This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
Pyrumania, or the Pear Fever, is an endemic disease, affecting more violently the inhabitants of the rural districts, and chiefly those recently from city life.
This disease has several remarkable phases, and is very well understood by nurserymen, to whom, indeed, its appearance is about as welcome as an epidemic to young physicians, or a financial crisis to briefless lawyers.
The first stage or phase usually commences soon after taking up a residence in the country, and shows itself in a general admiration of fruit, in the sentiment that fruit is "a very nice thing to have in the country." Then half a dozen or a dozen very beautiful and thrifty pear trees are bought, all in fruiting condition, that is to say, with fruit-buds on them, and faultless in shape and proportion. These trees, because they are specimen trees, the nurseryman very reluctantly, yet out of distinguished consideration for the purchaser, very obligingly agrees to part with, (how kind in him!) And so they are bought at a big price. We say nothing here about the other fruits gone into, because it is not necessarily a part of the present thesis. We might, indeed, extend the investigation into kindred affections, such as the Vitifermania, or Grape Fever, which prevails very extensively in certain localities, and is extremely fatal to plethoric purses. But our present investigation is solely as to the specific morbosity which forms the caption of this article. To go back again to the point of our digression, namely, those pet Pear trees.
Most carefully are they tended; every branch is shortened and directed secundum artem, either in the true standard or the pyramidal form, the espalier or the pyramide Fanon, or en colonne, or en vase, or a la forme, any thing else which the symptoms of the case may suggest; then the first appearance of fruit is watched; and when finally the first respectable Pear, a Pear, is realized, then the patient may be said to be actually infected: a kind of ecstasy supervenes which soon develops.
The patient now discovers that his genius is too cramped; that he wants a larger field for the exercise of his taste, and putting into use the immense amount of pomological lore which he has acquired during the past year, from the careful study of a whole shelf full of works on scientific agriculture and pomology. The yearning now is for several acres of trees, and at least one hundred varieties. The symptoms now indicate propensities over which the patient has no control. The passion must be gratified. Those three thousand trees must be planted during the coming season, and there is no time to be lost. So nursery catalogues are suddenly in great request, and assorted lists are prepared; munificent orders are given to the nursery, and the mind becomes filled with gorgeous visions of mountains of pears, and golden prospects of prolific market returns. In most cases a piece of ground is taken without any previous course of preparation, either mechanical or chemical, exhausted, perhaps, before it came into the present proprietor's hands, of every element of fertility necessary for the success of the enterprise; but no matter, there is no time for this inquiry, and if a doubt arises, why all that can be remedied after planting.
So the holes are dug, and the trees are planted in magnificent rows, looking almost as imposing as a brigade of infantry ployed in "column at half distance," and the work is achieved. The patient now experiences a sensible relief; the fever has in a measure abated. This phase is a very dangerous one in the disease, and most generally terminates in:
The symptoms attending this phase are almost as numerous as the different circumstances of the case, and the variety of constitutional idiocracy of the patient. The most usual phenomena of this phase are such as these: First. At the close of the first season after planting a discovery is made (if in the fall) that quite a number of trees, the most promising in appearance when first set out, suddenly "went in" when in full leaf, and now present all the appearance as if some enemy had brought fire to them. And again, (if in the spring,) when all the orchard is putting forth leaf and blossom, there are a number of trees that won't do either; the bark exhibits great patches here and there which, instead of being of a healthy green or brown color, are as black as your hat or Barnum's cherry colored cat Such things cause gaps in the ranks, but they are carefully closed up, the dead are carried out, and recruits are brought in to fill their places. Second. Things go on pretty much thus and so, with considerable of the so, until the trees begin to fruit; then all of a sudden a number of the dwarf trees, which are loaded with fruit just set, put on an extraordinary appearance; the fruit wilts, turns black, and drops off; the leaves, too, wither and. dry up, and these trees are "gone in." The borer has got hold of 'em. And now, Thirdly. The orchard has been planted some five years, and so far there has not been fruit enough to pay the interest on the cost of the trees.
The Varieties selected are many of them worthless. The winter varieties have chiefly proved to be stones when they were gathered, and remained so until late in the season, when they - ripened? No; shrivelled up and rotted. Some of the varieties have become extinct, giving nary a pear to show what they were. Of the original number of trees planted, there is now a woeful deficiency, about the same proportion is left as there usually is on the restoration to peace of the men who enlisted at the beginning of a war. The care of the orchard, too, has become tremendously expensive. It is either a tough sod, or it has to be plowed again and again during the season to keep the weeds down; and at each plowing the trees are shockingly mutilated.
The patient now begins to look over old nursery bills and memoranda of cash paid out for labor, fertilizers, etc., etc., and now the reaction has fully set in. All those golden visions of the outset have turned out to be but baseless fabrics, and the patient, counting the cost, comes to himself with a sigh, and confesses "The hobby is over".
This thesis does not pretend to more than an investigation of the disease and phenomena attending it. The writer has brought to bear considerable experience of his neighbors, and not a little of his own. His positions may therefore safely be relied upon as in the main correct. He has had the advantage of the daily observation of the case of a very near and dear friend, who had been a patient himself, and whose case no one can understand half so well as the writer.
As the usual season of attack is approaching, a further treatise on the proper treatment of those infected would be eminently in place, as it would give instructions how to ameliorate the violence of the attack, guard against bad symptoms, and particularly prevent the disease degenerating into the third or reactionary phase.
[The above was intended for our March number, and put in type for that purpose, but at the last moment a necessity arose for omitting it, which we do not now regret, since on reading Nos. I. and II. in connection, the reader can not fail to comprehend the scope and design of No. I., which he most likely would not have done on reading No. I. alone, and consequently have lost the enjoyment of its humor. This manner of treating a subject presents a tempting opportunity for fine writing, as we here see, but it is very apt to invite criticism. We turn with pleasure to No. II., where, in view of the genial and intelligent manner in which the subject is treated, we may say we have the Pyru - mania, the minus mark constituting just the difference. We should have made up a slightly different list of Pears, though those named are very good. The reader will bear in mind what we have repeatedly said about deep planting. We have seen nothing to change our mind on that point. We are so much pleased with No. II., that we shall be glad to have R. S. S. continue the subject, and include in a future number some special directions for pruning. - ED].