The Language of Fruit

The Language of Fruit

Literature and Horticulture in the Long Eighteenth Century

by Liz Bellamy

25 illus.

  • Hardcover
  • 9780812250831
  • Published: March 2019



In The Language of Fruit, Liz Bellamy explores how poets, playwrights, and novelists from the Restoration to the Romantic era represented fruit and fruit trees in a period that saw significant changes in cultivation techniques, the expansion of the range of available fruit varieties, and the transformation of the mechanisms for their exchange and distribution. Although her principal concern is with the representation of fruit within literary texts and genres, she nevertheless grounds her analysis in the consideration of what actually happened in the gardens and orchards of the past.

As Bellamy progresses through sections devoted to specific literary genres, three central "characters" come to the fore: the apple, long a symbol of natural abundance, simplicity, and English integrity; the orange, associated with trade and exchange until its "naturalization" as a British resident; and the pineapple, often figured as a cossetted and exotic child of indulgence epitomizing extravagant luxury. She demonstrates how the portrayal of fruits within literary texts was complicated by symbolic associations derived from biblical and classical traditions, often identifying fruit with female temptation and sexual desire. Looking at seventeenth-century poetry, Restoration drama, eighteenth-century georgic, and the Romantic novel, as well as practical writings on fruit production and husbandry, Bellamy shows the ways in which the meanings and inflections that accumulated around different kinds of fruit related to contemporary concepts of gender, class, and race.

Examining the intersection of literary tradition and horticultural innovation, The Language of Fruit traces how writers from Andrew Marvell to Jane Austen responded to the challenges posed by the evolving social, economic, and symbolic functions of fruit over the long eighteenth century.