Friday, November 23, 2012

The revolution will have strawberries: John Ruskin and gardens

As we near the release date for Philosophy in the Garden, I've a little piece on the Meanjin blog today: a short essay on John Ruskin and gardens.

A small sample is below, but head over to Meanjin to read the full essay, 'The Revolution Will Have Strawberries'.

And do note the awesome sketch by Daniel Keating, who illustrated the whole book with his usual wizardry and good grace.
It was 1871, and John Ruskin was walking to work. It was a good six miles, from his rooms at the Crown and Thistle inn to Oxford University. On the way, the Slade Professor of Art saw a group of girls in ragged clothes, playing in a ditch by the side of the road. They were gathering buttercups. Curious, the Professor watched for a while, then asked what they were playing. ‘This is my garden,’ said Annie Brickland, who was about nine years old. Ruskin disapproved, telling Annie that real gardens were useful, not just for picking a few scattered wildflowers. He recommended that she cultivate strawberries. Annie replied that she had none to plant, and the implication was obvious, even to the well-heeled Ruskin: this was a poor young girl with no wherewithal or backyard of her own. Ruskin offered her some strawberries to plant, and a plot to tend to—if she agreed to the responsibility. She did, and Ruskin made good on his promise, renting a patch of good soil from his landlady at the Crown and Thistle.

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