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Introducers Of Exotic Flowers, Fruits, Etc
by [?]

Animated by a zeal truly patriotic, De Serres in France, 1599, composed a work on the art of raising silk-worms, and dedicated it to the municipal body of Paris, to excite the inhabitants to cultivate mulberry-trees. The work at first produced a strong sensation, and many planted mulberry-trees in the vicinity of Paris; but as they were not yet used to raise and manage the silk-worm, they reaped nothing but their trouble for their pains. They tore up the mulberry-trees they had planted, and, in spite of De Serres, asserted that the northern climate was not adapted for the rearing of that tender insect. The great Sully, from his hatred of all objects of luxury, countenanced the popular clamour, and crushed the rising enterprise of De Serres. The monarch was wiser than the minister. The book had made sufficient noise to reach the ear of Henry IV.; who desired the author to draw up a memoir on the subject, from which the king was induced to plant mulberry-trees in all the royal gardens; and having imported the eggs of silk-worms from Spain, this patriotic monarch gave up his orangeries, which he considered but as his private gratification, for that leaf which, converted into silk, became a part of the national wealth. It is to De Serres, who introduced the plantations of mulberry-trees, that the commerce of France owes one of her staple commodities; and although the patriot encountered the hostility of the prime minister, and the hasty prejudices of the populace in his own day, yet his name at this moment is fresh in the hearts of his fellow-citizens; for I have just received a medal, the gift of a literary friend from Paris, which bears his portrait, with the reverse, “Societe de Agriculture du Departement de la Seine.” It was struck in 1807. The same honour is the right of Evelyn from the British nation.

There was a period when the spirit of plantation was prevalent in this kingdom; it probably originated from the ravages of the soldiery during the civil wars. A man, whose retired modesty has perhaps obscured his claims on our regard, the intimate friend of the great spirits of that age, by birth a Pole, but whose mother had probably been an Englishwoman, Samuel Hartlib, to whom Milton addressed his tract on education, published every manuscript he collected on the subjects of horticulture and agriculture. The public good he effected attracted the notice of Cromwell, who rewarded him with a pension, which after the restoration of Charles II. was suffered to lapse, and Hartlib died in utter neglect and poverty. One of his tracts is “A design for plenty by an universal planting of fruit-trees.” The project consisted in inclosing the waste lands and commons, and appointing officers, whom he calls fruiterers, or wood-wards, to see the plantations were duly attended to. The writer of this project observes on fruits, that it is a sort of provisions so natural to the taste, that the poor man and even the child will prefer it before better food, “as the story goeth,” which he has preserved in these ancient and simple lines:–

The poor man’s child invited was to dine,
With flesh of oxen, sheep, and fatted swine,
(Far better cheer than he at home could find,)
And yet this child to stay had little minde.
“You have,” quoth he, “no apple, froise, nor pie,
Stewed pears, with bread and milk, and walnuts by.”

The enthusiasm of these transplanters inspired their labours. They have watched the tender infant of their planting, till the leaf and the flowers and the fruit expanded under their hand; often indeed they have ameliorated the quality, increased the size, and even created a new species. The apricot, drawn from America, was first known in Europe in the sixteenth century: an old French writer has remarked, that it was originally not larger than a damson; our gardeners, he says, have improved it to the perfection of its present size and richness. One of these enthusiasts is noticed by Evelyn, who for forty years had in vain tried by a graft to bequeath his name to a new fruit; but persisting on wrong principles this votary of Pomona has died without a name. We sympathise with Sir William Temple when he exultingly acquaints us with the size of his orange-trees, and with the flavour of his peaches and grapes, confessed by Frenchmen to have equalled those of Fontainebleau and Gascony, while the Italians agreed that his white figs were as good as any of that sort in Italy; and of his “having had the honour” to naturalise in this country four kinds of grapes, with his liberal distributions of cuttings from them, because “he ever thought all things of this kind the commoner they are the better.”