Over at Deptford is… right now you can read a seasonal post about the frost fairs held on the Thames during the “little ice age” of the seventeenth century. Given what we now understand about the severity of the weather he was up against, Evelyn’s achievements in his garden at Sayes Court are even more remarkable.
But even the hardiest gardener needs a break, and I can’t think of a better way to give you the flavor of Christmas at Sayes Court at the height of its glory than this wonderful passage from a letter written by Evelyn’s wife Mary to her cousin the playwright Samuel Tuke in the depths of winter 1670:
“You will not expect an account in this season of the yeare, how the flowers and greens prosper in the garden, since they are candying in the snow to be preserved for the spring and our delights, confined to the little wooden Roome.”
The room in question was their snug little wooden-panelled parlour. If we could look in, over the shoulder of her cousin, we would see by the fire there “a philosopher, a woman, and a child, heapes of books our food and entertainment, silence our law, soe strictly observed that neither Dog nor Cat dares transgresse it. The crackling of the Ice and whistling winds are our Musica, which if continued long in the same quarter may possibly freese our witts as well as our penns, though Apollo were himself amongst us.”
Mary felt, she said, like a hibernating tortoise.
But in what a hibernaculum! And with what delightful prospects of the spring!
Happy Christmas everyone.