The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Beehive series: From the Reading Room

A Choise Garden of Rarest Flowers: John Parkinson’s "Paradisi in Sole Paradisus Terrestris"

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. 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 2 May, 2018, 12:00 AM

“Vast awful & never ending Eternity”: Personal Accounts of Mourning

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.

 


Sources:

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.

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 13 April, 2018, 12:00 AM

Barbara Hillard Smith’s Diary, March 1918

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 and February entries, here:

 

January | February | March | April

May | June | July | August

September | October | November | December

 

We will be 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 March, day by day.

 

* * *

FRI. 1                          MARCH

School. Dentist Cousin Bert came. Papa glad to see him, Sick

SAT. 2

Showed C. Booklet to K. Heard Galli Curci. She is wonderful. Seminary with Mother

 

SUN. 3

Helped Mother. Studied

MON. 4

School. Mrs. Reed’s. Papa died. Grandma very brave, Mother is wonderful. C. Burt came.

TUES. 5

Aunt Mabel gave Mother her car. She is very busy. People are very kind. Cousin Bert is the [back…]

WED. 6

Everything peaceful. Deluged with flowers. Funeral services very sweet + pretty. C. Bert went back.

THUR. 7

I must stand up for Mother. Worked. Flowers from […]. Waltham with Mrs. Pyrene. Hard to keep tears back

FRI. 8

Worked. Doctors with Mother. Things [go] a little easier. I feel like crying all the time.

SAT. 9

Helped Mother. Got Camp Fire Cocoa. Mrs Richmond came. Wood called up. At McDonalds

SUN. 10

Church. Sunday S. Cousin Mildred to dinner. Dr. Huntington.

MON. 11

School. Mrs. Reed

TUES. 12

School. Basket Ball

WED. 13

School. Gym dancing. Swimming

THURS. 14

School. Basketball. Got on class team

FRI. 15

School. Took care of the baby. Captain of the team

SAT. 16

Sewed at Mrs. Bucknams. Over to Lanes. Went swimming

SUN. 17

Shot Cat. Church and Sunday School. Moody’s for supper. Mr. Bailey out.

MON. 18

School. Took care of baby. Got [byce] out. Living Pictures.

TUES. 19

School. Played the Freshmen. 16-5 s. Juniors beat 30-0. Saw Dr. Ashland.

WED. 20

School. Rehearsed dancing. Swimming.

THUR. 21

School. Played the Juniors. They beat us. 25-10. Saw Dr. Ashland.

FRI. 22

School. Mrs. Reed’s. Newton-Erasmus game. We licked em up. War is awful

SAT. 23

Mrs. Reed’s all day.

SUN. 24

Church. Sunday School. Saw Dr. Ashland ([nude]). He seems much better. Dr. McClure.

MON. 25

School. In Town. Got suit. It seems funny without paper.

TUES. 26

School. Went to Mrs Reeds. Sick.

WED. 27

School. Dancing. In Town. Peg went with me.

THUR. 28

School. Mrs. Reed’s. Wrote Dr. Gordon

FRI. 29                                    GOOD FRIDAY

No School. Mrs. Reed’s all day. Surgical dressings

SAT. 30

Mrs. Reeds. In town. Got new hat

SUN. 31                      EASTER

Church[,] Sunday School and Concert. [Fraulein] and Miss [Colin] to dinner.

* * *

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.

 

 

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 7 March, 2018, 12:00 AM

Barbara Hillard Smith’s Diary, February 1918

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 entries, here:

 

January | February | March | April

May | June | July | August

September | October | November | December

 

We will be 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 February, day by day.

 

* * *

 

FRI. 1                          FEBRUARY

School. Took care of sonny. Gas froze. Pegs over night.

SAT. 2

Worked. Took care of Polly Godfrey. Seminary with Mother

SUN. 3

Sunday School. Hung around

MON. 4

School. Dentist. Dr. Ashland engaged.

TUES. 5

School. Bitterly Cold, “Sick.” Rosa Allen’s

WED. 6

School. Took care of sonny

THUR. 7

School. Rosa Allen’s. Took care of sonny

FRI. 8

School. Took care of sonny.

SAT. 9

Got my dress. Burton Holme’s Lecture. Sailor’s Dance. Met Mr. Wood

SUN. 10

Church. Sunday School. Aunt Mable’s. Met Sailor at the Station

MON. 11

School. Took care of sonny

TUES. 12                    LINCOLN’S BIRTHDAY

School. Basket Ball. Mother went to New York

WED. 13

School. Took care of Sonny

THUR. 14

School. Mrs. Moody to Basket Ball. Mother came home

FRI. 15

School. Took care of Sonny. Swimming

SAT. 16

Hung around. Over to Pegs. Plays at the Seminary

SUN. 17

Sunday School. Dr. Scott teacher. Studied

MON. 18

School. Took care of the Baby.

TUES. 19

School. Basket Ball. Papa sick. Sessions with the Doctor

WED. 20

Stayed to look after papa. Mrs. Reed’s

THUR. 21

Took care of papa. Took care of sonny. Red Cross play.

FRI. 22                                    WASHINGTON’S BIRTHDAY

Mrs. Reed’s in the morning. Home in afternoon. Masquerade

SAT. 23

Babys in the morning. In town in the afternoon

SUN. 24

Helped Mother. Studied

MON. 25

Toothache. Dentist. He goes to hospital soon. Married probably in Aug. Papa better. Sonny.

TUES. 26

Toothache again. Dentist can’t do anything about it. Mrs. Reeds.

WED. 27

Got class pins. Subscribed to Newtonian. Mrs. Reeds. Papa out. Tooth still at it.

THUR. 28

School. Basketball. Papa seems much better.

* * *

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.

 

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 14 February, 2018, 12:00 AM

Prospect Hill Tower and the Grand Union Flag

One day when wandering through Somerville, my boyfriend, a recent transplant to Cambridge, noticed what looked like a castle tower in the distance. He asked me about it, and rather than just find the answer online, we decided to have an adventure and discover in person what this tower was all about. It turns out that there is not a secret castle in Somerville, rather it is the Prospect Hill Tower, built in 1903 to commemorate the first flying of the Grand Union Flag on that same hill 1 January 1776.

 

 

As someone who is a fan of early Massachusetts history, I was surprised that I did not know about this tower and even more surprised that the first flag representing the United States had looked as if it had a Union Jack quartered on it. The next day I decide to search our collections here at MHS to see what materials we held about the Prospect Hill Tower and the first flying of the Grand Union Flag.

 

 

We do hold a number of secondary sources about both Prospect Hill and the flag flying, ranging from published historic guides of Somerville to sheet music composed about the first flag flying. The sheet music, pictured below, was printed in 1862 and while it is about the first raising of the flag in 1776, you will notice that the soldier pictured on the cover is dressed in a Civil War uniform, with tents in the background. Prospect Hill was used during the Civil War as a training camp. Most of our materials regarding the flag and Prospect Hill are from the late 19th and very early 20th centuries, which was about the time the tower was erected.

 

 

One of these sources is a bound scrapbook, created by Alfred Morton Cutler in 1921. In it, he pasted clippings of articles he had written for newspapers, such as the Cambridge Tribune, between 1918 and 1921. A number of the clippings were Letters to the Editor, in response to articles on the location and flag, with Cutler writing in to correct errors. All the articles go into great detail about not only the location of the first flag on Prospect Hill but also the type of flag. Cutler describes the first American flag as having “thirteen stripes, and containing in the field the crosses of St. George and St. Andrew.” At the end of the scrapbook is a clipping from a letter to the editor from William E. Wall: “An attempt is being made by the Librarian of the Cambridge Public Library to rob our city of Somerville of the honor which it has held so long, viz., that on January 1, 1776, on Prospect Hill (then a part of Charlestown) the flag of the United Colonies ‘first flung defiance to an enemy.’” Mr. Wall goes on to encourage readers to read closely Mr. Cutler’s “answer to assertions of the Cambridge librarian.” Unfortunately the letter written by the Librarian of the Cambridge Public Library was not included in the scrapbook, though this was the apparent conflict which prompted Cutler to correct the narrative.

 

 

Perhaps realizing that a book would have a wider audience than a newspaper, Cutler re-works many of his articles and letters into a short book titled The Continental “Great Union” Flag which was published in 1929. Similar to his letters to the editor, which contained short citations, Cutler goes to great lengths to prove the validity of his claims by citing in detail his various sources, which I am sure would lead to more delightful discoveries if a researcher ever chose to track them down.

 

Stop by and visit the library to help answer your own early Massachusetts or local town history questions! Though you can find answers to many questions online, it is more interesting (and fun!) to see how scholars thought about those same questions many years ago. 

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Saturday, 3 October, 2015, 2:29 PM

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