Commenting on the New Criterion post directly below, reader Flossie called attention to this older essay, the source of the quote below about Dalrymple’s father. In fact, the essay contains more biographical information about his father than probably anything else he has written.
I want to say that it is one of his best works, but I say that too often. (Funny how almost all of Dalrymple’s essays seem to be one of his best.) It is a comment on the importance of appreciating the beauty in the everyday:
Adriaen Coorte’s minutely observed and portrayed gooseberries are not, therefore, a trivial or contemptible subject matter for art. The sprig of the bush on which they grow teaches us to observe the play of light upon the foliage, to take delight in the variety of shades of green to be seen in the various leaves–no, even in a single leaf. As for the translucency of the berries themselves, so miraculously beautiful, and captured so tenderly by the artist, one feels like exclaiming, as T. H. Huxley did on reading Darwin’s Origin of Species, “How stupid of me not to have thought of that!”
So now I am thoroughly reconciled to gooseberries as a fruit, and will never again think of them as sour and distasteful. They are, after all, an instance of the beauty of the world.
I also like this witty description of recent improvement in English cuisine:
Meals in England in those days were treated as an ordeal that had to be gone through; nowadays, thanks to an increased awareness of the health implications of nutrition, they are more like medical procedures.
Though I can attest from personal experience that Dalrymple is an excellent cook!