The Guardian: ‘England hath need of thee’: appeal to save Milton’s Paradise Lost cottage


Forbidden Fruit: can we tempt you to celebrate Apple Day at Milton’s Cottage?

What better place to celebrate Apple Day than Milton’s Cottage – the place where John Milton completed his best-known work, Paradise Lost? The humble apple plays a starring role in his epic masterpiece – the forbidden fruit that tempted Eve and led to the fall of mankind.

Raise a toast to Milton’s infamous apple on Sunday 21st October, from 2 – 5pm. Drink in literary history at the Forbidden Fruit pop-up bar, where you can taste local ciders as well as make your own juice with apples grown in the garden at Milton’s Cottage. It’s also an opportunity to discover – and rediscover – some of the greatest poetry ever written.

Milton might even be responsible for our general acceptance of the apple as the legendary forbidden fruit in the first place. No fruit appears as frequently in Western art, literature and legend as the apple. One place it does not appear, however, is the Old Testament: the original story of Adam, Eve and the serpent in the Book of Genesis doesn’t specify which fruit Eve ate.

Historically, the forbidden fruit has been portrayed as everything from grapes and peaches to olives and bananas: Michelangelo’s Temptation and Fall, for example, features forbidden figs. Increasingly, however, the apple was held responsible for the Fall – and Milton’s definitive description in Paradise Lost seems to have cemented the apple’s reputation as forbidden fruit.

The Forbidden Fruit season continues at Milton’s Cottage throughout October with an exhibition that explores the apple’s role in culture and Bad Apple – a free family art workshop on Wednesday 24th October, from 11am – 1pm.

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Notes to editors

  1. Milton’s Cottage in Chalfont St Giles is his only surviving home of John Milton – the place where he sought refuge from London during the Great Plague of 1665 and completed his dramatic epic masterpiece, Paradise Lost.
  2. Milton’s Cottage is overseen by Milton’s Cottage Trust (CIO), an independent charity established to preserve Milton’s Cottage, its collection and garden for future generations.
  3. Milton’s Cottage is open from 1st April-31st Oct 2018. Opening times are Wed–Sat, 2-5pm (last entry 4.30pm) as well as bank holidays and the 4th Sunday of the calendar month during the same hours. There is a free visitor car park next to the museum. The nearest stations are Chalfont & Latimer, Amersham and Gerrards Cross.
  4. Admission prices are £7 for adults, £6 for concessions (and parties of 15 or more) and free for accompanied children under 16.
  5. An Apple a Day runs from 17th – 31st October 2018, from Wed-Sat, 2-5pm (last entry 4.30pm) as well as Sunday 28th October (during the same hours). The exhibition is included with admission to the museum.
  6. Apple Day is an annual celebration of apples and orchards. It was launched in 1990 by Common Ground – a Dorset-based charity that has been at the forefront of community conservation and environmental education in England for the last thirty years.

Fascinating facts about apples

First bite of the apple: DNA analysis indicates that apples originated in the mountains of Kazakhstan, where the wild Malus sieversii – forebear of Malus domestica, the modern domesticated apple – still flourishes.

An apple by any other name: apples are actually members of Rosaceae, the Rose family, along with pears, plums, peaches, cherries, strawberries and raspberries.

Hard graft: there are more than 7,500 known apple cultivars, making it one of the world’s most botanically creative species. An apple grown from seed won’t be anything like its parent – a characteristic known to botanists as extreme heterozygosity. This is great for evolution, ensuring apples can adapt to almost any environment, but frustrating for apple growers intent on preserving selected favorites. Their only guarantee of reproducibility is grafting, which is how modern eating apples are propagated.

Tree of knowledge: Joe Davis, a bio-artist attached to Harvard Medical School, is creating an apple tree that is a literal Tree of Knowledge. Davis’ project will incorporate Wikipedia into the apple genome, using the world’s oldest known apple, a 4000-year-old variety of M. sieversii.

An apple a day: The Arabian Nights features a magic apple from Samarkand that can cure all human diseases, predating the popular belief that an apple a day keeps the doctor away – a proverb that first appeared in print in 1866.

 Bad apple: the apple may have got a bad rap from an unfortunate pun. The Latin malus means both “apple” and “evil,” which may have given early Christians ideas.

Artist’s muse: no fruit appears as frequently in Western art, literature and legend as the apple. Norse gods owe their immortality to them while an apple started the Trojan War. Christina Rossetti, Emily Dickinson and Dylan Thomas all wrote poems about apples, while everyone from Caravaggio to Cezanne has painted them.