Acetaria a discourse of sallets: Forward

Acetaria a disclosure of sallets

Publisher’s Note

This edition of Acetaria is a faithful reprint of the First Edition of 1699, with the correction of a few obvious typographical errors, and those noted in the Errata of the original edition. Whereas no attempt has been made to reproduce the typography of the original, the spirit has been retained, and the vagaries of spelling and punctuation have been carefully followed; also the old-style S [ſ] has been retained. Much of the flavour of Acetaria is lost if it is scanned too hurriedly; and one should remember also that Latin and Greek were the gauge of a man of letters, and if the titles and quotations seem a bit ponderous, they are as amusing a conceit as the French and German complacencies of a more recent generation.

Foreword to Acetaria

John Evelyn, famous for his “Diary,” was a friend and contemporary of Samuel Pepys. Both were conscientious public servants who had held minor offices in the government. But, while Pepys’ diary is sparkling and redolent of the free manners of the Restoration, Evelyn’s is the record of a sober, scholarly man. His mind turned to gardens, to sculpture and architecture, rather than to the gaieties of contemporary social life. Pepys was an urban figure and Evelyn was “county.” He represents the combination of public servant and country gentleman which has been the supreme achievement of English culture.

Horace Walpole said of him in his Catalogue of Engravers, “I must observe that his life, which was extended to eighty-six years, was a course of inquiry, study, curiosity, instruction and benevolence.”

Courtiers, artists, and scientists were his friends. Grinling Gibbons was brought to the King’s notice by Evelyn, and Henry Howard, Duke of Norfolk, was persuaded by him to present the Arundel Marbles to the University of Oxford. In London he engaged in divers charitable and civic affairs and was commissioner for improving the streets and buildings in London. He had charge of the sick and wounded of the Dutch War and also, with the fineness of character typical of his kind, he remained at his post through the Great Plague. Evelyn was also active in organizing the Royal Society and became its first secretary.

In the country he spent his time studying, writing and in developing his own and his brother’s estates. He translated several French books, one of them by Nicolas de Bonnefons was entitled “The French Gardener; instructions how to cultivate all sorts of fruit-trees.” Evelyn undoubtedly knew another book of de Bonnefons called “Les Delices de la Campagne.” Delights of the country, according to de Bonnefons, consisted largely in delights of the palate, and perhaps it was this book which suggested to Evelyn to write a cookery-garden book such as Acetaria. He also translated Jean de la Quintinie’s “The Compleat Gardener.” His “Sylva, or a discourse of Forest Trees” was written as a protest against the destruction of trees in England being carried on by the glass factories and iron furnaces, and the book succeeded in inducing landowners to plant millions of trees.

The list of Evelyn’s writings shows a remarkable diversity in subject matter. There was a book on numismatics and translations from the Greek, political and historical pamphlets, and a book called “Fumifugium or the inconvenience of the Aer and Smoke of London dissipated,” in which he suggests that sweet-smelling trees should be planted to purify the air of London. He also wrote a book called “Sculpture, or the History of Chalcography and Engraving in Copper.”

Living in the country and cultivating his fruits and vegetables, Evelyn grew to be an ardent believer in vegetarianism and is probably the first advocate in England of a meatless diet. He was so keen on preparing foods without meat that, like another contemporary, Sir Kenelm Digby, he collected recipes. These, interspersed with delightful philosophic comments and some directions about gardening, were assembled in the little book Acetaria. This was published in 1699 along with the ninth edition of the “Kalendarium Hortense,” a gardener’s almanac.

The material for Acetaria was gathered as early as 1679 with the idea of making it one chapter of an encyclopedic work on horticulture. ThePlan of a Royal Garden, was Evelyn’s outline for that ambitious work.

The recipes are unusual and delicious and some of them are practical for today, especially for the owner of a garden where pot herbs arecultivated. Evelyn uses the pot herbs for flavoring soups, egg dishes, “salletts” and puddings. The eggs with sweet herbs prepared in ramikins and the pudding flavored with the petals of calendulas are particularly good.

The book reveals his zest for living and the culture of his mind. It also shows the thought and life of a country gentleman during the reign of Charles the Second. Evidently, in Evelyn’s home, the spirit of scientific investigation prevailed and there was a delight in new ideas. Evelyn supervised the garden and knew how to instruct the cook to prepare new dishes.

Although Acetaria is a book of directions for gardening and cooking, it is not the least didactic but is written in a discoursive style and with a leisureliness and in a rhythm suited to the slow pace of a horse trotting through the winding lanes of the English countryside. As we read, we can almost see the butler bringing a fragrant pudding to the family assembled around the dining table in the wood-panelled room. Or again we can almost smell the thyme, mint, and savory growing in tidy rows in the well-tilled and neatly ordered garden of John Evelyn.

Helen M. Fox

 

To the Right Honourable JOHN Lord Somers of Evesham

Lord High-Chancellor of England, and President of the Royal-Society.


My Lord,

The Idea and Plan of the Royal-Society having been firſt conceiv’d and delineated by a Great and Learned Chancellor, which High Office your Lordſhip deservedly bears; not as an Acquiſition of Fortune, but your Intellectual Endowments; Conſpicuous (among other Excellencies) by the Inclination Your Lordſhip diſcovers to promote Natural Knowledge: As it juſtifies the Diſcernment of thatAſſembly, to pitch upon Your Lordſhip for their Preſident, ſo does it no leſs diſcover the Candor, yea, I preſume to ſay, the Sublimity of your Mind, in ſo generouſly honoring them with your Acceptance of theChoice they have made.

A Chancellor, and a very Learned Lord, was the Firſt who honoured the Chair; and a no leſs Honorable and Learned Chancellor, reſigns it to Your Lordſhip: So as after all the Difficulties and Hardſhips theSociety has hitherto gone through; it has thro’ the Favour and Protection of its Preſidents, not only preſerv’d its Reputation from the Malevolence of Enemies and Detracters, but gone on Culminating, and nowTriumphantly in Your Lordſhip: Under whoſe propitious Influence, I am perſwaded, it may promiſe it ſelf That, which indeed has hitherto been wanting, to juſtifie the Glorious Title it bears of a ROYAL SOCIETY. The Emancipating it from ſome Remaining and Diſcouraging Circumſtances, which it as yet labours under; among which, that of a Precarious and unſteady Abode, is not the leaſt.

This Honor was reſerv’d for Your Lordſhip; and an Honor, permit me to call it, not at all unworthy the Owning of the Greateſt Person living: Namely, the Eſtabliſhing and Promoting Real Knowledge; and (next to what is Divine) truly ſo called; as far, at leaſt, as Humane Nature extends towards the Knowledge of Nature, by enlarging her Empire beyond the Land of Spectres, Forms, Intentional Species, Vacuum, Occult Qualities, and other Inadequate Notions; which, by their Obſtreperous and Noiſy Diſputes, affrighting, and (till of late) deterring Men from adventuring on further Diſcoveries, confin’d them in a lazy Acquieſcence, and to be fed with Fantaſms and fruitleſs Speculations, which ſignifie nothing to the ſpecifick Nature of Things, solid and uſeful knowledge; by the Inveſtigation of Cauſes, Principles, Energies, Powers, and Effects of Bodies, and Things Viſible; and to improve them for the Good and Benefit of Mankind.

My Lord, That which the Royal Society needs to accompliſh an entire Freedom, and (by rendring their Circumſtances more eaſie) capable to ſubſiſt with Honor, and to reach indeed the Glorious Ends of itsInſtitution, is an Eſtabliſhment in a more Settl’d, Appropriate, and Commodious Place; having hitherto (like the Tabernacle in the Wilderneſs) been only Ambulatory for almoſt Forty Years: But Solomon built the Firſt Temple; and what forbids us to hope, that as Great a Prince may build Solomon’s Houſe, as that Great Chancellor (one of Your Lordſhip’s Learned Predeceſſors) had deſign’d the Plan; there being nothing in that Auguſt and Noble Model impoſſible, or beyond the Power of Nature and Learned Induſtry.

Thus, whilſt King Solomon’s Temple was Conſecrated to the God of Nature, and his true Worſhip; This may be Dedicated, and ſet apart for the Works of Nature; deliver’d from those Illuſions and Impoſtors, that are ſtill endeavouring to cloud and depreſs the True, and Subſtantial Philoſophy: A ſhallow and Superficial Inſight, wherein (as that Incomparable Perſon rightly obſerves) having made ſo many Atheiſts: whilſt a profound and thorow Penetration into her Receſſes (which is the Buſineſs of the Royal Society) would lead Men to the Knowledge, and Admiration of the Glorious Author.

And now, My Lord, I expect ſome will wonder what my Meaning is, to uſher in a Trifle, with ſo much Magnificence, and end at last in a fine Receipt for the Dreſſing of a Sallet with an Handful of Pot-Herbs! But yet, My Lord, this Subject, as low and deſpicable as it appears, challenges a Part of Natural History, and the Greateſt Princes have thought it no Diſgrace, not only to make it their Diverſion, but theirCare, and to promote and encourage it in the midſt of their weightieſt Affairs: He who wrote of the Cedar of Libanus, wrote alſo of the Hyſop which grows upon the Wall.

To verifie this, how much might I ſay of Gardens and Rural Employments, preferrable to the Pomp and Grandeur of other Secular Buſineſs, and that in the Eſtimate of as Great Men as any Age has produc’d! And it is of ſuch Great Souls we have it recorded; That after they had perform’d the Nobleſt Exploits for the Publick, they ſometimes chang’d their Scepters for the Spade, and their Purple for the Gardiner’sApron. And of theſe, ſome, My Lord, were Emperors, Kings, Conſuls, Dictators, and Wiſe Stateſmen; who amidſt the most important Affairs, both in Peace and War, have quitted all their Pomp and Dignity in Exchange of this Learned Pleaſure: Nor that of the moſt refin’d Part of Agriculture (the Philoſophy of the Garden and Parterre only) but of Herbs, and wholeſom Sallets, and other plain and uſeful Parts ofGeoponicks, and Wrote Books of Tillage and Husbandry; and took the Plough-Tackle for their Banner, and their Names from the Grain and Pulſe they ſow’d, as the Marks and Characters of the higheſt Honor.

But I proceed no farther on a Topic ſo well known to Your Lordſhip: Nor urge I Examples of ſuch Illuſtrious Perſons laying aſide their Grandeur, and even of deſerting their Stations; (which would infinitely prejudice the Publick, when worthy Men are in Place, and at the Helm) But to ſhew how conſiſent the Diverſions of the Garden and Villa were, with the higheſt and buſieſt Employment of the Commonwealth, and never thought a Reproch, or the leaſt Diminution to the Gravity and Veneration due to their Perſons, and the Noble Rank they held.

Will Your Lordſhip give me Leave to repeat what is ſaid of the Younger Pliny, (Nephew to the Naturaliſt) and whom I think we may parallel with the Greateſt of his time (and perhaps of any ſince) under the Worthieſt Emperor the Roman world ever had? A Perſon of vaſt Abilities, Rich, and High in his Maſter’s Favour; that ſo Husbanded his time, as in the Midſt of the weightieſt Affairs, to have Anſwer’d, and by his Example, made good what I have ſaid on this Occaſion. The Ancient and beſt Magiſtrates of Rome allow’d but the Ninth Day for the City and Publick Buſineſs; the reſt for the Country and the Sallet Garden: There were then fewer Cauſes indeed at the Bar; but never greater Juſtice, nor better Judges and Advocates. And ’tis hence obſerved, that we hardly find a Great and Wise Man among the Ancients, qui nullos habuit hortos, excepting only Pomponius Atticus; wilſt his Dear Cicero profeſſes, that he never laid out his Money more readily, than in the purchaſing of Gardens, and thoſe ſweet Retirements, for which he ſo often left the Roſtra (and Court of the Greateſt and moſt flouriſhing State of the World) to viſit, prune, and water them with his own Hands.

But, My Lord, I forget with whom I am talking thus; and a Gardiner ought not to be ſo bold. The preſent I humbly make your Lordſhip, is indeed but a Sallet of Crude Herbs: But there is among them that which was a Prize at the Iſthmian Games; and Your Lordſhip knows who it was both accepted, and rewarded as deſpicable an Oblation of this kind. The Favor I humbly beg, is Your Lordſhip’s Pardon for this Preſumption. The Subject is mean, and requires it, and my Reputation in danger; should Your Lordſhip hence ſuſpect that one could never write ſo much of dreſſing Sallets, who minded anything ſerious, beſides the gratifying a Senſual Appetite with a Voluptuary Apician Art.

Truly, My Lord, I am ſo far from deſigning to promote thoſe Supplicia Luxuriæ, (as Seneca calls them) by what I have here written; that were it in my Power, I would recall the World, if not altogether to their Priſtine Diet, yet to a much more wholſome and temperate than is now in Faſhion: And what if they find me like to ſome who are eager after Hunting and other Field-Sports, which are LaboriousExerciſes? and Fiſhing, which is indeed a Lazy one? who, after all their Pains and Fatigue, never eat what they take and catch in either: For ſome ſuch I have known: And tho’ I cannot affirm ſo of my ſelf, (when a well dreſt and excellent Sallet is before me) I am yet a very moderate Eater of them. So as to this Book-Luxury, I can affirm, and that truly what the Poet ſays of himſelf (on a leſs innocent Occaſion)Laſciva pagina, vita proba. God forbid, that after all I have advanc’d in Praiſe of Sallets, I ſhould be thought to plead for the Vice I cenſure, and chuſe that of Epicurus for my Lemma; In hac arte conſenui; or to have ſpent my time in nothing elſe. The Plan annext to theſe Papers, and the Apparatus made to ſuperſtruct upon it, would acquit me of having bent all my Contemplations on Sallets only. What I humbly offer Your Lordſhip, is (as I ſaid) Part of Natural Hiſtory, the Product of Horticulture, and the Field, dignified by the moſt illuſtrious, and ſometimes tilled Laureato Vomere; which, as it concerns a Part ofPhiloſophy, I may (without Vanity) be allow’d to have taken ſome Pains in Cultivating, as an inferior Member of the Royal Society.

But, My Lord, wilſt You read on (if at leaſt You vouchſafe me that Honor to read at all) I am conſcious I rob the Publick of its moſt Precious Moments.

I therefore Humbly again Implore Your Lordſhip’s Pardon: Nor indeed needed I to have ſaid half this, to kindle in Your Breaſt, that which is already ſhining there (Your Lordſhip’s Eſteem of the Royal Society) after what You were pleas’d to Expreſs in ſuch an Obliging manner, when it was lately to wait upon Your Lordſhip; among whom I had the Honor to be a Witneſs of Your Generous, and Favourable Acceptance of their Addreſſes, who am,

My Lord,

Your Lordſhip’s Moſt Humble
and Moſt Obedient Servant,

JOHN EVELYN.

 

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