The tradition of composing epitaphs was popular throughout Europe. Religious content was joined by commemoration of a person’s station in life or even commemoration of nonpersons such as dogs. Playfulness and satire were standard elements of epitaphs during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Humor appeared in epitaphs, which became known as “tavern” or “pot poetry” when composed in the convivial company of others. The British Isles has been full of friendships between poets and the keepers of pubs. Many of the first have left us word of the second. Epitaphs remembering landlords, brewers, drinkers, drunkards, and teetotallers make up a genre of their own. A number of those have been collected for the purpose of this essay.
Throughout the seventeenth century the Dutch and Flemish enjoyed the reputation of being the best-fed population in Europe. Immigrants and refugees from the Low Countries brought their know-how and eating habits with them. Their arrival in the late-sixteenth and early-seventeenth centuries coincided with the beginning of commercial market gardening in England. Dutch and Flemish immigrants were the first to grow them on a commercial scale. The skill of Dutch and Flemish gardeners did much to alter the English landscape. Many varieties of flowers now considered native to England were brought over from the Low Countries, not to mention the cultivation of bulbs. The tulip became an object of insane speculation. Paintings were often cheaper than the flowers they depicted. Dutch flower painter Simon Pieterszoon Verelst (1644––1721?) became the best-paid artist in London after he settled there. Immigrants from the Low Countries also engineered some of the most fertile areas of Britain today. Cornelius Vermuyden (1590––1677) was responsible for the draining the Fens (Cambridgeshire) which gave an enormous boost to England's agricultural development. In summary: the English agricultural revolution coincided with an influx of immigrants from the Low Countries who enriched almost every aspect of British agriculture.