This is the latest post from the Digital Miscellanies Index blog. You can read the rest of the blog at digitalmiscellaniesindex.blogspot.com
Blest with good Health and with a fair Estate,Not quite as easy as it looks - here’s our attempt to work out how big the trench should be, with the aid of pictures
Blest with a beautiful and vertuous Mate;
Being blest with Children and with Money store,
A Man so blest, you’d think should ask no more,
For few Men of such Blessings has such Store.
To crown these Blessings, and to please my Wife,
To smooth the Solitudes of Country Life,
A Noble Edifice I have erected,
Likewise an oblong Garden Place projected:
But my misfortune is, the Ground being low,
That ev’ry Show’r the Waters overflow,
Its Surface, whose extent I now will show.
Six hundred forty Feet the Length shall be,
The breadth Four hundred eighty wanting three,
Now to raise it a Foot, I this way do propose,
A Sixteen Foot Trench shall my Garden Enclose,
That the Earth which comes out shall just answer the matter,
And so by this means shall get clear of the Water.
The Depth I have given, the Breadth I do want Sir,
So good Sir, be pleased to send me Your Answer?
I will communicate what you require,Digging a trench 16 foot deep and 8 and a bit foot wide in order to get enough soil to raise the level of a garden by one foot does seem rather excessive behaviour. When the question is answered, the hole in the ground starts to look more like a moat than a trench, particularly as the area is apparently prone to flooding – but realism isn’t what’s important in these poems. Rather, what’s key about this miscellany and the verse it contains is the way it promotes maths so enthusiastically to its audience, and how it engages that audience as active solvers of its numerical problems. As the editor John Tipper claimed in the final issue of Delights for the Ingenious, those who have collected each number of his miscellany now ‘have beyond all Contradiction, the best Arithmetical Questions that ever appeared in Publick before: So full of Humour, Ingenuity, and Variety, that I challenge the whole World to shew the like.’
To raise your Garden just as you desire;
Eight foot four Inches, and with nine Tenths more,
Will give the Trenches breadth you did implore.