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Introductory Note (to Issue no. XXIII)

WithGraeme Stones

The ‘Loves of the Triangles’ is probably the best known and most admired of The Anti-Jacobin’s parodies. Higgins arrives at this poem still bathed in the warmth of Otaheite, from Issue no. XXI, and is stirred to explore sensual geometry. The lines closely parody Erasmus Darwin’s famously risqué ‘Loves of the Plants’, from the Botanic Garden. Few poets would dare to versify the Sexual System (of botanical classification) of Linnaeus, with his promiscuous analogies and lingering descriptions of stems, stamens, receptacles and petioles. Anna Seward made an attempt, found the subject improper for a female pen, and suggested it to Darwin. She chose the right man. Darwin’s Advertisement to the Botanic Garden announced his design to ‘inlist Imagination under the banner of Science’. The Botanic Garden being both astonishingly imaginative and compendious, this ‘inlistment’ carries Darwin into some exotic subjects for poetry. Nowhere is he more vulnerable to parody than in the ‘Loves of the Plants’, a hothouse of flowery philanderings where: . . . the young Rose in beauty’s damask pride Drinks the warm blushes of his bashful bride; With honey’d lips enamour’d Woodbines meet, Clasp with fond arms, and mix their kisses sweet. 1