Introduction: Tomatoes and Cucumbers

  • Emelyne GodfreyEmail author


At the time that H.G. Wells was working on The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), his tale of man’s experiments with nature, William Morris wrote to the widely read Daily Chronicle on the subject of Epping Forest and its trees. Morris was not alone in fearing the decimation of the ancient hornbeam population at the hands of developers. This green space, which was a welcome contrast to smoggy London, had been Morris’s local childhood playground. When the family moved to Woodford Hall when he was six years old, his father’s 50-acre estate was just across the fence from the forest, famous for its Elizabethan hunting lodge as well as the legends surrounding its Iron Age ‘forts’, its highwaymen and Boudica’s last stand against the Romans. The Epping Forest Act 1878 had declared that the ‘natural aspect’ of the forest was to be preserved. When Queen Victoria opened the forest to the public on 6 May 1882, she ‘dedicated’ it to ‘the use and enjoyment of [her] people for all time’. But now it was in danger of being reshaped, possibly turned into a landscape garden, a park or pruned into a golf course! An ambitious trek around the area further convinced Morris that the management was ‘making war’ on nature. While the reasons behind forest thinning were complex, as far as Morris was concerned, ‘not a single tree should be felled, unless it were necessary for the growth of its fellows’. He campaigned in News from Nowhere; or, An Epoch of Rest, being some chapters from a Utopian Romance (1890) for ‘the thoughtful sequence in [] cutting, that prevent[s] a sudden bareness anywhere’.1 For Morris, the actions of a few individuals in Epping Forest constituted a rude disregard for social responsibility. He rallied Daily Chronicle readers to take a stand and made his argument using images of the destruction of both the environment and history. Stripped of its knobbly hornbeams, he wrote, the ‘essential character of the greatest ornaments of London will disappear, and no one will have even a sample left to show what the great north-eastern forest was’. 2


Time Machine Science Fiction Film Adaptation Alternate History Home County 
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© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.LondonUK

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