It was only in late December that I got around to reading George Monbiot's 30 Oct piece on English Apples
I thought it one of the best pieces George had written in a while. I wrote to tell him so, and also asked if he had a copy of Hogg and Bull's Herefordshire Pomona, the extraordinary 19th century apple compendium. He replied:
I don't have Hogg and Bull's, but if you've got 10 grand going spare, it would make a very nice birthday present! Do take a look at it (it's in the Bod) if you get a chance. One of our neglected national treasures.
This morning I woke up thinking about apples, and said to Cristina someone should republish Hogg and Bull's at an affordable price. So here is a call to any enlightened publisher out there!
George's piece goes beyond this beginning:
It takes a while to work out what it is about Hogg and Bull’s Herefordshire Pomona. What it is that, two or three minutes after you’ve started lifting the heavy pages, makes you, quite unexpectedly, want to cry. It’s not, or not only, the pictures. The apples and pears painted by a Miss Alice Ellis can almost be rolled off the page and bitten. She added nothing, took nothing away. Where she saw warts, she painted warts, where scabs, scabs. And yet they glow. They are more real than – than any real apple you’ll find in the shops today.
It’s not, or not only, the text. It’s a classic of late Victorian natural history, pedantic and passionate. Here, among quotes from Shakespeare and Homer and Clare, are recipes for orchard manure, dissertations on specific gravity, the cordon-system of growing pears, Roman cooking, the “laws of Vegetable Physiology”, pests, fermentation, soil, grafting. There are chapters on the lives and times of the great fruit growers, transcripts of folk songs and poems, no end of nonsense about the druids and the ancient Britons, unlikely claims about the longevity of habitual cider drinkers.
Then you see it. It’s the names. The names of the fallen. Foxwhelp, Sheep’s Snout, Hogshead, Duck’s Bill, Black Wilding, Brown Cockle, Ramping Taurus, Monstrous Pippin, Burr Knot, Broadtail, Carrion, Hagloe Crab, Eggleton Styre, Norfolk Beefing, Cornish Aromatic, Skyrme’s Kernel, Peasgood’s Nonesuch, Tom Putt, Bitter-scale, Slack-my-girdle, Bastard Rough Coat, Bloody Turk. The list runs into thousands. It is a history of rural
(Fallen Fruit, The Guardian, 30 Oct 04. Full text here.)