Shirley Hibberd: Homes of Taste

‘the union of Nature and Art in the ministration of human sympathies within doors’

Hibberd, Rustic Adornments, 1957 (2nd ed)

Second Edition, 1857

This random snippet, traced back to 1856, has led to an afternoon browsing Shirley Hibberd’s Rustic Adornments for Homes of Taste.  We don’t often go as far back as the 1850s here, but we weren’t disappointed.

Against the backdrop of rapidly changing social and economic circumstances, Hibberd puts a ‘tasteful home’ with rustic pursuits – including indoor plants, bees and aquariums – high on the priority list.

Not only did such a domestic life signify an appreciation of higher and finer things, but it was considered a ‘guarantee of our national greatness.’

Hibberd says ‘while the intellect is ripened by the many means which exist for the acquisition of knowledge, the moral nature is refined by those silent appeals of Nature and Art, which are the foundation of Taste.’

Heavy on Victorian morality then, but interesting to see someone talking about art and plants in the same sentence.  At The Graceful Custom we’re used to looking at plants in art, but they also have qualities in common – decorative, uplifting and good for us!

However, Hibberd might be stretching this somewhat when he says (in one of my new favourite quotes ever):

‘It would be an anomaly to find a student of nature addicted to the vices that cast so many dark shadows on our social life; nor do I remember among the sad annals of criminal history, one instance of a naturalist who became a criminal, or of a single gardener who has been hanged.’

Hope you enjoy these pictures.  As Hibberd put it in his first edition: ‘Who would live contentedly, or consider a sitting-room furnished, without either a Ward’s Case or an Aquarium.’  Who indeed, especially when they looked like these!

Ward Cases, Hibberd, Rustic Adornments, 1957 (2nd ed)

ps.  It also appears that Mr Hibberd was a nobler rival to our own Mr Robinson – a ‘well known plagiarist’ according to Wikipedia (outrageous accusation!).  Seems Victorian gardening might have been a dirtier world than we thought.

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