1893 text

Samphire was formerly a favourite pickle; hence the “dangerous trade” of the samphire gatherer (“King Lear,” act iv. sc. 6) who supplied the demand. It was sold in the streets, and one of the old London cries was “I ha’ Rock Samphier, Rock Samphier!”

This text comes from a footnote on a diary entry in the 1893 edition edited by Henry B. Wheatley.

3 Annotations

Kevin Peter  •  Link

Definition from hyperdictionary.com

Pronunciation: 'sam`fIr

WordNet Dictionary

Definition: [n] fleshy maritime plant having fleshy stems with rudimentary scalelike leaves and small spikes of minute flowers; formerly used in making glass

Synonyms: glasswort, Salicornia europaea

See Also: genus Salicornia, herb, herbaceous plant, Salicornia

Webster's 1913 Dictionary

Definition: \Sam"phire\ (? or ?; 277), n. [F. l'herbe de Saint
Pierre. See {Saint}, and {Petrel}.] (Bot.)
(a) A fleshy, suffrutescent, umbelliferous European plant
({Crithmum maritimum}). It grows among rocks and on
cliffs along the seacoast, and is used for pickles.

Hangs one that gathers samphire, dreadful trade!
(b) The species of glasswort ({Salicornia herbacea}); --
called in England {marsh samphire}.
(c) A seashore shrub ({Borrichia arborescens}) of the West

Pedro.  •  Link

Rock samphire (Crithmum maritimum).

The cliff-growing rock samphire described in King Lear, in a scene near Dover, has Edgar say to Gloucester, “half way down/Hangs one that gathers samphire, dreadful trade!”

A yellow-flowered perennial, growing chiefly on cliffs and rocks by the sea, and occasionally on shingle beaches. The leaves smell sulphurous when crushed (some people find the scent similar to furniture polish), but it has been used as a vegetable, chiefly in pickles. In the 19C samphire was sent from Dover and the Isle of Wight to London, in casks of brine, where wholesalers would pay up to four shillings a bushel for it.

Flora Britannica by Richard Mabey.

Bill  •  Link

SAMPHIRE, SAMPIRE. [Minshew derives it of Saint Pierre, St. Peter's Herb] a Plant which generally grows upon rocky Cliffs in the Sea; it is usually pickled and eaten for a dainty Sallet.
---An universal etymological English dictionary. N. Bailey, 1731.

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.