Banquet Piece, Pieter Claez

Monday, January 30, 2017

Napoleon's Willow

Salix babylonica?
Was this the famous willow from Napoleon's tomb?

When the Shinn barn burned, the willow apparently burned as well. So says the note on the back of the picture.

What is the famous willow?

Apparently it was a way to make money off of tourists, to tell them that this little willow came from the willow next to Napoleon's grave.

In 1883, Gardener's Monthly reports:

"As regards the right or wrong kind of Napoleon willows which travelers take away it only remains for me to show how they are likely to be deceived in the matter. No sooner does the stranger wend his way towards the landing place at the foot of Jamestown than he is beset with a noisy multitude of willow venders whose clamorous importunities to purchase are beyond description. Such a commercial spirit as is evinced by the Island gamins big and little is more remarkable than pleasant especially if the luckless wayfarer is not disposed to buy. They seem to have a large stock of well rooted plants growing in jars, cigar boxes, paint kegs &c in readiness for the siege. And as if the sole aim of life was to sell the voyager a Napoleonic souvenir they persistently pester and plague him into buying. And no sooner does the stranger yield to temptation than the harpies surge around him, en masse, loudly vociferating he has been swindled. With a seeming virtuous indignation the transaction is pronounced a shameful fraud. Sorely perplexed while badgered about to understand the meaning of so furious a hubbub about so small a matter the hapless victim is forced to believe he has unwittingly bought the wrong sort, the Jamestown instead of the Longwood kind. Feeling chagrined at the motley ragamuffins duplicity some more of the right kind has to be bought and with which the outraged purchaser runs the gauntlet as best he can to the friendly boat awaiting. The next surprise in reserve to astonish the bewildered bonhomie is the discovery of so many little willow groves much like his own scattered about the ship among which he staggers much amazed at the senseless sailors cursing the blasted rubbish."


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