Dr Johnson's appetite for fruit

The return of the strawberry season was always heartily welcomed by Dr. Johnson, for, as he once declared, of strawberries and cream he never could have too much… “Strawberries and cream, toujours strawberries and cream!” A voracious eater at any time, Johnson’s appetite for fruit was almost limitless. Mrs. Thrale tells us that he used often to eat half a dozen peaches before breakfast, and then frequently she had heard him complain that never in all his life had he quite as much wall fruit as he desired, save once. The exceptional occasion was during a visit to Lord Sandys’ seat at Ombersley. The exact quantity he then devoured has not been recorded, but he was accused of clearing a whole wall side.

The above is from a newspaper cutting, sent to Michael, 5th Baron Sandys from Los Angeles in November 1911, and posted into one of his enormous scrapbooks: Michael (known as Mikey) was a keen antiquarian, acquiring many family-related books for the Ombersley library over the course of a long life – he died in 1948, his father having been born in 1798.

The walled garden at Ombersley Court was remade under Mikey’s grandmother’s orders 40 or so years after Dr Johnson’s visit, the remains of its Pinery, Peach House, Fig House, Grape House etc. visible in this view from the South, a photograph taken in recent years.

A little more about the Johnsonian Ombersley visit can be found in fragments of nine lives, no. 2.