The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

December 27, 2011

December 27, 1782

Henry Home, later to be addressed as Lord Kames (1696 to December 27, 1782) was a member of the Scottish Enlightenment, and he has been called a mentor of such writers of philosophy, as David Hume. He himself was also a lawyer and concerned with agricultural improvement, in addition to carefully considering philosophical issues. As with many intellectuals in this transitional century, Home turned a quizzical and fresh eye on everything in his environment. 

In one of his later works, Gentleman Farmer (1776) Henry Home addresses issues involving hedges. and other agricultural problems: 

We are now arrived at the most important article of all, that of training up a thorn-hedge after it is planted. ....[After experimenting with different techniques Home observes of the ideal hedge] The sides [of the thorn hedge] have been pruned, but the top left entire... leaving all above 'full "freedom of growth. ... This form gives free access to rain, sun, and air: every twig has its share, [and this hedge] is impenetrable even by a bull.... Plashing an old hedge, an ordinary practice in England, makes indeed a good interim fence; but at the long run is destructive to the plants.... A cat is said among the vulgar to have nine lives: is it their opinion, that a thorn, like a cat, may be cut and slashed at will without suffering by it? A thorn is a tree of long life. If instead of being massacred by plashing, it were raised and dressed in the way here described, it would continue a firm hedge perhaps five hundred years.

Plashing is a weaving of  hedge branches, and I take this to mean that all the branches do not have access to sunlight and rain, which Home has observed is the ideal situation.

The variety of his thought and questions may be noticed in his book, Sketches of the History of Man (1774). Lord Kames derives four stages in the history of man: First was hunter-gatherers, where people did not work together, and second was herder of animals, which needed more human interaction, and larger groups. The third stage, of agriculture, again saw a necessary growth of social complexity and the fourth stage encompassed a move from villages to sea ports and markets. This last stage made it necessary for man to create a complex legal structure.

A unifying theme in Home's books is the stress on observation as a conduit for knowledge. He said he saw all four stages of the history of man in his Scottish homeland. 

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