Contributor: Fiona Stafford
Location: St Mary’s Church, Selborne, Hampshire
Description: The great yew tree at Selborne features in one of the Romantic period’s best-known books: The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne by the ‘parson-naturalist’ Gilbert White (1720-1793). First published in 1789, White’s account of his Hampshire parish has never gone out of print. But the long literary life of White’s book is as nothing to that of the ancient yew, which endured for centuries before being toppled by a January gale in 1990. The celebrity of the Selborne yew in the Romantic period may be seen as both idiosyncratic and as part of a wider celebration of ancient trees – and by extension ancient places and deep-rooted national culture — that especially characterised Romantic culture in Britain and across Europe.
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Contributor: Clare Brant
Location: Cowper and Newton Museum, Olney, Buckinghamshire, UK
Description: This tea-caddy sits among domestic objects in the Cowper and Newton Museum in Olney, Bucks UK, a house museum which for twenty years was the residence of the poet William Cowper (1731-1800). It was donated in 2019 by a family descended from Cowper’s relations though it was not one of Cowper’s own possessions.
The box was commissioned after Cowper’s death in 1800 by his friend and biographer William Hayley (1745-1820) as a way of celebrating Cowper’s life, work, sensibility and friendships.
Continue reading “William Hayley’s Tribute Tea-Caddy”
Contributor: Bernard Degout
Location: Domaine départemental de la Vallée-aux-Loups – maison de Chateaubriand
Description: This cedar of Lebanon (cedrus libani) was planted by Chateaubriand in the park of La Vallée-aux-Loups, which he laid out during the eleven years he stayed in the hamlet of Aulnay (1807-1817). Tracing broad pathways, flattening a hill, introducing “thousands” of green trees which had been gifted by friends or acquired from renowned horticulturists, the author amassed here, according to the document which he produced for the sale of his estate, “the most complete collection of planted trees, both exotic and natural, in the whole of France”. He also grouped trees which reminded him of his journeys to America (1791) and the Orient (1806-1807) around the perimeter of the central field. The park of La Vallée-aux-Loups, created by a writer-cum-traveller, is thus a literary park. But, in a way, it is also more than this.
Continue reading “Chateaubriand’s Cedar”