell’s Johnson and Macaulay’s History once gave rise to the same apparent category error, but they have long since received the full hermeneutic treatment. So far Pepys has survived intact, greater in the public imagination than his own words. The fulfilment of this ...

Where the Apples Come From

T.C. Smout: What Makes an Oak Tree Grow

29 November 2007
Woodlands 
by Oliver Rackham.
Collins, 609 pp., £25, September 2006, 0 00 720243 1
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Beechcombings: The Narratives of Trees 
by Richard Mabey.
Chatto, 289 pp., £20, October 2007, 978 1 85619 733 5
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Wildwood: A Journey through Trees 
by Roger Deakin.
Hamish Hamilton, 391 pp., £20, May 2007, 978 0 241 14184 7
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The Wild Trees: What if the Last Wilderness Is above Our Heads? 
by Richard Preston.
Allen Lane, 294 pp., £20, August 2007, 978 1 84614 023 5
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... century, with being one of the first writers to praise the loveliness of trees. This won’t do. John Evelyn, a century before, had spoken of beeches making ‘spreading trees and noble shades with their well-furnish’d and glistering leaves’, and also of Xerxes’ admiration of the plane: ‘that so beautiful and precious tree’. Timothy Pont, at ...

The Last London

Iain Sinclair

30 March 2017
... very soon, I lose the markers by which I have navigated, the beacons by which I know myself. Like John Clare leaving the tight circle of experience around the village of Helpston (then in Northamptonshire), I step out of my knowledge, to the tottering edge of an abyss known as ‘the future’ or ‘the human contract’. Mortality. Of place and ...

Monstrous Carbuncle

Tim Flannery: In the Coal Hole

6 January 2005
Coal: A Human History 
by Barbara Freese.
Heinemann, 320 pp., £12.99, February 2004, 0 434 01333 1
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... stand over the flame when at rest, always terrifying it with his staff. In 1661, in Fumifugium, John Evelyn wrote that coal smoke had transformed London into ‘the suburbs of Hell’. Forty years later, Timothy Nourse noted that acid in the smoke was causing London’s oldest buildings to be ‘peel’d and fley’d as I may say to the very Bones by ...

Imparadised

Colin Burrow: Cultivation and desire in Renaissance gardens

19 February 2004
Green Desire: Imagining Early Modern English Gardens 
by Rebecca Bushnell.
Cornell, 198 pp., £18.95, August 2003, 0 8014 4143 9
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... products of nature rather than art. Artifice was often required to create these sensual paradises: John Evelyn, at the end of the 17th century, describes how to make what he calls a ‘Phonotactic Cylinder, or giant musical box’, which used water to produce sounds similar to birdsong (the alternative was to have an aviary). The synaesthetic delights of ...

Mr Toad

John Bayley

20 October 1994
Evelyn Waugh 
by Selina Hastings.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 600 pp., £20, October 1994, 1 85619 223 7
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... to do with stage figures like Brenda and Tony Last. It is too difficult not to write to you now, Evelyn, because things have not been going well – because it’s nearly March 13th which was the day you jokingly suggested we might meet – each year till I am 70. And so I suppose that day will be for me a kind of lovely agony for ever and ever ... I think ...

Conservative Chic

Michael Mason

6 May 1982
The Politics of Culture and Other Essays 
by Roger Scruton.
Carcanet, 245 pp., £8.95, October 1981, 0 85635 362 0
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... but diverse answers to the diverse problems that have composed the muddle. The American journalist John Simon has for some years been writing a column in Esquire in which he takes a conservative view of linguistic change in true dinner-party fashion: opposing almost every innovation in contemporary usage, and mixing up several independent considerations in the ...

Embarrassment and Loss

Marghanita Laski

19 February 1981
A Way to Die 
by Rosemary Zorza.
Deutsch, 254 pp., £5.95, October 1980, 0 233 97355 9
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Letter to a Younger Son 
by Christopher Leach.
Dent, 155 pp., £5.95, January 1981, 0 460 04496 6
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Bereavement 
by Colin Murray Parkes.
Pelican, 267 pp., £1.50, June 1980, 0 14 021833 5
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... which people struggle to make a life after crushing grief, and, for a writer, not an uncommon way. John Evelyn did the same thing when his daughter, Margaret Godolphin, died in 1678, but wiser, I think, than these, he did not publish. Of these two books, the Zorzas’ is the worse, and for the sad reason that it is, in the literal sense, the more ...

Greens

E.S. Turner

3 July 1980
Friends of the Earth Cookbook 
by Veronica Sekules.
Penguin, 192 pp., £1.95, April 1980, 9780140463026
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Hedgerow Cookery 
by Rosamond Richardson.
Penguin, 250 pp., £1.95, April 1980, 0 14 046358 5
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Jane Grigson’s Cookery Book 
by Jane Grigson.
Penguin, 606 pp., £2.50, April 1980, 0 14 046352 6
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Cooking with Vegetables 
by Marika Hanbury Tenison.
Cape, 284 pp., £9.50, May 1980, 0 224 01597 4
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The Home Gardener’s Cookbook 
by Clare Walker.
Penguin, 362 pp., £1.75, April 1980, 0 14 046353 4
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Natural Baby Food 
by Anna Haycraft.
Fontana, 123 pp., £1, April 1980, 9780006358565
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... us of the aphrodisiac reputation of turnips, carrots and onions: in contrast to lettuce which, as John Evelyn believed, upheld chastity, though possibly not in rabbits. The vegetable revolution was assisted by the post-war travel boom which enabled housewives to see what was cooking in the vegetable pots of Europe. But, if Mrs Grigson is right, it is the ...
6 December 1984
... When I see yet another work of hagiography concerning Sir John Betjeman, it makes me want to vomit! Show me, I want to say, please, the ‘geography’ of the house!1 But Betjeman wasn’t nasty, in fact very far from it. It’s probably the Murrays who are such penny-turners (Byron’s one was a Philistine). John’s an important asset, one of the few real genuine poetic earners,2 man not mouse, in many a crowd-pulling, wide, populist facet ...

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