Apr 222018

Today is the birthday (1707) of Henry Fielding, English novelist and dramatist known primarily as the author of Tom Jones, written at a time when the English novel was in its infancy. He holds a significant place in the history of law enforcement, and, with his half-brother John, founded what some have called London’s first police force, the Bow Street Runners.

Fielding was born in Sharpham in Somerset, and educated at Eton College, where he established a lifelong friendship with William Pitt the Elder. When Fielding was 11, his mother died. A suit for custody was brought by his grandmother against his father, Lt. Gen. Edmund Fielding, whom she deemed irresponsible. The settlement placed Fielding in his grandmother’s care, although he continued to see his father in London. In 1725, Fielding tried to abduct his cousin, Sarah Andrews, while she was on her way to church. To avoid prosecution, he fled. In 1728, he travelled to Leiden to study classics and law at the university. However, lack of money obliged him to return to London and he began writing for the theatre. Some of his work was savagely critical of the government of the prime minister, Sir Robert Walpole.

The Theatrical Licensing Act of 1737 is alleged to be a direct response to his activities. The particular play that triggered the Licensing Act was the unproduced, anonymously authored, The Golden Rump, but Fielding’s dramatic satires had set the tone. Once the act was passed, political satire on the stage became virtually impossible, and playwrights whose works were staged were viewed as suspect. Fielding therefore retired from the theater and resumed his career in law in order to support his wife, Charlotte Craddock, and two children, by becoming a barrister. Fielding’s lack of business sense meant he and his family often endured periods of poverty, but he was helped by Ralph Allen, a wealthy benefactor, on whom Squire Allworthy in Tom Jones was later based. Allen went on to provide for the education and support of Fielding’s children after Fielding’s death.

Fielding never stopped writing political satire and satires of current arts and letters. The Tragedy of Tragedies (for which Hogarth designed the frontispiece) was, for example, quite successful as a printed play. He also contributed a number of works to journals of the day. From 1734 until 1739 he wrote anonymously for the leading Tory periodical, The Craftsman, against Walpole. Fielding’s patron was the opposition Whig MP (and his boyhood friend from Eton) George Lyttelton. Lyttelton followed his leader Lord Cobham in forming a Whig opposition to Walpole’s government, called the Cobhamites (who also included Fielding’s other Eton friend, William Pitt). In The Craftsman, Fielding articulated the opposition’s attack on bribery and corruption in British politics.

Fielding dedicated his play Don Quixote in England to the opposition Whig leader, Lord Chesterfield, and it was published on 17th April 1734, the same day writs were issued for the general election. He dedicated his 1735 play The Universal Gallant to Charles Spencer, 3rd Duke of Marlborough, a political follower of Chesterfield. The other prominent opposition newspaper, Common Sense, was named after a character in Fielding’s Pasquin (1736) and was founded by Chesterfield and Lyttelton. Fielding continued to air his political views in satirical articles and newspapers in the late 1730s and early 1740s. He became the chief writer for the Whig government of Henry Pelham.

Fielding took to writing novels in 1741, irritated by Samuel Richardson’s success with Pamela. His first big success was an anonymous parody: Shamela. This satire follows the model of the famous Tory satirists of the previous generation, such as, Jonathan Swift and John Gay. Fielding followed Shamela with Joseph Andrews (1742), an original work supposedly dealing with Pamela’s brother, Joseph. His purpose in this book, however, was more than parody, for he intended, as he announced in the preface, a “kind of writing which I do not remember to have seen hithereto attempted in our language.” In this new kind of writing, which Fielding called a “comic epic poem in prouse,” he creatively blended two classical traditions: that of the epic, which had been poetic, and that of the drama, but emphasizing the comic rather than the tragic. Another distinction of Joseph Andrews and of the novels to come was the use of everyday reality of character and action as opposed to the fables of the past. Although begun as a parody, it developed into an accomplished novel in its own right and is considered to mark Fielding’s debut as a serious novelist. In 1743, he published a novel in the Miscellanies volume III (which was the first volume of the Miscellanies): The History of the Life of the Late Mr Jonathan Wild the Great, which is sometimes counted as his first, as he almost certainly began it before he wrote Shamela and Joseph Andrews. It is a satire of Walpole that draws a parallel between him and Jonathan Wild, the infamous gang leader and highwayman. He implicitly compares the Whig party in Parliament with a gang of thieves being run by Walpole, whose constant desire to be a “Great Man” (a common epithet for Walpole) ought to culminate in the antithesis of greatness: being hanged.

His anonymous The Female Husband (1746) is a fictionalized account of a notorious case in which a female transvestite was tried for duping another woman into marriage. This was one of a number of small pamphlets, and cost sixpence at the time. Though a minor item in Fielding’s œuvre, the subject is consistent with his ongoing preoccupation with fraud, shamming and masks. His greatest work, Tom Jones (1749), came next.  If you don’t know it, read it. The hallmark of the book is its presentation of English life and character in the mid-18th century (akin to Hogarth’s art). Every social type is represented, and through them every shade of moral behavior.

Fielding married Charlotte Craddock in 1734 at the Church of St Mary in Charlcombe, Somerset. She died in 1744, and he later modelled the heroines of both Tom Jones and Amelia on her. They had five children together; their only daughter Henrietta died at age 23, having already been “in deep decline” when she married military engineer James Gabriel Montresor some months before. Three years after Charlotte’s death, Fielding disregarded public opinion by marrying her former maid Mary Daniel, who was pregnant. Mary bore five children: three daughters who died young, and sons William and Allen.

Despite this scandal, Fielding’s consistent anti-Jacobitism and support for the Church of England led to his being rewarded a year later with the position of London’s chief magistrate, while his literary career broadened. Most of his work was concerned with London’s criminal population of thieves, informers, gamblers, and prostitutes. In a corrupt and callous society, he became noted for his impartial judgements, incorruptibility, and compassion for those whom social inequities had forced into crime. The income from his office, which he called “the dirtiest money upon earth,” dwindled because he refused to take money from the very poor. With his younger half-brother, John, he helped found the Bow Street Runners, in 1749, which were, arguably, London’s first police force.

Both Fieldings did much to enhance judicial reform and improve prison conditions. Fielding’s influential pamphlets and enquiries included a proposal for the abolition of public hangings. This did not, however, imply opposition to capital punishment as such – as is evident, for example, in his presiding in 1751 over the trial of the notorious criminal James Field, finding him guilty in a robbery and sentencing him to hang. John Fielding, despite being blind by then, succeeded his older brother as chief magistrate, becoming known as the “Blind Beak of Bow Street” for his ability to recognize criminals by their voices alone.

In January 1752 Fielding started a fortnightly periodical, The Covent-Garden Journal, which he published under the pseudonym of “Sir Alexander Drawcansir, Knt. Censor of Great Britain” until November of the same year. In this periodical, Fielding directly challenged the “armies of Grub Street” and the contemporary periodical writers of the day in a conflict that would eventually become the Paper War of 1752–3.

Fielding then published “Examples of the Interposition of Providence in the Detection and Punishment of Murder” (1752), a treatise in which he rejected the deistic and materialistic visions of the world in favor of belief in God’s presence and divine judgement, arguing that the murder rate was rising due to neglect of the Christian religion. In 1753 he wrote “Proposals for Making an Effectual Provision for the Poor.”

Fielding’s ardent commitment to the cause of justice as a great humanitarian in the 1750s (for instance, his support of Elizabeth Canning) coincided with rapid deterioration in his health. Gout, asthma, cirrhosis of the liver and other afflictions made him use crutches. His ill health led him to Portugal in 1754 in search of a cure, but he died in Lisbon, reportedly in physical pain and mental distress, only two months later. His tomb is in the city’s English Cemetery (Cemitério Inglês), which is now the graveyard of St. George’s Church, Lisbon.

“The Roast Beef of Old England” was originally written by Henry Fielding for his play The Grub-Street Opera, first performed in 1731, and I gave it full coverage here: http://www.bookofdaystales.com/roast-beef-old-england/  The 18th century saw a number of changes in food habits and fashions in England, including an increase in the use of vegetables in dishes, the popularity of potatoes, and a great interest in Continental cuisines, especially French. “The Roast Beef of Old England” was written as a counterblast to this trend, touting good, hearty roast beef as proper fare for the English rather than all this foreign muck – bisques and ragouts and whatnot (rather like Burns’s praise of haggis). John Nott published The Cooks and Confectioners Dictionary: or, the Accomplish’d Housewives Companion in 1723, and from it we catch a glimpse of changing food tastes in England. You can find a .pdf of the full text in facsimile here: https://ia802700.us.archive.org/14/items/cooksandconfect00nottgoog/cooksandconfect00nottgoog.pdf It is organized alphabetically based on the name of the principal ingredient discussed. The section on beef is curious because there is no mention of good old-fashioned roast beef, but plenty of recipes for fricassee, braised beef, stuffed beef rolls and the like. Times were changing.

Here is a recipe for an asparagus omelet:

  1. To make an Amlet of Asparagus

Blanch your Asparagus, cut them in short Pieces, fry them in fresh Butter, with a little Parsley and Chibols [green onions]; then pour in some Cream, season them well, and let them boil over a gentle Fire: In the mean time make an Amlet with new laid Eggs, Cream, and Salt ; when it is enough, dress it on a Dish ; thicken the Asparagus with the Yolk of an Egg or two, turn the Asparagus on the Amlet, and serve it up hot.

Despite lack of precise measurements, it’s an easy enough recipe to follow if you have some experience in the kitchen, and worth a shot. I normally make an asparagus omelet by frying some asparagus spears in butter, making an omelet, and then folding the asparagus in before serving. This 18th century recipe is not so very different except that the asparagus has a creamy sauce with it.

Apr 212018

Today is the birthday (1752) of Humphry Repton, the last great English landscape designer of the 18th century, often regarded as the successor to Capability Brown, and a link to the more intricate and eclectic styles of the 19th century. Repton was born in Bury St Edmunds, the son of a collector of excise, John Repton, and Martha (née Fitch). In 1762 his father set up a transport business in Norwich, where Humphry attended Norwich Grammar School. At age 12 he was sent to the Netherlands to learn Dutch and prepare for a career as a merchant. However, Repton was befriended by a wealthy Dutch family and the trip may have done more to stimulate his interest in other pursuits such as sketching and gardening.

On his return to Norwich, Repton was apprenticed to a textile merchant, then, after marriage to Mary Clarke in 1773, set up in the business himself. He was not successful, and when his parents died in 1778 used his modest legacy to move to a small country estate at Sustead, near Aylsham in Norfolk. Repton tried his hand as a journalist, dramatist, artist, political agent, and as confidential secretary to his neighbor William Windham of Felbrigg Hall during Windham’s very brief stint as Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Repton also joined John Palmer in a venture to reform the mail-coach system, but while the scheme ultimately made Palmer’s fortune, Repton again lost money. Consequently, Repton’s childhood friend, James Edward Smith, encouraged him to study botany and gardening.

To save his dwindling resources, Repton moved to a modest cottage in Hare Street near Romford in Essex. In 1788, aged 36 and with four children and no secure income, he hit on the idea of combining his sketching skills with his limited experience of laying out grounds at Sustead to become a ‘landscape gardener’ (a term he himself coined). Since the death of Capability Brown in 1783, there was no single figure who dominated English garden design. Repton was ambitious to fill this gap and sent circulars around his contacts in the upper classes advertising his services. He was at first an avid defender of Brown’s views, contrasted with those of Richard Payne Knight and Uvedale Price, but later adopted a more moderate position. His first paid commission was Catton Park, to the north of Norwich, in 1788.

That Repton, with no real experience of practical horticulture, became an overnight success, is a tribute to his undeniable talent, but also to the original way he presented his work. To help clients visualize his designs, Repton produced ‘Red Books’ (so called for their binding) with explanatory text and watercolors with a system of overlays to show ‘before’ and ‘after’ views. In this he differed from Capability Brown, who worked almost exclusively with plans and rarely illustrated or wrote about his work. Repton’s overlays were soon copied by the Irish-Philadelphian Bernard McMahon in his 1806 American Gardener’s Calendar.

To understand what was special about Repton we should examine how he differed from Brown in more detail. Brown worked for many of the wealthiest aristocrats in Britain, carving huge landscape parks out of old formal gardens and agricultural land. Repton worked for equally important clients, such as the Dukes of Bedford and Portland, but he was usually fine-tuning earlier work, often that of Brown himself. Where Repton got the chance to lay out grounds from scratch it was generally on a much more modest scale. On these smaller estates, where Brown would have surrounded the park with a continuous perimeter belt, Repton cut vistas through to ‘borrowed’ items such as church towers, making them seem part of the designed landscape. At Catton Park, for example, he cut down trees to incorporate a view of the spire of Norwich cathedral. He designedapproach drives and lodges to enhance impressions of size and importance of the main house, and even introduced monogramed milestones on the roads around some estates, for which he was satirized by Thomas Love Peacock as ‘Marmaduke Milestone, esquire, a Picturesque Landscape Gardener’ in Headlong Hall.

Around 1787, Richard Page (1748-1803), landowner of Sudbury, to the west of Wembley decided to convert the Page family home ‘Wellers’ into a country seat and turn the fields around it into a private estate. In 1792 Page employed Humphry Repton, by then famous as a landscape architect, to convert the farmland into wooded parkland and to make improvements to the house. Repton often called the areas he landscaped ‘parks’, thus it is to Repton that Wembley Park owes its name. The original site that Repton transformed was later built on in the construction of the short-lived Watkin’s Tower. The area landscaped by Repton was larger than the current Wembley Park. It included the southern slopes of Barn Hill to the north, where Repton planted trees and started building a ‘prospect house’ – a gothic tower offering a view over the parkland. Repton may also have designed the thatched lodge that survives on Wembley Hill Road, to the west of Wembley Park. It is in the cottage orné style frequently used by Repton. Regrettably, Repton’s Red Book for Wembley Park, which would give a definitive answer, has not survived.

Capability Brown was a large-scale contractor, who not only designed, but also arranged the realization of his work. By contrast, Repton acted as a consultant, charging for his Red Books and sometimes staking out the ground, but leaving his client to arrange the actual execution. Thus, many of Repton’s 400 or so designs remained wholly or partially unfinished and, while Brown became rich, Repton’s income was never more than comfortable.

Early in his career, Repton defended Brown’s reputation during the ‘picturesque controversy.’ In 1794 Richard Payne Knight and Uvedale Price simultaneously published vicious attacks on the ‘meagre genius of the bare and bald’, criticizing his smooth, serpentine curves as bland and unnatural and championing rugged and intricate designs, composed according to ‘picturesque’ principles of landscape painting. Repton’s defence of Brown rested partly on the impracticality of many picturesque ideas. As a professional, Repton had to produce practical designs for his clients. Paradoxically, however, as his career progressed Repton drew more and more on picturesque ideas. One major criticism of Brown’s landscapes was the lack of a formal setting for the house, with rolling lawns sweeping right up to the front door. Repton re-introduced formal terraces, balustrades, trellis work and flower gardens around the house in a way that became common practice in the 19th century. He also designed one of the most famous ‘picturesque’ landscapes in Britain at Blaise Castle, near Bristol. At Woburn Abbey, Repton foreshadowed another 19th-century development, creating themed garden areas including a Chinese garden, American garden, arboretum and forcing garden. At Stoneleigh Abbey in 1808, Repton foreshadowed another 19th-century development, creating a perfect cricket pitch called ‘home lawn’ in front of the west wing, and a bowling green lawn between the gatehouse and the house.

Success at Woburn earned him a further commission from the Duke of Bedford. He designed the central gardens in Russell Square, the centerpiece of the Bloomsbury development. The gardens were restored with the additional help of archaeological investigation and archival photographs, to the original plans and are now listed as Grade II by Historic England. The square was to be a flagship commission for Repton and was one of three within the central London.

Buildings played an important part in many of Repton’s landscapes. In the 1790s he often worked with the relatively unknown architect John Nash, whose loose compositions suited Repton’s style. Nash benefited greatly from the exposure, while Repton received a commission on building work. Around 1800, however, the two fell out, probably over Nash’s refusal to credit the work of Repton’s architect son John Adey Repton. Thereafter John Adey and Repton’s younger son George Stanley Repton often worked with their father, although George continued to work in Nash’s office as well. In 1811 Repton suffered a serious carriage accident which often left him needing to use a wheelchair for mobility. He died in 1818 and is buried in the graveyard of St Michael’s Church at Aylsham in north Norfolk.

You could pick any 18th century English recipe you like to celebrate Repton, but I thought I would choose a Dutch one of the same period, because he spent time in the Netherlands as a boy, and seems to have been inspired by a Dutch family to take up sketching and (ultimately) landscape design. The recipe is from De volmaakte Hollandsche Keuken-meid […] (The perfect Dutch Kitchen maid . . .), written by “a distinguished lady, passed away recently.” The first edition was in 1746, and it was reprinted several times up to 1857. Maybe Repton ate these “fine cakes.” I pinched the Dutch version from here http://coquinaria.nl/en/excellent-cookies/ where you can also find a modern interpretation, which I have not tried. The English translation on the site is poor, so the one below is mostly my own – with more accurate interpretations of the measures – not the incorrect ones as in the original translation. Given the incorrect measures in the original, I would not trust the interpretation. The pint, ounce, and pound cited are equivalent (roughly) to Imperial measure. They became the names for metric measures after the Treaty of Vienna, when only France and the Netherlands used the metric system, but this recipe predates that time. Even with my better translation, I do not trust the measures (especially not the pint of yeast).

Fyne kaaks, hoe men die bakken zal.

Neemt een half vierdevat bloem van Tarwe Meel, het beste dat men krygen kan ; stampt het heel fyn, met een weinigje zout daar onder, een half loot nagelen, een half loot foelie, een half loot note-muscaat en een half once  kaneel, doet dit gemengd met drie vierendeel poejer-suiker onder het Meel, en kneedt het ter degen door met anderhalf pond booter : doet ‘er dan by een mingelen Room met een pintje gist, met 12 eijeren, acht zonder het wit en vier met het wit, een weinigje Roozewater en Ambergrys : als het wel doorkneed en gerezen is, dan moet men ‘er nog 3 ponden korenten en een pond rosynen zonder korrels, dooreen, wel fyn gesneeden by doen : Maakt het deeg tot Kaakjes en zet het drie uuren te bakken in een laauwe Oven ; dan haald het ‘er uit en bestrykt ze met het wit van een ei en rosewater, en met suiker bestrooid, zet ze nog eens in den Oven om de suiker te doen kandilizeren, is delicaat om te eeten.

Fine cakes, how to bake them.

Take half a four-vessel (4 cups) of wheat flour, the best one can get. Pound it very finely, with a little salt, a half loot (1 loot/lood = 10 gms) of cloves, a half loot of mace, a half ounce of nutmeg and a half ounce of cinnamon. Add this, tempered with ¾ pound powdered sugar, to the flour, and knead it well with one and a half pounds of butter. Then add a mingel (5 cups) of cream with a pint of yeast, 12 eggs, eight without the white and four with the white, a little rosewater and ambergris. When it is kneaded thoroughly and risen well enough, then add 3 pounds of currants and 1 pound of raisins without pits, finely chopped. Make the dough into little cakes and set them to bake for three hours in a lukewarm oven. Then take them out and coat them with the white of an egg and rosewater, and sprinkle with sugar. Put them in the oven once more to caramelize the sugar. This is a joy to eat.

Apr 112018

Today is the birthday (1755) of James Parkinson FGS, an English surgeon, apothecary, geologist, paleontologist, and political activist, who is best known for his 1817 work, An Essay on the Shaking Palsy in which he was the first to describe “paralysis agitans,” a condition that would later be renamed Parkinson’s disease by Jean-Martin Charcot. World Parkinson’s Day is held each year on this date.

James Parkinson was born in Shoreditch, London, England. He was the son of John Parkinson, an apothecary and surgeon practicing in Hoxton Square in London. He was the eldest of five siblings. In 1784 Parkinson was approved by the City of London Corporation as a surgeon. On 21 May 1783, he married Mary Dale, with whom he subsequently had eight children, two of whom did not survive past childhood. Soon after he was married, Parkinson succeeded his father in his practice in 1 Hoxton Square. He believed that any worthwhile surgeon should know shorthand, at which he was adept.

In addition to his flourishing medical practice, Parkinson had an avid interest in geology and paleontology, as well as the politics of the day. Parkinson was a strong advocate for the under-privileged, and an outspoken critic of the Pitt government. His early career was marked by his being involved in a variety of social and revolutionary causes, and some historians think it most likely that he was a strong proponent for the French Revolution. He published nearly twenty political pamphlets in the post-French Revolution period, while Britain was in political chaos. Writing under his own name and his pseudonym “Old Hubert,” he called for radical social reforms and universal suffrage.

Parkinson called for representation of the people in the House of Commons, the institution of annual parliaments, and universal suffrage. He was a member of several secret political societies, including the London Corresponding Society and the Society for Constitutional Information. In 1794 his membership in the organization led to his being examined under oath before William Pitt and the Privy Council to give evidence about a trumped-up plot to assassinate King George III. He refused to testify regarding his part in the Popgun Plot, until he was certain he would not be forced to incriminate himself. The plan was to use a poisoned dart fired from a pop-gun to bring the king’s reign to a premature conclusion. No charges were ever brought against Parkinson but several of his friends languished in prison for many months before being acquitted.

Parkinson gave up his tumultuous political career, and between 1799 and 1807 published several medical works, including a work on gout in 1805. He was also responsible for early writings on ruptured appendix. He was interested in improving the general health and well-being of the population. He wrote several medical doctrines that exposed a similar zeal for the health and welfare of the people that was expressed by his political activism. He was a crusader for legal protection for the mentally ill, as well as their doctors and families.

In 1812 Parkinson assisted his son with the first described case of appendicitis in English, and the first instance in which perforation was shown to be the cause of death. Parkinson was the first person to systematically describe six individuals with symptoms of the disease that bears his name. In his An Essay on the Shaking Palsy he reported on three of his own patients and three persons whom he saw in the street. He referred to the disease that would later bear his name as “paralysis agitans,” (shaking palsy). He distinguished between resting tremors and the tremors with motion. Jean-Martin Charcot coined the term “Parkinson’s disease” 60 years later. Parkinson erroneously suggested that the tremors in these patients were due to lesions in the cervical spinal cord.

Parkinson’s interest gradually turned from medicine to natural philosophy, specifically the relatively new fields of geology and paleontology. He began collecting specimens and drawings of fossils in the latter part of the 18th century. He took his children and friends on excursions to collect and observe fossil plants and animals. His attempts to learn more about fossil identification and interpretation were frustrated by a lack of available literature in English, and so he took the decision to improve matters by writing his own introduction to the study of fossils.

In 1804, the first volume of his Organic Remains of a Former World was published. Gideon Mantell praised it as “the first attempt to give a familiar and scientific account of fossils.” A second volume was published in 1808, and a third in 1811. Parkinson illustrated each volume and his daughter Emma colored some of the plates. The plates were later re-used by Gideon Mantell. In 1822 Parkinson published the shorter “Outlines of Oryctology: an Introduction to the Study of Fossil Organic Remains, especially of those found in British Strata”.

Parkinson also contributed several papers to William Nicholson’s A Journal of Natural Philosophy, Chemistry and the Arts, and in the first, second, and fifth volumes of the Geological Society’s Transactions. He wrote a single volume Outlines of Oryctology in 1822, a more popular work. On 13 November 1807, Parkinson and other distinguished scholars met at the Freemasons’ Tavern in London. The gathering included Sir Humphry Davy, Arthur Aikin and George Bellas Greenough. This was to be the first meeting of the Geological Society of London.

Parkinson belonged to a school of thought, catastrophism, that concerned itself with the belief that the Earth’s geology and biosphere were shaped by recent large-scale cataclysms. He cited the Noachian deluge of Genesis as an example, and he firmly believed that creation and extinction were processes guided by the hand of God. His view on Creation was that each ‘day’ was actually a much longer period than 24 hours, perhaps lasting tens of thousands of years.

Parkinson died on 21st December 1824 after a stroke that interfered with his speech. His collection of organic remains was given to his wife and much of it went on to be sold in 1827, a catalogue of the sale has never been found. He was buried at St. Leonard’s Church, Shoreditch.

Parkinson’s life is commemorated with a stone tablet inside the church of St Leonard’s, Shoreditch, where he was a member of the congregation; the exact site of his grave is not known, and his body may lie in the crypt or in the churchyard. A blue plaque at 1 Hoxton Square marks the site of his home. Several fossils were named after him. There is no known portrait of him: a photograph, sometimes published and identified as of him, is of a dentist of the same name, but this James Parkinson died before photography was invented.

I came across THE ART OF COOKERY MADE EASY AND REFINED; COMPRISING AMPLE DIRECTIONS FOR PREPARING EVERY ARTICLE REQUISITE FOR FURNISHING THE TABLES OF THE NOBLEMAN, GENTLEMAN, AND TRADESMAN. By JOHN MOLLARD, Cook (Lately one of the Proprietors of Freemasons’ Tavern, Great Queen Street, Lincoln’s Inn Fields) (1802). Freemasons’ Tavern was where the Geological Society of London first met, so the dishes in this collection represent ones Parkinson would have eaten. By and large they are nothing out of the ordinary until you get to Olios. He claims (in the middle) to have seen this being cooked. Unless it was cooked in a cauldron the size of a swimming pool, I doubt it. Read on – the second part is more sane.

Olios, or a Spanish Dish.

The articles that are wanted consist of the following: viz.

Leg of mutton of ten pounds.
Leg of veal ditto.
Chuck beef ditto.
Lean ham six pounds.
Best end of a neck of mutton.
Breast of veal, small.
Two pieces of bouillie beef of one pound each.
Two pair of pigs feet and ears.
A bologna sausage.
A fowl.
A pheasant.
Two partridges.
Two ruffs and rees.
Two quails.
Two teal.
Two pigeons.
Two rabbits.
One hare.
Two stags tongues.
One quart of burgonza peas.
Black pepper.
Haricot roots.
Fried bread.
Saffron, and

The Olio to be made as follows:

Take the beef, veal, mutton, and ham; cut them into pieces, put them into a pot, cover with water, and when it boils skim clean; then add carrots, celery, turnips, onions, leeks, garlick, parsley, and thyme, tied in a bunch; allspice, cloves, nutmeg, black pepper, mace, and a little ginger, put in a cloth. Boil all together till it becomes a strong stock, and strain it. Then cut the breast of veal into tendrons, and best end of neck of mutton into steaks, and half fry them; pigs feet and ears cleaned; hare cut into joints and daubed with bacon; bouillie beef tied round with packthread; poultry trussed very neat, with the legs drawn in close; the tongues scalded and cleaned; and the rabbits cut into pieces. When the different articles are ready, blanch and wash them, then braise each[35] in a separate stewpan, with the stock that was strained. When the different things are braised enough, pour the liquors from them into a pan, leaving a little with each to preserve from burning. When they are to be served up, skim the liquor very clean, and clear it with whites of eggs; then cut turnips and carrots into haricots, some button onions peeled, and heads of celery trimmed neat; after which blanch them, cut the bologna sausage into slices, boil the burgonza peas till three parts done, then mix all together, add some of the cleared liquor, and stew them gently till done. The remainder of the liquor to be coloured with a little saffron, and served up in a tureen with a few burgonza peas in it.

When the olio is to be served up, take a very large deep dish, make several partitions in it with slips of fried bread dipped in whites of eggs, and set it in a slow oven or before a fire; then lay the tendrons, birds, beef, mutton, fowls, &c. alternately in the partitions, and serve up with the haricot roots, &c. over. The whole of the liquor to be seasoned to the palate with cayenne pepper and lemon juice.

[This receipt for a Spanish olio is only written to shew how expensive a dish may be made, and which I saw done. As a substitute I have introduced the following english one, which has been generally approved; and I think, with particular attention, it will exceed the former in flavour.]

Hodge Podge, or English Olio.

Take four beef tails cut into joints, bouille beef two pieces about a quarter of a pound each, and two pieces of pickle pork of the same weight. Put them into a pot, cover with water, and when it boils skim clean, and add half a savoy, two ounces of champignons, some turnips, carrots, onions, leeks, celery, one bay leaf, whole black pepper, a few allspice, and a small quantity of mace. When the meats are nearly done, add two quarts of strong veal stock, and when tender take them out, put them into a deep dish, and preserve them hot till they are to be served up; then strain the liquor, skim it free from fat, season to the palate with cayenne pepper, a little salt, and lemon juice, and add a small quantity of colour; then have ready turnips and carrots cut into haricots, some celery heads trimmed three inches long, and some whole onions peeled. Let them be sweated down, till three parts tender, in separate stewpans, and strain the essences of them to the above liquor; clear it with whites of eggs, strain it through a tamis cloth, mix the vegetables, add the liquor to them, boil them gently for ten minutes, and serve them over the meats.


Mar 222018

On this date in 1638, following a number of civil and church proceedings against her, Anne Hutchinson (née Marbury; July 1591 – August 1643), a Puritan and a major player in the Antinomian Controversy which shook the infant Massachusetts Bay Colony, was formally banished from the Colony. Her strong religious convictions were at odds with the established Puritan clergy in the Boston area, and her popularity and charisma helped create a theological schism that threatened to destroy the Puritan community in New England.

Hutchinson was born in Alford in Lincolnshire in England, the daughter of Francis Marbury, an Anglican cleric and school teacher who gave Anne a superior education for the time. She lived in London as a young adult, and there married her old friend from home William Hutchinson. The couple moved back to Alford where they began following dynamic preacher John Cotton in the nearby port of Boston, Lincolnshire. Cotton was compelled to emigrate in 1633, and the Hutchinsons followed a year later with their 11 children and soon became well established in the growing settlement of Boston in New England. Anne was a midwife and used that position to convey her personal religious convictions to women in her care. Soon she was hosting women at her house weekly, providing commentary on recent sermons. These meetings became so popular that she began offering meetings for men as well, including the young governor of the colony Henry Vane.


She began to accuse the local ministers (except for Cotton and her husband’s brother-in-law John Wheelwright) of preaching a “covenant of works” rather than a “covenant of grace,” and many ministers began to complain about her increasingly blatant accusations, as well as certain theological teachings that did not accord with orthodox Puritan theology. The situation eventually erupted into what is commonly called the Antinomian Controversy. Hutchinson’s visits to women in childbirth led to discussions along the lines of the conventicles in England.

As the meetings continued, Hutchinson began offering her own religious views, stressing that only “an intuition of the Spirit” would lead to one’s election by God, and not good works. Her ideas that one’s outward behavior was not necessarily tied to the state of one’s soul became attractive to those who might have been more attached to their professions than to their religious state, such as merchants and craftsmen. The colony’s ministers became more aware of Hutchinson’s meetings, and they contended that such “unauthorised” religious gatherings might confuse the faithful. Hutchinson responded to this with a verse from Titus (2:3-4), saying that “the elder women should instruct the younger.”

Hutchinson’s gatherings were seen as unorthodox by some of the colony’s ministers, and differing religious opinions within the colony eventually became public debates. The resulting religious tension erupted into what has traditionally been called the Antinomian Controversy, but has more recently been labelled the Free Grace Controversy. The Reverend Zachariah Symmes had sailed to New England on the same ship as the Hutchinsons. In September 1634, he told another minister that he doubted Anne Hutchinson’s orthodoxy, based on questions that she asked him following his shipboard sermons. This issue delayed Hutchinson’s membership to the Boston church by a week, until a pastoral examination determined that she was sufficiently orthodox to join the church.

In 1635, a difficult situation arose when senior pastor John Wilson returned from a lengthy trip to England where he had been settling his affairs. Hutchinson was exposed to his teaching for the first time, and she immediately saw a big difference between her own doctrines and his. She found his emphasis on morality and his doctrine of “evidencing justification by sanctification” to be disagreeable. She told her followers that Wilson lacked “the seal of the Spirit.” Wilson’s theological views were in accord with all of the other ministers in the colony except for Cotton, who stressed “the inevitability of God’s will” (“free grace”) as opposed to preparation (works).


Hutchinson and her allies had become accustomed to Cotton’s doctrines, and they began disrupting Wilson’s sermons, even finding excuses to leave when Wilson got up to preach or pray. Thomas Shepard, the minister of Newtown (which later became Cambridge), began writing letters to Cotton as early as the spring of 1636. He expressed concern about Cotton’s preaching and about some of the unorthodox opinions found among his Boston parishioners. Shepard went even further when he began criticising the Boston opinions to his Newtown congregation during his sermons. In May 1636, the Bostonians received a new ally when the Reverend John Wheelwright arrived from England and immediately aligned himself with Cotton, Hutchinson, and other “free grace” advocates. Wheelwright had been a close neighbor of the Hutchinsons in Lincolnshire, and his wife was a sister of Hutchinson’s husband. Another boost for the free grace advocates came during the same month, when the young aristocrat Henry Vane was elected as the governor of the colony. Vane was a strong supporter of Hutchinson, but he also had his own ideas about theology that were considered not only unorthodox, but radical by some.


Hutchinson and the other free grace advocates continued to question the orthodox ministers in the colony. Wheelwright began preaching at Mount Wollaston, about ten miles south of the Boston meetinghouse, and his sermons began to answer Shepard’s criticisms with his own criticism of the covenant of works. This mounting “pulpit aggression” continued throughout the summer, along with the lack of respect shown Boston’s Reverend Wilson. Wilson endured these religious differences for several months before deciding that the affronts and errors were serious enough to require a response. He is the one who likely alerted magistrate John Winthrop, one of his parishioners, to take notice. On or shortly after 21 October 1636, Winthrop gave the first public warning of the problem that consumed him and the leadership of the Massachusetts Bay Colony for much of the next two years. In his journal he wrote, “One Mrs. Hutchinson, a member of the church at Boston, a woman of a ready wit and a bold spirit, brought over with her two dangerous errors: 1. That the person of the Holy Ghost dwells in a justified person. 2. That no sanctification can help to evidence to us our justification.” He went on to elaborate these two points, and the Antinomian Controversy began with this journal entry.

On 25th October 1636, seven ministers gathered at the home of Cotton to confront the developing discord; they held a “private conference” which included Hutchinson and other lay leaders from the Boston church. Some agreement was reached, and Cotton “gave satisfaction to them [the other ministers], so as he agreed with them all in the point of sanctification, and so did Mr. Wheelwright; so as they all did hold, that sanctification did help to evidence justification.” Another issue was that some of the ministers had heard that Hutchinson had criticised them during her conventicles for preaching a covenant of works and said that they were not able ministers of the New Testament. Hutchinson responded to this only when prompted, and only to one or two ministers at a time. She believed that her response, which was largely coaxed from her, was private and confidential. A year later, her words were used against her in her 1637 trial, conviction, and banishment from the colony. This was followed by a March 1638 church trial in which she was excommunicated.

Hutchinson and many of her supporters established the settlement of Portsmouth with encouragement from Providence Plantations founder Roger Williams in what became the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. After her husband’s death a few years later, threats of Massachusetts taking over Rhode Island compelled Hutchinson to move totally outside the reach of Boston into the lands of the Dutch. Five of her older surviving children remained in New England or in England, while she settled with her younger children near an ancient landmark called Split Rock in what later became The Bronx in New York City. Tensions were high at the time with the Siwanoy Indians. In August 1643, Hutchinson, six of her children, and other household members were massacred by Siwanoys during Kieft’s War. The only survivor was her 9-year-old daughter Susanna, who was taken captive.

Hutchinson is a key figure in the history of religious freedom in England’s American colonies and the history of women in ministry, challenging the authority of the ministers. She is honored by Massachusetts with a State House monument calling her a “courageous exponent of civil liberty and religious toleration.” She has been called the most famous—or infamous—English woman in colonial American history.

She has since been celebrated in memorials, with a river and a highway (the Hutchinson River Parkway), named after her. I drove the “Hutch” on my daily commute to work for 25 years. By some weird coincidence my first real girlfriend was also named Anne Hutchinson. Yet another Anne Hutchinson wrote the main textbook on Labanotation (dance notation) in English, which I used all the time in my research. Clearly, she is haunting me.

The cooking in colonial North American colonies of the 17th century very closely followed that of the home countries of the colonists, with some substitution of ingredients. This fricassee recipe comes from The Accomplish’d Lady’s Delight In Preserving, Physick, Beautifying, and Cookery (1675), and is a favorite of mine. Rabbit and chicken fricassee were undoubtedly popular dishes in the colonies, although more for special meals than daily cooking. The trick here is to use young, tender meats. Fricassees are not long-cooking stews. The meat, jointed, is simmered very quickly until just cooked, then the juice is replaced with butter and egg yolks to make a thick sauce along with some verjuice (which you can replace with white wine).

To make a Rare Fricacie.

Take Young Rabbits, Young Chickens, or a Rack of Lamb, being cut one Rib from another, and par-boyl either of these well in a Frying-pan with a little water and salt, then pour the water and salt from it, and Fry it with sweet Butter, and make sauce with three Yolks of Eggs beaten well, with six spoonfuls of Verjuice, and a little shred Parsley, with some sliced Nutmeg, and scalded Gooseberries; when it is fryed, pour in the sauce all over the Meat, and so let it thicken a little in the pan; then lay it in a Dish with the sauce, and serve it.


Mar 182018

On this date in 1834 the Tolpuddle Martyrs, a group of 19th-century Dorset agricultural laborers who were arrested for, and convicted of, swearing a secret oath as members of the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers, were sentenced to penal transportation to Australia. Their friendly society operated as a trade-specific benefit society, so it is often considered to be a forerunner of trade unions.

Before 1824 the Combination Acts had outlawed “combining” or organising to gain better working conditions. In 1824/25 these acts were repealed, so trade unions were no longer illegal. In 1833, six men from Tolpuddle in Dorset founded the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers to protest against the gradual lowering of agricultural wages. These Tolpuddle laborers refused to work for less than 10 shillings a week, although by this time wages had been reduced to 7 shillings and were due to be further reduced to 6. Typically, Dorset laborers ate bread and cheese for their main meals (perhaps with meat on Sundays), and a family would pay in the neighborhood of 5 shillings per week for bread alone (they did not conventionally bake at home). Farm workers got their housing free and were allowed to use land to grow vegetables. Even so, 6 shillings per week represents starvation wages for workers who were in the fields from sun up to sun down 6 days per week.

The Tolpuddle Friendly Society, led by George Loveless, a Methodist local preacher, met in the house of Thomas Standfield. Groups such as the Tolpuddle Martyrs would often use a skeleton painting as part of their initiation process. The newest member would be blindfolded and made to swear a secret oath of allegiance. The blindfold would then be removed and they would be presented with the skeleton painting. This was to warn them of their own mortality but also to remind them of what happens to those who break their promises. An example of this skeleton painting is on display at the People’s History Museum, Manchester.

In 1834, James Frampton, a local landowner and magistrate, wrote to Home Secretary Lord Melbourne to complain about the union. Melbourne recommended invoking the Unlawful Oaths Act 1797, an obscure law promulgated in response to the Spithead and Nore mutinies, which prohibited the swearing of secret oaths. James Brine, James Hammett, George Loveless, George’s brother James Loveless, George’s brother in-law Thomas Standfield, and Thomas’s son John Standfield were arrested and tried before Sir John Williams in R v Lovelass and Others. They were found guilty and sentenced to seven years’ penal transportation to Australia. At the time of sentencing, George Loveless wrote on a scrap of paper lines from the union hymn “The Gathering of the Unions”:

God is our guide! from field, from wave,
From plough, from anvil, and from loom;
We come, our country’s rights to save,
And speak a tyrant faction’s doom:
We raise the watch-word liberty;
We will, we will, we will be free!

James Loveless, the two Standfields, Hammett and Brine sailed on the Surry to Sydney, where they arrived on 17th August 1834. George Loveless was delayed due to illness and left later on the William Metcalf to Van Diemen’s Land, reaching Hobart on 4th September. Of the five who landed in Sydney, Brine and the Standfields were assigned as farm laborers to free settlers in the Hunter Valley. Hammett was assigned to the Queanbeyan farm of Edward John Eyre, and James Loveless was assigned to a farm at Strathallan. In Hobart, George Loveless was assigned to the viceregal farm of Lieutenant Governor Sir George Arthur.

In England they became popular heroes and 800,000 signatures were collected for their release. Their supporters organized a political march, one of the first successful marches in the UK, and all were pardoned, on condition of good conduct, in March 1836, with the support of Lord John Russell, who had recently become home secretary. When the pardon reached George Loveless some delay was caused in his leaving due to no word from his wife as to whether she was to join him in Van Diemen’s Land. On 23rd December 1836, a letter was received to the effect that she was not coming and Loveless sailed from Van Diemen’s Land on 30 January 1837, arriving in England on 13th June 1837.

In New South Wales, there were delays in obtaining an early sailing due to tardiness in the authorities confirming good conduct with the convicts’ assignees and then getting them released from their assignments. James Loveless, Thomas and John Standfield, and James Brine departed Sydney on the John Barry on 11th September 1837, reaching Plymouth on 17th March 1838, one of the departure points for convict transport ships. A plaque next to the Mayflower Steps in Plymouth’s historical Barbican area commemorates the arrival. Although due to depart with the others, James Hammett was detained in Windsor, charged with an assault, while the others left the colony. It was not until March 1839 that he sailed, arriving in England in August 1839.

The Lovelesses, Standfields and Brine first settled on farms near Chipping Ongar, Essex, then moved to London, Ontario, Canada, where there is now a monument in their honor and an affordable housing co-op and trade union complex named after them. George Loveless is buried in Siloam Cemetery on Fanshawe Park Road East in London, Ontario. James Brine is buried in St. Marys Cemetery, St. Marys, Ontario. He died in 1902, having lived in nearby Blanshard Township since 1868. Hammett remained in Tolpuddle and died in the Dorchester workhouse in 1891.

A monument was erected in their honor in Tolpuddle in 1934, and a sculpture of the martyrs, made in 2001, stands in the village in front of the Tolpuddle Martyrs Museum.The Tolpuddle Martyrs festival is held annually in Tolpuddle, usually in the third week of July, organized by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) featuring a parade of banners from many trade unions, a memorial service, speeches and music. The courtroom where the martyrs were tried, which has been little altered in 200 years, in Dorchester’s Shire Hall, is being preserved as part of a heritage scheme.

The simplest way to celebrate the Tolpuddle Martyrs would be a ploughman’s lunch of bread and cheese, and I would have a classic Dorset cheese such as blue Vinny. But I have waxed lyrical enough in previous posts about a ploughman’s (search if you are interested). Instead I will give you Dorset jugged steak. In this context, “jugged” simply means casseroled slowly. The flavor combinations here are special, and the forcemeat balls add a little something to what might otherwise be no more than beef stew, (commoner in the 19th century than now).

Dorset Jugged Steak


800 gm stewing steak, cubed
30 g plain wholewheat flour
1 large onion, peeled and sliced
5 whole cloves
salt and pepper
200 ml port
400ml beef stock (approx.)
200 gm sausage meat
60 gm fresh wholemeal breadcrumbs
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
20 ml redcurrant jelly


Preheat the oven to 325°F/170°C.

Place the meat cubes and flour in a heavy paper bag. Tightly close off the top and shake the bag vigorously to coat the meat. Put the meat in a casserole, leaving the excess flour in the bag. Add the cloves and onions, salt and pepper. Pour in the port and add enough stock to just cover the meat.

Cover the casserole and bake for 2 hours 15 minutes.

In a mixing bowl Place the breadcrumbs, parsley and sausage meat in a mixing bowl and thoroughly mix them together. Divide this mix into 8 pieces and roll them into balls.

Once the 2 hours 15 minutes is up remove from the oven add the redcurrant jelly stirring slowly and the forcemeat ball. Return to the oven for a further 45 minutes.

Serve with crusty bread, and a green salad or vegetable of your choice, such, as spinach, along with boiled new potatoes.


Mar 172018

Today is the birthday (1846) of Catherine “Kate” Greenaway, a Victorian children’s book illustrator and writer whose work influenced the children’s dress styles of the day. She is part of what is called The Golden Age of Book Illustration which actually covers a huge raft of styles and techniques.

Kate Greenaway was born in Hoxton, London, the second of four children. Her mother, Elizabeth Greenaway, was a dressmaker and her father, John Greenaway, was a wood engraver, whose business failed when he took a commission to engrave illustrations for Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers from a publisher who went bankrupt. As a young girl Kate lived with relatives in Rolleston, Nottinghamshire. John wanted to work without interruption on the Dickens engravings and sent the entire family away for about two years, a period that for Kate, according to children’s literature scholar Humphrey Carpenter “was crucial … she felt it to be her real home, a country of the mind that she could always reimagine.”

John Greenaway

On the return of his wife and children the family moved to Islington, living in the flat above a millinery shop Elizabeth Greenaway opened to provide an income. There was a garden outside the building, which Greenaway wrote about in letters and an unfinished autobiography in the 1880s, describing it as place with “richness of colour and depth of shade.” Her father took on work for The Illustrated London News, often bringing home the wood blocks to carve during the night. Kate was interested in her father’s work, and through him was exposed to the work of John Leech, John Gilbert and Kenny Meadows.

As a young child Kate was educated at home and also sent to series of dame schools. When she was about 12 she began formal art education when enrolling in the National Course of Art instruction,[5] first at Finsbury School of Art and later at the South Kensington School of Art headed by Richard Burchett. The curriculum was design-based with a focus on technical skills, with emphasis on geometric and botanical designs to create patterns for architectural elements such as decorative wallpapers and tiles. She completed the five stages of ornamental courses in one year and the ten stages of the drawing courses with similar speed. In 1864, she completed the final course, “Elementary Design,” winning a national bronze medal for her designs. Later awards included a national silver medal in 1869 for a set of geometric and floral decorative tiles.

She later attended the Royal Female School of Art. With classmate Elizabeth Thompson, Greenaway augmented her studies by learning to draw the human figure from life and the two women rented a studio in South Kensington for a year for this purpose. At the school she did have the opportunity to work from models dressed in historical or ornamental costumes but she continued to be frustrated that nude models were not permitted in the women’s classes. Later she enrolled in night classes at Heatherley School of Fine Art where she met Edward Burne-Jones, Edward Poynter and Walter Crane and in 1871 she enrolled in the Slade School of Fine Art.

By 1867 she began to receive commissions, in part the result of the national awards she received and in part because of exposure at exhibitions. The publisher of People’s Magazine, W. J. Loftie purchased a set of six watercolours Greenaway exhibited in 1868, printing them in the magazine set to verse written by his contributors. A year later Frederick Warne & Co purchased six illustrations for a toy book edition of Diamonds and Toads.

Her first book, Under the Window (1879), a collection of simple verses about children, was a bestseller. As well as illustrating books Greenaway produced a number of bookplates. Greenaway was elected to membership of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours in 1889.

She lived in an Arts and Crafts style house she commissioned from Richard Norman Shaw in Frognal, London, although she spent summers in Rolleston. Here’s a gallery:

Greenaway died of breast cancer in 1901, at the age of 55. She is buried in Hampstead Cemetery, London.

Greenaway’s paintings were reproduced by chromoxylography, by which the colors were printed from hand-engraved wood blocks by the firm of Edmund Evans. Through the 1880s and 1890s, her only rivals in popularity in children’s book illustration were Walter Crane and Randolph Caldecott. “Kate Greenaway children” were dressed in her own versions of late 18th century and Regency fashions: smock-frocks and skeleton suits for boys, high-waisted pinafores and dresses with mobcaps and straw bonnets for girls. Liberty of London adapted Kate Greenaway’s drawings as designs for actual children’s clothes. A full generation of mothers in the liberal-minded “artistic” British circles who called themselves The Souls and embraced the Arts and Crafts movement dressed their daughters in Kate Greenaway pantaloons and bonnets in the 1880s and 1890s.

We have to go with apple pie to celebrate Kate Greenaway, and Mrs Beeton has to be our guide. I have given modern recipes for apple pie in other posts, but this one works fine. Adding beer or sherry to the apples would work fine as long as you pick the right ones. A dark or amber ale would be all right. I would use a dry sherry rather than a sweet one. Then again, I would prefer brandy.


  1. INGREDIENTS.—Puff-paste No. 1205 or 1206, apples; to every lb. of unpared apples allow 2 oz. of moist sugar, 1/2 teaspoonful of finely-minced lemon-peel, 1 tablespoonful of lemon-juice.

Mode.—Make 1/2 lb. of puff-paste by either of the above-named recipes, place a border of it round the edge of a pie-dish, and fill it with apples pared, cored, and cut into slices; sweeten with moist sugar, add the lemon-peel and juice, and 2 or 3 tablespoonfuls of water; cover with crust, cut it evenly round close to the edge of the pie-dish, and bake in a hot oven from 1/2 to 3/4 hour, or rather longer, should the pie be very large. When it is three-parts done, take it out of the oven, put the white of an egg on a plate, and, with the blade of a knife, whisk it to a froth; brush the pie over with this, then sprinkle upon it some sifted sugar, and then a few drops of water. Put the pie back into the oven, and finish baking, and be particularly careful that it does not catch or burn, which it is very liable to do after the crust is iced. If made with a plain crust, the icing may be omitted.

Time.—1/2 hour before the crust is iced; 10 to 15 minutes afterwards.

Average cost, 9d.

Sufficient.—Allow 2 lbs. of apples for a tart for 6 persons.

Seasonable from August to March; but the apples become flavourless after February.

Note.—Many things are suggested for the flavouring of apple pie; some say 2 or 3 tablespoonfuls of beer, others the same quantity of sherry, which very much improve the taste; whilst the old-fashioned addition of a few cloves is, by many persons, preferred to anything else, as also a few slices of quince.


  1. INGREDIENTS.—To every lb. of flour allow 1 lb. of butter, and not quite 1/2 pint of water.

Mode.—Carefully weigh the flour and butter, and have the exact proportion; squeeze the butter well, to extract the water from it, and afterwards wring it in a clean cloth, that no moisture may remain. Sift the flour; see that it is perfectly dry, and proceed in the following manner to make the paste, using a very clean paste-board and rolling-pin:—Supposing the quantity to be 1 lb. of flour, work the whole into a smooth paste, with not quite 1/2 pint of water, using a knife to mix it with: the proportion of this latter ingredient must be regulated by the discretion of the cook; if too much be added, the paste, when baked, will be tough. Roll it out until it is of an equal thickness of about an inch; break 4 oz. of the butter into small pieces; place these on the paste, sift over it a little flour, fold it over, roll out again, and put another 4 oz. of butter. Repeat the rolling and buttering until the paste has been rolled out 4 times, or equal quantities of flour and butter have been used. Do not omit, every time the paste is rolled out, to dredge a little flour over that and the rolling-pin, to prevent both from sticking. Handle the paste as lightly as possible, and do not press heavily upon it with the rolling-pin. The next thing to be considered is the oven, as the baking of pastry requires particular attention. Do not put it into the oven until it is sufficiently hot to raise the paste; for the best-prepared paste, if not properly baked, will be good for nothing. Brushing the paste as often as rolled out, and the pieces of butter placed thereon, with the white of an egg, assists it to rise in leaves or flakes. As this is the great beauty of puff-paste, it is as well to try this method.

Average cost, 1s. 4d. per lb.

BUTTER.—About the second century of the Christian era, butter was placed by Galen amongst the useful medical agents; and about a century before him, Dioscorides mentioned that he had noticed that fresh butter, made of ewes’ and goats’ milk, was served at meals instead of oil, and that it took the place of fat in making pastry. Thus we have undoubted authority that, eighteen hundred years ago, there existed a knowledge of the useful qualities of butter. The Romans seem to have set about making it much as we do; for Pliny tells us, “Butter is made from milk; and the use of this element, so much sought after by barbarous nations, distinguished the rich from the common people. It is obtained principally from cows’ milk; that from ewes is the fattest; goats also supply some. It is produced by agitating the milk in long vessels with narrow openings: a little water is added.”


  1. INGREDIENTS.—To every lb. of flour allow 8 oz. of butter, 4 oz. of lard, not quite 1/2 pint of water.

Mode.—This paste may be made by the directions in the preceding recipe, only using less butter and substituting lard for a portion of it. Mix the flour to a smooth paste with not quite 1/2 pint of water; then roll it out 3 times, the first time covering the paste with butter, the second with lard, and the third with butter. Keep the rolling-pin and paste slightly dredged with flour, to prevent them from sticking, and it will be ready for use.

Average cost, 1s. per lb.

BUTTER IN HASTE.—In his “History of Food,” Soyer says that to obtain butter instantly, it is only necessary, in summer, to put new milk into a bottle, some hours after it has been taken from the cow, and shake it briskly. The clots which are thus formed should be thrown into a sieve, washed and pressed together, and they constitute the finest and most delicate butter that can possibly be made.

Mar 112018

The Scottish Militia Bill (An Act for settling the Militia of that Part of Great Britain called Scotland) was passed by the House of Commons and House of Lords of the Parliament of Great Britain in early 1708. However, on this date in 1708, queen Anne withheld royal assent on the advice of her ministers for fear that the proposed militia created would be disloyal. The Bill’s object was to arm the Scottish militia, which had not been recreated at the Restoration. On the day the Bill was meant to be signed, news came that the French were sailing toward Scotland, and there was suspicion that the Scottish might join with the French and defect from their union with England. Therefore, support for a veto was strong. Today’s date is important because it was the last time that a royal veto on a Bill was used.

A little bit of context is in order here. England and Scotland were effectively unified in 1603 when James VI of Scotland became James I of England. But the two countries remained separate nations. Full unification did not occur until the Acts of Union of 1707 had been passed under queen Anne. Both the Tudor and Stuart monarchies were incredibly turbulent times for England in terms of religious authority, methods of governance, and foreign affairs. Scotland, in particular, was always a threat. Making James the first king of England after the death of Elizabeth was one attempt to defuse the threat from Scotland. James’s reign was relatively quiet religiously and politically because he was a shrewd ruler who knew how to be diplomatic. His son, Charles I, acted the tyrant with Parliament that was beginning to feel its power, and, in the end, got his head chopped off because of his actions. After playing with being a republic for 11 years, England went back to being a monarchy with the powers of the king considerably weakened. Down through the Stuarts, parliament became stronger and stronger with the monarchy conversely becoming weaker and weaker, until by Anne’s time the only power the monarch had was the right to refuse royal assent to bills that had passed up through the House of Commons and House of Lords.

Anne’s brother-in-law and predecessor to the throne, William III, had vetoed Bills passed by Parliament six times, but by Anne’s time, royal assent to Bills generally came to be viewed as a mere formality once both Houses of Parliament had successfully read a Bill three times, or a general election had taken place. In the British colonies, the denial of Royal assent had continued past 1708, and was one of the primary complaints of the United States’ Declaration of Independence in 1776: that the king “has refused his Assent to Laws, most wholesome and necessary for the public Good” and “He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing Importance.”

Anne did not withhold royal assent to the Scottish Militia Bill capriciously, nor on her own account. She acted on the advice of ministers who had passed the Bill in good faith, but then had a change of heart when they caught wind of a French fleet sailing for Scotland. By rights Scotland should have had a militia, as it had had as a sovereign nation prior to the Acts of Union of 1708. The Scottish Militia Bill was supposed to be no more than a final codicil tacked on to tidy up some loose ends. The French fleet’s arrival complicated things. Scotland and France had been in formal and informal alliance against England for centuries. Fearing something was afoot, the ministers regretted arming a militia in Scotland that might prove to be a hostile power, but they had already passed the bill through both Houses. The only remedy was to ask Anne to veto the Bill. Subsequently no Bill (in Great Britain) has been refused royal assent.

Anne was the last of the Stuarts. The Hanoverian line, starting with George I, has changed the name of its houses several times, but there have been no dynastic fractures as there were in previous eras. Neither has there been much in the way of changes to the roles of monarch and parliament. If a contemporary monarch were to exercise the royal veto that would undoubtedly be their last act before being voted out. Great Britain is one of only three constitutional monarchies in the world today where – technically – the reigning monarch has the power of veto over parliament. I suppose that it is a safeguard should a situation arise as did in Anne’s day but it is hard to imagine.

A banquet menu from the later half of the 17th century gives insight into the kinds of foods queen Anne enjoyed (and she was well known to enjoy her food).

Soup from Ox tongue spiced with nutmeg
Sliced leg of lamb with artichoke heart, kidneys and topped with raspberries and redcurrant.
Herring pie
Scrambled eggs, anchovies and nuts
Stewed prawns.
Minced Pies

Here you have plenty of scope for improvisation. The leg of lamb seems enticing. The “minced pie” would have been rather similar to mince pies served at Christmas these days, but with meat instead of simply suet. An ox tongue soup with nutmeg would be easy enough to recreate, as would scrambled eggs with anchovies and nuts. Almonds or hazel nuts would work well.

For the cheesecake you can try any number of recipes from Robert May’s Accomplisht Cook, 5th edition (1685) available here: https://archive.org/stream/theaccomplishtco22790gut/22790-8.txt  Here are two of them:

To make Cheesecakes.

Let your paste be very good, either puff-paste or cold butter-paste, with sugar mixed with it, then the whey being dried very well from the cheese-curds which must be made of new milk or butter, beat them in a mortar or tray, with a quarter of a pound of butter to every pottle of curds, a good quantity of rose-water, three grains of ambergriese or musk prepared, the crums of a small manchet rubbed through a cullender, the yolks of ten eggs, a grated nutmeg, a little salt, and good store of sugar, mix all these well together with a little cream, but do not make them too soft; instead of bread you may take almonds which are much better; bake them in a quick oven, and let them not stand too long in, least they should be to dry.

To make Cheesecakes otherways.

Make the crust of milk & butter boil’d together, put it into the flour & make it up pretty stiff, to a pottle of fine flour, take half a pound of butter; then take a fresh cheese made of morning milk, and a pint of cream, put it to the new milk, and set the cheese with some runnet, when it is come, put it in a cheese-cloth and press it from the whey, stamp in the curds a grated fine small manchet, some cloves and mace, a pound and a half of well washed and pick’t currans, the yolks of eight eggs, some rose-water, salt, half a pound of refined white sugar, and a nutmeg or two; work all these materials well together with a quarter of a pound of good sweet butter, and some cream, but make it not too soft, and make your cheesecakes according to these formes.

Mar 102018

Today is the birthday (1653) of John Benbow, admiral of the Royal Navy, who is remembered in the names of a few pubs and inns, mostly along the south coast of England, and in a broadside ballad that used to be popular at folk clubs when I was (a lot) younger.

The Admiral Benbow is also the name of the inn where Jim Hawkins lives with his mother at the beginning of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island: a suitable salty dog name to set the stage for a pirate adventure. In reality, John Benbow was the scourge of pirates who were certainly not ever happy to come across him at sea. Benbow’s fame and success at sea earned him both public notoriety and  promotion to admiral. He was involved in an incident during the Action of August 1702, where a number of his captains refused to support him while commanding a squadron of ships. Benbow instigated the trial and later imprisonment or execution of a number of the captains involved, though he did not live to see these results because he eventually succumbed to  wounds he sustained in the battle – adding to his fame.

Benbow was born the son of William and Martha Benbow. The astrologer John Partridge recorded the exact time and date of his birth as being at noon on 10 March 1653, and this is the date used by the National Museum of the Royal Navy and the local historical accounts of Joseph Nightingale published in 1818. A biography within an 1819 publication of The Gentleman’s Magazine, however, records in a short biography entitled Life and Exploits of Admiral Benbow by D. Parkes that he was born in 1650, as does the 1861 Sea kings and naval heroes by John George Edgar. Edgar records that Benbow’s father died when Benbow was very young, while Parkes’ account describes his father as being in the service of the Army under Charles I and not dying until Benbow was in his teens. His uncle, Thomas, was executed by Charles I. Both Parkes and the National Museum of the Royal Navy concur that Benbow was born in Coton Hill outside Shrewsbury, and Nightingale asserts that the death of both uncle and father, and the family’s association with Charles I in the years following his execution, ensured that the “family were brought very low.” Hence, he pursued a career at sea.

Benbow entered the Royal Navy on 30 April 1678, aged 25 years. He became master’s mate aboard the 64-gun HMS Rupert under the command of Captain Arthur Herbert, whilst she was fitting out at Portsmouth. He sailed with her to the Mediterranean, where Herbert was promoted to the rank of vice-admiral whilst serving under the commander-in-chief in the Mediterranean, Admiral Sir John Narborough. During this period the English fleet was often in action against the Barbary pirates of North Africa that were actively preying upon European shipping. The Rupert herself captured an Algerine warship in 1678, which was later commissioned in the Royal Navy as the HMS Tiger Prize. Benbow distinguished himself in a number of actions against the Algerine vessels, and won Herbert’s approval. On Narborough’s return to England, Herbert was appointed acting commander-in-chief, and made Benbow master aboard HMS Nonsuch on 15th June 1679. The Nonsuch remained at Tangiers and off the African coast and had a number of successive captains who went on to achieve flag rank, including George Rooke, Cloudesley Shovell, and Francis Wheler. All were impressed by Benbow, and afterwards helped to advance his career.

The Nonsuch was paid off on 9th November 1681. Benbow left the Navy and entered the merchant service, sailing a merchant vessel from London and Bristol to ports in Italy and Spain. By 1686 he was described as a “tough merchant seaman” and the owner and commander of a frigate named the Benbow, trading with the Levant. In May 1687 he commanded a merchant vessel, the Malaga Merchant, and was aboard her when she was attacked by a Salé pirate. He mounted a successful defense and beat off the attack. It was claimed afterwards that he cut off and salted the heads of thirteen Moors who were slain aboard his ship, and then took them into Cadiz to claim a reward from the magistrates. A Moorish skull-cap, “coated with varnish and set in silver” and bearing the inscription “First adventure of Captain John Benbow, and gift to Richard Ridley, 1687” is referred to in 1844 by Charles Dickens in Bentley’s Miscellany.

Benbow returned to the Royal Navy after the Glorious Revolution in 1688. His first recorded commission was to the post of third lieutenant of HMS Elizabeth on 1 June 1689, under the command of Captain David Mitchell. His first command came on 20th September of that year, when he was appointed captain of HMS York. He was transferred to HMS Bonaventure on 26th October and then to HMS Britannia on 12th November. Benbow’s next post was as Master Attendant of Chatham Dockyard. He then moved to become Master Attendant at Deptford Dockyard in early March 1690, a post he intermittently held for the next 6 years. He was master of HMS Sovereign in summer 1690, under his old commander Arthur Herbert, now Lord Torrington. He was assigned to act as master of the fleet, and took part in the English defeat in the Battle of Beachy Head. After the defeat, a Royal Commission was held into the circumstances that led to it. Benbow was highly regarded as a specialist in both navigation and pilotage, and his evidence given in July 1690 to the preliminary investigation strongly favored his old patron, Torrington. He did not however testify during Torrington’s court-martial in December that year.

Benbow was promoted to rear-admiral of the red on 14th April, followed by vice-admiral of the blue on 30th June. He then flew his flag in the 70-gun HMS Breda. With the peace becoming increasingly uneasy, the English government became concerned over the possible fate of the Spanish silver fleet, due to arrive in European waters from South America. They were worried that the French would intercept the ships and use the treasure for war preparations. Benbow was issued secret instructions to find the fleet, and then “to seize and bring them to England, taking care that no embezzlement be made.” Benbow’s squadron was detached on 2nd September and sailed for the West Indies, arriving on 14th November, and was at the Jamaica station in mid-December. He remained there for several months, being joined on 8th May 1702 by several vessels under Captain William Whetstone. Whetstone was made rear-admiral under Benbow, who had been promoted to Vice-Admiral of the White on 19th January 1702.

By now, the War of the Spanish Succession had broken out, and news of its declaration reached Benbow on 7th July. He detached Whetstone and six ships to search off Port St Louis in Hispaniola for a French squadron under admiral Jean du Casse, which he believed would call at the port on his voyage to Cartagena, and from there he might raid English and Dutch shipping. After Whetstone had left, Benbow took his squadron and sailed for Cartagena, anticipating that either he or Whetstone would find Du Casse and bring him to battle.

By the time that Whetstone had reached Hispaniola, Du Casse had already departed. Benbow’s force subsequently sighted the French on 19th August, sailing off Cape Santa Marta. The French had three transports and four warships carrying between 68 and 70 guns, while Benbow commanded seven ships carrying between 50 and 70 guns. The English forces were heavily scattered, and the light winds meant that they were slow to regroup. They did not achieve a form of collective order until four in the afternoon, after which a partial engagement was fought, lasting about two hours, until nightfall caused the fleets to temporarily break off.

The action quickly revealed a breakdown in discipline amongst Benbow’s captains. He had intended that the 64-gun HMS Defiance under Captain Richard Kirkby would lead the line of battle, but Kirkby was not maintaining his station. Benbow decided to take the lead himself, and the Breda pulled ahead, followed by the 50-gun HMS Ruby under Captain George Walton. The two maintained contact with the French throughout the night, but the other five ships refused to close. The chase ensued until 24th August, with only Benbow, Walton, and Samuel Vincent aboard HMS Falmouth making active efforts to bring the French to battle. At times, they bore the brunt of the fire of the entire squadron. The Ruby was disabled on 23rd August, and Benbow ordered her to retire to Port Royal. The French resumed the action at two in the morning on 24th August, the entire squadron closing on the Breda from astern and pounding her. Benbow himself was hit by a chain-shot that broke his leg and he was carried below.

Benbow was determined to continue the pursuit, despite his wounds and despite Captain Kirkby’s arrival on board, attempting to persuade Benbow to abandon the pursuit. Benbow summoned a council of war, and the other captains agreed, signing a paper drafted by Kirkby which declared that they believed “that after six days of battle the squadron lacked enough men to continue and that there was little chance of a decisive action, since the men were exhausted, there was a general lack of ammunition, the ships’ rigging and masts were badly damaged, and the winds were generally variable and undependable.” They recommended breaking off the action and following the French to see if the situation improved. Benbow ordered the squadron to return to Jamaica. On their arrival, he ordered the captains to be imprisoned, awaiting a trial by court-martial.

Acting Rear-Admiral Whetstone returned to Port Royal, having spent 62 days cruising off Hispaniola, and preparations were made for the trial. Before it could begin, Captain Thomas Hudson, who had commanded HMS Pendennis, died.The remaining captains appeared at the court-martial which convened on the Breda, held between 19th and 23rd October. Due to his injuries, Benbow passed the role of presiding over the court to Whetstone, but he was present at the trial. The court found Captain Kirkby of the HMS Defiance and Cooper Wade of the Greenwich guilty of breach of orders, neglect of duty, and the “ill signed paper and consultation … which obliged the Admiral … to give over the chase and fight”, and condemned them to be shot.

John Constable of HMS Windsor was found guilty of breach of orders and drunkenness and was cashiered. Samuel Vincent of the Falmouth and Christopher Fogg of the Breda were initially sentenced to be cashiered for signing the six captains’ resolution, but Benbow personally declared that they had fought bravely, and their sentences were remitted by the Lord High Admiral. The sentences were deferred so that Queen Anne could have a chance to examine the proceedings. After her consideration in January 1703, she allowed the sentences to proceed and Constable, Kirkby, and Wade were returned to England as prisoners. Constable was imprisoned until 1704, when the Queen pardoned him. Kirkby and Wade were shot aboard HMS Bristol on 16 April 1703 while she was anchored in Plymouth Sound under Captain Edward Acton. Controversy slowly began to develop over the events of August 1702. Supporters of the disgraced Kirkby and Wade sought to discredit Benbow by publishing their own account of the action.

Benbow died at Port Royal, Kingston, Jamaica on 4 November 1702. Whetstone reported that the cause of death was “the wound of his leg which he received in battle with Monsieur Du Casse, it never being set to perfection, which malady being aggravated by the discontent of his mind, threw him into a sort of melancholy which ended his life as before.” He was buried on 16th November in the chancel of St Andrew’s Church, Kingston.

A marble slab was later laid over the grave, emblazoned with a coat of arms and inscribed:

Here lyeth the Body of John Benbow, Esq., Admiral of the White, a true pattern of English Courage, who lost his life in Defence of his Queene & Country, November the 4th, 1702, In the 52nd year of his age, by a wound in his Legg. Received in an Engagement with Monsr. Du Casse; being Much Lamented.

Benbow’s fame led to his name entering popular culture. A monument by sculptor John Evan Thomas was erected in 1843 by public subscription in St Mary’s Church, Shrewsbury commemorating Benbow as “a skillful and daring seaman whose heroic exploits long rendered him the boast of the British Navy and still point him out as the Nelson of his times.” A 74-gun ship of the line and two battleships since have been named HMS Benbow.

The incident of August 1702 also took hold on the popular imagination and was celebrated in a broadside ballad that has remained popular among folkies of a certain generation. This is a halfway decent rendition. Fair warning. I have just created a YouTube channel and when I get all the kinks ironed out I will be recording my own singing so that I do not have to settle for lesser versions of songs I like. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Here is a 17th century recipe for shoulder of mutton stuffed with oysters from The Whole Duty of a Woman: Or a Guide to the Female Sex (1696). You will need a boned shoulder of lamb for this if you want to try it. Lay the shoulder out flat and spread on it a layer of oysters sprinkled with “sweet herbs.” In the 17th century they would have been parsley, lovage, rosemary, and thyme – possibly also chamomile, chives, fennel, lemon balm, sorrel, and wormwood. Make your choice. Then roll up the shoulder, enclosing the oysters and herbs, and roast. I always roast quickly in a very hot oven. Use the drippings so make the sauce by pouring them off into a skillet, adding flour to make a roux over medium heat, then adding in some red wine seasoned with pepper and nutmeg to taste. Slice the roast and serve it with the sauce.

 Shoulder of Mutton with Oysters.

Stuff your Mutton with strong Oysters, of a moderate size, and sweet herbs, roast it before a pretty quick Fire, basting it with Butter, and saving the Gravy which falls from it, separate from the Fat, make it into a sauce, with Claret, Pepper, and grated Nutmeg, then lay the Oysters that you pull out about the Mutton, Garnish it with Parsley, and slices of Lemon; and so serve it up.

Mar 092018

Today is the birthday (1454) of Amerigo Vespucci, a contemporary of Christopher Columbus who also explored the New World by ship, and first demonstrated in about 1502 that Brazil and the West Indies did not represent Asia’s eastern outskirts as initially conjectured from Columbus’ voyages, but instead constituted an entirely separate landmass hitherto unknown to people of the Old World. Because of his exploration and cartography, the continent he explored (actually 2 continents) was named for him. The Latin version of Amerigo is Americus (masculine). The Latin feminine is America. Why continents are feminine in Romance languages is just one of the mysteries of linguistics you will have to sort out on your own. My pet peeve is more basic. As a native Argentino, I am as American as any Chilean, Bolivian, Mexican, or Canadian, and I resent citizens of the United States of America commandeering “American” and “America” for their nation only when they ought to apply to all peoples and nations of both continents. I doubt Vespucci would have approved. In many languages there are words for citizens of the U.S. that do not confuse the country with the continents. Estadounidense is used in most South American Spanish dialects, for example. English ought to be able to come up with something.

Vespucci was born and raised in Florence, the third son of Ser Nastagio (Anastasio) Vespucci, a Florentine notary, and Lisabetta Mini. His paternal grandfather also bore the name Amerigo Vespucci. Vespucci was educated by his uncle, Fra Giorgio Antonio Vespucci, a Dominican friar of the monastery of San Marco in Florence. While his elder brothers were sent to the University of Pisa to pursue scholarly careers, Amerigo Vespucci embraced a mercantile life, and was hired as a clerk by the Florentine commercial house of Medici, headed by Lorenzo de’ Medici. Vespucci acquired the favor and protection of Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’ Medici who became the head of the business after the elder Lorenzo’s death in 1492. In March 1492, the Medici dispatched the 38-year-old Vespucci and Donato Niccolini as confidential agents to look into the Medici branch office in Cádiz, whose managers and dealings were under suspicion.

In April 1495, by the intrigues of Bishop Juan Rodríguez de Fonseca, the Crown of Castile broke their monopoly deal with Christopher Columbus and began handing out licenses to other navigators for the West Indies. Just around this time (1495–96), Vespucci was engaged as the executor of Giannotto Berardi, an Italian merchant who had recently died in Seville. Vespucci organized the fulfillment of Berardi’s outstanding contract with the Castilian crown to provide twelve vessels for the Indies. After these were delivered, Vespucci continued as a provision contractor for Indies expeditions, and is known to have secured beef supplies for at least one (if not two) of Columbus’ voyages.

At the invitation of king Manuel I of Portugal, Vespucci participated as observer in several voyages that explored the east coast of South America between 1499 and 1502. On the first of these voyages he was aboard the ship that discovered that South America extended much further south than previously thought. The expeditions became widely known in Europe after two accounts attributed to Vespucci were published between 1502 and 1504. In 1507, Martin Waldseemüller produced a world map on which he named the new continent America after Vespucci. In an accompanying book, Waldseemüller published one of the Vespucci accounts, which led to criticism that Vespucci was trying to upset Christopher Columbus’ glory. However, the rediscovery in the 18th century of other letters by Vespucci has led to the view that the early published accounts, notably the Soderini Letter, could be fabrications, not by Vespucci, but by others.

In 1508, the position of chief of navigation of Spain (piloto mayor de Indias) was created for Vespucci, with the responsibility of planning navigation for voyages to the Indies. Two letters attributed to Vespucci were published during his lifetime. Mundus Novus (New World) was a Latin translation of a lost Italian letter sent from Lisbon to Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’ Medici. It describes a voyage to South America in 1501–1502. Mundus Novus was published in late 1502 or early 1503 and soon reprinted and distributed in numerous European countries. Lettera di Amerigo Vespucci delle isole nuovamente trovate in quattro suoi viaggi (Letter of Amerigo Vespucci concerning the isles newly discovered on his four voyages), also known as Lettera al Soderini or just Lettera, was a letter in Italian addressed to Piero Soderini. Printed in 1504 or 1505, it claimed to be an account of four voyages to the Americas made by Vespucci between 1497 and 1504. A Latin translation was published by Martin Waldseemüller in 1507 in Cosmographiae Introductio, a book on cosmography and geography, as Quattuor Americi Vespucij navigationes (Four Voyages of Amerigo Vespucci).

Vespucci’s real historical importance may well rest more in his letters than in his discoveries. From these letters, the European public learned about the newly discovered continents of the Americas for the first time within a few years of their publication. There is ongoing debate concerning the actual authorship of the letters and their veracity. It is possible that the first and fourth voyages are fabricated, but the second and third are certain.

First voyage

A letter published in 1504 purports to be an account by Vespucci, written to Soderini, of a lengthy visit to the New World, leaving Spain in May 1497 and returning in October 1498. However, some modern scholars have doubted that this voyage took place, and consider this letter a forgery. Whoever did write the letter makes several observations of native customs, including use of hammocks and sweat lodges.

Second voyage

About 1499–1500, Vespucci joined an expedition in the service of Spain, with Alonso de Ojeda (or Hojeda) as the fleet commander. The intention was to sail around the southern end of the African mainland into the Indian Ocean. After hitting land at the coast of what is now Guyana, the two seem to have separated. Vespucci sailed southward, discovering the mouth of the Amazon River and reaching 6°S before turning around and seeing Trinidad and the Orinoco River, and returning to Spain by way of Hispaniola. The letter, to Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’ Medici, claims that Vespucci determined his longitude celestially on August 23, 1499, while on this voyage. However, that claim may be fraudulent.

Third voyage

The last certain voyage of Vespucci was led by Gonçalo Coelho in 1501–1502 in the service of Portugal. Departing from Lisbon, the fleet sailed first to Cape Verde where they met two of Pedro Álvares Cabral’s ships returning from India. In a letter from Cape Verde, Vespucci says that he hopes to visit the same lands that Álvares Cabral had explored, suggesting that the intention is to sail west to Asia, as on the 1499–1500 voyage. On reaching the coast of Brazil, they sailed south along the coast of South America to Rio de Janeiro’s bay. If his own account is to be believed, he reached the latitude of Patagonia before turning back, although this also seems doubtful, since his account does not mention the broad estuary of the Río de la Plata, which he must have seen if he had sailed that far south. Portuguese maps of South America, created after the voyage of Coelho and Vespucci, do not show any land south of present-day Cananéia at 25° S, so this may represent the southernmost extent of their voyages.

After the first half of the expedition, Vespucci mapped Alpha and Beta Centauri, as well as the constellation Crux, the Southern Cross, and the Coalsack Nebula. Although these stars had been known to the ancient Greeks, gradual precession had lowered them below the European horizon so that they had been forgotten. On his return to Lisbon, Vespucci wrote in a letter that the land masses they explored were much larger than anticipated and different from the Asia described by Ptolemy or Marco Polo and therefore, must be a New World, that is, a previously unknown fourth continent, after Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Fourth voyage

Vespucci’s fourth voyage was another expedition for the Portuguese crown down the eastern coast of Brazil, that set out in May 1503 and returned to Portugal in June 1504. Like his alleged first voyage, Vespucci’s last voyage in 1503–1504 is also disputed to have taken place. The only source of information for the last voyage is the Letter to Soderini, but as several modern scholars dispute Vespucci’s authorship of the letter to Soderini, it is also sometimes doubted whether Vespucci undertook this trip. However, Portuguese documents do confirm a voyage to Brazil was undertaken in 1503–04 by the captain Gonçalo Coelho, very likely the same captain of the 1501 mapping expedition (Vespucci’s third voyage), and so it is quite possible that Vespucci went on board this one as well. However, it is not independently confirmed Vespucci was aboard and there are some difficulties in the reported dates and details.

The letters caused controversy after Vespucci’s death, especially among the supporters of Columbus who believed Columbus’ priority for the discovery of America was being undermined, and seriously damaged Vespucci’s reputation. Not long after his return to Spain, Vespucci became a Spanish citizen. On March 22, 1508 he was made the pilot major of Spain by Ferdinand II of Aragon in honor of his discoveries. Vespucci also ran a school for navigators in the Spanish House of Trade, based in Seville. He died on February 22, 1512 at his home in Seville.

In honor of Vespucci here are 2 segments from the 16th century Tuscan cookbook, L’Arte Et Prudenza D’Un Maestro Cuoco (The Art and Craft of a Master Cook). A full facsimile of the original can be found here: https://books.google.com.kh/books?id=oS08AAAAcAAJ&dq=scappi+opera&printsec=frontcover&source=bl&ots=lCHQhWo1mt&sig=_7u1D-p-8gkxe-RAv-sgHUO30FI&hl=en&ei=NHozS-rUGsT4-AbiyemuCg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false

The first recipe to be used for pasta is unusual in that it uses both rosewater and sugar. The second is a fairly standard recipe for pasta in brodo although you may have trouble making a broth from hare or crane. The recipe for making the noodles shows that nothing much has changed in 500 years.

Per fare tortelletti con la polpa di cappone

[…] uno sfoglio di pasta alquanto sottile, fatto di fior di farina, acqua di rose, sale, butiro, zuccaro, & acqua tepida […]

To prepare tortelletti with capon flesh

[…] a rather thin sheet of dough is made of flour, rosewater, salt, butter, sugar and warm water […]

Per far minestra di tagliatelli

Impastinosi due libre di fior di farina con tre uoua, & acqua tepida, & mescolisi bene sopra una tavola per lo spatio d’un quarto d’hora, & dapoi stendasi sottilmente con il bastone, & lascisi alquanto risciugare il sfoglio, & rimondinosi con lo sperone le parti piu grosse, che son gli orlicci, & quando sarà asciutto però non troppo, perche crepe rebbe, spoluerizzisi di fior di farina con il fetaccio, accioche non si attacchi, piglisi poi il bastone della pasta, & comincisi da un capo, & riuolgasi tutto lo sfoglio sopra il bastone leggiermente, cauisi il bastone, e taglisi lo sfoglio cosi riuolto per lo trauerso con un coltello largo sottile, e tagliati che saranno, slarghinosi, & lassinosi alquanto rasciugare, & asciutti che saranno, fettaccisi fuora per lo criuello il farinaccio, & facciasene minestra con brodo grasso di carne, o con latte, & butiro, & cotti che saranno, seruanosi caldi con cascio, zuccaro, & cannella, & uolendone far lasagne taglisi la pasta sul bastone per lungo, & compartasi la detta pasta in due parti parimente per lungo, e taglisi in quadretti, & faccianosi  cuocere in brodo di lepre, ouero di grua, o d’altra carna, o latte, & seruanosi calde con cascio, zuccaro, & cannella.

To prepare a thick soup of tagliatelle

Work two pounds of flour, three eggs and warm water into a dough, kneading it on a table for a quarter of an hour. Roll it out thin with a rolling pin and let the sheet of dough dry a little. Trim away the irregular parts, the fringes, with a rolling wheel. When it has dried, though not too much because it would break up, sprinkle it with flour through a sieve so it will not stick. Then take the rolling pin and, beginning at one end, wrap the whole sheet loosely on it. Remove the rolling pin and cut the rolled-up dough crosswise with a broad, thin knife. When they are cut open them [the noodles] out. Let them dry out a little and, when they are dry, filter off the excess flour through a sieve. Make up a soup of them with a fat meat broth, or milk and butter. When they are cooked, serve them hot with cheese, sugar and cinnamon. If you want to make lasagna of them, cut the dough lengthwise on the pin, and likewise divide it lengthwise in two, and cut that into little squares. Cook them in the broth of a hare, a crane or some other meat, or in milk. Serve them hot with cheese, sugar and cinnamon.

Mar 022018

The Loves of Mars and Venus, a ballet by John Weaver, arguably the first modern ballet, the first dance work to tell a story through dance, gesture and music alone, had its first performance  at London’s Drury Lane Theatre on this date in 1717. There was nothing new about ballet, as such. Ballets had always been part of operas and plays and helped narrate the dramas. The Loves of Mars and Venus was a standalone danced drama, with all the action conveyed in dance and mime alone.

Weaver’s ballet tells the story of the love affair between Venus, the goddess of love, and Mars, the god of war, and the revenge enacted on them by her husband Vulcan. It draws on classical sacred legend and its immediate source was Peter Anthony Motteux’s play, The Loves of Mars and Venus, written in 1695. Despite Weaver’s appeal to the revered performances of the ‘mimes and pantomimes’ of classical antiquity his ballet was a thoroughly modern work in tune with the sophisticated stage works of his own time.

The Loves of Mars and Venus told the familiar story in six short scenes full of dancing and gestures. It lasted, perhaps, 40 minutes. Mars appears with his soldiers and performs a war dance. Venus is shown surrounded by the Graces and displays her allure in a sensual passacaille, but when Vulcan arrives she quarrels with him in a dance “of the pantomimic kind.” Vulcan retires to his smithy to devise revenge with the help of his workmen the Cyclopes. Mars and Venus meet and, with their followers, perform dances expressive of love and desire. Vulcan completes his plan of revenge against the lovers. In the final scene, Vulcan and the Cyclopes catch Mars and Venus together and expose them to the derision of the other gods, until Neptune intervenes and harmony is restored in a final Grand Dance.

At the first performances of The Loves of Mars and Venus, Mars was danced by Louis Dupré, Venus was Hester Santlow and John Weaver himself danced Vulcan. Dupré was a virtuoso dancer who was probably French, although he was not the famous Le grand Dupré of the Paris Opera. Mrs Santlow was an English dancer-actress, greatly admired for her beauty as well as her dancing skills. Weaver’s stage skills were essentially those of a comic dancer, although he was also a master of rhetorical gesture. They were supported by Drury Lane’s best dancers as the ‘Followers’ of Mars and Venus, with the company’s comedians as Weaver’s workmen, the Cyclopes.

The Loves of Mars and Venus was an undoubted success, with seven performances during its first season and revivals at the Drury Lane Theatre until 1724. Colley Cibber the English actor-manager, playwright and Poet Laureate, said of it:

To give even Dancing therefore some Improvement; and to make it something more than Motion without Meaning, the Fable of Mars and Venus, was form’d into a connected Presentation of Dances in Character, wherein the Passions were so happily expressed, and the whole Story so intelligibly told, by a mute Narration of Gesture only, that even thinking Spectators allow’d it both a pleasing and a rational Entertainment.

It also inspired a parody version by John Rich It was subsequently far more influential than many realise. It may well have been seen by the young French ballerina Marie Sallé, who would herself later experiment with narrative and expressive dancing. Sallé, of course, influenced the choreographer Jean-Georges Noverre when he came to create his ballets d’action. They led to the story ballets of the romantic period and onwards to the narrative dance works for which English ballet became famous.

This clip gives an idea, but I am not especially happy with it. I have spent considerable energy reconstructing 17th and 18th century English dances, but I won’t bore you with my quibbles.

I would like to give you Veal Kidney Florentine, from the 18th century Cookbook of Unknown Ladies, a pastry tart with kidney, apples, lettuce, orange peel, spices and currants (pictured), but I do not have a copy to hand.

Here’s other tarts from the same MS:

A Spinach Tart.

Take 6 eggs, yolks & whites. Beat them well with a pint of sweet cream, a quarter of a pound of crumbs of bread, a good handful of spinach cut small, half a quarter of currants, half a quarter of almonds pounded with a little rose water, half a nutmeg, half a pound of white sugar. Half a pound of drawn butter, 3 spoonfuls of brandy. Mix all well together. Lay paste thin at the bottom & sides of the dish & cross bar at top. 3 quarters of an hour bakes it.

Tort De Moy

Pound a quarter of a pound of almonds with sack, and beat the white part of a young pullet that is very tender & half boiled. Skin it and pound it very small. 4 biscuits grated, some pounded cinnamon, half a pint of sack, 6 spoonfuls of rose water, some pounded mace, half a nutmeg, some sugar to your taste, sliced citron & candied lemon peel. Then beat 4 eggs, two whites and mix it with half a pint of cream. When you have beaten your eggs and cream well together, put your other ingredients to it and mix them well together and put them in a skillet over the fire and keep continually stirring one way till it is as thick as a tansy. Your fire must be slow. Then have a dish with puff pastry at the bottom and sides, and when it is pretty cool, put half of [the mixture] in your dish and then a layer of whole marrow and the juice of a lemon over it. Then put the other half in, then cross bar it with pastry top and bake it in a very slow oven. 3 quarters of an hour bakes it. You can leave out the marrow if you like.