Oct 162018
 

Two of the Oxford Martyrs, Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley, were burnt at the stake in Oxford on this date in 1555. The third, Thomas Cranmer was burnt 5 months later on 21st March 1556. They have become celebrated in English church history because they were caught up in the politics of the day and executed for their faith. Latimer and Ridley are honored by the Anglican church on this date, because of their martyrdom. Cranmer has a separate feast day.

Being a cleric in Tudor England was a dangerous business. Henry VIII broke with Rome and declared himself head of the Church of England purely because he wanted a divorce. He had no interest in changing anything else in the church. There were reformers within the English church who wanted to see changes, but they held off until Henry died, because the upper clergy were split between traditionalists and reformers, and Henry sided with the traditionalists, refusing to allow any changes in doctrine or ceremony. When Henry’s son, Edward, was crowned king, the reformers saw their chance. Thomas Cranmer was archbishop of Canterbury early in Henry’s reign and facilitated the split with Rome to be able to annul Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon. The annulment also put the legitimacy of Mary, Catherine’s only daughter, in jeopardy. Edward, Henry’s third child, took precedence over Mary for the throne because of Salic Law (male heirs take precedence over females, regardless of age) – and, interestingly, Salic Law has only recently been overturned in England.

Cranmer

Edward was 9 years old when he came to the throne in 1537. He had been raised Protestant, but he was king in name only. England was governed by a regency council, and the reform of the church was left in the hands of bishops, of whom Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley were key players.  Because Edward was in no position to oppose reform of doctrine and ceremony as Henry had done, the bishops had free hand, and the foundations of the current Church of England were laid at this time. Cranmer was the chief architect of reform. He was responsible for establishing the first doctrinal and liturgical structures of the reformed Church of England. He published the first officially authorized vernacular service, the Exhortation and Litany, under Henry, but his major reforms were under Edward. He wrote and compiled the first two editions of the Book of Common Prayer, a complete liturgy for the English Church. With the assistance of several Continental reformers to whom he gave refuge, he changed doctrine in areas such as the Eucharist, clerical celibacy, the role of images in places of worship, and the veneration of saints. Cranmer promulgated the new doctrines through the Prayer Book, the Homilies and other publications. As the chief reformer under Edward, his fate was sealed when Mary came to the throne. Latimer and Ridley were lesser players, but their fate was also sealed because of their closeness to Edward.

Ridley

When Edward died in 1553, the church and government were thrown into turmoil. The royal council knew that if Mary ascended the throne, England would be forced back to Catholicism, and there was considerable opposition to this possibility. In consequence, Edward’s council convinced him to name his cousin, Lady Jane Grey, as his successor, and to declare both of his half-sisters, Mary and Elizabeth as illegitimate, when it became clear he was dying. On 17th June 1553 the king made his will noting Jane would succeed him, contravening the Third Succession Act.

Ridley signed the letters patent giving the English throne to Lady Jane Grey. On 9th July 1553 he preached a sermon at St Paul’s cross in which he affirmed that the princesses Mary and Elizabeth were bastards. By mid-July, there were serious provincial revolts in Mary’s favor and support for Jane in the council fell. As Mary was proclaimed queen, Ridley, Jane’s father, the Duke of Suffolk, and others were imprisoned. Ridley was sent to the Tower of London. Throughout February 1554 the political leaders who were supporters of Jane were executed, including Jane herself. After that, there was time to deal with the religious leaders of the English Reformation and so on 8th March 1554 the Privy Council ordered Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer to be transferred to Bocardo prison in Oxford to await trial for heresy.

Latimer

Latimer was a bit of an odd man out. Before the English Reformation he had been a staunch papist, even describing himself as “as obstinate a papist as any was in England”. But in the mid-1520s he was converted to Protestantism through the teaching of prominent scholars, and became as zealous against the Catholic church as he had once been for it. He even advocated a new translation of the Bible into English even though William Tyndale’s translation of the Greek Testament was still banned. In 1539 when Henry VIII was confronted with radical Lutheran teaching from the continent he produced the Six Articles, reaffirming the heart of Catholic doctrine:

Transubstantiation (real presence of Christ’s body and blood in the mass),

The reasonableness of withholding the cup from the laity during communion,

Clerical celibacy,

Observance of vows of chastity,

Permission for private masses,

Importance of auricular confession.

Latimer opposed the Six Articles and was promptly imprisoned in the Tower of London. When Edward came to the throne he was restored to favor, and became the royal preacher until 1550. He was chaplain to the duchess of Suffolk when Mary came to the throne, and so, unlike Cranmer and Ridley, was not in the direct line of fire. He could have fled England, as many other high churchmen did, but he chose to remain and was caught up in Mary’s net, which ensnared all prominent Protestant theologians who remained. At his heresy trial in Oxford Latimer is recorded as saying, “’I thank God most heartily that He hath prolonged my life to this end, that I may in this case glorify God by that kind of death.” The prosecutor replied, (and I paraphrase), “If this faith takes you to heaven, I won’t be joining you.”

Latimer and Ridley’s death sentence was carried out just north of Oxford city wall where Broad street is now while Cranmer was taken to a tower to watch. Ridley burned extremely slowly and suffered a great deal: his brother-in-law had put more tinder on the pyre, in order to speed his death, but they caused only his lower parts to burn. Latimer is supposed to have said to Ridley, “Be of good comfort, and play the man, Master Ridley; we shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.” This was quoted in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.

A small area cobbled with stones forming a cross in the center of the road outside the front of Balliol College marks the site of execution. The Victorian spire-like Martyrs’ Memorial, at the south end of St Giles’ nearby, commemorates the events. It is claimed that the scorch marks from the flames can still be seen on the doors of Balliol College (now rehung between the Front Quadrangle and Garden Quadrangle).

It is painfully easy, and all too common, to point to events like the execution of Latimer and Ridley, and say, “Look where religion leads.” It is a lot wiser to say, “Look what happens when religion and politics get entwined.” Mary did her best in her short reign to get rid of all people who had stood in her way, and because religious matters were deeply tied to her succession, religious leaders were swept up in her persecutions. I’ll admit that she had the deep convictions of her faith, but she was also a ruthless monarch, and the Catholic church by her day had become more a tool of state than an avenue to spiritual truth. People still use religious doctrine to buttress political beliefs, and this practice is as wrongheaded now as it was in Tudor times – and leads down the same paths.

I have given quite a few Oxford recipes in the past, so here’s video on Tudor cooking from the kitchen of Hampton Court, built by Henry VIII’s primate cardinal Wolsey.

Oct 142018
 

Today is the birthday (1906) of Johanna “Hannah” Cohn Arendt, a German-born philosopher and political theorist. Her many books and articles on topics ranging from totalitarianism to epistemology have had a lasting influence on political theory. Arendt is counted among the most important political philosophers of the 20th century. Arendt was born in Hanover, but largely raised in Königsberg in a secular merchant Jewish culture to parents who were supporters of the Social Democrats. Her father died when she was 7, so she was raised by her mother and grandfather. After completing her secondary education, she studied at the University of Marburg under Martin Heidegger, with whom she had a brief affair, but who had a lasting influence on her thinking. She obtained her doctorate in philosophy in 1929 at the University of Heidelberg with Karl Jaspers.

Arendt married Günther Stern in 1929, but soon began to encounter increasing antisemitism in 1930s Germany. Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, and while researching antisemitic propaganda for the Zionist Federation of Germany in Berlin that year, Arendt was denounced and briefly imprisoned by the Gestapo. On release, she fled Germany, living in Czechoslovakia and Switzerland before settling in Paris. There she worked for Youth Aliyah, assisting young Jews to emigrate to Palestine. Divorcing Stern in 1937, she married Heinrich Blücher in 1940, but when Germany invaded France in 1940 she was detained by the French as an alien, despite having been stripped of her German citizenship in 1937. She escaped and made her way to the United States in 1941 via Portugal.

She settled in New York, which remained her principal residence for the rest of her life. She became a writer and editor and worked for the Jewish Cultural Reconstruction, becoming an American citizen in 1950. With the appearance of The Origins of Totalitarianism in 1951, her reputation as a thinker and writer was established and a series of seminal works followed. These included The Human Condition in 1958, and both Eichmann in Jerusalem and On Revolution in 1963. She taught at many American universities, while declining tenure-track appointments. She died suddenly from a heart attack in 1975, at the age of 69, leaving her last work, The Life of the Mind, unfinished.

Her works cover a broad range of topics, but she is best known for those dealing with the nature of power and evil, as well as politics, direct democracy, authority, and totalitarianism. In the popular mind she is best remembered for the controversy surrounding the trial of Adolf Eichmann, her attempt to explain how ordinary people become active supporters of totalitarian systems, and for the phrase “the banality of evil”. She is commemorated by institutions and journals devoted to her thinking, the Hannah Arendt Prize for political thinking, and on stamps, street names and schools, amongst other things.

Here is a sampling of her writing, all of which is poignant and right on target:

The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.

Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it.

The most radical revolutionary will become a conservative the day after the revolution.

The aim of totalitarian education has never been to instill convictions but to destroy the capacity to form any.

There are no dangerous thoughts; thinking itself is dangerous.

Loving life is easy when you are abroad. Where no one knows you and you hold your life in your hands all alone, you are more master of yourself than at any other time.

The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal. From the viewpoint of our legal institutions and of our moral standards of judgment, this normality was much more terrifying than all the atrocities put together.

The third world is not a reality, but an ideology.

No punishment has ever possessed enough power of deterrence to prevent the commission of crimes.

I have given well-known Königsberg recipes before, including for Königsberger Klopse here — http://www.bookofdaystales.com/immanuel-kant/  Now I will switch gears and talk about Königsberg marzipan, a confection that was traditionally produced in the German city of Königsberg, but not now that it is the Russian city of Kaliningrad. Königsberg’s first marzipan production was established by the Pomatti brothers in 1809, who became confectioners of the Royal Prussian Court. They were joined by Sterkau, Petschliess, Liedtke, Siegel, Steiner, Gehlhaar, Plouda in Kneiphof, as well as Wald in Berlin and Schwermer in Bad Wörishofen.  Königsberg marzipan is known for its flamed surface, which results in a golden-brown finish. It contains rose water and is often filled with jam. These characteristics distinguish it from the more common Lübeck Marzipan, which also frequently comes in more elaborate forms. First a video – apologies for the German, but it’s not hard to understand:

Now that you have the idea, you might want to try to replicate these dainties. They are not hard to make, just time consuming. Marzipan is not difficult to make from scratch, but I often buy it readymade.

Königsberger Marzipan

Ingredients

500 gm marzipan
350 gm powdered sugar
2 egg whites
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp kirsch
1 tbsp rosewater
2 tbsp water
maraschino cherries and candied lemon peel

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 220°C/430°F.

In a bowl, knead the marzipan with 200 grams (approximately 1 cup) of the powdered sugar into a smooth dough.

On a baking board, roll the dough to 1 cm (approximately ¼ inch) thick. Cut out small shapes like hearts or circles. Cut narrow strips from the remaining dough.

Whisk the egg whites in a bowl. Whisk the egg yolk in a separate bowl. Brush the strips with the egg white and lay on the outsides of the shapes like a border. Use knitting needles or wooden skewers to indent notches into the border. Brush the edges with the egg yolk. Place the marzipan hearts and circles on a baking sheet and bake on the top shelf until starting to brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

To decorate: in a bowl, stir the remaining powdered sugar with the kirsch, rosewater, and water until smooth. Brush into the centers of the hearts and circles. Cut the cherries and lemon peel into small pieces. Decorate the marzipan cakes with the cherries and lemon peel.

Oct 082018
 

Modern scholars assert that today is the birth date in 1150 of Narapati Sithu (နရပတိ စည်သူ, also Narapatisithu, Sithu II or Cansu II), king of the Pagan dynasty of Burma from 1174 to 1211. Contemporary chronicles vary widely concerning his birth date and year, however. He is considered to be the last significant king of Pagan, and his peaceful and prosperous reign gave rise to a Burmese culture which finally emerged from the shadows of Mon and Pyu cultures. Subsequently, Burman leadership of the kingdom was unquestioned. The Pagan Empire reached its peak during his reign, and declined gradually after his death.
Narapati Sithu was the son of Narathu and his wife (later known as Myauk Pyinthe, “Queen of the Northern Palace”) in Pagan (now Bagan). In 1171, his elder brother Naratheinkha succeeded to the throne of Pagan, but was greeted with multiple rebellions by the Kudus in the Tagaung region in the north and the Mons of Tenasserim coast in the south. Naratheinkha appointed Narapati Sithu as the heir apparent and commander-in-chief to deal with the rebellions. In 1174, Naratheinkha seized Narapati’s wife Weluwaddy (Veluvati) after he sent Narapati on a mission. Narapati retaliated by sending a group of 80 led by Aungzwa to assassinate his brother. After the assassination, he ascended the throne as Sithu II in honor of his grandfather Alaungsithu. He came to power some time between 27th March 1174 and 10th August 1174, most probably between April and May 1174.
One of the first acts of Sithu II was to found the Royal Palace Guards, whose sole duty was to guard the palace and the king. (The Palace Guards later evolved to become the nucleus round which the Burmese army assembled in war time.) He then had to pacify the kingdom, which had seen much instability since the death of Alaungsithu in 1167, and had grown increasingly restless. He successfully persuaded the great-grandson of the Mon king Manuha not to start a rebellion. The rest of the reign was free of rebellions.


By all accounts, his reign was peaceful and prosperous. Following Anawratha’s footsteps, Narapatisithu worked on increasing Upper Burma’s economic and human advantages over the Irrawaddy valley. He continued to develop the Kyaukse region by building the Kyaukse weir, and expanded the irrigable areas by starting the Mu canals in the present-day Shwebo District. His attempts to expand irrigation southwards into Minbu District by building a canal system repeatedly failed, and had to be abandoned. Through his efforts, the kingdom grew even more prosperous. The prosperity of the kingdom is reflected in the superb the Gawdawpalin and Sulamani temples in Pagan he built. He also built the Minmalaung, Dhammayazika and Chaukpala nearby. His lesser pagodas, such as the Zetawun in Myeik District, the Shwe Indein Pagoda in Nyaungshwe (Shan State) shows the reach of his kingdom.
His reign also saw the rise of Burmese culture which finally emerged from the shadows of Mon and Pyu cultures. The Burmans, who had entered the Irrawaddy valley en masse only in the 9th and 10th centuries, had led the Pagan kingdom under the name of the Pyu. But now, the Burman leadership of the kingdom was now unquestioned. For the first time, the term Mranma (the Burman people) was openly used in Burmese language inscriptions. (The earliest use of Mranma was found in a Mon inscription dedicated to Kyansittha dated 1102.) The Burmese script became the primary script of the kingdom, replacing Mon and Pyu scripts.


Narapatisithu appointed Nadaungmya, great-grandson of Nyaung-U Hpi (one of the great Paladins during Anawrahta’s reign), chief justice. His chief minister was Ananda Thuriya, reportedly a man of valor who continually hunted down robbers and presented them alive to the king. He had the first Burmese customary law based on his grandfather Alaungsithu’s judgments compiled, and used as the common system of law for the entire kingdom.


He encouraged reforms of Burmese Buddhism. By the efforts of his primate Shin Uttarajiva, the majority of the Burmese Buddhist monks realigned themselves with the Mahavihara school of Ceylon away from the less orthodox Conjeveram-Thaton school. This influence is still felt in Myanmar, where Theravada Buddhism is dominant and widespread.

Sithu II died at age 73 on 18th August 1211 (11th waxing of Tawthalin 573 ME). On his deathbed, he placed the hands of his five sons on his chest and enjoined them to rule with mercy and justice, and to live together in brotherly love. His immediate successor was his son Htilominlo (r. 1211—1235), followed by his grandson Kyaswa (r. 1235–1249). They were able to live off the stable and bountiful conditions Sithu passed on with little state-building on their part. Htilomino hardly did any governing. He was a devout Buddhist and scholar, gave up the command of the army, and left administration to a privy council of ministers. The seeds of Pagan’s decline were sown during this seemingly idyllic period. The state had stopped expanding, but the practice of donating tax-free land to religious groups had not. The continuous growth of tax-free religious wealth greatly reduced the tax base of the kingdom and ended in its collapse.


What is called “royal cuisine” in Myanmar these days is much more modern than the cuisine of the Pagan dynasty, but it probably reflects the ethos, if not the practice of bygone days. Rice is the main component, accompanied with an array of side dishes – many of them vegetarian, reflecting the Buddhist culture of Myanmar.

Here’s a video for preparing Nga Pi Chet. Rotsa ruck finding the ingredients if you don’t live in SE Asia:

Oct 062018
 

Euridice, an opera by Jacopo Peri, with additional music by Giulio Caccini is the oldest surviving opera, first performed in Florence on this date in 1600 at the Palazzo Pitti with Peri himself singing the role of Orfeo. An earlier opera by Peri, Dafne (1597), is now lost. The libretto by Ottavio Rinuccini is based on books X and XI of Ovid’s Metamorphoses which recount the story of the legendary musician Orpheus and his wife Euridice. Because Europe’s actual oldest opera is lost, this date is the best we can do for dating the genesis of modern opera. Euridice was created for the marriage of Henry IV of France and Maria de Medici.

At the premiere, many of the roles were filled by members of Caccini’s entourage, including his daughter Francesca Caccini. Peri composed all of the music for the first production, but owing to the integral involvement of Caccini and his performers, some of Peri’s music was finally replaced by that of Caccini. When Caccini discovered that Peri intended to publish the opera with the added Caccini pieces, he rushed to finish his own version of Euridice using the same libretto, and managed to have his published before Peri’s. In his preface, Peri notes that all of the music was completed by the date of the first performance earning his efforts the designation Prima Euridice.

In creating the music for Euridice, Peri envisioned a vocal style that is half sung and half spoken. For less dramatic parts he created vocal lines close to the style of spoken language set over a sustained accompaniment. For impassioned scenes he explored stronger and more rapid melodies with steadily changing harmonies. Peri’s critics have observed that within the score of Euridice, he created no musically remarkable examples of either. However, he did use ranges and widths of register, as well as frequency and power of cadences, to distinguish different characters and dramatic moods. The voice and accompaniment are carefully paced to emphasize the tension and release in the text. Rhythmic and melodic inflections in the vocal lines closely, almost scientifically, imitate dramatic speech. In addition, impassioned exclamations are set with unprepared dissonances and unexpected movements in the bass. This extract may serve to show the style of the piece. It is pleasant enough, but not remarkable musically.

Euridice has its detractors, but there is general agreement that Peri established sound principles for operatic composition. Classic opera, henceforth, tells a story that exploits the interplay between aria and recitative, and uses a mix of solo, ensemble and choral singing. Peri’s Euridice tells the story of the musician Orpheus and his wife Euridice based on classic Greek legend, but with allowances for artistic license. According to the legend (which is actually retold in a number of ancient texts in Latin), Orpheus was a great musician who journeyed to the underworld to plead with the gods to revive his wife Euridice after she had been fatally injured.

Act 1

Prologue

The opera opens with a simple melody by a singer representing the Tragic Muse, La Tragedia, and a short ritornello. Shepherds nearby and the Tragic Muse sing a conversation in recitatives and choruses, Daphne enters to notify everyone that Euridice has been fatally bitten by a serpent.

Scene 1

All of the nymphs and shepherds gather to celebrate the wedding of Orfeo and Euridice.

Scene 2

Orfeo is content after his wedding but is soon interrupted by Dafne. She brings the terrible news that Euridice has been bitten by a venomous snake and has died. Orfeo then vows to rescue her from the underworld.

Scene 3

Arcetro recounts that while Orfeo lay weeping, Venus, goddess of love, carries him off in her chariot.

Act 2

This opens with Orpheus pleading with Venere, Plutone, Prosperina, Caronte, and Radamanto in the underworld for the return of his beloved wife Euridice. Nearly the entire scene is carried in recitative. When the act closes, Orpheus is back with Tirsi and the other shepherds.

Scene 4

Venus and Orfeo arrive at the gates of the underworld. Venus suggests that through his legendary voice he might persuade Pluto to return Euridice to life. Orfeo succeeds and is allowed to leave with his bride.

Scene 5

Orfeo and Euridice return from the underworld and rejoice.

The entire opera, with libretto in Italian with an English translation, is here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MIN5btYNn0M 

If you know the story of Orpheus and Eurydice you will know that the ending of the opera does not coincide with the Greek legend. In the original, Hades allows Orpheus to take Eurydice back but she is still a “shade” until she reaches the sunlight and gains human form again, and Orpheus must not look back until she is in the sunlight. Because she does not have a body, when she walks behind Orpheus she does not make any sound, and Orpheus, fearing he has been tricked by Hades looks back just before he reaches the surface to check she is there, and she is taken back to the Underworld. Lesson #1 people – HAVE FAITH.

Today’s recipe is for a version of pasta in brodo from the cookery book Opera (first published 1570from Bartolomeo Scappi, who was active from 1536 to 1570 – the period of this opera. I chose it, partly because it is contemporary Italian, partly because I am a fan of pasta in brodo, and partly because of the coincidence of names (“opera” in the book’s title means “works” or “actions”). Note that the soup can be made with broth or milk and that the seasonings include sugar and cinnamon. By all means boil up a crane or hare to make your broth.

 

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 soup with 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 cutting wheel. When it has dried, though not too much because it will 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 to the pin, draw the pin out and cut the rolled-up dough crosswise with a broad, thin knife. When they are cut, flatten them. Let them dry out a little and, when they are dry, shake off the excess flour through a sieve. Make 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 lasagnas 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.

 

 

Sep 282018
 

Today is generally accepted to be the birthday (551 BCE) of the Chinese philosopher known in English as Confucius. Confucius is traditionally credited with having written or edited numerous Chinese classic texts, but modern scholars are cautious about attributing specific works to Confucius himself. Confucius’ stated principles have much in common with Chinese tradition and belief. He championed strong family loyalty, ancestor veneration, and respect of elders by their children and of husbands by their wives, recommending the family as a basis for ideal government. His teaching and philosophy have influenced people around the world. If you wish you can skip down below the biography which follows here and read about Confucian philosophy and its application to cooking.

The name “Confucius” is a Latinized form of the Mandarin Chinese “Kǒng Fūzǐ” (孔夫子, meaning “Master Kong” – often shortened nowadays to “孔子” Kǒng Zǐ – also intrinsically meaning “Master Kong” but is now simply a name in much the same way that all Chinese names have a literal meaning which is not particularly emphasized in everyday speech), and was coined in the late 16th century by the early Jesuit missionaries to China. Confucius’s clan name was “Kǒng” (孔; Old Chinese: *kʰˤoŋʔ), and his given name was “Qiū” (丘; OC: *kʷʰə). His “capping name”, given upon reaching adulthood and by which he would have been known to all but his older family members, was “Zhòngní” (仲尼; OC: *N-truŋ-s nrəj), the “Zhòng” indicating that he was the second son in his family.

Confucius was born in the district of Zou (鄒邑) near present-day Qufu in China. The area was notionally controlled by the kings of Zhou but effectively independent under the local lords of Lu. His father Kong He (孔紇) or Shuliang He (叔梁紇) was an elderly commandant of the local Lu garrison. His ancestry traced back through the dukes of Song to the Shang dynasty which had preceded the Zhou. Traditional accounts of Confucius’s life relate that Kong He’s grandfather had migrated the family from Song to Lu.

Kong He died when Confucius was 3 years old, and Confucius was raised by his mother Yan Zhengzai (顏徵在) in poverty. His mother was less than 40 when she died. At age 19 Confucius married Qiguan (亓官), and a year later the couple had their first child, Kong Li (孔鯉). They later had two daughters together, one of whom is thought to have died as a child. Confucius was educated at schools for commoners, where he studied and learned the Six Arts: Rites (禮), Music (樂), Archery (射), Charioteering (御), Calligraphy (書), and Mathematics (數).

Confucius was born into the class of shi (士), between the aristocracy and the common people. He is said to have worked in various government jobs during his early 20s, and as a bookkeeper and a caretaker of sheep and horses, using the proceeds to give his mother a proper burial. When his mother died, Confucius (aged 23) is said to have mourned for three years, as was the tradition.

In Confucius’s time, the state of Lu was headed by a ruling ducal house. Under the duke were three aristocratic families, whose heads bore the title of viscount (all noble titles used here are English equivalents of old Chinese terms) and held hereditary positions in the Lu bureaucracy. The Ji family held the position “Minister over the Masses”, who was also the “Prime Minister”; the Meng family held the position “Minister of Works”; and the Shu family held the position “Minister of War”. In the winter of 505 BC, Yang Hu—a retainer of the Ji family—rose up in rebellion and seized power from the Ji family. However, by the summer of 501 BCE, the three hereditary families had succeeded in expelling Yang Hu from Lu. By then, Confucius had built up a considerable reputation through his teachings, and families came to see the value of proper conduct and righteousness, so they could maintain loyalty to a legitimate government. Thus, that year Confucius came to be appointed to the minor position of governor of a town. Eventually, he rose to the position of Minister of Crime.

Confucius desired to return the authority of the state to the duke by dismantling the fortifications of the city—strongholds belonging to the three families. This way, he could establish a centralized government. However, Confucius relied solely on diplomacy as he had no military authority himself. In 500 BCE, Hou Fan—the governor of Hou—revolted against his lord of the Shu family. Although the Meng and Shu families unsuccessfully besieged Hou, a loyalist official rose up with the people of Hou and forced Hou Fan to flee to the Qi state. The situation may have been in favor for Confucius as this likely made it possible for Confucius and his disciples to convince the aristocratic families to dismantle the fortifications of their cities. Eventually, after a year and a half, Confucius and his disciples succeeded in convincing the Shu family to raze the walls of Hou, the Ji family in razing the walls of Bi, and the Meng family in razing the walls of Cheng. First, the Shu family led an army towards their city Hou and tore down its walls in 498 BCE.

Soon thereafter, Gongshan Furao or Buniu, a retainer of the Ji family, revolted and took control of the forces at Bi. He immediately launched an attack and entered the capital Lu. Earlier, Gongshan had approached Confucius to join him, which Confucius considered. Even though he disapproved the use of a violent revolution, the Ji family dominated the Lu state force for generations and had exiled the previous duke. Although he wanted the opportunity to put his principles into practice, Confucius gave up on this idea in the end. Gongshan was generally considered an upright man who continued to defend the state of Lu, even after he was forced to flee.

During the revolt by Gongshan, Zhong You (仲由) had managed to keep the duke and the three viscounts together at the court. Zhong You was one of the disciples of Confucius, and Confucius had arranged for him to be given the position of governor by the Ji family. When Confucius heard of the raid, he requested that Viscount Ji Huan allow the duke and his court to retreat to a stronghold on his palace grounds. Thereafter, the heads of the three families and the duke retreated to the Ji’s palace complex and ascended the Wuzi Terrace. Confucius ordered two officers to lead an assault against the rebels. At least one of the two officers was a retainer of the Ji family, but they were unable to refuse the orders while in the presence of the duke, viscounts, and court. The rebels were pursued and defeated at Gu. Immediately after the revolt was defeated, the Ji family razed the Bi city walls to the ground.

The attackers retreated after realizing that they would have to become rebels against the state and their lord. Through Confucius’s actions, the Bi officials had inadvertently revolted against their own lord, thus forcing Viscount Ji Huan’s hand in having to dismantle the walls of Bi (as it could have harbored such rebels) or confess to instigating the event by going against proper conduct and righteousness as an official. The incident brought to light Confucius’ foresight, practical political ability, and insight into human character.

When it was time to dismantle the city walls of the Meng family, the governor was reluctant to have his city walls torn down and convinced the head of the Meng family not to do so. The Zuo Zhuan recalls that the governor advised against razing the walls as he believed that this would make Cheng vulnerable to the Qi state and cause the destruction of the Meng family. Even though viscount Meng Yi gave his word not to interfere with an attempt, he went back on his earlier promise to dismantle the walls.

Later in 498 BCE, duke Ding personally went with an army to lay siege to Cheng in an attempt to raze its walls to the ground, but he did not succeed. Thus, Confucius could not achieve the idealistic reforms that he wanted including restoration of the legitimate rule of the duke. He had made powerful enemies within the state, especially with viscount Ji Huan, due to his successes so far. According to accounts in the  traditional records, Zuo Zhuan and Shiji, Confucius departed his homeland in 497 BCE after his support for the failed attempt of dismantling the fortified city walls of the powerful Ji, Meng, and Shu families. He left the state of Lu without resigning, remaining in self-exile and unable to return as long as viscount Ji Huan was alive.

The Shiji stated that the neighboring Qi state was worried that Lu was becoming too powerful while Confucius was involved in the government of the Lu state. According to this account, Qi decided to sabotage Lu’s reforms by sending 100 good horses and 80 beautiful dancing girls to the duke of Lu. The duke indulged himself in pleasure and did not attend to official duties for three days. Confucius was disappointed and resolved to leave Lu and seek better opportunities, yet to leave at once would expose the misbehavior of the duke and therefore bring public humiliation to the ruler Confucius was serving. Confucius therefore waited for the duke to make a lesser mistake. Soon after, the duke neglected to send to Confucius a portion of the sacrificial meat that was his due according to custom, and Confucius seized upon this pretext to leave both his post and the Lu state.

After Confucius’ resignation, he began a long journey or set of journeys around the principality states of north-east and central China including Wey, Song, Zheng, Cao, Chu, Qi, Chen, and Cai (and a failed attempt to go to Jin). At the courts of these states, he expounded his political beliefs but did not see them implemented.

According to the Zuo Zhuan, Confucius returned home to his native Lu when he was 68, after he was invited to do so by Ji Kangzi, the chief minister of Lu. The Analects depict him spending his last years teaching 72 or 77 disciples and transmitting the old wisdom via a set of texts called the Five Classics. These are:

Classic of Poetry

A collection of 305 poems divided into 160 folk songs, 105 festal songs sung at court ceremonies, and 40 hymns and eulogies sung at sacrifices to heroes and ancestral spirits of the royal house.

Book of Documents

A collection of documents and speeches alleged to have been written by rulers and officials of the early Zhou period and before. It is possibly the oldest Chinese narrative, and may date from the 6th century BCE. It includes examples of early Chinese prose.

Book of Rites

Describes ancient rites, social forms and court ceremonies. The version studied today is a re-worked version compiled by scholars in the 3rd century BCE rather than the original text, which is said to have been edited by Confucius himself.

I Ching (Book of Changes)

The book contains a, now, well known divination system. In Western cultures and modern East Asia, it is still widely used for this purpose.

Spring and Autumn Annals

An historical record of the State of Lu, Confucius’s native state, 722–481 BCE.

During his return, Confucius sometimes acted as an advisor to several government officials in Lu, including Ji Kangzi, on matters including governance and crime. Burdened by the loss of both his son and his favorite disciples, Confucius died at the age of 71 or 72. He died from natural causes. Confucius was buried in Kong Lin cemetery which lies in the historical part of Qufu in the Shandong Province. The original tomb erected there in memory of Confucius on the bank of the Sishui River had the shape of an axe. In addition, it has a raised brick platform at the front of the memorial for offerings such as sandalwood incense and fruit.

Although Confucianism is often followed in a religious manner by the Chinese, many argue that its values are secular and that it is, therefore, less a religion than a secular morality. Proponents argue, however, that despite the secular nature of Confucianism’s teachings, it is based on a worldview that is religious. Confucianism discusses elements of the afterlife and views concerning Heaven, but it is relatively unconcerned with some spiritual matters which you might consider essential to religious thought, such as the nature of souls. However, Confucius is said to have believed in astrology, saying: “Heaven sends down its good or evil symbols and wise men act accordingly”.

In the Analects, Confucius presents himself as a “transmitter who invented nothing”. He puts the greatest emphasis on the importance of study, and it is the Chinese character for study (學) that opens the text. Far from trying to build a systematic or formalist theory, he wanted his disciples to master and internalize older classics, so that their deep thought and thorough study would allow them to relate the moral problems of the present to past political events (as recorded in the Annals) or the past expressions of commoners’ feelings and noblemen’s reflections (as in the poems of the Book of Odes).

His moral teachings emphasized self-cultivation, emulation of moral exemplars, and the attainment of skilled judgment rather than knowledge of rules. Confucian ethics may, therefore, be considered a type of virtue ethics. His teachings rarely rely on reasoned argument, and ethical ideals and methods are conveyed indirectly, through allusion, innuendo, and even tautology. His teachings require examination and context to be understood. A good example is found in this famous anecdote:

廄焚。子退朝,曰:“傷人乎?” 不問馬。

“When the stables were burnt down, on returning from court Confucius said, “Was anyone hurt?” He did not ask about the horses.” By not asking about the horses, Confucius demonstrates that the sage values human beings over property; readers are led to reflect on whether their response would follow Confucius’ and to pursue self-improvement if it would not have. Confucius not serve as the prophet of a deity, and his teachings are not understood as a universally true set of abstract principles. Rather he is represented as the ultimate model for others. Many commentators therefore consider Confucius’ teachings to be a Chinese example of humanism.

One of his teachings was a variant of the Golden Rule, sometimes called the “Silver Rule” owing to its negative form:

己所不欲,勿施於人。

“What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others.”

子貢問曰:“有一言而可以終身行之者乎?”子曰:“其恕乎!己所不欲、勿施於人。”

Zi Gong [a disciple] asked: “Is there any one word that could guide a person throughout life?”

The Master replied: “How about ‘reciprocity’! Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.”

Often overlooked in Confucian ethics are the virtues to the self: sincerity and the cultivation of knowledge. Virtuous action towards others begins with virtuous and sincere thought, which begins with knowledge. A virtuous disposition without knowledge is susceptible to corruption, and virtuous action without sincerity is not true righteousness. Cultivating knowledge and sincerity is also important for one’s own sake; the superior person loves learning for the sake of learning and righteousness for the sake of righteousness. Words to live by !!! I am not in any sense a Confucian scholar or disciple (although I have studied his works), but in one way or another I adhere to these principles.

No recipe today, but instead Confucian principles related to food (which are followed in China, but not always in Chinese restaurants outside of China). The philosophy of Confucius is deeply reflected in Chinese food culture to this day. He attached great importance to food and described it as one of the three basic conditions, along with an army and trust, for founding a state. It is said that Confucius helped to bring perfect taste to Chinese food by developing proper cooking techniques.

Confucian food basics:
  • Food should be served in small or chopped pieces
  • The taste of any dish depends on proper mixing of all of its ingredients and condiments
  • Taste of individual elements does not have great importance in food, but fine blending of ingredients results in great taste and dishes in meals must be compatible
  • Blending of food also results in harmony and is an important part of the philosophy; without harmony foods cannot taste good
Confucius recommends:
  • Eat only at meal times
  • Don’t eat food that smells bad
  • Don’t consume food that is not well cooked
  • Eat fresh and local; do not eat food out of season
  • Don’t eat when the sauces and seasonings are not correctly prepared
  • Eat ginger but in moderation so as to not increase the internal heat of the body
  • Know the origin or source of your food
  • The way you cut your food reflects the way you live
  • Meat should be eaten in moderation
  • Eat only until seven tenths full; control in portions promotes longevity
  • You need not limit drinking, but do not drink to the point of confusion
  • Hygiene is essential in food preparation

 

 

 

Sep 272018
 

Today is a big day in Poland. It is the birthday (1533) of Stefan Batory (Hungarian: Báthory István), a Hungarian-born noble who was voivode (highest official) of Transylvania (1571–76), prince of Transylvania (1576–86), and from 1576 queen Anna Jagiellon’s husband and, thereby, jure uxoris king of Poland and grand duke of Lithuania (1576-1586). Batory is my main subject today, but look at all the Polish anniversaries. On this date in 1331, Poland fought the Teutonic Order at the Battle of Płowce, and on this date in 1422, after the brief Gollub War, the Teutonic Knights signed the Treaty of Melno with Poland and Lithuania. Today is also the birthday of Stanisław Kazimierczyk (1433), Polish canon regular and saint, and of Hieronymus Łaski (1496), Polish diplomat. In 2013 today was declared Polish Underground State’s Day, Dzień Podziemnego Państwa Polskiego, set on the anniversary of the formation of Service for Poland’s Victory. Służba Zwycięstwu Polski (Service for Poland’s Victory, or Polish Victory Service, abbreviated SZP) was the first Polish resistance movement in World War II. It was created by the order of general Juliusz Rómmel on 27th September 1939, when the siege of Warsaw, where Rómmel commanded Polish defence, was nearing its end (Warsaw capitulated the following day).

Stefan Batory was the son of Stephen VIII Báthory and a member of the Hungarian Báthory noble family. Batory while a ruler of Transylvania in the 1570s, defeated another challenger for that title, Gáspár Bekes. In 1576 Báthory became the third elected king of Poland. He worked closely with chancellor Jan Zamoyski. The first years of his reign were focused on establishing power, defeating a fellow claimant to the throne, Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor, and quelling rebellions, most notably, the Danzig rebellion. He reigned only a decade, but is considered one of the most successful kings in Polish history, particularly in the realm of military history. His signal achievement was his victorious campaign in Livonia against Russia in the middle part of his reign, in which he repulsed a Russian invasion of Commonwealth borderlands and secured a highly favorable treaty of peace (the Peace of Jam Zapolski).

Batory was born in the castle at Somlyó, also known as Szilágysomlyó (today’s Șimleu Silvaniei). Little is known about his childhood. Around 1549-1550, he briefly visited Italy and probably spent a few months attending lectures at Padua University. Upon his return, he joined the army of Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor, and took part in his military struggle against the Turks. Some time after 1553, Batory was captured by the Turks, and after Ferdinand I refused to pay his ransom, joined the opposing side, supporting John II Sigismund Zápolya in his struggle for power in the Eastern Hungarian Kingdom. As Zápolya’s supporter, Batory acted both as a feudal lord, military commander and a diplomat. During one of his trips to Vienna he was put under house arrest for two years. During this time he fell out of favor at Zápolya’s court, and his position was largely assumed by another Hungarian noble, Gáspár Bekes. Batory briefly retired from politics, but he still wielded considerable influence and was seen as a possible successor to Zápolya.

After Zápolya’s death in 1571, the Transylvanian estates elected Batory voivode of Transylvania. Bekes, supported by the Habsburgs, disputed his election, but by 1573, Batory emerged victorious in the resulting civil war and drove Bekes out of Transylvania. He subsequently attempted to play the Ottomans and the Holy Roman Empire against one another in an attempt to strengthen Transylvania’s position.

In 1572, the throne of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, at the time the largest and one of the most populous states in Europe, was vacated when King Sigismund II of Poland died without heirs. The Sejm (parliament) was given the power to elect a new king, and in the Polish–Lithuanian royal election, 1573 chose Henry of France. Henry soon ascended the French throne and forfeited the Polish one by returning to France. Batory decided to enter into the election; in the meantime he had to defeat another attempt by Bekes to challenge his authority in Transylvania, which he did by defeating Bekes at the Battle of Sinpaul.

On 12th December 1575, after an interregnum of roughly one and a half years, primate of Poland, Jakub Uchański, representing a pro-Habsburg faction, declared Emperor Maximilian II the new monarch. However, chancellor Jan Zamoyski and other opponents of Habsburgs persuaded many of the lesser nobility to demand a Piast king, a Polish king. After a heated discussion, it was decided that Anna Jagiellon, sister of the former King Sigismund II Augustus, should be elected monarch of Poland and marry Batory. In January 1576, Batory passed the mantle of voivode of Transylvania to his brother, Christopher, and departed for Poland. On 1 May 1576 Batory married Anna and was crowned king of Poland and grand duke of Lithuania. After being chosen as king in the Polish–Lithuanian royal election, 1576, Báthory also began using the title, prince of Transylvania.

Batory ‘s position was at first extremely difficult, as there was still some opposition to his election. Emperor Maximilian, insisting on his earlier election, fostered internal opposition and prepared to enforce his claim by military action. At first the representatives of Lithuania refused to recognize Batory as grand duke, and demanded concessions – that he return the estates of his wife Anne to the Lithuanian treasury, hold Sejm conventions in both Lithuania and Poland, and reserve the highest governmental official offices in Lithuania for Lithuanians. He accepted the conditions. In June Batory was recognized as grand duke of Lithuania, and duke of Ruthenia and Samogitia.

With Lithuania secure, the other major region refusing to recognize his election was Prussia. Maximilian’s sudden death improved Batory ‘s situation, but the city of Danzig (Gdańsk) still refused to recognize his election without significant concessions. The Hanseatic League city, bolstered by its immense wealth, fortifications, and the secret support of Maximilian, had supported the Emperor’s election and decided not to recognize Batory as legitimate ruler. The resulting conflict was known as the Danzig rebellion. Most armed opposition collapsed when the prolonged siege of Danzig by Batory’s forces was lifted as an agreement was reached. The Danzig army was utterly defeated in a field battle on 17th April 1577. However, since Batory’s armies were unable to take the city by force, a compromise was reached. In exchange for some of Danzig’s demands being favorably reviewed, the city recognized Batory as ruler of Poland and paid the sum of 200,000 zlotys in gold as compensation. Tying up administration of the Commonwealth’s northern provinces, in February 1578 he acknowledged George Frederick as the ruler of the Duchy of Prussia, receiving his feudal tribute.

After securing control over the Commonwealth, Batory had a chance to devote himself to strengthening his authority, in which he was supported by his chancellor Jan Zamoyski, who would soon become one of the king’s most trusted advisers. Báthory reorganised the judiciary by formation of legal tribunals (the Crown Tribunal in 1578 and the Lithuanian Tribunal in 1581). While this somewhat weakened the royal position, it was of little concern to Báthory, as the loss of power was not significant in the short term, and he was more concerned with the hereditary Hungarian throne. In exchange, the Sejm allowed him to raise taxes and push a number of reforms strengthening the military, including the establishment of the piechota wybraniecka, an infantry formation composed of peasants. Many of his projects aimed to modernize the Commonwealth army, reforming it in a model of Hungarian troops of Transylvania. He also founded the Academy of Vilnius, the third university in the Commonwealth, transforming what had been a Jesuit college into a major university. He founded several other Jesuit colleges, and was active in propagating Catholicism, while at the same time being respectful of the Commonwealth policy of religious tolerance, issuing a number of decrees offering protection to Polish Jews, and denouncing any religious violence.

In external relations, Batory sought peace through strong alliances. Though remaining distrustful of the Habsburgs, he maintained the tradition of good relations that the Commonwealth enjoyed with its Western neighbor and confirmed past treaties between the Commonwealth and Holy Roman Empire with diplomatic missions received by Maximilian’s successor, Rudolf II. The troublesome south-eastern border with the Ottoman Empire was temporarily quelled by truces signed in July 1577 and April 1579. The Sejm of January 1578 gathered in Warsaw was persuaded to grant Batory subsidies for the inevitable war against Muscovy. A number of his trusted advisers were Hungarian, and he remained interested in Hungarian politics. In addition to Hungarian, he was well versed in Latin, and spoke Italian and German; he never learned the Polish language, however.

Before Batory’s election to the throne of the Commonwealth, Ivan the Terrible of Russia had begun encroaching on its sphere of interest in the northeast, eventually invading the Commonwealth borderlands in Livonia. The conflict would grow to involve a number of nearby powers (outside Russia and Poland-Lithuania, also Sweden, the kingdom of Livonia and Denmark-Norway). Each of them was vying for control of Livonia, and the resulting conflict, lasting for several years, became known as the Livonian War. By 1577, Ivan was in control of most of the disputed territory, but his conquest was short-lived. In 1578, Commonwealth forces scored a number of victories in Liviona and begun pushing Ivan’s forces back; this marked the turning point in the war. Batory, together with his chancellor Zamoyski, led the army of the Commonwealth in a series of decisive campaigns taking Polotsk in 1579 and Velikiye Luki in 1580.

In 1581, Stephen penetrated once again into Russia and, on 22nd August, laid siege to the city of Pskov. While the city held, on 13th December 1581 Ivan the Terrible began negotiations that concluded with the Truce of Jam Zapolski on 15th January 1582. The treaty was favorable to the Commonwealth, as Ivan ceded Polatsk, Veliz and most of the duchy of Livonia in exchange for regaining Velikiye Luki and Nevel. Batory’s health declined through the early 1580s and he died on 12 December 1586.  He had no legitimate children, though contemporary rumors suggested he might have had several illegitimate children.

Batory is commemorated to this day in Poland in a number of ways. The most significant to me is the naming of the ocean liner TSS Stefan Batory, flagship of Polish Ocean Lines from 1969 to 1988, the ship I sailed on from London to Montreal when I migrated to North America in 1975. It was by no means as grand as the great Cunard and P&O liners I had sailed around the world on in my younger years, but it was the last sea voyage I took. (I did take a short cruise 10 years ago, but that was a vacation cruise, and, so, does not really count).

I have given recipes for classic Polish dishes in the past, such as, flaki and bigos, so now I want to look at foreign influences on Polish cuisine. When Bona Sforza (of the Milanese house of Sforza) married Sigismund I of Poland in 1518, she brought a number of Italian cooks with her who greatly influenced the ciusine. Although native vegetable foods were an ancient and intrinsic part of the cuisine, Bona’s reign began a period in which vegetables like lettuce, leeks, celeriac and cabbage were more widely used. Even today, some of those vegetables are referred to in Polish as włoszczyzna, a word derived from Włochy, the Polish name of Italy. Zupa pomidorowa, is Polish tomato soup with a long heritage, probably descended from Italian soup preparation, and undoubtedly popular in Batory’s day.

Zupa Pomidorowa

Ingredients

6 cups meat broth
1 lb “Italian” soup vegetables (celery, leek, celeriac, cabbage), washed and roughly chopped
5 medium carrots, scrubbed
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper
1 tbsp butter
4 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 tbsp tomato concentrate (optional)
¾ cup/200 ml sour cream or tart yoghurt plus extra for garnish
2 cups cooked pasta or rice

Instructions

Put the soup vegetables, carrots, bay leaf and broth into a large pot, bring to a boil, and simmer, covered for about 1 hour. At the end of the cooking process remove the vegetables from the broth, but leave the carrots. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a small saucepan, then add the diced tomatoes and cook over medium-low heat to a thick consistency. You can add 1 tablespoon of tomato paste at this stage, if you like. When the sauce is well cooked add it to the broth and mix well.

Pour the sour cream or tart yoghurt into a heatproof bowl. Gradually add small amounts of the soup, whisking vigorously at each addition. When you have the cream well combined with the soup pour it back into the soup pot and mix well. Add the pasta or rice and heat through gently.

Serve hot in bowls with an extra dollop of cream or yoghurt for garnish.

 

Sep 252018
 

On this date in 1237, kings Henry III of England and Alexander II of Scotland, signed the Treaty of York, which affirmed that Northumberland, Cumberland, and Westmorland were subject to English sovereignty. This treaty established the Anglo-Scottish border in a form that remains almost unchanged to modern times (the only modifications have been regarding the Debatable Lands and Berwick-upon-Tweed). The treaty detailed the future status of several feudal properties and addressed other issues between the two kings, and historically marked the end of the kingdom of Scotland’s attempts to extend its frontier southward.

The treaty was one of a number of agreements made in the ongoing relationship between the two kings. The papal legate Otho (also known as Oddone di Monferrato) was already in England at Henry’s request, to attend a synod in London in November 1237. Henry informed Otho in advance of the September meeting at York, which he attended. This meeting was recorded by the contemporary chronicler Matthew Paris, who disparaged both Alexander and Otho. Paris’ false allegations against Alexander, portraying him as boorishly uncivil and aggressive, have been repeated uncritically in several historical accounts. In fact, Henry and Alexander had had a history of making agreements to settle one matter or another, and they were, by and large, cordial because the two had strong kinship ties. Alexander was married to Henry’s sister, Joan, and Alexander’s sister Margaret had married Hubert de Burgh, a former regent to Henry. On 13th August 1237 Henry advised Otho that he would meet Alexander at York to conclude a peace treaty. Their agreement was reached on 25th September “respecting all claims, or competent to, the latter, up to Friday next before Michaelmas A.D. 1237”.

The title of the agreement is Scriptum cirographatum inter Henricum Regem Anglie et Alexandrum Regem Scocie de comitatu Northumbrie Cumbrie et Westmerland factum coram Ottone Legato (Agreement written between Henry, king of England and Alexander, king of Scotland concerning the counties of Northumberland, Cumberland, and Westmoreland, done in the presence of papal legate Otto). The particulars of the agreement are as follows:

    The King of Scotland: quitclaims to the King of England his hereditary rights to the counties of Northumberland, Cumberland, and Westmorland; quitclaims 15,000 marks of silver paid by King William to King John for certain conventions not observed by the latter; and frees Henry from agreements regarding marriages between Henry and Richard, and Alexander’s sisters Margaret, Isabella, and Marjory.

    The King of England grants the King of Scotland certain lands within Northumberland and Cumberland, to be held by him and his successor kings of Scotland in feudal tenure with certain rights exempting them from obligations common in feudal relationships, and with the Scottish Steward sitting in Justice regarding certain issues that may arise, and these, too, are hereditary to the King of Scotland’s heirs, and regarding these the King of Scotland shall not be answerable to an English court of law in any suit.

    The King of Scotland makes his homage and fealty – de praedictis terris [in the aforementioned territories]

    Both kings respect previous writings not in conflict with this agreement, and any charters found regarding said counties to be restored to the King of England.

Older historians have shown little interest in the agreement, either mentioning it in passing or ignoring it altogether, and it still does not get much mileage in contemporary histories of relations between Scotland and England. Given that the treaty established a border that is still in effect 800 years later, you’d think it would have more prominence.  Undoubtedly, the problem rests in the fact that for hundreds of years England and Scotland were at each other’s throats, so that the location of the border between the two countries was of minor importance in comparison with the rivalry between them.

The waters are further muddied by the fact that the official chronicler Matthew Paris, (c. 1200–1259), who was known for his rhetorical passion and his invectives against those with whom he disagreed, did not like the participants for some reason. Paris describes the papal legate Otho in negative terms, as someone who was weak and timid in the face of strength but overbearing in his use of power over others, and as someone who avariciously accumulated a large amount of money. He describes Alexander and Henry as having a mutual hatred in 1236, with Alexander threatening to invade England. He describes the 1237 meeting at York as the result of Henry’s and Otho’s invitation to Alexander, and that when Otho expressed an interest in visiting Scotland, Alexander claimed no legate had ever visited Scotland and he would not allow it, and that if Otho did enter Scotland he should take care that harm does not befall him. Paris goes on to say that Alexander had become so excited in his hostility at the possibility of Otho’s visit to Scotland that a written agreement had to be drawn up concerning Otho’s visit.

There is nothing in contemporary primary sources to support Paris’ vituperative account, and it is contradicted by well-known facts regarding dates and correspondences, and by information concerning previous visits to Scotland by legates. Legates had visited Scotland in the reigns of Alexander’s father William I, his uncle Malcolm IV, and his grandfather David I, and Alexander himself had seen a papal legate hold a council at Perth for four days, making his alleged outrage and threats incongruous and highly improbable.

Despite the fact that Paris’ slanders are contradicted by the actual facts of the case, historians have frequently used them as reliable source material, and, hence, end up giving us a twisted analysis of Anglo-Scottish relations of the time.

Borders drawn on a map by treaty are a decided curiosity. The inhabitants on either side of the line owe their national allegiance to political centers that are typically quite a distance from the borderlands, yet they are often culturally more alike one another than different. Such is the case of the peoples divided by the Anglo-Scottish border. Their dialects are similar, their occupations are alike because of a shared geography, and their cuisines show more similarities than differences. So, what is a good dish to celebrate a border that divides people who are culturally alike? You might want to debate this question yourself, especially if you have more than a nodding acquaintance with English and Scottish cooking traditions. I’m going to go with the noble kipper, a type of smoked herring that is produced in ports on either side of the border: the same, yet different.

No one knows how kippering of herrings originated although there are many fanciful tales that have been invented over the years. Ports in both northern England and in Scotland claim to be their birthplace with little to no justification or historical support. Herrings are turned into kippers by splitting them open, gutting and salting them, and then curing them in wood smoke. If smoked long enough they turn red, giving them the old name “red herring,” which appears as early as the 13th century in a poem by the Anglo-Norman poet Walter of Bibbesworth: “He eteþ no ffyssh But heryng red.”

The harbor village of Craster in Northumberland is famed for Craster kippers, which are prepared in a local smokehouse, sold in the village shop and exported around the world. Likewise, the kippers from nearby Seahouses. On the other side of the border, kippers are produced in Dunbar and Eyemouth.  The herring used to make the kippers in these towns is all the same fish, but the resultant kippers are markedly different. Which is better is a matter of personal taste.

Kippers need to be poached or grilled before they are eaten, typically as a breakfast dish on either side of the border. I can’t say when the last time was that I had a kipper for breakfast, but my normal custom is to eat a whole fish, poached, with plenty of wholewheat bread and butter on the side. Some people like a fried egg in addition, but I find this habit to be a trifle overwhelming.

Sep 222018
 

Today is the birthday (1515) of Anne of Cleves (Anna von Kleve), fourth wife of Henry VIII of England. The marriage was declared unconsummated and, as a result, she was not crowned queen consort. Following the annulment, she was given a generous settlement by the King, and thereafter referred to as the King’s Beloved Sister. She lived to see the coronation of Queen Mary I, outliving the rest of Henry’s wives. Anne has suffered in popular history as the “Mare of Flanders” and is often characterized as so ugly that Henry got rid of her as soon as he could once he actually laid eyes on her. Like all popular history, this tale needs correcting.

Anne was born in Düsseldorf, the second daughter of John III of the House of La Marck, Duke of Jülich jure uxoris, Cleves, Berg jure uxoris, Count of Mark, also known as de la Marck and Ravensberg jure uxoris (often referred to as Duke of Cleves), and his wife Maria, Duchess of Julich-Berg (1491–1543). She grew up living in Schloss Burg on the edge of Solingen.

Anne’s father was influenced by Erasmus and followed a moderate path within the Reformation. He sided with the Schmalkaldic League and opposed Emperor Charles V. After John’s death, Anne’s brother William became Duke of Jülich-Cleves-Berg, bearing the promising epithet “The Rich”. In 1526, her elder sister Sibylle was married to John Frederick, Elector of Saxony, head of the Protestant Confederation of Germany and considered the “Champion of the Reformation”. At the age of 11 (1527), Anne was betrothed to Francis, son and heir of the Duke of Lorraine while he was only 10. Thus, the betrothal was considered unofficial and was cancelled in 1535. Her brother William was a Lutheran, but the family was unaligned religiously, with her mother described as a strict Catholic. The duke’s ongoing dispute over Gelderland with emperor Charles V made them suitable allies for England’s Henry VIII in the wake of the Truce of Nice. The match with Anne was urged on the king by his chief minister, Thomas Cromwell.

 

The artist Hans Holbein the Younger was dispatched to Duren to paint portraits of Anne and her younger sister, Amalia, each of whom Henry was considering as his fourth wife. Henry required the artist to be as accurate as possible, not to flatter the sisters. The two versions of Holbein’s portrait are in the Musée du Louvre in Paris and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Another 1539 portrait, by the school of Barthel Bruyn the Elder, is in the collection of Trinity College, Cambridge. Henry might have wished photography had been invented, but he would have been mistaken. Photography can mislead every bit as much as oil painting. From these paintings, Anne seems to look much like Henry’s other wives, maybe even prettier than some. But who knows what she was like in the flesh? Furthermore, attractiveness has as much to do with manner as with physical appearance, and there may have lain the issue for Henry.

Negotiations with Cleves were in full swing by March 1539. Cromwell oversaw the talks and a marriage treaty was signed on 4th October of that year. Henry valued education and cultural sophistication in women, but Anne lacked these. She had received no formal education but was skilled in needlework and liked playing card games. She could read and write, but only in German. Nevertheless, Anne was considered gentle and virtuous, as well as being easily manipulated, which seemed to make her a suitable candidate for Henry.

Anne was described by the French ambassador, Charles de Marillac, as tall and slim, “of middling beauty and of very assured and resolute countenance”. In the words of the chronicler Edward Hall, “Her hair hanging down, which was fair, yellow and long … she was apparelled after the English fashion, with a French hood, which so set forth her beauty and good visage, that every creature rejoiced to behold her”.She appeared rather solemn by English standards. Henry met her privately on New Year’s Day 1540 at Rochester Abbey in Rochester on her journey from Dover. Henry and some of his courtiers, following a courtly-love tradition, went disguised into the room where Anne was staying. Eustace Chapuys reported:

[The King] so went up into the chamber where the said Lady Anne was looking out of a window to see the bull-baiting which was going on in the courtyard, and suddenly he embraced and kissed her, and showed her a token which the king had sent her for New Year’s gift, and she being abashed and not knowing who it was thanked him, and so he spoke with her. But she regarded him little, but always looked out the window…. and when the king saw that she took so little notice of his coming he went into another chamber and took off his cloak and came in again in a coat of purple velvet. And when the lords and knights saw his grace they did him reverence.

Although Anne reportedly “regarded him little” it is unknown if she knew this was the king or not. Henry did reveal his true identity to Anne at the time, although he is said to have been soured on the marriage from then on. Henry and Anne met officially on 3rd January on Blackheath outside the gates of Greenwich Park, where a grand reception was laid out. Most historians believe that he later used Anne’s alleged unattractiveness and failure to inspire him to consummate the marriage as excuses, saying he felt he had been misled: “She is nothing so fair as she hath been reported”, he complained. Cromwell received some of the blame for the portrait by Holbein which Henry believed had not been an accurate representation of Anne and for some of the exaggerated reports of her beauty. The marriage was never consummated.

Henry urged Cromwell to find a legal way to avoid the marriage but, by this point, doing so was impossible without endangering the vital alliance with the Germans. In his anger and frustration the king finally turned on Cromwell, who had been a loyal subordinate in all matters. Cromwell’s enemies, who had long waited for him to make his first false step, began to close in.

Despite Henry’s very vocal misgivings, the two were married on 6th January 1540 at the royal Palace of Placentia in Greenwich by archbishop Thomas Cranmer. The phrase “God send me well to keep” was engraved around Anne’s wedding ring. Immediately after arriving in England, Anne conformed to the Anglican form of worship, which Henry expected. The couple’s first night as husband and wife was not pleasant. Henry confided to Cromwell that he had not consummated the marriage, saying, “I liked her before not well, but now I like her much worse.” In February 1540, speaking to the Countess of Rutland, Anne praised the King as a kind husband, saying: “When he comes to bed he kisseth me, and he taketh me by the hand, and biddeth me ‘Good night, sweetheart’; and in the morning kisseth me and biddeth ‘Farewell, darling.'” Lady Rutland responded: “Madam, there must be more than this, or it will be long ere we have a duke of York, which all this realm most desireth.”

Anne was commanded to leave the Court on 24th June, and on 6th July she was informed of her husband’s decision to reconsider the marriage. Witness statements were taken from a number of courtiers and two physicians registering the king’s disappointment at her appearance. Henry had also commented to Thomas Heneage and Anthony Denny that he could not believe she was a virgin. Shortly afterwards, Anne was asked for her consent to an annulment, to which she agreed. Cromwell, the moving force behind the marriage, was attainted for treason. The marriage was annulled on 9th July 1540, on the grounds of non-consummation and her pre-contract to Francis of Lorraine. Henry VIII’s physician stated that after the wedding night, Henry said he was not impotent because he experienced “duas pollutiones nocturnas in somno” (two nocturnal pollutions (ejaculations) while in sleep). On 28th July, Henry married his fifth wife, Catherine Howard. On the same day Thomas Cromwell was executed, in theory for treason, but in practice as a scapegoat for the doomed German marriage.

Anne, as former queen, received a generous settlement, including Richmond Palace, and Hever Castle, home of Henry’s former in-laws, the Boleyns. Anne of Cleves House, in Lewes, East Sussex, is just one of many properties she owned although she never lived there. Henry and Anne became good friends—she was an honorary member of the king’s family and was referred to as “the King’s Beloved Sister”. She was invited to court often and, out of gratitude for her not contesting the annulment, Henry decreed that she would be given precedence over all women in England save his own wife and daughters.

After Catherine Howard was beheaded, Anne and her brother, the Duke of Cleves, pressed the king to remarry Anne. Henry quickly refused to do so. Anne seems to have disliked Catherine Parr, and reportedly reacted to the news of Henry’s sixth marriage with the remark “Madam Parr is taking a great burden on herself.” In March 1547, Edward VI’s Privy Council asked Anne to move out of Bletchingley Palace, her usual residence, to Penshurst Place to make way for Thomas Cawarden, Master of Revels. They pointed out that Penshurst was nearer to Hever and the move had been Henry VIII’s will.

On 4th August 1553, Anne wrote to Mary I to congratulate her on her marriage to Philip of Spain. On 28th  September 1553, when Mary left St James’s Palace for Whitehall, she was accompanied by her sister Elizabeth and Anne of Cleves. Anne also took part in Mary I’s coronation procession, and may have been present at her coronation at Westminster Abbey. These were her last public appearances. Because Mary was a strict Catholic, Anne yet again changed religion, now becoming a Roman Catholic. After a brief return to prominence, she lost royal favor in 1554, following Wyatt’s rebellion. According to Simon Renard, the imperial ambassador, Anne’s close association with Elizabeth had convinced the Queen that “the Lady [Anne] of Cleves was of the plot and intrigued with the Duke of Cleves to obtain help for Elizabeth: matters in which the king of France was the prime mover.” There is no evidence that Anne was invited back to court after 1554. She was compelled to live a quiet and obscure life on her estates. From the time of her arrival as the king’s bride, Anne never left England. Despite occasional feelings of homesickness, Anne was generally content in England and was described by Holinshed as “a ladie of right commendable regards, courteous, gentle, a good housekeeper and verie bountifull to her servants.”

When Anne’s health began to fail, Mary allowed her to live at Chelsea Old Manor, where Henry’s last wife, Catherine Parr, had lived after her remarriage. Here, in the middle of July 1557, Anne dictated her last will. In it, she mentions her brother, sister, and sister-in-law, as well as the future queen Elizabeth, the duchess of Suffolk, and the countess of Arundel. She left some money to her servants and asked Mary and Elizabeth to employ them in their households. She was remembered by everyone who served her as a particularly generous and easy-going mistress.

Anne died at Chelsea Old Manor on 16th July 1557, eight weeks before her forty-second birthday. The most likely cause of her death was cancer. She was buried in Westminster Abbey, on 3 August, in what has been described as a “somewhat hard to find tomb” on the opposite side of Edward the Confessor’s shrine and slightly above eye level for a person of average height. She is the only wife of Henry VIII to be buried in the Abbey.

Anne’s epitaph in Westminster Abbey, which is in English, reads simply:

ANNE OF CLEVES

QUEEN OF ENGLAND

BORN 1515 * DIED 1557

Anne has the distinction of being the last of Henry VIII’s wives to die, as she outlived Henry’s last wife, Catherine Parr, by 9 years. She was not the longest-lived, however, since Catherine of Aragon was 50 at the time of her death.

I’ve covered various Tudors in my posts over the years and accompanied the posts with English Tudor recipes which you may search for if you are so inclined. Instead I will take a look at apfelkraut which originated in the northern Rhineland, although these days it is an apple spread (above), much like the apple butter of the US. Originally it was a fermented mix of apples and cabbage, which was then cooked with other ingredients. I cannot claim that this recipe is close to the 16th century version, but it is complex and tasty, and makes a good accompaniment for meat. It is something of a rigmarole to make. You need to start at least 4 weeks before you plan to serve it.

Apfelkraut

Ingredients

Sauerkraut

8 lb cabbage
3 tart apples, peeled, cored, and diced
¼ lb kosher or pickling salt
1 tsp caraway seeds

Apfelkraut

4 strips bacon
1 onion, peeled and chopped
3 cooking apples, peeled, cored and quartered
½ cup chicken broth
½ cup dry white wine
2 potatoes, finely grated
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp brown sugar

Instructions

Begin this process at least 4 weeks, and up to 6 weeks before serving. Begin by making sauerkraut.

Sauerkraut

Remove 2 or 3 of the tougher outer leaves from each cabbage and set them aside. Cut the cabbages in half and slice them very fine by hand or with a shredder or mandolin. In a large bowl, mix the cabbage with the salt, caraway and apples.

Line a gallon ceramic crock with the outer cabbage leaves, saving a few to cover the top. Put in a quarter of the cabbage mixture and tamp it down with a heavy clean object like the bottom of a wine bottle. Repeat until all the cabbage is in. From the tamping, sufficient brine should be released to cover the cabbage. Cover the cabbage with the remaining leaves. The cabbage will swell while fermenting, so it should not reach all the way to the top. Lay a plastic bag or a cloth over the leaves. Cover with a plate and then a weight, such as a heavy can or jar of water, to keep the cabbage under the brine and out of the air.

The cabbage will take anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks to ferment (below 75°F, 4 to 6 weeks; above 75°F, 2 to 3 weeks). Every few days, remove the scum from the top of the brine, replace the plastic bag or cloth, wash the plate and the rim of the crock, and return the plate and weight. When the bubbling stops, fermentation is complete. Cover the crock lightly and store in a cool (38°F) place, or refrigerate. Rinse the cabbage before using.

Apfelkraut

Sauté the bacon in a dry skillet over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan and drain. Pour off all but 4 tablespoons fat. Add the onion and sauté over medium heat until translucent. Rinse the sauerkraut, drain well, and stir into the onion. Cover the pan and simmer 10 minutes.

Add the apples, broth, wine, potatoes, vinegar and sugar. Return to the simmer and simmer gently until the apples and potatoes are tender but not mushy (10 to 20 minutes). Serve warm.

Sep 212018
 

Today is the birthday (1866) of Herbert George “H G” Wells an English writer who was prolific in many genres: novels, short stories, and works of social commentary, satire, biography, and autobiography, including even two books on war games. He is now best remembered for his science fiction novels and is often called a “father of science fiction” along with Jules Verne and Hugo Gernsback. During his own lifetime, however, he was most prominent as a forward-looking, even prophetic, social critic who devoted his writing to the development of a progressive vision on a global scale. He wrote a number of utopian works and foresaw the advent of aircraft, tanks, space travel, nuclear weapons, satellite television and something resembling the World Wide Web. His science fiction imagined time travel, alien invasion, invisibility, and biological engineering.  His most notable science fiction works include The Time Machine (1895), The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897), The War of the Worlds (1898) and The War in the Air (1907). He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature four times.

Wells was born at Atlas House, 162 High Street in Bromley in Kent. He was the fourth and last child of Joseph Wells (a former domestic gardener, and at the time a shopkeeper and professional cricketer) and his wife, Sarah Neal (a former domestic servant). An inheritance had allowed the family to acquire a shop in which they sold china and sporting goods, although it failed to prosper: the stock was old and worn out, and the location was poor. Joseph Wells managed to earn a meagre income, but little of it came from the shop and he received an unsteady amount of money from playing professional cricket for the Kent county team. Payment for skilled bowlers and batsmen came from voluntary donations afterwards, or from small payments from the clubs where matches were played.

A defining incident of young Wells’s life was an accident in 1874 that left him bedridden with a broken leg. To pass the time he began to read books from the local library, brought to him by his father. He soon became devoted to the other worlds and lives to which books gave him access; they also stimulated his desire to write. Later that year he entered Thomas Morley’s Commercial Academy, a private school founded in 1849, following the bankruptcy of Morley’s earlier school. The teaching was erratic, the curriculum mostly focused, Wells later said, on producing copperplate handwriting and doing the sort of sums useful to tradesmen. Wells continued at Morley’s Academy until 1880. In 1877, his father, Joseph Wells, suffered a fractured thigh. The accident effectively put an end to Joseph’s career as a cricketer, and his subsequent earnings as a shopkeeper were not enough to compensate for the loss of the primary source of family income.

Wells spent the winter of 1887/88 convalescing at Uppark, where his mother, Sarah, was housekeeper. No longer able to support themselves financially, the family instead sought to place their sons as apprentices in various occupations. From 1880 to 1883, Wells had an unhappy apprenticeship as a draper at the Southsea Drapery Emporium, Hyde’s. His experiences at Hyde’s, where he worked a thirteen-hour day and slept in a dormitory with other apprentices, later inspired his novels The Wheels of Chance, The History of Mr Polly, and Kipps, which portray the life of a draper’s apprentice as well as providing a critique of society’s distribution of wealth.

In October 1879, Wells’s mother arranged through a distant relative, Arthur Williams, for him to join the National School at Wookey in Somerset as a pupil–teacher, a senior pupil who acted as a teacher of younger children. In December that year, however, Williams was dismissed for irregularities in his qualifications and Wells was returned to Uppark. After a short apprenticeship at a chemist in nearby Midhurst and an even shorter stay as a boarder at Midhurst Grammar School, he signed his apprenticeship papers at Hyde’s. In 1883, Wells persuaded his parents to release him from the apprenticeship, taking an opportunity offered by Midhurst Grammar School again to become a pupil–teacher; his proficiency in Latin and science during his earlier short stay had been remembered. The years he spent in Southsea had been the most miserable of his life to that point, but his good fortune at securing a position at Midhurst Grammar School meant that Wells could continue his self-education. The following year, Wells won a scholarship to the Normal School of Science (later the Royal College of Science in South Kensington, now part of Imperial College London) in London, studying biology under Thomas Henry Huxley. As an alumnus, he later helped to set up the Royal College of Science Association, of which he became the first president in 1909.

Wells studied in his new school until 1887, with a weekly allowance of one guinea thanks to his scholarship. This ought to have been a comfortable sum of money (1 pound per week was common for entire working class families to live on at the time), yet in his Experiment in Autobiography, Wells speaks of constantly being hungry, and indeed photographs of him at the time show he was thin and undernourished. He soon entered the Debating Society of the school. These years mark the beginning of his interest in a possible reformation of society. At first approaching the subject through Plato’s Republic, he soon turned to contemporary ideas of socialism as expressed by the recently formed Fabian Society and free lectures delivered at Kelmscott House, the home of William Morris. He was also among the founders of The Science School Journal, a school magazine that allowed him to express his views on literature and society, as well as trying his hand at fiction; a precursor to his novel The Time Machine was published in the journal under the title The Chronic Argonauts. The school year 1886–87 was the last year of his studies.

During 1888, Wells stayed in Stoke-on-Trent, living in Basford. The unique environment of The Potteries was inspiring. He wrote in a letter to a friend from the area that “the district made an immense impression on me.” The idea for some of his descriptions in The War of the Worlds is thought to have come from his short time spent here, seeing the iron foundry furnaces burn over the city, shooting huge red light into the skies. His stay in The Potteries also resulted in the macabre short story “The Cone” (1895, contemporaneous with his famous The Time Machine), set in the north of the city.

After teaching for some time, he was briefly on the staff of Holt Academy in Wales. Wells found it necessary to supplement his knowledge relating to educational principles and methodology and entered the College of Preceptors (College of Teachers). He later received his Licentiate and Fellowship FCP diplomas from the College. It was not until 1890 that Wells earned a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology from the University of London External Programme. In 1889–90, he managed to find a post as a teacher at Henley House School, where he taught A. A. Milne. His first published work was a Text-Book of Biology in two volumes (1893).

Upon leaving the Normal School of Science, Wells was left without a source of income. His aunt Mary—his father’s sister-in-law—invited him to stay with her for a while, which solved his immediate problem of accommodation. During his stay at his aunt’s residence, he grew increasingly interested in her daughter, Isabel. He would later go on to court her. To earn money, he began writing short humorous articles for journals such as The Pall Mall Gazette, later collecting these in volume form as Select Conversations with an Uncle (1895) and Certain Personal Matters (1897). His success with these shorter pieces encouraged him to write book-length work, and he published his first novel, The Time Machine, in 1895.

Some of his early novels, called “scientific romances”, invented several themes now classic in science fiction in such works as The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Invisible Man, The War of the Worlds, When the Sleeper Wakes, and The First Men in the Moon. He also wrote realistic novels that received critical acclaim, including Kipps and a critique of English culture during the Edwardian period, Tono-Bungay. Wells also wrote dozens of short stories and novellas, including, “The Flowering of the Strange Orchid”, which helped bring the full impact of Darwin’s revolutionary botanical ideas to a wider public, and was followed by many later successes such as “The Country of the Blind” (1904).

One of Wells’s major contributions to the science fiction genre was his approach, which he referred to as his “new system of ideas”. In his opinion, the author should always strive to make the story as credible as possible, even if both the writer and the reader knew certain elements are impossible, allowing the reader to accept the ideas as something that could really happen, today referred to as “the plausible impossible” and “suspension of disbelief”. While neither invisibility nor time travel was new in speculative fiction, Wells added a sense of realism to the concepts which the readers were not familiar with. He conceived the idea of using a vehicle that allows an operator to travel purposely and selectively forwards or backwards in time. The term “time machine”, coined by Wells, is now almost universally used to refer to such a vehicle. He explained that while writing The Time Machine, he realized that “the more impossible the story I had to tell, the more ordinary must be the setting, and the circumstances in which I now set the Time Traveller were all that I could imagine of solid upper-class comforts.” In “Wells’s Law”, a science fiction story should contain only a single extraordinary assumption. Being aware that magic as something which people thought of as real had disappeared from society, he used scientific ideas and theories as a substitute for magic to justify the impossible. Wells’s best-known statement of the “law” appears in his introduction to The Scientific Romances of H.G. Wells (1933),

 

As soon as the magic trick has been done the whole business of the fantasy writer is to keep everything else human and real. Touches of prosaic detail are imperative and a rigorous adherence to the hypothesis. Any extra fantasy outside the cardinal assumption immediately gives a touch of irresponsible silliness to the invention.

Many of Wells’s books have been adapted for film and television either directly or indirectly, and his characters and inventions have had an enduring popularity. Time machines and invisible men pop up all over the place. Wells also wrote non-fiction. His first non-fiction bestseller was Anticipations of the Reaction of Mechanical and Scientific Progress upon Human Life and Thought (1901). When originally serialized in a magazine it was subtitled, “An Experiment in Prophecy”, and is considered his most explicitly futuristic work. It offered the immediate political message of the privileged sections of society continuing to bar capable people from other classes from advancement until war would force a need to employ those most able, rather than the traditional upper classes, as leaders. Anticipating what the world would be like in the year 2000, the book is interesting both for its hits (trains and cars resulting in the dispersion of populations from cities to suburbs; moral restrictions declining as men and women seek greater sexual freedom; the defeat of German militarism, and the existence of a European Union) and its misses (he did not expect successful aircraft before 1950, and averred that “my imagination refuses to see any sort of submarine doing anything but suffocate its crew and founder at sea”).

His bestselling two-volume work, The Outline of History (1920), began a new era of popularized world history. It received a mixed critical response from professional historians. However, it was very popular amongst the general population and made Wells rich. Many other authors followed with “Outlines” of their own in other subjects. He reprised his Outline in 1922 with a much shorter popular work, A Short History of the World, a history book praised by Albert Einstein, and two long efforts, The Science of Life (1930) and The Work, Wealth and Happiness of Mankind (1931). The “Outlines” became sufficiently common for James Thurber to parody the trend in his humorous essay, “An Outline of Scientists.

From quite early in Wells’s career, he sought a better way to organize society and wrote a number of Utopian novels. The first of these was A Modern Utopia (1905), which shows a worldwide utopia with “no imports but meteorites, and no exports at all. Two travelers from our world fall into its alternate history. The others usually begin with the world rushing to catastrophe, until people realize a better way of living: whether by mysterious gases from a comet causing people to behave rationally and abandoning a European war (In the Days of the Comet (1906)), or a world council of scientists taking over, as in The Shape of Things to Come (1933, which he later adapted for the 1936 Alexander Korda film, Things to Come). This depicted, all too accurately, the impending World War, with cities being destroyed by aerial bombs. He also portrayed the rise of fascist dictators in The Autocracy of Mr Parham (1930) and The Holy Terror (1939). Men Like Gods (1923) is also a utopian novel. Wells in this period was regarded as an enormously influential figure. The critic Malcolm Cowley stated: “by the time he was forty, his influence was wider than any other living English writer”.

Not all his scientific romances ended in a Utopia, and Wells also wrote a dystopian novel, When the Sleeper Wakes (1899, rewritten as The Sleeper Awakes, 1910), which pictures a future society where the classes have become more and more separated, leading to a revolt of the masses against the rulers. The Island of Doctor Moreau is even darker. The narrator, having been trapped on an island of animals vivisected (unsuccessfully) into human beings, eventually returns to England; like Gulliver on his return from the Houyhnhnms, he finds himself unable to shake off the perceptions of his fellow humans as barely civilized beasts, slowly reverting to their animal natures.

Prior to 1933, Wells’s books were widely read in Germany and Austria, and most of his science fiction works had been translated shortly after publication. By 1933, he had attracted the attention of German officials because of his criticism of the political situation in Germany, and on 10 May 1933, Wells’s books were burned by the Nazi youth in Berlin’s Opernplatz, and his works were banned from libraries and book stores. Near the end of the World War II, Allied forces discovered that the SS had compiled lists of people slated for immediate arrest during the invasion of Britain in the abandoned Operation Sea Lion, with Wells included.

Wells visited Russia three times: 1914, 1920 and 1934. During his second visit, he saw his old friend Maxim Gorky and with Gorky’s help, met Vladimir Lenin. In his book Russia in the Shadows, Wells portrayed Russia as recovering from a total social collapse, “the completest that has ever happened to any modern social organisation.” On 23rd July 1934, after visiting U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Wells went to the Soviet Union and interviewed Joseph Stalin for three hours for the New Statesman magazine, which was extremely rare at that time. He told Stalin how he had seen ‘the happy faces of healthy people’ in contrast with his previous visit to Moscow in 1920. However, he also criticized the lawlessness, class-based discrimination, state violence, and absence of free expression. Stalin enjoyed the conversation and replied accordingly. As the chairman of the London-based PEN Club, which protected the rights of authors to write without being intimidated, Wells hoped by his trip to USSR, he could win Stalin over by force of argument. Before he left, he realized that no reform was to happen in the near future.

Wells’s literary reputation declined as he spent his later years promoting causes that were rejected by most of his contemporaries as well as by younger authors whom he had previously influenced. In this connection, George Orwell described Wells as “too sane to understand the modern world.”

Wells died of unspecified causes on 13th August 1946, aged 79, at his home at 13 Hanover Terrace, overlooking Regent’s Park, London. In his preface to the 1941 edition of The War in the Air, Wells had stated that his epitaph should be: “I told you so. You damned fools”. This is thought to be a reference to the two atomic bombs the United States dropped on Japan the year before to end World War II, the long-ranging effects of which he warned readers about in “The World Set Free”. Wells’ body was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium on 16th August 1946. His ashes were subsequently scattered into the English Channel at “Old Harry Rocks”.

Here’s a suitably Victorian recipe from Beeton:

VENERATION FOR EGGS.—Many of the most learned philosophers held eggs in a kind of respect, approaching to veneration, because they saw in them the emblem of the world and the four elements. The shell, they said, represented the earth; the white, water; the yolk, fire; and air was found under the shell at one end of the egg.

EGGS A LA MAITRE D’HOTEL.

  1. INGREDIENTS.—1/4 lb. of fresh butter, 1 tablespoonful of flour, 1/2 pint of milk, pepper and salt to taste, 1 tablespoonful of minced parsley, the juice of 1/2 lemon, 6 eggs.

Mode.—Put the flour and half the butter into a stewpan; stir them over the fire until the mixture thickens; pour in the milk, which should be boiling; add a seasoning of pepper and salt, and simmer the whole for 5 minutes. Put the remainder of the butter into the sauce, and add the minced parsley; then boil the eggs hard, strip off the shells, cut the eggs into quarters, and put them on a dish. Bring the sauce to the boiling-point, add the lemon-juice, pour over the eggs, and serve.

Time.—5 minutes to boil the sauce; the eggs, 10 to 15 minutes.

 Posted by at 8:52 pm
Aug 302018
 

The 18th-century English landscape gardener, Lancelot “Capability” Brown was baptized on this date in 1716. His date of birth is unknown. He designed over 170 parks for estates, many of which still survive in mature form. He was nicknamed “Capability” because he would tell his clients that their property had “capability” for improvement.

Brown was the fifth child of a land agent and chambermaid, born in the village of Kirkharle Northumberland, and educated at a school in Cambo until he was 16. Brown’s father William Brown had been Sir William Loraine’s land agent and his mother Ursula (née Hall) had been in service at Kirkharle Hall. His eldest brother John became the estate surveyor and later married Sir William’s daughter. Elder brother George became a mason-architect. After school, Brown worked as the head gardener’s apprentice in Sir William Loraine’s kitchen garden at Kirkharle Hall until he was 23. In 1739 he moved south to the port of Boston in Lincolnshire, then to Kiddington Hall in Oxfordshire where he received his first landscape commission for a new lake in the park. He then moved to Wotton Underwood House in Buckinghamshire, seat of Sir Richard Grenville.

In 1741, Brown joined Lord Cobham’s gardening staff as undergardener at Stowe in Buckinghamshire, where he worked under William Kent, one of the founders of the new English style of landscape gardening. At the age of 26 he was officially appointed as the head gardener in 1742. Brown was the head gardener at Stowe from 1742 to 1750. He made the Grecian Valley at Stowe, which is an abstract composition of landform and woodland (with a fake Greek temple on a hill. Lord Cobham let Brown take freelance commission work from his aristocratic friends, thus making him well known as a landscape gardener. As a proponent of the new English style, Brown became immensely sought after by the landed families. By 1751, when Brown was beginning to be widely known, Horace Walpole wrote of Brown’s work at Warwick Castle:

The castle is enchanting; the view pleased me more than I can express, the River Avon tumbles down a cascade at the foot of it. It is well laid out by one Brown who has set up on a few ideas of Kent and Mr. Southcote.

By the 1760s, he was earning on average £6,000 (equivalent to £753,000 in 2016) a year, usually £500 (equivalent to £62,700 in 2016) for one commission. As an accomplished rider he was able to work fast, taking only an hour or so on horseback to survey an estate and rough out an entire design. In 1764, Brown was appointed king George III’s master gardener at Hampton Court Palace, succeeding John Greening and residing at the Wilderness House. In 1767 he bought an estate for himself at Fenstanton in Huntingdonshire from the Earl of Northampton and was appointed High Sheriff of Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire for 1770, although his son Lance carried out most of the duties.

It is estimated that Brown was responsible for over 170 gardens surrounding the finest country houses and estates in Britain. His work still endures at Croome Court (where he also designed the house), Blenheim Palace, Warwick Castle, Harewood House, Appuldurcombe House, Milton Abbey (and nearby Milton Abbas village), in traces at Kew Gardens and many other locations. His style of smooth undulating grass, which would run straight to the house, clumps, belts and scattering of trees and his serpentine lakes formed by invisibly damming small rivers, were a new style within the English landscape, a “gardenless” form of landscape gardening, which swept away almost all the remnants of previous formally patterned styles.

His landscapes were at the forefront of fashion in his day. They were fundamentally different from what they replaced, the well-known formal gardens of England which were criticized by Alexander Pope and others from the beginning of the 18th century. Starting in 1719, William Kent replaced these with more naturalistic compositions, which reached their greatest refinement in Brown’s landscapes.

Perhaps Brown’s sternest critic was his contemporary Uvedale Price, who likened Brown’s clumps of trees to “so many puddings turned out of one common mould.” Russell Page, who began his career in the Brownian landscape of Longleat but whose own designs have formal structure, accused Brown of “encouraging his wealthy clients to tear out their splendid formal gardens and replace them with his facile compositions of grass, tree clumps and rather shapeless pools and lakes.” Richard Owen Cambridge, the English poet and satirical author, declared that he hoped to die before Brown so that he could “see heaven before it was ‘improved’.” This was a typical statement reflecting the controversy about Brown’s work, which has continued over the last 200 years. By contrast, a recent historian and author, Richard Bisgrove, described Brown’s process as perfecting nature by

judicious manipulation of its components, adding a tree here or a concealed head of water there. His art attended to the formal potential of ground, water, trees and so gave to English landscape its ideal forms. The difficulty was that less capable imitators and less sophisticated spectators did not see nature perfected… they saw simply what they took to be nature.

This deftness of touch was recognized in his own day; one anonymous obituary writer opined: “Such, however, was the effect of his genius that when he was the happiest man, he will be least remembered; so closely did he copy nature that his works will be mistaken.” In 1772, Sir William Chambers (though he did not mention Brown by name) complained that the “new manner” of gardens “differ very little from common fields, so closely is vulgar nature copied in most of them.”

Brown’s essays in the field of architecture were a natural outgrowth of his unified picture of the English country house in its setting. Brown’s work as an architect is overshadowed by his great reputation as a designer of landscapes. Brown’s first country house project was the remodeling of Croome Court in Worcestershire, (1751–52) for the 6th earl of Coventry, in which he most likely followed sketches by the gentleman amateur Sanderson Miller. Fisherwick in Staffordshire, Redgrave Hall in Suffolk, and Claremont, Surrey, were classical, while at Corsham his outbuildings are in a Gothic vein. Gothic stable blocks and decorative outbuildings, arches and garden features constituted many of his designs. From 1771 he was assisted in the technical aspects by the master builder Henry Holland, and by Henry’s son Henry Holland the architect, whose initial career Brown supported; the younger Holland was increasingly Brown’s full collaborator and became Brown’s son-in-law in 1773.

Brown’s reputation declined rapidly after his death, because the English landscape style did not convey the dramatic conflict and awesome power of wild nature. The landscapes lacked the “sublime” thrill which members of the Romantic generation (such as Richard Payne Knight and Uvedale Price) looked for in their ideal landscape. During the 19th century he was widely criticized, but during the 20th century his reputation rose again.

In 1768 he purchased the manor of Fenstanton in Huntingdonshire in East Anglia for ₤13,000 from Lord Northampton. This came with two manor houses, two villages and 2,668 acres of land. The property stayed in the family until it was sold in lots in 1870s and 1880s. Ownership of the property allowed Brown to stand for and serve as High Sheriff of Huntingdonshire from 1770 to 1771. He continued to work and travel until his sudden collapse and death on 6 February 1783, on the doorstep of his daughter Bridget Holland’s house, at 6 Hertford Street, London while returning after a night out at Lord Coventry’s.

Horace Walpole wrote to Lady Ossory: “Your dryads must go into black gloves, Madam, their father-in-law, Lady Nature’s second husband, is dead!” Brown was buried in the churchyard of St. Peter and St. Paul, the parish church of Brown’s small estate at Fenstanton Manor. He left an estate of approximately ₤40,000, which included property in Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire and Lincolnshire. Brown sent two of his sons to Eton. One of them, Lancelot Brown the younger, became the MP for Huntingdon. His son John joined the Royal Navy and rose to become an admiral.

On Brown’s tricentennial Doddington Dairy in Northumberland – Brown’s birthplace – created a special cheese in his honor, as well as a rhubarb ice cream made from heirloom variety rhubarb. If you fancy a quick trip to Northumbria you can nab some cheese to celebrate. Otherwise here is an 18th century recipe, taken from A Collection of above Three Hundred Receipts in Cookery, Physick and Surgery by Mary Kettilby and others (2nd ed. 1719)

The best Orange-Pudding that ever was tasted

PARE the Yellow Rind of two fair Sevil- Oranges, so very thin that no part of the White comes with it; shred and beat it extremely small in a large Stone Mortar; add to it when very fine, half a pound of Butter, half a pound of Sugar, and the Yolks of sixteen Eggs; beat all together in the Mortar ‘till ‘tis all of a Colour; then pour it into your Dish in which you have laid a Sheet of Puff-paste. I think Grating the Peel saves Trouble, and does it finer and thinner than you can shred or beat it: But you must beat up the Butter and Sugar with it, and the Eggs with all, to mix them well.