Curiosity, Commerce, and Conversation in the Writing of London Horticulturists during the Early-Eighteenth Century
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This dissertation explores the social and literary worlds of horticulturists who lived, worked, and wrote in early-eighteenth-century London. The period witnessed not only a growing market for printed books and pamphlets about gardening, but also the emergence of the nurseryman as a distinct commercial and cultural identity. In many cases, trading nurserymen also published horticultural writing, their texts exploiting the publicity of representation both in order to persuade readers of the quality and reliability of their goods and services, and to evidence a wide range of intellectual interests and social aspirations. At the same time, increasing numbers of more gentlemanly authors had recourse to nursery and physic (or botanical) gardens and their curators as authoritative sources for their own manuals of horticulture and treatises of natural philosophy. Part one addresses the publications produced by nursery-gardeners and seedsmen during the late-seventeenth and early-eighteenth centuries. Through close-readings of texts by George London and Henry Wise, Thomas Fairchild, and John Cowell, chapters one and two examine how such men sought to represent themselves as polite and precise practitioners of gardening successful in their businesses, sociable in their dispositions, and curious in their approaches to the natural world. Chapter three embellishes these themes by describing the genealogy and formation of the Society of Gardeners, a voluntary association of horticultural tradesmen. Part two (chapters four and five) locates these broad arguments more specifically, by presenting a biographical account of Richard Bradley, the most important and prolific horticultural writer of the 1710s and 1720s. Combining published and manuscript resources these chapters interrogate pivotal moments in Bradley's career, demonstrating how its undulating trajectory was shaped by the opportunities and limitations afforded within the spaces of physic gardens (both real and projected), and ultimately turned on his capacity for manipulating contemporary practices and conventions of curiosity and sociability.
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