My Summer In A Garden "What A Man Needs In Gardening Is A Cast-iron Back, With A Hinge In It"

Charles Dudley Warner

"What A Man Needs In Gardening Is A Cast-iron Back, With A Hinge In It"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Charles Dudley Warner, probably best known for his collaboration with Mark Twain in The Gilded Age, also did a great deal of predominantly journalistic writing on his own. It was while he was editor of the Hartford Courant that he wrote the series of articles entitled "My Summer in a Garden," which appeared in the newspaper between May 21 and October 22, 1870. Near the close of the same year the articles were published in book form, with the date 1871 on the title page. The nineteen articles, or chapters, are titled by weeks–"First Week," "Second Week," and so on. The quotation comes in the "Third Week." Here Warner describes his battle with grass, vines, and weeds in anything but a scientific vein. The grass symbolizes "total depravity"; the vine, "intelligence"; and the weeds, "hateful moral qualities." In destroying weeds, he feels that he is "destroying sin," and his "hoe becomes an instrument of retributive justice. . . . Hoeing becomes not a pastime, but a duty." The quotation follows:

Nevertheless, what a man needs in gardening is a cast-iron back, with a hinge in it. The hoe is an ingenious instrument, calculated to call out a great deal of strength at a great disadvantage.