Page images
PDF
EPUB

Evelyn was now sixty-nine years old; the recurrence of his birthday is always entered in his Journal with a prayer. He had lately been visited by severe afflictions ;-- his daughter Mary, at the age of nineteen, had been cut off by the small-pox, a beautiful creature in mind as well in form and features, highly accomplished, of a fine understanding, studious and yet unaffectedly humble, pious, cheerful, affectionate, in disposition like an angel. She was a little miracle, says her father, while she lived, and so she died,—the joy of my life, and ornament of her sex and of my poor family. Few persons, we believe, will peruse without tears the pages in which he records her death, and his own resignation under this great affliction. Within two months he lost another daughter, soon after her marriage, by the same frightful disease, wbich in those days was only less destructive* than the plague. And it was his painful lot to follow to the grave his only remaining son in the forty-fourth year of his age, a man of much ability and reputation, worthy to have supported the honour of his name. Notwithstanding these repeated sorrow's and the weight of nearly fourscore years, Evelyn still enjoyed uninterrupted health and unimpaired faculties; he enjoyed also the friendship of the wise and the good, and the general esteem beyond any other individual of his

age.
Torn as that

age was by civil and religious factions Mr. Evelyn had no enemy; as a lover and liberal benefactor of science and learning he held that place in public opinion which in our days has so long and so deservedly been held by Sir Joseph Bankes; a more enviable distinction can hardly be imagined. Among the honourable events of his latter life it should not be omitted that as the first treasurer of Greenwich Hospital, he laid one of the foundation stones. When he was at Amsterdam, in his youth, he admired nothing so much in that interesting city as the hospital for the lame apd decrepid soldiers,' it being, for state, order and accommodation, one of the worthiest things that the world can show of that nature.' He had now the satisfaction of founding in his own country the most splendid of all such establishments.

In the year 1694 he left Sayes Court, after having resided there more than forty years, to pass the remainder of his days at Wotton, where he was born, in his brother's house; his brother having also lost his sons, had settled the family-estate upon him. The fate of Sayes Court, which he had beautified according to his own taste with so much cost and care, is worthy of notice; first it was let to no less remarkable a personage than Admiral Benbow, then only a captain, and Evelyn had, he says, the mortification of seeing every day much of his former labours and expense there impairing for want

**1695. 13 Jan. The deaths by small-pox increased to 500 more than in the precoding week.'

of

G

of a more polite tenant. The next inhabitant was a much greater personage and a worse tenant, it was the Czar Peter; while in his occupation the house is described, by a servant of Mr. Evelyn, as full of people, and right filthy. It was hired for him and furnished by the King ; but the damage which he and his retinue did to the house itself and the gardens, during a residence of only three weeks, was estimated by the King's surveyor and his gardener at £150. The gardens indeed were ruined. It is said that one of Peter's favourite recreations was to demolish the hedges by riding through them in a wheelbarrow. When he had resided about five years at Wotton his brother died, in the eighty-third year of his age, of perfect memory and understanding. Mr. Evelyn had a grandson, the only male of his family now remaining, a fine hopeful youth, and he was seized with the small-pox at Oxford; the alarm which this intelligence occasioned may well be conceived, fatal as the disease had proved to their blood, but happily the youth recovered, and Evelyn's few remaining years were not embittered by any fresh affliction.

• 1702. 31 Oct. Arriv'd now to the 82d year of my age, having read over all that pass'd since this day twelvemonth in these notes, I render solemn thanks to the Lord, imploring the pardon of my past sins, and the assistance of His grace; making new resolutions, and imploring that He will continue His assistance, and prepare me for my blessed Saviour's coming, that I may obtain a comfortable departure, after so long a term as has ben hitherto indulg'd me. I find by many infirmities this yeare (especially nephritic pains) that I much decline; and yet of His infinite mercy retain my intellects and senses in greate measure above most of my age. I have this yeare repair'd much of the mansion-house and severall tenants' houses, and paid some of my debts and ingagements. My wife, children and family in health, for all wch I most sincerely beseech Almighty God to accept of these my acknowledgm's, and that if it be His holy will to continue me yet longer, it may be to the praise of His infinite grace, and salvation of my soul. Amen.'-vol. ii. pp. 77, 78.

On his next birth-day he acknowledges the great mercies of God in preserving him, and in some measure making his infirmities tolerable. Soon after, when service was performed in his own house on a Sunday, because the cold and wet weather had prevented him from attending church in the morning, the minister preached upon the uncertainty of life' with pertinent inferences to prepare us for death and a future state. I

gave him thanks, says Mr. Evelyn, and told him I took it kindly as my funeral sermon. He lived, however, to see two birth-days more, and then, in the eighty-sixth year of his age, fell asleep in the Lord.

The portrait of Evelyn prefixed to these volumes is from a picture painted for Mr. Pepys by Kneller, and represents him hold

ing his. Sylva' in his right hand. It was by this book that the author was chiefly known till the publication of this Diary; his other writings had past away, but the Sylva remained a beautiful and enduring memorial of his amusements, his occupations and his studies, his private happiness and his public virtues. It was the first book printed by order of the Royal Society, and was composed upon occasion of certain queries sent to that Society by the Commissioners of the Navy. The government had been seriously alarmed by the want of timber, which it was certain must soon be felt; owing in part to the wasteful consumption of glass-houses and furnaces, at that time greatly multiplied, and burning wood instead of coal, and, in part, to the prodigious havoc made by such as lately professing themselves against root and branch, either to be reimbursed their holy purchases, or for some other sordid respect, were tempted not only to fell and cut down, but utterly to extirpate, demolish, and raze as it were all those many goodly woods and forests, which our more prudent ancestors left standing for the service of their country. To no person so well as Evelyn could the office have been assigned of remedying this evil and averting the fatal consequence which must inevitably have ensued to our naval power, and thereby to the strength, the welfare, the independence, and the life of England. He effected this great object by awakening the land-holders to a sense of their own and their country's interests, He produced a volume upon the subject; Charles II., who loved the navy,

and like his brother would have made a better admiral than a king, twice thanked him personally for the work; he had the yet more gratifying reward of living to know that many millions of timber-trees had been propagated and planted at the instigation and by the sole direction of that book,-one of the few books in the world which completely effected what it was designed to do. • While Britain,' says Mr. D’Israeli, ‘ retains her aweful situation among the nations of Europe, the Sylva of Evelyn will endure with her triumphant oaks. It was an author in his studious retreat, who, casting a prophetic eye on the age we live in, secured the late victories of our naval sovereignty. Inquire at the Admiralty how the fleets of Nelson have been constructed, and they can tell you that it was with the oaks which the genius of Evelyn planted. If. Charles II, had instituted, as he once intended, and as he ought to have done, an order of the Royal Oak,' Evelyn, though he repeatedly declined the honour of knighthood, would probably have accepted it for the sake of his double claim.

The Sylva has no beauties of style to recommend it, and done of those felicities of expression by which the writer stamps upon your memory his meaning in all its force. Without such charms A Discourse of Forest Trees and the Propagation of Timber in

[ocr errors]

his Majesty's Dominions' might appear to promise dry entertainment; but he who opens the volume is led on insensibly from page to page, and catches something of the delight which made the author enter with his whole heart and all his faculties into the subject. Mr. Shandy might have instanced the author in his chapter of names, -Avelan, he tells us, it was written in old deeds, and Avelan ( Avel lana) was then the name of the hasel. Dendrology was to him an object of unwearied curiosity and interest; he was continually adding to his store of facts and observations in this his favourite pursuit; and thinking with Erasmus, that ut homines, ita libros, indies seipsis meliores fieri oportet, he laboured till the end of his long life in perfecting his great work. He speaks of his 'too great affection and application to it,' when he was in the eighty-fourth year of his age. But by this constant care he made it perfect, according to the knowledge of that age. It is a great repository of all that was then known concerning the forest trees of Great Britain, their growth and culture, and their uses and qualities real or imaginary; and he has enlivened it with all the pertinent facts and anecdotes which occurred to him in his reading.

In the work there are necessarily some errors of both kinds, scientific as well as popular ; there are likewise many curious things, and some useful ones which have ceased to be generally kuown. The planter may still remember with profit the woodman's proverb respecting the hardiest trees, “Set them at Allhallowtide and command them to prosper: set them at Candlemas and intreat them to grow.' In opposition to Bacon, who recommends ship timber grown in moist ground, as the toughest and least subject to rift, Evelyn adheres to the more probable opinion of Pliny, (an opinion as old as the age of Homer), that though the low lands produce the stateliest trees, the strongest timber is grown in drier and more exposed situations. He observes that pollard oaks bear their leaves green through the winter more frequently than such as have not been mutilated,-a fact analogous to the increased bulk and muscular strength of those persons who have lost both their legs. Cups were formerly made from the roots of the oak; the roots of all trees for their beautiful veining being peculiarly fitted for the cabinet-maker and the turner's use. Cup and bowl are words which carry with them their own history. -The bowl was a tree-cup, the oldest of the family in countries where there were neither gourds nor cocoa nuts; the cup was a more savage invention, (cup, kopf, caput, xemaan) with which our Scandinavian ancestors anticipated one of the enjoyments of Valhalla, drinking mead and ale out of the skulls of their enemies, while they listened to the music of a shin bone (tibia), the original pipe.-Evelyn was willing to believe any thing which did honour

to

to the oak. Its twigs, he says, twisted together, dipt in wort, well dried, and then kept in barley straw, by being steeped in wort at any future time will cause it to ferment and procure yeast :-but the properties of the oak have nothing to do with this, and the bundle, whatever it is, (a furze bush is commonly used in those countries where the practice is known) must be dipt in the fermenting and yesty liquor :-it is a mode of preserving yest dry. The leaves of oaks, he says, ' abundantly congested on snow preserves it as well as a deep pit or the most artificial refrigeratory.' In its acorns, its leaves, its mosses, its agaric, its may-dew, he finds sovereign virtues for many diseases, to say nothing of the viscus's, polypods and other exerescences of which innumerable remedies are composed, noble antidotes, syrups, &c.'-Nay, 'tis reported, that the very shade of this tree is so wholesome, that the sleeping, or lying under it becomes a present remedy to paralytics.'

Though the oak, as being the king of the English forest, is his favourite tree, he finds utility as well as beauty in trees of every kind. The loppings and leaves of the elm, he says, dried in the sun, prove a great relief to cattle when fodder is dear, and will be preferred to oats by the cattle: the Herefordshire people in his time gathered them in sacks for this purpose, and for their swine. Beech leaves gathered about the fall, and somewhat before they are much frost-bitten, afford the best and easiest mattresses in the world to lay under our quilts instead of straw. This he learnt in Dauphiny and Switzerland, where he had slept on them to his great refreshment; but in another place he tells us that the French call these leafy beds for the crackling noise they make when one turns upon them, licts de parliament. The keys of the ash when young and tender make a delicate pickle; its bark is the best for tanning nets; its wood for drying herrings, and for burning in a lady's chamber, being one of those which yield no smoke. The chesnut was very generally used in old houses, London was chietly built with it; if there be any European tree finer than the oak it is this. Cæsar is said to have introduced it from Sardis into Italy, and in so doing made for his country an acquisition more durable than all his conquests. But it is more certain that they came from Asia Minor than that Cæsar brought them: boiled chesnuts would not have been the food of Virgil's shepherds, if the tree bad so recently been imported. The horse chesnut is also from the Levant.- Evelyn gives the origin of its name, so called for the cure of horses broken-winded, and other cattle of coughs. From the walnut tree he recommends a wine made from its

sap,
its

green husk dried, or the first peeping red buds and leaves reduced to powder,' as a condiment instead of pepper ; and the fungous substances which separate the lobes of the kernel to be pulverized

and

VOL. XIX. NO. XXXVII.

D

« PreviousContinue »