Bosco 3

In the August 28th New Yorker‘s “Goings On About Town” section, announcing the end of this year’s HVSF season:

Beautiful natural vistas, drama, and history come together at Boscobel House and Gardens, home of the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, about ninety minutes north of the city. Exciting unplanned confluences, such as a convoy of helicopters flying over “Macbeth,” occur regularly [thus making a virtue out of inconvenience]. “A Week of Revolution” (Aug. 27-Sept. 4) will include reënactments, picnics, hikes, and a staging of Richard Nelson’s play “The General from America,” about Benedict Arnold, who tried to hand his command of West Point — visible across the river — over to the British.

An intriguing program, but what caught my eye was the name Boscobel for the house and estate. Long familiar to me, but seen in a new light after two Bosco postings on this blog: from the 20th, on Bosco chocolate syrup and the 25th, on Don Bosco (St. Giovanni / John Bosco).

Eventually this will lead us to Miltonian bosky dells and dogs named Bosco (one of whom got elected mayor of Sunol CA some years ago).

Bosky basics. Start with the Italian surname Bosco. From

Bosco Name Meaning. Italian: topographic name for someone living or working in a wood, from Late Latin boscus ‘shrub’, ‘undergrowth’ (of Gallic or Germanic origin), or a habitational name from a place named with this word. [Compare the English surnames Forest, Wood, Woods, Bush.] De Felice suggests that in some cases it may have been an occupational name for a woodsman or forester and, by extension, a nickname for a surly or rough person.

Then English bosky. From NOAD2:

adj bosky wooded; covered by trees or bushes: a river meandering between bosky banks. ORIGIN late 16th century: from Middle English bosk, variant of bush.

OED2’s story on bosk has it related to bush — but it entertains the possibility that “the modern literary word may have evolved < bosky” — and has it attested in the sense ‘bush’ in ME. The ‘bush’ sense went obsolete, and in the 19th century bosk reappeared as a literary word, now in the sense ‘a thicket of bushes and underwood; a small wood’.

(Also in this literary word family, from NOAD2: noun boscage (also boskage) massed trees or shrubs: the lush subtropical boscage.)

So in the Italian noun bosco and adj boscoso and in the English noun bosk and adjective bosky, we have a, um, lexical thicket involving two (obviously related) clusters of meanings ‘bush, shrub, undergrowth’ and ‘a wood, woods, wooded area’, moving in some complex way between Germanic and Late Latin.

Boscobel, the name. From Wikipedia on Boscobel:

[In the early 19th century:] With the interest on a sizable annuity granted him by Sir William Erskine, [States] Dyckman intended to build an estate on 250 acres near Montrose and named it Boscobel, perhaps after Boscobel House in Shropshire (itself named for the Italianate charm of Bosco Bello, “pretty woodland”), symbolizing his Anglophilia.

Boscobel, the NY house. More from Wikipedia:

(#1) Main house at Boscobel in New York

Boscobel is an estate overlooking the Hudson River built in the early 19th century by States Dyckman. It is considered an outstanding example of the Federal style of American architecture, augmented by Dyckman’s extensive collection of period decorations and furniture. Today it is a historic house museum and popular tourist attraction.

It was originally located in the Westchester County village of Montrose. Restoration efforts in the mid-20th century moved it 15 miles (24 km) upriver to where it currently stands, on NY 9D a mile south of the village of Cold Spring in Putnam County:


Boscobel, the Shropshire house. From Wikipedia:


Boscobel House is a … building in the parish of Boscobel in Shropshire. It has been, at various times, a farmhouse, a hunting lodge, and a holiday home; but it is most famous for its role in the escape of Charles II after the Battle of Worcester in 1651. Today it is managed by English Heritage.

… Boscobel House was created around 1632, when landowner John Giffard of White Ladies Priory converted a timber-framed farmhouse, built some time in the 16th century on the lands of White Ladies Priory, into a hunting lodge. [It was later extended and rebuilt over the years.]

(#4) English Midlands (Wales on the left)

Both houses lie in beautiful woodland, bosco bello.

The HVSF. From the website for the 2017 festival:

(#5) The Hudson, with surrounding bosky dells, viewed from Boscobel

With its breathtaking views of the Hudson River, Boscobel provides the perfect setting for the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival’s 30th Anniversary summer season. For three decades HVSF has brought world-class performance to the Hudson Highlands as the only professional Shakespeare company in the region.

HVSF has established a reputation for lucid, imaginative, engaging and highly inventive productions staged on Boscobel’s historic Great Lawn with a backdrop of stunning vistas overlooking the Hudson River. The Festival’s productions, tours and education programs reach more than 90,000 people throughout the tri-state region each year.

Boscobel’s magnificent grounds open two hours before the show (5:30pm) for pre-theater picnicking. Bring your own picnic or enjoy prepared foods available for purchase on site.

bosky dell. The English noun bosk is obsolete, the adjective bosky distinctly literary in register. The collocation bosky dell has, or at least had, a status as a somewhat formulaic expression, a not very transparent semi-idiom: both of its parts, the adjective bosky and the noun dell ‘valley’, being rare and archaic-sounding lexical items.

Looking for examples of bosky dell as a common noun expression (on the proper name Bosky Dell, see below), I came across this passage from Edward Bulwer-Lytton (in The Disowned), in which he treats dingle and bosky dell (dingle ‘deep wooded valley or dell’) as a quotation, from some work he expected his readers to recognize:

I remember a time when you thought no happiness could exist out of ‘dingle and bosky dell.’

I then spent a fair amount of time trying to track down the source of dingle and bosky dell. Well, it turns out the actual quotation has dingle and bushy dell, with the adjective bosky in a clause right after this coordination. From John Milton’s Comus, in iambic pentameter:

Comus. I know each lane, and every alley green,
Dingle, or bushy dell, of this wild wood.
And every bosky bourn from side to side.
My daily walks and ancient neighbourhood;
And, if your stray attendance be yet lodged,
Or shroud within these limits, I shall know
Ere morrow wake, or the low-roosted lark
From her thatched pallet rouse.

On the play, from Wikipedia:

Comus (A Mask Presented at Ludlow Castle, 1634) is a masque in honour of chastity, written by John Milton. It was first presented on Michaelmas, 1634, before John Egerton, 1st Earl of Bridgewater at Ludlow Castle in celebration of the Earl’s new post as Lord President of Wales. Known colloquially as Comus

So the original had bushy dell and bosky bourn (bourn ‘a small stream’). But apparently these two nominals of Milton’s were eventually compressed into bosky dell. Look at the Google Ngram for bushy dell and bosky dell (which picks up Bosky Dell as well):


Up to the middle of the 19th century, Milton’s original bushy dell predominates heavily. Then it plummets, and bosky dell ascends, until late in the 19th century, when they decline gracefully together towards insignificance.

The golden days of bosky dell left their mark, however,as the nominal came to be used as a proper noun connoting pleasurable secluded woodsy wildness — in, for example the name Bosky Dell Natives, for a plant nursery (at 23311 SW Bosky Dell Ln, West Linn, OR) specializing in native wildflowers, shrubs, and trees:


Bosco the dog. Bosco is a moderately common name for male dogs (and a very rare one as a personal name for men — think Fido, Spot, Snoopy, Fang, and Whisk(e)y), presumably originally from its wild and rough connotations, but eventually such names can become unmoored from their historical associations and become just arbitrary names. (You can find people on the net wondering if Bosco as a dog’s name comes from the chocolate syrup — so it would be a suitable name for a chocolate lab, say.)

Some movie Boscos live up to the rough and violent image. From Wikipedia:

Marmaduke is a 2010 American family comedy film adaptation of Brad Anderson’s comic strip of the same name.

… Marmaduke [a Great Dane voiced by Owen Wilson] meets a beautiful Rough Collie named Jezebel (Fergie), whose boyfriend is Bosco (Kiefer Sutherland), a violent Beauceron with two Miniature Pinscher minions named Thunder and Lightning (Damon Wayans, Jr. and Marlon Wayans). Bosco intimidates Marmaduke, who does not want to fight.

Other movie Boscos are sweet. Again from Wikipedia:

The Voices is a 2014 black comedy horror film. Directed by Marjane Satrapi and written by Michael R. Perry, the film stars Ryan Reynolds, Gemma Arterton, Anna Kendrick and Jacki Weaver.

Jerry (Ryan Reynolds) is an upbeat man who works at a bathtub factory, and lives in a modified apartment above a bowling alley with his dog, Bosco, and his cat, Mr. Whiskers. Jerry is a man with an innocent, almost childlike, demeanor and suffers from delusions and hallucinations that manifest in the form of his pets talking to him. Bosco often represents his good intentions while Mr. Whiskers represents his more violent nature.

And then there’s a significant real-life Bosco, a political dog. From Wikipedia:

Bosco Ramos was a dog elected honorary mayor of the [very small] unincorporated community of Sunol, California [in Alameda County, near Pleasanton and Fremont.. He was a black Labrador retriever and Rottweiler mix, usually known simply as “Bosco”. Bosco defeated two humans to win the honorary mayoral election in 1981, and served until his death in 1994. Bosco achieved international attention in 1984 when the British tabloid the Daily Star covered his election, describing Sunol as “the wackiest town in the world.” He appeared with his owner, Tom Stillman, as a contestant on the game show 3rd Degree, where the panelists failed to guess Bosco’s occupation. In 1990, the Chinese newspaper the People’s Daily reported on his tenure as an alleged example of the failings of the American electoral process, but in response, Sunol residents commented that the dog’s office was “merely a joke”. A statue of Bosco [by Lena Toritch, a Russian artist living in Salt Lake City] was erected in front of the town Post Office in 2008:


But wait! The story now veers into the annals of bad taste. From the Roadside America site on Bosco:

Though no animal (or human) filled the vacancy, Sunol wasn’t ready to forget their leader — though the town is split on the degree of reverence required. A restaurant calling itself Bosco’s Bones and Brew opened in 1999 featuring a specially engineered, Bosco-like stuffed dead dog behind the bar.

The dog pees!

The bartender lifts the dog’s left rear leg to draw a pint of beer. Bosco’s Bones & Brew is under new ownership, but the dog is still tapped and sampled daily. When we visited, bartender Michelle coaxed the dead dog into streaming Michelob Dark.


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