George Stimpson

His life and works

Home > Information Roundup > What is meant by the leaves of Vallombrosa?
What is meant by the leaves of Vallombrosa?

In Crusader in Crinoline (1941) Forrest Wilson says that Henry Ward Beecher told his sister Harriet Beecher Stowe that if she would finish Uncle Tom's Cabin he would "scatter it thick as the leaves of Vallom­brosa." When the story was published in book form in 1852 it sold 2,500,000 copies the first year. "Thick as the leaves of Vallombrosa" was suggested by a famous passage in John Milton's Paradise Lost:

Thick as autumnal leaves that strew the brooks
In Vallombrosa, where th' Etruscan shades
High over-arch'd imbow'r.
Vallombrosa (literally "Shady Valley") in Milton's time was a famous Benedictine monastery in the Apennine forests about sixteen miles from Florence in Tuscany. Scholars point out that most of the trees there are evergreens and do not strew the brooks with autumnal leaves. The eleventh-century monastery at Vallombrosa, suppressed in 1816, now houses a school of forestry, and the village is a noted summer resort.