Jan 252016
 

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Today is the birthday (1882) of Adeline Virginia Woolf (née Stephen), an English writer who was one of the foremost modernists of the early 20th century. During the interwar period, Woolf was a significant figure in London literary society and a central figure in the influential Bloomsbury Group. Her most famous works include the novels Mrs Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927) and Orlando (1928), and the book-length essay A Room of One’s Own (1929), with its famous dictum, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”

Woolf was educated by her parents in their literate and well-connected household. Her parents had each been married previously and been widowed, and, consequently, the household contained the children of three marriages. Her mother, Julia, had three children by her first husband, Herbert Duckworth: George, Stella, and Gerald Duckworth. Her father, Leslie Stephen, had first married Harriet Marian (Minny) Thackeray (1840–1875), the daughter of William Thackeray, and they had one daughter: Laura Makepeace Stephen, who was declared mentally disabled and lived with the family until she was institutionalized in 1891. Leslie and Julia had four children together: Vanessa (later known as Vanessa Bell) (1879), Thoby (1880), Virginia (1882), and Adrian (1883).

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Leslie Stephen’s eminence as an editor, critic, and biographer, and his connection to William Thackeray, meant that his children were raised in an environment filled with the influences of Victorian literary society. Henry James, George Henry Lewes, and Virginia’s honorary godfather, James Russell Lowell, were among the visitors to the house. Julia Stephen was equally well connected. She came from a family of beauties who left their mark on Victorian society as models for Pre-Raphaelite artists and early photographers, including her aunt Julia Margaret Cameron who was also a visitor to the Stephen household. Supplementing these influences was the immense library at the Stephens’ house, from which Virginia and Vanessa were taught the classics and English literature. Unlike the girls, their brothers Adrian and Julian (Thoby) were formally educated and sent to Cambridge, a difference that Virginia would resent. The sisters did, however, benefit indirectly from their brothers’ Cambridge contacts, as the boys often brought their new intellectual friends home.

According to Woolf’s memoirs, her most vivid childhood memories were not of London but of St Ives, Cornwall, where the family spent every summer until 1895. The Stephens’ summer home, Talland House, looked out over Porthminster Bay, and is still standing, though somewhat altered. Memories of these family holidays and impressions of the landscape, especially the Godrevy Lighthouse, informed the fiction Woolf wrote in later years, most notably To the Lighthouse.

The sudden death of her mother in 1895, when Virginia was 13, and that of her half-sister Stella two years later, led to the first of Virginia’s several nervous breakdowns. She was, however, able to take courses of study (some at degree level) in Ancient Greek, Latin, German and history at the Ladies’ Department of King’s College London between 1897 and 1901. This brought her into contact with some of the early reformers of women’s higher education such as the principal of the Ladies’ Department, Lilian Faithfull (one of the so-called Steamboat ladies), Clara Pater (sister of the more famous Walter, George Warr. Her sister Vanessa also studied Latin, Italian, art and architecture at King’s Ladies’ Department.

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The death of her father in 1904 provoked a serious mental crisis and she was briefly institutionalized. Modern scholars (including her nephew and biographer, Quentin Bell) have suggested her breakdowns and subsequent recurring depressive periods were influenced by the sexual abuse to which she and her sister Vanessa were subjected by their half-brothers George and Gerald Duckworth (which Woolf recalls in her autobiographical essays A Sketch of the Past and 22 Hyde Park Gate).

Throughout her life, Woolf was plagued by periodic mood swings and associated illnesses. She spent three short periods in 1910, 1912 and 1913 at Burley House, 15 Cambridge Park, Twickenham, described as “a private nursing home for women with nervous disorder.” Though this instability often affected her social life, her literary productivity continued with few breaks throughout her life.

After the death of their father and Virginia’s second nervous breakdown, Vanessa and Adrian sold 22 Hyde Park Gate and bought a house at 46 Gordon Square in Bloomsbury. Woolf came to know Lytton Strachey, Clive Bell, Rupert Brooke, Saxon Sydney-Turner, Duncan Grant, Leonard Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, David Garnett, and Roger Fry, who together formed the nucleus of the intellectual circle of writers and artists known as the Bloomsbury Group. In 1907 Vanessa married Clive Bell, and the couple’s interest in modern art had an important influence on Woolf’s development as an author.

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Virginia married the writer Leonard Woolf on 10 August 1912. Despite his low material status (Woolf referring to Leonard during their engagement as a “penniless Jew”) the couple shared a close bond. She wrote at the time:

First he is a Jew; second he is 31; third, he spent 7 years in Ceylon, governing natives, inventing ploughs, shooting tigers, and did so well that they offered him a very high place, which he refused, wishing to marry me, and gave up his entire career there on the chance that I would agree. He has no money of his own… but from the first I have found him the one person to talk to.

We analyse each other’s idiosyncrasies in the light of psycho-analysis walking round the square. My reports, however, are apt to twist up into balls what is really amicable, serious, disinterested, and almost wholly affectionate. It’s true that Leonard sees my faults.

The two also collaborated professionally, in 1917 founding the Hogarth Press, which subsequently published Virginia’s novels along with works by T. S. Eliot, Laurens van der Post, and translations of Freud’s works. The Press also commissioned works by contemporary artists, including Dora Carrington and Vanessa Bell.

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The ethos of the Bloomsbury group encouraged a liberal approach to sexuality, and in 1922 Virginia met the writer and landscape gardener Vita Sackville-West, wife of Harold Nicolson. After a tentative start, they began a sexual relationship, which, according to Sackville-West in a letter to her husband dated August 17, 1926, was only twice consummated. However, Virginia’s intimacy with Vita seems to have continued into the early 1930s. In 1928, Woolf presented Sackville-West with Orlando, a fantastical biography in which the eponymous hero’s life spans three centuries and both sexes. Nigel Nicolson, Vita Sackville-West’s son, wrote, “The effect of Vita on Virginia is all contained in Orlando, the longest and most charming love letter in literature, in which she explores Vita, weaves her in and out of the centuries, tosses her from one sex to the other, plays with her, dresses her in furs, lace and emeralds, teases her, flirts with her, drops a veil of mist around her.”

Woolf began writing professionally in 1900, initially for the Times Literary Supplement with a journalistic piece about Haworth, home of the Brontë family. Her first novel, The Voyage Out, was published in 1915 by her half-brother’s imprint, Gerald Duckworth and Company Ltd. Woolf went on to publish novels and essays to both critical and popular success. Much of her work was self-published through the Hogarth Press, because she struggled dealing with external criticism and rejection.

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Woolf is considered a major innovator in the English language. In her works she experimented with stream of consciousness and the underlying psychological as well as emotional motives of characters. Woolf’s reputation declined sharply after World War II, but her importance was re-established with the growth of feminist criticism in the 1970s.

Here’s the only known recording of Woolf talking about the art of writing and language:

I taught Woolf for about 10 years as part of a general course for freshmen. To The Lighthouse was required reading for all first year students in the spring semester. I never felt I could do much with the text for a whole host of reasons. The Freudian/Oedipal theme between James and Mr Ramsay that runs through the entire novel seems heavy handed nowadays, although when the book was first published I expect it was novel and engaging.

I do grasp the idea that by using a stream-of-consciousness writing style Woolf was trying to paint a picture of what a day in the life of the Ramsays and entourage in their summer house was like, and I find it well enough done for what it is. Obviously the whole scene is heavily autobiographical; Woolf could well be describing a summer in St Ives with her family and their glitterati friends in the 1920s. The reason I find it well enough done is that I find the writing about the events as tiresome as I would have found the events themselves. Sitting around day after day reading or discussing “good” literature with a bunch of rich and “important” people, would drive me up the wall.

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Therein lies the heart of the problem for me. Woolf was brought up in, and lived among, the privileged of England’s society. Their interests and problems are not mine. I am, however, sympathetic to Woolf’s mental illness. People very close to me have suffered from depression and bipolar disorder, so I know the details intimately. Just before she weighted herself down with stones and drowned herself in the River Ouse she wrote this gut-wrenching note to Leonard:

Dearest,

I feel certain I am going mad again. I feel we can’t go through another of those terrible times. And I shan’t recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can’t concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don’t think two people could have been happier till this terrible disease came. I can’t fight any longer. I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work. And you will I know. You see I can’t even write this properly. I can’t read. What I want to say is I owe all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that – everybody knows it. If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can’t go on spoiling your life any longer.

I don’t think two people could have been happier than we have been.

These sentiments are soul searing. Trying to convey their meaning to 18 year olds in New York in the 1980s was impossible.

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The final chapters of the first part of To the Lighthouse describe a formal dinner party which Mrs Ramsay hosts. The soup course is of particular concern for many reasons. The full text of the book is here if you want to delve the mysteries of Mrs Ramsay and her ladling of the soup: http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks01/0100101.txt There is no mention of what kind of soup it is, nor any other details about the meal, only that the soup was worth seconds for one guest – and that caused a stir. So here’s a soup that was popular at the time, Royal Cheddar Cheese Soup.

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Royal Cheddar Cheese Soup

Ingredients

1 tablespoon butter
2 yellow onions, peeled and chopped
2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
6 cups chicken stock
½ tsp dry English mustard
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
½ tsp hot pepper sauce
3 tbsp minced chives

Instructions

Melt the butter over medium heat in a heavy pan. Add the onions, potatoes, and garlic and sauté 10 minutes.

Add the chicken stock and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for 20 minutes.

Using a food processor or blender purée the stock and vegetables .

Whisk together the dry mustard and heavy cream in the pan over medium heat. Then add back the purée and heat through, stirring to avoid sticking.

Stir in the cheese and hot sauce and keep stirring until the cheese has melted.

Ladle into serving bowls and garnish with some chives.

Nov 102015
 

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Today is the birthday (1697) of William Hogarth, English painter, printmaker, pictorial satirist, social critic, and editorial cartoonist who has been credited with pioneering western sequential art. His work ranged from realistic portraiture to comic strip-like series of pictures called “modern moral subjects.” Knowledge of his work is so pervasive that satirical political illustrations in this style are often referred to as “Hogarthian.” I’ve used Hogarth’s images many times before here on this blog and I am sure he needs no introduction. His are the images of 18th century England.

William Hogarth was born at Bartholomew Close in London to Richard Hogarth, a poor Latin school teacher and textbook writer, and Anne Gibbons. In his youth he was apprenticed to the engraver Ellis Gamble in Leicester Fields, where he learned to engrave trade cards and similar products. Young Hogarth also took a lively interest in the street life of the metropolis and the London fairs, and amused himself by sketching the characters he saw. Around the same time, his father, who had opened an unsuccessful Latin-speaking coffee house at St John’s Gate, was imprisoned for debt in Fleet Prison for five years. Hogarth never spoke of his father’s imprisonment. He did, however, portray prison life in his famous painting of The Beggar’s Opera.

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By April 1720, Hogarth was an engraver in his own right, at first engraving coats of arms, shop bills, and designing plates for booksellers. In 1727, he was hired by Joshua Morris, a tapestry worker, to prepare a design for the Element of Earth. Morris heard that he was “an engraver, and no painter”, and consequently declined the work when completed. Hogarth accordingly sued him for the money in the Westminster Court, where the case was decided in his favor on 28 May 1728. In 1757 he was appointed Serjeant Painter to the King.

In 1731 Hogarth completed the earliest of his series of moral works, a body of work that led to significant recognition. The collection of six scenes was entitled “A Harlot’s Progress” and appeared first as paintings (now lost) before being published as engravings. “A Harlot’s Progress” depicts the fate of a country girl who begins prostituting—the six scenes are chronological, starting with a meeting with a bawd and ending with a funeral ceremony that follows the character’s death from venereal disease.

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The inaugural series was an immediate success and was followed in 1735 by the sequel “A Rake’s Progress.” The second installment consisted of eight pictures that depicted the reckless life of Tom Rakewell, the son of a rich merchant, who spends all of his money on luxurious living, services from prostitutes, and gambling—the character’s life ultimately ends in Bethlem Royal Hospital (Bedlam). The original paintings of “A Harlot’s Progress” were destroyed in the fire at Fonthill House in 1755, while “A Rake’s Progress” is displayed in the gallery room at Sir John Soane’s Museum, London, UK.

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When the success of “A Harlot’s Progress” and “A Rake’s Progress” resulted in numerous pirated reproductions by unscrupulous printsellers, Hogarth lobbied in parliament for greater legal control over the reproduction of his and other artists’ work. The result was the Engravers’ Copyright Act (known as ‘Hogarth’s Act’), which became law on 25 June 1735 and was the first copyright law to deal with visual works as well as the first to recognize the authorial rights of an individual artist.

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In the twelve prints of “Industry and Idleness” (1747) Hogarth shows the progression in the lives of two apprentices, one of whom is dedicated and hard working, while the other, who is idle, commits crime and is eventually executed. This shows the work ethic of Protestant England, where those who work hard get rewarded, such as the industrious apprentice who becomes Sheriff (plate 8), Alderman (plate 10), and finally the Lord Mayor of London in the last plate in the series. The idle apprentice, who begins “at play in the church yard” (plate 3), holes up “in a Garrett with a Common Prostitute” after turning highwayman (plate 7) and “executed at Tyburn” (plate 11). The idle apprentice is sent to the gallows by the industrious apprentice himself.

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Later prints of significance include his pictorial warning of the consequences of alcoholism in Beer Street and Gin Lane (1751). Hogarth engraved Beer Street to show a happy city drinking the ‘good’ beverage, English beer, in contrast to Gin Lane, in which the effects of drinking gin are shown – as a more potent liquor, gin caused more problems for society. People are shown as healthy, happy and prosperous in Beer Street, while in Gin Lane they are scrawny, lazy and careless. The woman at the front of Gin Lane, who lets her baby fall to its death, echoes the tale of Judith Dufour, who strangled her baby so she could sell its clothes for gin money. The prints were published in support of the Gin Act 1751. Hogarth’s friend, the magistrate Henry Fielding, may have enlisted Hogarth to help with propaganda for the Gin Act: Beer Street and Gin Lane were issued shortly after his work An Enquiry into the Causes of the Late Increase of Robbers, and Related Writings, and addressed the same issues.

In 1745 Hogarth painted a self-portrait with his pug dog (now also in Tate Britain), which shows him as a learned artist supported by volumes of Shakespeare, Milton and Swift (top image). In 1749, he represented the somewhat disorderly English troops on their March of the Guards to Finchley (formerly located in Thomas Coram Foundation for Children, now Foundling Museum).

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Others works included his ingenious Satire on False Perspective (1753); his satire on canvassing in his Election series (1755–1758; now in Sir John Soane’s Museum); his ridicule of the English passion for cockfighting in The Cockpit (1759); his attack on Methodism in Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism (1762); his political anti-war satire in The Times, plate I (1762); and his pessimistic view of all things in Tailpiece, or The Bathos (1764).

Hogarth wrote and published his ideas of artistic design in his book The Analysis of Beauty (1753). In it, he professes to define the principles of beauty and grace which he, a true child of Rococo, saw realized in serpentine lines (the Line of Beauty). By some of Hogarth’s adherents, the book was praised as a fine discourse on aesthetics; by his enemies and rivals, its obscurities and minor errors were made the subject of endless ridicule and caricature.[22]

Hogarth lived in an age when artwork became increasingly commercialized, being viewed in shop windows, taverns, and public buildings, and sold in printshops. Old hierarchies broke down, and new forms began to flourish: the ballad opera, the bourgeois tragedy, and especially, a new form of fiction called the novel with which authors such as Henry Fielding had great success. Therefore, by that time, Hogarth hit on a new idea: “painting and engraving modern moral subjects … to treat my subjects as a dramatic writer; my picture was my stage”, as he himself remarked in his manuscript notes.

He drew from the highly moralizing Protestant tradition of Dutch genre painting, and the very vigorous satirical traditions of the English broadsheet and other types of popular print. In England the fine arts had little comedy in them before Hogarth. His prints were expensive, and remained so until early 19th-century reprints brought them to a wider audience.

When analyzing the work of the artist as a whole, Ronald Paulson says, “In A Harlot’s Progress, every single plate but one is based on Dürer’s images of the story of the Virgin and the story of the Passion.” In other works, he parodies Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper.” According to Paulson, Hogarth is subverting the religious establishment and the orthodox belief in an immanent God who intervenes in the lives of people and produces miracles. Indeed, Hogarth was a Deist, a believer in a God who created the universe but takes no direct hand in the lives of his creations. Thus, as a “comic history painter”, he often poked fun at the old-fashioned, well-worn, and now hackneyed subjects of religious art in his paintings and prints. Hogarth also rejected Lord Shaftesbury’s then-current ideal of the classical Greek male in favor of the living, breathing female. He said, “Who but a bigot, even to the antiques, will say that he has not seen faces and necks, hands and arms in living women, that even the Grecian Venus doth but coarsely imitate.”

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Hogarth died in London on 26 October 1764 and was buried at St. Nicholas Church, Chiswick, London.

“The Gate of Calais” (1748; now in Tate Britain) was produced soon after his return from a visit to France. Horace Walpole wrote that Hogarth had run a great risk to go there since the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle:

. . . he went to France, and was so imprudent as to be taking a sketch of the drawbridge at Calais. He was seized and carried to the governor, where he was forced to prove his vocation by producing several caricatures of the French; particularly a scene of the shore, with an immense piece of beef landing for the lion d’argent, the English inn at Calais, and several hungry friars following it. They were much diverted with his drawings, and dismissed him.

O the Roast Beef of Old England ('The Gate of Calais') 1748 William Hogarth 1697-1764 Presented by the Duke of Westminster 1895 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N01464

Back home, he immediately executed a painting of the subject in which he unkindly represented his enemies, the Frenchmen, as cringing, emaciated and superstitious people, while an enormous sirloin of beef arrives, destined for the English inn as a symbol of British prosperity and superiority. He claimed to have painted himself into the picture in the left corner sketching the gate, with a “soldier’s hand upon my shoulder”, running him in.

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So roast beef and Yorkshire pudding plus all the trimmings it is !! I’ve talked about this before, but this time I’ll concentrate on the vegetables. I like to cook the meat quickly in a very hot oven (200°C) for about 45 minutes for a 3-4 lb joint. I cook the Yorkshire pudding in individual ramekins for about 10 minutes whilst the beef is resting after coming out of the oven. Resting before carving is absolutely crucial so that the juices evenly distribute after the fiery heat of the oven. “Roasties” have always been a big favorite in my house – crisply browned potatoes with a floury inside. You only get this if you have a very hot oven and roast the potatoes in a pan with lard or duck/goose fat (which I almost always have on hand). In the same pan I usually put a couple of whole, peeled onions, and leeks cut in 4” pieces. Parsnips are also excellent roasted. Carrots work well with beef too although I’m more inclined to use them in beef stews than roasts. I find it just works well to have a roast medley along with the beef and gravy, plus a poached green vegetable, usually spinach or Brussels sprouts, for balance. Keep your salads for a different meal. This is the roast beef of Old England – not French trash !!

Sep 022015
 

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On this date in 1752 through enactment of the Calendar (New Style) Act 1750, Britain and the British Empire (including the eastern part of what is now the United States) adopted the Gregorian calendar. Up until that point they had used the Julian calendar which was 11 days ahead of sun time. Because of this they had to eliminate 11 days, so Wednesday, 2 September 1752, was followed by Thursday, 14 September 1752. For many years it was believed that people in England rioted demanding “Give us back our eleven days” as if somehow their lives had been shortened by 11 days. This is actually nothing more than an urban legend based on a misinterpretation of a contemporary William Hogarth painting. However, there were some real negative consequences to shortening the year. For historians, such as myself, interested in anniversaries, it is merely a simple curiosity that the dates 3 to 13 September 1752 do not exist. So, it would be a good pub quiz question to ask something like “what important event occurred in England on 10 September 1752?”

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The Gregorian calendar, also called the Western calendar and the Christian calendar, is internationally the most widely used civil calendar. It is named for Pope Gregory XIII, who introduced it by papal bull in 1582. It was first used as a religious calendar whose primary purpose was to make sure that Easter was perpetually celebrated at the same time as in ancient times (more or less coinciding with Passover, when Jesus was crucified). It replaced the Julian calendar, created by Julius Caesar, whose calendar year was very slightly ahead of the sun because the solar year is very slightly shorter than 365.25 days (0.002% shorter). If you have a leap year every four years you add a day every four years (February 29th). But since the year is not exactly 365.25 days you are adding just a little too much. The Gregorian calendar corrects for this by making century years NOT leap years if the first 2 digits are not divisible by 4. Thus, 1700, 1800, and 1900 were not leap years, but 2000 was.

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The Gregorian calendar was immediately adopted in European Catholic countries and their colonies, for both civil and religious purposes, but not by Orthodox and Protestant countries. Hence, when it came to buying and selling goods internationally there could be confusion about dates of billing, receipts, and so forth. Although it ought to have been simple for non-Catholic countries to shift into line with Catholic countries, it took a long time for the change to come about mostly because of prejudice. Some claimed, for example, that it was a papal plot to convert the world to Catholicism. It astonishes me how stupid and irrational prejudice can be. Greece did not change to the Gregorian calendar until 1923. I remember in the 1970s when the U.K. decided to stay on BST all year so that the clocks would align with those in continental Europe, thus making it easier to conduct international business and assuring that the stock markets opened and closed at the same time. I was amazed to watch the historian A.J.P. Taylor in an interview on television saying essentially, “we’re British damn it; we don’t have to do what foreigners do.” I used to like him up until that point. It’s one thing to be a maverick, it’s another to be an idiot. As it happens this change ultimately failed because it had a human cost. With the clocks advanced all year children in the north of England and Scotland were going to school in winter in the pitch dark.

Calendar reform in England in 1750 had two components. The first specified that the new year should begin on 1st of January (the old Roman new year). Previously there had been a welter of ways of marking the new year. The tax year and the civil year in general, for example, began on Lady Day (25 March). Many institutions, such as churches, calculated the years starting with the date when the current king or queen ascended the throne. Others used famous local events, or religious holidays such as Shrove Tuesday or Halloween. Having one official New Year’s Day for everyone was obviously beneficial. To bring everyone into line in England and Wales, the legal year 1751 was a short year of 282 days, running from 25 March to 31 December. 1752 began on 1 January. The change to 1 January had already been effected in Scotland in 1600.

The second component was meant to align the calendar in use in the U.K. to that on the continent, by adopting the Gregorian calendar which meant eliminating the 11 days from 3 to 13 September 1752. Thus the year 1752 was a short year (355 days) as well. The Act of Parliament, mindful of recent religious wars in Europe, adopted the Gregorian calendar without mention of pope Gregory or the Catholic church.

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Some history books say that some people rioted after the calendar change, asking that their “eleven days” be returned. However this is not true. The legend is based on only two primary sources: The World, a satirical journal by Lord Chesterfield; and a painting by William Hogarth. Chesterfield was the author of the calendar reform Act. He wrote to his son, “Every numerous assembly is a mob, let the individuals who compose it be what they will. Mere sense is never to be talked to a mob; their passions, their sentiments, their senses and their seeming interests alone are to be applied to. Understanding have they collectively none.” Here, he was boasting of his skill in having the Bill passed through the Lords; the ‘mob’ in question was his fellow peers, not some angry rioting mob protesting the changes.

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When the son of the Earl of Macclesfield (who had been influential in passing the Act) stood for Parliament in Oxfordshire as a Whig in 1754, dissatisfaction with the calendar reform was one of a number of issues raised by his Tory opponents. In 1755, William Hogarth produced a painting (and an engraved print from the painting) loosely based on these elections, entitled An Election Entertainment, which shows a placard carrying the slogan “Give us our Eleven Days” (on floor at lower right — detail below).

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An example of the resulting incorrect history is shown by Ronald Paulson, author of Hogarth, His Life, Art and Times, who wrote that “…the Oxfordshire people…are specifically rioting, as historically the London crowd did, to preserve the ‘Eleven Days’ the government stole from them in September 1752 by changing the calendar.” Thus the “calendar riot” fiction was born. The election campaign depicted by Hogarth concluded in 1754, after a very lengthy contest between Court Whigs and Jacobite Tories. Every issue between the two factions was brought up, including the question of calendar reform. The Tories attacked the Whigs for every deviation, including their alleged favoritism towards foreign Jews and the “Popish” calendar. Hogarth’s placard, part of a satire on the character of the debate, was not an observation of actual crowd behavior.

There were, however, legitimate concerns about tax and other payments under the new calendar. Provision 6 (Times of Payment of Rents, Annuities) of the Act stipulated that monthly or yearly payments would not become due until the dates that they originally would have in the Julian calendar, or in the words of the Act “[Times of Payment of Rents, Annuities] at and upon the same respective natural days and times as the same should and ought to have been payable or made or would have happened in case this Act had not been made”. In that way landlords would not get an extra 11 days rent for free.

Several theories have been proposed for the odd beginning of the British tax year on 6 April. One is that from 1753 until 1799, the tax year began on 5 April, which corresponded to 25 March Old Style (Julian calendar), that is, the old New Year’s Day. After the twelfth skipped Julian leap day in 1800, it was changed to 6 April, which still corresponded to 25 March Old Style. However it was not changed when a thirteenth Julian leap day was skipped in 1900, so the tax year in the United Kingdom still begins on 6 April. Now write and tell me why Tax Day is 15 April in the U.S. (Pub quiz question of the day).

The Gregorian calendar continued to use the previous calendar era (year-numbering system), which counts years from the traditional date of the nativity (Anno Domini), originally calculated in the 6th century by Dionysius Exiguus. This year-numbering system, also known as Dionysian era or Common Era, is the predominant international standard today. This is why I, and a great many other people, use the abbreviations C.E. (Common Era) and B.C.E (Before the Common Era), rather than the ethnocentric A.D. and B.C.

What to give you for today’s recipe? I did find one or two ancient ones for wine that required a fermentation period of 11 days (which meant that if you followed the calendar wine begun on 2 September would be ready on 14 September – the following day). However, that is a bit of a silly joke. Instead here is an 18th century English recipe for “Asparagus dressed the Italian Way.” It seems appropriate in that it is from an English cook, allowing that the Italian way of cooking (home of the pope) has its merits. In those days, as now, the English were a xenophobic lot, so this recipe is a surprise.

Take the asparagus, break them in pieces, then boil them soft and drain the water from them; take a little oil, water, and vinegar, let it boil, season it with pepper and salt, throw in the asparagus and thicken with yolks of eggs. The Spaniards add sugar, but that spoils them.

Looks remarkably like asparagus with Hollandaise to me – which I love. Don’t be a Spaniard and add sugar. Wouldn’t want to spoil the asparagus – or you!

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Jul 192014
 

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I’m going to England in two days and then to points unknown. So it seems a good time to celebrate “The Roast Beef of Old England,” an English patriotic song whose popular tune was written by Richard Leveridge (pictured) who was born on this day in 1670. Leveridge (or Leueridge) was an English bass singer of the London stage and a composer of baroque music, including many popular songs.

“The Roast Beef of Old England” was originally written by Henry Fielding for his play The Grub-Street Opera, first performed in 1731. The lyrics were revised over the next twenty years. The song increased in popularity, however, when given a new setting by Richard Leveridge, and it became customary for theater audiences to sing it before, after, and occasionally during, any new play. The Royal Navy always goes in to dine at Mess Dinners to the tune.

The song provided the popular title for a 1748 painting by William Hogarth: O the Roast Beef of Old England (The Gate of Calais).

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Here’s a popular version as still sung today in England – in fact, I sing it myself.

If you cannot play this (or won’t), here’s a sample:

When mighty Roast Beef was the Englishman’s food,
It ennobled our brains and enriched our blood.
Our soldiers were brave and our courtiers were good

Oh! the Roast Beef of old England,
And old English Roast Beef!

But since we have learnt from all-vapouring France
To eat their ragouts as well as to dance,
We’re fed up with nothing but vain complaisance

Oh! the Roast Beef of Old England,
And old English Roast Beef!

Our fathers of old were robust, stout, and strong,
And kept open house, with good cheer all day long,
Which made their plump tenants rejoice in this song–

Oh! The Roast Beef of old England,
And old English Roast Beef!

There are plenty of recipes for modern English roast beef, which you must serve with Yorkshire pudding (see http://www.bookofdaystales.com/big-brother-is-watching/). We need a recipe that is more contemporary with the song’s founding. Here’s one from Robert May’s Accomplish’t Cook (1660). This roast would have been done in an open hearth with a spit turned by a small boy, as pictured — who would have been at this hot exhausting labor for 6 hours.

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To roast a Chine, Rib, Loin, Brisket, or Fillet of Beef,

Draw them with parsley, rosemary, time, sweet marjoram, sage, winter savoury, or lemon, or plain without any of them, fresh or salt, as you please; broth it, roast it, and baste it with butter: a good chine of beef will ask six hours of roasting.

For the sauce take straight tops of rosemary, sage leaves, picked parsley, time, and sweet marjoram; and stew them in wine vinegar, and the beef gravy; or otherwayes with gravy and juyce of oranges and lemons. Sometimes for change in saucers of vinegar and pepper.

I make a gravy with parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme (which I call Scarborough Fair sauce — homage to Simon and Garfunkle). It’s a very good combination along with beef broth and drippings from the roast.

Sep 142013
 

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On this date in 1752 the final phase of the switch from the old Julian Calendar to the new Gregorian calendar in England took effect.  The Julian Calendar was eleven days ahead of the Gregorian calendar, so eleven days had to be eliminated from the English calendar.  Thus, people in England went to bed on the night of September 2 and woke up on the morning of September 14. This historical fact is quite well known and gives rise to a piece of popular folklore concerning the stupidity of ordinary folk who rioted in the streets in England shouting “give us back our eleven days.” This never happened, but the Act that changed the calendar had many more provisions than shifting the date, and had broad consequences.

The Julian calendar was a reform of the Roman calendar introduced by Julius Caesar in 46 BCE (708 AUC by the old Roman calendar). It took effect in 45 BCE (709 AUC). It was the predominant calendar in most of Europe, and in European settlements in the Americas and elsewhere, until it was superseded by the Gregorian calendar. The Julian calendar has a regular year of 365 days divided into 12 months. A leap day is added to February every four years. The Julian year is, therefore, on average 365.25 days long. It was intended to approximate the tropical (solar) year. Although Greek astronomers had known, at least since Hipparchus, that the tropical year was a few minutes shorter than 365.25 days, the calendar did not compensate for this difference. As a result, the calendar year gained about three days every four centuries compared to observed equinox times and the seasons. This discrepancy was corrected by the Gregorian reform of 1582. The Gregorian calendar has the same months and month lengths as the Julian calendar, but inserts leap days according to a slightly different rule. If the first two digits of a century year are not evenly divisible by 4, that year is not a leap year.  Thus 1900 was not a leap year but 2000 was (much to my eternal sadness). The Gregorian Reform made the calendar more accurately synchronized with the sun, but to get it back on track the extra days inserted by the Julian calendar by having a few too many leap years had to be lost.

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The Julian calendar (still in use in some places) is currently 13 days behind the Gregorian calendar; for instance, 1 January in the Julian calendar is 14 January in the Gregorian. The Julian calendar has been replaced as the civil calendar by the Gregorian calendar in almost all countries which formerly used it, although it continued to be the civil calendar of some countries into the 20th century. Most Christian denominations in the West and areas evangelized by Western churches have also replaced the Julian calendar with the Gregorian as the basis for their liturgical calendars. However, most branches of the Eastern Orthodox Church still use the Julian calendar for calculating the dates of moveable feasts, including Easter. Some Orthodox churches have adopted the Revised Julian calendar for the observance of fixed feasts, while other Orthodox churches retain the old Julian calendar for all purposes. The Julian calendar is still used by the Berber people of North Africa as an agricultural calendar because it regulates farm work better than the lunar Islamic calendar. In the form of the Coptic or Alexandrian calendar, it is the basis for the Ethiopian and Egyptian ecclesiastical calendars, and is also used in some agricultural areas. The dates on which various countries made the switch is depicted below (click to enlarge).

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The Gregorian calendar was a reform made in 1582 to the Julian calendar. It was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII, after whom the calendar was named, by papal bull Inter gravissimas dated 24 February 1582.The motivation for the adjustment was to bring the date for the celebration of Easter to the time of the year that the First Council of Nicaea had agreed upon in 325. Setting the date of Easter required having an accurate calendar because it was linked to 21 March (nominally the vernal equinox).  The aim of the Council was to have all Christians celebrate Easter on the same day.

Gregory XIII

Gregory XIII

England did not accept Gregory’s reform because of the state of politics and the church at the time. Elizabeth I was on the throne, and arguably the most significant achievement of her reign was to cement the English Protestant Reformation that had been initiated by her father Henry VIII and augmented under her brother Edward VI.  Elizabeth had a vested interest in keeping the country Protestant because under Catholic canon law she was illegitimate – Henry had divorced his first wife to marry Elizabeth’s mother Anne Boleyn, and divorce was not allowed under Catholic law. Elizabeth, therefore, could not inherit the crown if the country were Catholic and subject to papal rulings.  Tensions with the papacy and with Catholics within England plagued her reign.  She was therefore not about to accept a papal order concerning the change of the calendar, and so England remained on the old one.

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By the mid eighteenth century England was still not clear of religious conflicts, but it was severely out of line with most of the rest of Europe in terms of its calendar.  More and more business dealings required uniformity across the continent and the colonies, so Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, proposed changing the calendar in 1750 in what became known as Chesterfield’s Act, or, The Calendar (New Style) Act 1750. The Parliament held that the Julian calendar then in use, as well as the start of the year being 25 March was:

“ . . . attended with divers inconveniences, not only as it differs from the usage of neighbouring nations, but also from the legal method of computation in Scotland, and from the common usage throughout the whole kingdom, and thereby frequent mistakes are occasioned in the dates of deeds and other writings, and disputes arise therefrom.”

The fundamental reform was embodied in the Act as follows:

“The old supputation of the year not to be made use of after Dec. 1751. Year to commence for the future on 1 Jan. The days to be numbered as now until 2d Sept. 1752; and the day following to be accounted 14 Sept. omitting 11 days.”

Philip Stanhope

Philip Stanhope

In England, the year 1751 was a short year of 282 days, running from 25 March (the old beginning of the new year) to 31 December. 1752 began on 1 January. To align the calendar in use in England to that in use on the continent, the changes introduced in 1582 by the Gregorian calendar were adopted with effect in 1752. To this end, the calendar was advanced by 11 days: Wednesday 2 September 1752 was followed by Thursday 14 September 1752. The year 1752 was thus a short year (355 days) as well.

Most of the other changes brought about by Pope Gregory were also adopted, such as the more accurate rules for leap years. However, with religious strife still on their minds, the British could not bring themselves to adopt the Catholic system entirely. They wanted their dates for Easter to coincide with those of the Catholic church, but were unwilling to accept the Catholic rules for deriving the date.  So they invented a new system of calculating the date that was distinct from the Catholic one, but achieved the identical result. What people will do when arbitrary sectarian principles are at stake!

It has been reported in some history books that a number of the public rioted after the calendar change, requesting that their “eleven days” be returned. However, it is very likely this is pure folklore, being based on only two primary sources: The World, a satirical journal of Lord Chesterfield and a painting by William Hogarth. Chesterfield, sponsor of the calendar reform, writes in one of his letters to his son:

“Every numerous assembly is a mob, let the individuals who compose it be what they will. Mere sense is never to be talked to a mob; their passions, their sentiments, their senses and their seeming interests alone are to be applied to. Understanding have they collectively none.”

Here, he was boasting of his skill in having the Bill passed through the Lords; the ‘mob’ in question was his fellow peers.

When the son of the Earl of Macclesfield (who had been influential in passing the calendar law) ran for a seat in Parliament in Oxfordshire as a Whig in 1754, dissatisfaction with the calendar reform was one of a number of issues raised by his Tory opponents. In 1755, William Hogarth made a painting (and an engraved print from the painting) loosely based on these elections, entitled “An Election Entertainment,” which shows a placard carrying the slogan “Give us our Eleven Days” (on floor at lower right). An example of the resulting incorrect interpretation of this painting can be found in Hogarth, His Life, Art and Times (1971) by Ronald Paulson, who wrote that “…the Oxfordshire people…are specifically rioting, as historically the London crowd did, to preserve the ‘Eleven Days’ the government stole from them in September 1752 by changing the calendar.”

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The election campaign Hogarth depicted was one which concluded in 1754, after a very lengthy contest between Court Whigs and Jacobite Tories. Literally every issue between the two factions was brought up, including the question of calendar reform. The Tories attacked the Whigs for every deviation, including their alleged favoritism towards foreign Jews and the “Popish” calendar. Hogarth’s placard, part of a satire on the character of the debate, was not an observation on actual crowd behavior but on the time wasting of politicians (using the oblique reference to the calendar reform).  There were no riots. Don’t you wish historians would check their facts better?

There were, however, legitimate concerns about tax and rent payments under the new calendar. People did not want to pay taxes and rents for 11 days that did not exist. Under provision 6 (Times of Payment of Rents, Annuities) of the Act, Great Britain made special provisions to make sure that monthly or yearly payments would not become due until the dates that they originally would have been due in the Julian calendar, or in the words of the act “[Times of Payment of Rents, Annuities] at and upon the same respective natural days and times as the same should and ought to have been payable or made or would have happened in case this Act had not been made.” Thus, if you had to make a payment on 25 March (old start of the new year), it would now be due on April 5, 11 days later by the new calendar (and would remain there). Fixed holidays, such as Christmas, remained on the same calendar day.

The Gregorian calendar serves us pretty well but it is still subject to minor adjustments because the earth wobbles a bit and creates tiny variations in solar time.  To correct this problem a leap second is occasionally added to or subtracted from Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) in order to keep its time of day close to mean solar time. The most recent leap second was inserted on June 30, 2012 at 23:59:60 UTC. Although a seemingly minor adjustment, it can throw off certain computer applications. In honor of this day I have added a 24 hour UTC clock to the blog’s sidebar under the (Gregorian) calendar. My blog server uses UTC which gives me the opportunity to post my new celebration any time after 21:00 my time and still be on the right day.

I thought that a recipe that took 11 days would be appropriate for today’s celebration.  I rejected dry aging your own beef because 11 days is not really long enough, and making your own bacon because 11 days is a little too long.  This recipe for 11 day pickles is perfect. You can use store bought pickling spice or make your own blend to suit.  My personal recipe is at the end.

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Eleven Day Cucumber Pickles

Ingredients:
8 cucumbers
2 cups cider vinegar
2 cups water
2 tsp alum
4 cups sugar
2 cups white vinegar
1 tbsp mixed pickling spice (see below)

Instructions:

Make a brine by dissolving  ½ cup of salt in 1 quart (1 liter) of boiling water.  Cool.

Cover whole cucumbers with salt brine in a non-reactive container. Let stand for 3 days and then drain.

Remove cucumbers from brine and cover with cold water. Keep covered in the water for 3 days.

Remove them from the water and cut into spears, or thick slices (or a variety).

Combine 2 cups cider vinegar, 4 cups water, and 2 teaspoons alum. Bring to a boil and pour over the cucumbers. Let stand for 2 days and then drain.

Combine 2 cups white vinegar, 4 cups sugar, and 1 teaspoon mixed pickling spices. Heat to boiling and pour over pickles. Let stand for 1 day.

Drain off the syrup into a non-reactive pan, bring to a boil, and pour over pickles. Let stand 1 day. Repeat.

Can or store in the refrigerator.

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Pickling Spice

Mix together:

4 cinnamon sticks, crumbled
1 inch piece dried gingerroot, crumbled
2 tbsps mustard seeds
2 tsps whole allspice berries
2 tbsps whole black peppercorns
2 tsps whole cloves
2 tsps dill seeds
2 tsps coriander seeds
2 tsps whole mace, crumbled
8 bay leaves, crumbled medium fine
1 small dried hot red pepper, crumbled with seeds