Liz Bellamy, The language of fruit: literature and horticulture in the long eighteenth century [book review]

Bradshaw, Penelope ORCID logo ORCID: (2023) Liz Bellamy, The language of fruit: literature and horticulture in the long eighteenth century [book review]. Romanticism, 29 (3). pp. 308-310.

[thumbnail of Bradshaw_LizBellamyThe.pdf]
PDF - Published Version
Available under License CC BY

Download (48kB) | Preview
Official URL:


The University of Cumbria's Dr Penny Bradshaw reviews the book 'The language of fruit: literature and horticulture in the long eighteenth century' by Liz Bellamy (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019).

Fruit imagery has had a long and enduring presence in literature and within the cultural imagination. In this scrupulously researched and richly illustrated new book Liz Bellamy offers a fascinating analysis of the changing meanings and associations of fruit and fruit trees within British literature from the Restoration to the Romantic period. The genre-specific and chronological approach presented within the main body of the text allows Bellamy to identify nuances and shifts of meaning within a given timeframe and genre, but also to establish more significant developments in the handling of fruit symbolism throughout the long eighteenth century. Both localised shifts in meaning and major developments are carefully demonstrated through meticulous textual readings and are predicated on an impressively detailed account of the factors affecting perceptions of fruit within this crucial period, not least the rapid changes in horticultural practice and the rise of a consumer society.

In the Introduction Bellamy identifies some of the theoretical frameworks that underpin the analysis, including ecocriticism, ‘postcolonial ecocriticism’ and the ‘discipline of food history’ (10), and this is followed by a chapter which examines earlier cultural developments and uses of fruit symbolism. An analysis of fruit stories from the Bible and classical literature establishes the ‘recurrent tropes, images, and characters’ (11) furnished by these two traditions. A further set of underpinning ideas are then developed in Chapter 2 through consideration of the ways in which fruit and fruit trees are represented in gardening manuals from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century, during a period of ‘steady expansion’ (47) of cultivated plant varieties. Here Bellamy draws attention to the way in which horticultural discourses ‘deployed and appropriated’ an ‘inherited tradition of imagery’ (41), and also shows how changing production techniques, such as the practice of growing tropical fruit in heated greenhouses, stimulated new associations and ideas or nuanced existing symbolic associations.

Item Type: Article
Journal / Publication Title: Romanticism
Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
ISSN: 1750-0192
Departments: Institute of Arts > Humanities
Depositing User: Anna Lupton
Date Deposited: 31 Oct 2023 15:17
Last Modified: 24 Jan 2024 10:05


Downloads per month over past year

Downloads each year

Edit Item