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John Evelyn - "Test everything; keep the best"


The snow covered Healey Dell Nature Reserve - Whitworth, Rossendale.
Picture thanks to Beautiful Britain.

In 1664, John Evelyn advocated reforestation in his classic Sylva, A Discourse of Forest Trees. It’s thought that a million trees were planted in Britain as a result.

Evelyn kept detailed diaries of his ideas and his tempestuous times, which included civil war, the Great Plague of London, and the Great Fire. A Christian, a scientist, and a gardener, he helped to found the Royal Society, improved London's streets, publicised the art of the mezzotint, and risked plague to help sick and wounded mariners. His motto was Test everything; keep the best, I Thessalonians 5, 21.

Living for Ingenuity, the new biography of Evelyn (1620-1706) by Gillian Darley, is the first to make full use of his huge unpublished archive, deposited at the British Library in 1995.