Jan 132018
 

On this date in 1879, Ada Anderson completed a great feat of pedestrianism (endurance walking) in Mozart Gardens in Brooklyn: 2700 quarter miles in 2700 quarter hours. She started on 16 December 1878 and finished on 13 January 1879, and during that entire time was not allowed rest periods longer than 20 minutes. Nothing so grueling had ever been attempted before, although she and others had done somewhat shorter events of the kind before. I don’t know if it has ever been replicated. She was one of a handful of female athletes who are largely forgotten now, but were extremely important in their day in pressing for equal rights for women.

Anderson was born Ada Nymand, but very little about her early life is known, including her birth date. Her father Gustavas Nymand was reported to be a ‘Cockney Jew’ and the identity of her mother is not known. She left home at 16 to join a theater company and five years later married the man whose name she was most commonly known by. She claimed to have been a singer, clown, and theater proprietress, with a childhood ambition to be famous by accomplishing something no one else could do. Having struggled to make a name for herself as an actress Anderson and her husband became managers of a theatre in Cardiff. But in 1877 her husband died, leaving her on the brink of bankruptcy.

Anderson’s interest in pedestrianism started in 1877 when she met British champion racewalker William Gale at an event in Cardiff. Unlike other working-class pedestrians, such as Emma Sharp who claimed to do no formal training, Anderson was trained by Gale who specialized both in pedestrianism and sleep deprivation. After training for six weeks with Gale, Anderson made her pedestrian debut in Newport, Wales in September 1877. She walked 1,000 half-miles in 1,000 half-hours and got no more than 20 minutes rest at one time during the entire three-week trial. There were several days of rain which required her to walk with an umbrella and a lamp, but this did not prevent her from finishing.

Her second walk was planned to be 1,250 half-miles in 1,000 half-hours in Exeter, October 1877, which would break a record of 1,000 miles in 1,000 hours set by Captain Robert Barclay, but that had to be abandoned when a storm blew in. This did not deter Anderson and Gale, and they were able to accomplish that feat in Plymouth later that year. In addition to breaking the distance record by 250 miles, by starting each 1¼ mile at the beginning of the hour (rather than completing two consecutive miles as Barclay did) Anderson completed the event with much shorter rest periods. After this event Anderson was referred to in the press as a ‘Champion Lady Walker of the World’.

Anderson’s first indoor event was a 100-mile 28-hour walk, again in Plymouth. However, the pollution from gas lamps and cigars gave Anderson problems breathing. After falling a number of times, she collapsed unconscious after completing 96 miles. Following this failure Anderson went to the press and claimed she would “never take on another event she would not finish.” She completed 1,344 quarter-miles in the same number of quarter-hours in Plymouth and 1.5 miles every hour for 28 days in Boston before attempting to equal Gale’s record of 1,500 miles in 1,000 hours. Anderson started the event on 8 April 1878 and finished on 20 May 1878. Two days later, she got married for the second time to William Paley, who was in theater.

After completing three more walks during the summer of 1878, Anderson established herself as the dominant pedestrian in the UK. Therefore, on 13 October 1878, with the aim of making a name for herself in the US, Anderson, Paley, her manager J. H. Webb and her assistant Elizabeth Sparrow sailed on the steamship Ethiopia.

Anderson’s manager, Webb, wanted to launch her US debut (2,700 quarter-miles in 2,700 quarter-hours) in Glimore’s Garden (which later became Madison Square Garden). However, William Kissam Vanderbilt, the venue’s owner rejected their request claiming, “The woman will never accomplish the feat and nor can any woman.” This led Webb to approach Mozart Garden, a smaller venue in Brooklyn which was refurbished for the event, reducing the seating from 2,000 to 800 to make way for a track which was surrounded by an 18-inch railing and measured by Brooklyn’s city surveyor to ensure accuracy. The venue was so small that the track was only 189 feet in circumference, requiring Anderson to walk seven laps to complete each quarter of a mile. A ‘privacy tent’ was built for Anderson to use during her short rest periods containing a bed and a makeshift kitchen including a stove. Walking 2,700 quarter-miles in so many quarter-hours was an accomplishment never attempted by any person before in the US, requiring an ability to endure severe sleep deprivation, leading the champion US pedestrian Daniel O’Leary to state that he would never attempt it.

The event was so popular that the spectator fee was raised from 25 cents to 50 cents after 23 days of the event had been completed (with 5 to go). By the final day of the event, ticket prices were $1 for standing and $2 for reserved seating. As many as 4,000 people per day came to see Anderson during the event which started at 8pm on 16th December 1878. She completed the event at 11pm on 13th January 1879 to a venue so packed that police had to prevent additional spectators. Many of the spectators were women whom it was reported regarded Anderson as ‘the most wonderful of their sex’.

There were numerous checks and judges to ensure the integrity of the event, and doctors who checked on Anderson concluded that she had trained herself to cope with sleep deprivation, since she had no more than nine minutes sleep at a time during the entire 28-day event. 55 miles into the event Anderson played the piano and sang Verdi’s “Back to Our Mountains” during her rest period and became known for such entertainment during the walk. Over the next few weeks she continued to entertain the crowds with impromptu singing and speeches. Anderson had a number of celebrities come and walk with her during the event including 75-year-old boxer Bill Tovec, General Tom Thumb and Texas Jack. She also entertained the crowd by marking the faces of sleeping spectators with coal. Because of the heavy wagers on the completion of the event, Anderson required protection in the final days of the walk. There were reports of attempted gassing with chloroform although Anderson denied this. With only half a mile to go Anderson sang ‘Nil Desperandum’ to the crowd before completing her penultimate lap. She completed her final quarter of a mile in 2 minutes 37 seconds the fastest of all 2,700. The total receipts of the event were reported to be $32,000 of which Anderson’s personal share was reported to be $8,000.

When asked by reporters about fatigue, Anderson claimed her biggest problem was often with blisters and the pain of them preventing her sleeping. However, the sleep deprivation became apparent even within the first two days where she had periods of stumbling through the walk in an almost semi-conscious state before appearing as lively as she was at the start a few hours later. In these sleepy periods her assistant, Sparrow, had to prepare her to walk at the three-minute warning bell and on occasion had to send her back to the track when she hadn’t completed the required seven laps. After 100 miles, the regular check by the a physician noted she had a temperature of 99 °F (37 °C), pulse 78-80 with her only complaints badly blistered feet and mental anxiety interfering with sleep. Mike Henry, Anderson’s coach, who walked with her for much of the event was not in such good health, and with blisters covering his feet and suffering from exhaustion and dizziness he had to retire, being replaced by one of the race judges Charles Hazelton. Anderson ate at almost every rest time unless she was sleeping and her diet included beef, oysters, corned beef, potatoes, cakes, and grapes, she drank beef tea, port wine and occasionally champagne.

Local magistrates in Boston, UK, objected to walking events on Sundays believing that they corrupted morals. However Anderson found support in the local mayor who claimed that Boston was ‘more moral than Plymouth’ where Anderson had last walked on a Sunday. The New York Times was also critical of Anderson’s journey stating it had no “skill” attributes” and the sport “leads people to bet on any absurd performance of uncertain issue.” There were others who claimed that it was cruelty for a woman to be put through such suffering, and claims during her walk in Chicago that her husband coerced her. To these criticisms Anderson responded, “I am walking against my husband’s wishes.” Reverend W. C. Steele of the Third St. Methodist Church published sermons in a number of newspapers criticizing pedestrianism for a number of reasons, including event walking on a Sunday.

Given Anderson’s published diet for the event I would certainly have a nice steak and oysters on the half shell if I could get hold of them here in Cambodia. I need to be back in Argentina for the steak, and anywhere but SE Asian waters for raw oysters. Anyway . . . have at it. Or try Mrs Beeton’s beef and oyster sauce. In this case “oyster sauce” is, of course, not the Asian variety, but her own recipe made with fresh oysters. I don’t think it’s quite clear that the beef is sliced cold, but you could broil the beef while cooking the oysters and slice (and serve) it hot.

BROILED BEEF AND OYSTER SAUCE (Cold Meat Cookery).

  1. INGREDIENTS.—2 dozen oysters, 3 cloves, 1 blade of mace, 2 oz. of butter, 1/2 teaspoonful of flour, cayenne and salt to taste, mashed potatoes, a few slices of cold roast beef.

Mode.—Put the oysters in a stewpan, with their liquor strained; add the cloves, mace, butter, flour, and seasoning, and let them simmer gently for 5 minutes. Have ready in the centre of a dish round walls of mashed potatoes, browned; into the middle pour the oyster sauce, quite hot, and round the potatoes place, in layers, slices of the beef, which should be previously broiled over a nice clear fire.

Time.—5 minutes. Average cost, 1s, 6d., exclusive of the cold meat.

Sep 162016
 

xerox4

The Xerox 914 was the first successful commercial plain paper copier which in 1959 revolutionized the document-copying industry. The copier was introduced to the public on this date in 1959, in a demonstration at the Sherry-Netherland Hotel in New York, shown on live television. Not only did the 914 revolutionize copying, it also made the fortune of the Xerox corporation that had been struggling up to that point. For decades “Xerox” was synonymous with “photocopy” (to the chagrin of competitors), just as “Kleenex” was synonymous with “paper handkerchief” for a long time.

Xerography or electrophotography had been around for some time, as had been the original Xerox corporation. Xerox was founded in 1906 in Rochester, New York, as The Haloid Photographic Company, which originally manufactured photographic paper and equipment. The basic principal of xerography was proposed in the 1920s by Hungarian physicist and engineer Pál Selényi who published a number of papers on the theory of transmitting and printing facsimiles of printed images using a beam of charged ions directed on to a rotating drum of insulating material. The ions would create an electrostatic charge on the drum. A fine powder could then be dusted upon the drum and the powder would stick to the parts of the drum that were charged. Theory and practice are not the same.

xerox1

Chester Carlson was the man who turned the theory into practice. There is no question that Carlson was an inspired loony (my favorite kind of person). He wrote:

I had a fascination with the graphic arts from childhood. One of the first things I wanted was a typewriter—even when I was in grammar school. Then, when I was in high school I liked chemistry and I got the idea of publishing a little magazine for amateur chemists. I also worked for a printer in my spare time and he sold me an old printing press which he had discarded. I paid for it by working for him. Then I started out to set my own type and print this little paper. I don’t think I printed more than two issues, and they weren’t much. However, this experience did impress me with the difficulty of getting words into hard copy and this, in turn, started me thinking about duplicating processes. I started a little inventor’s notebook and I would jot down ideas from time to time.

The need for a quick, satisfactory copying machine that could be used right in the office seemed very apparent to me—there seemed such a crying need for it—such a desirable thing if it could be obtained. So I set out to think of how one could be made.

Carlson bounced around a lot, but in the late 1920s wound up in the patent department of Bell Labs working for their patent attorney. The need for a quick and efficient method of making copies was obvious. Secretaries either used carbon paper or mimeograph machines. In both cases You had to retype your original before you could make copies. Wouldn’t it be grand if you could just stick your original in a machine and have it spit out copies?

xerox7

Carlson was fired from Bell in 1933 for running an illegal business outside of office hours. After that he started at law school but spent spare time at New York Public Library’s science and technology department. It was there that he was inspired by a brief article, written by Pál Selényi in an obscure German scientific journal, that showed him a way to construct a copier. Carlson’s early experiments, conducted in his apartment kitchen, were smoky, smelly, and occasionally explosive. In one set of experiments, he was melting pure crystalline sulfur (a photoconductor) on to a plate of zinc by moving it gently over the flame of his kitchen stove. This resulted in a sulfur fire, filling the building with the smell of rotten eggs (sulfur dioxide). This was not the only kitchen fire. By the autumn of 1938, Carlson’s wife had convinced him that his experiments needed to be conducted elsewhere. He rented a room on the second floor of a house owned by his mother-in-law at 32-05 37th Street in Astoria, Queens. He hired an assistant, Otto Kornei, an out-of-work Austrian physicist.

Carlson knew that several major corporations were researching ways of copying paper. The Haloid Company (Xerox) had the Photostat, which it licensed to Eastman Kodak, the photography giant. However, these companies were researching along photographic lines, and their solutions required special chemicals and papers. The Photostat, for instance, was essentially a photograph of the document being copied.

xerox8

Eventually Carlson applied for and was awarded U.S. Patent 2,297,691 on October 6, 1942. The technique was originally called electrophotography. It was later renamed xerography—from the Greek roots ξηρός xeros, “dry” and -γραφία -graphia, “writing”—to emphasize that, unlike reproduction techniques then in use such as cyanotype, this process used no liquid chemicals. Here’s his first successful photocopy:

xerox5

Carlson’s original process was cumbersome, requiring several manual processing steps with flat plates. It was almost 18 years before a fully automated process was developed, the key breakthrough being use of a cylindrical drum coated with selenium instead of a flat plate. Carlson entered into a research agreement with the Battelle Memorial Institute in 1944, when he and Kornei produced the first operable copy machine. He sold his rights in 1947 to the Haloid Company.

Haloid introduced the first commercial xerographic copier, the Xerox Model A, in 1949. The company had, the previous year, announced the refined development of xerography in collaboration with Battelle Their machine was generally known as the Ox Box. An improved version, Camera #1, was introduced in 1950. Haloid was renamed Haloid Xerox in 1958, and, in 1959 the 914 was introduced and became an instant success. The 914 was hailed as the critical breakthrough because it was relatively affordable and easy to use. Thus it caught on in offices throughout the world, launching Xerox as a major profitable company, having been teetering on the brink of bankruptcy for decades.

xerox3

The 914 was so named because it could copy originals up to 9 inches by 14 inches (229 mm × 356 mm), and was capable of making 100,000 copies per month (seven copies per minute). The 914 was very useful, but not without its problems. For one thing the machine was mechanically complex. It required a large technical support force because it broke down all the time. Therefore, it was not practical for small offices, including those in schools, churches, and so forth. As a new school teacher in 1973 I was used mimeograph machines for large numbers of copies, and continued using them (and wet chemical copiers) into the late 1970s.

The 914 also had a tendency to catch fire when overheated (Ralph Nader claimed that a model in his office had caught fire three times in a four-month period). Because of the problem, the Xerox company provided a “scorch eliminator,” which was actually a small fire extinguisher, along with the copier. I once amused the office at my university when I was doing a large batch of copies on a 914, and one copy came out of the machine in flames. Despite its problems, the machine was regarded with affection by its technical staff, due to it being complex enough to be interesting to use, but without being so complex as to be beyond understanding. Regular office staff were usually not so forgiving. The pricing structure of the machine was designed to encourage customers to rent rather than buy – it could be rented in 1965 for $25 a month, but would cost $27,500 to buy. The 914 was a significant component of Xerox’s revenues in the mid-1960s, with one author estimating that the machine accounted for two thirds of the company’s revenue in 1965, with income generated of $243M.  The machine was produced between 1960 and 1977.

xerox9

With the growth of the company due to sales of the 914, Xerox labs was greatly expanded and was responsible for producing a raft of technologies, all of which it sold off to others, especially in the field of computing. Xerox invented many design elements to make personal computing more user friendly such as the Graphic User Interface, the desktop, and the mouse, which it sold to Apple, which, in turn, became a giant in the field – eventually emulated by Microsoft. Xerox also invented the prototype of the fax machine (two copiers connected by telephone lines), and the Ethernet. It was not that the business directors at Xerox failed to see the commercial potential of these products, rather that the company was not interested in diversifying into computing at that stage.

Xerox has production facilities in many locations, including its major factory in Rochester, New York, where the old Haloid Company was founded. But its world headquarters are located in Norwalk, Connecticut. Norwalk is not exactly a foodie paradise, but on the weekend after Labor Day it holds a major oyster festival. To honor Xerox and the inflammable 914, therefore, I thought I’d give you grilled oysters.

xerox6

To be honest, I’ll take a dozen (or two dozen) oysters on the half shell just about any day of the week before I’ll eat them cooked, but I’ve had them grilled in New Orleans and they made a change. The secret is to have a good smoky fire and a tight cover so that they smoke as they cook. You’ll also need to decide what seasonings you want to add.  There are abundant choices. Here’s the steps:

  1. Prepare your seasonings ahead of time. Herb butter is common. Pulse together in your food processor, cold salted butter, parsley, garlic, and lemon juice. For an Asian taste use hoisin sauce, fresh ginger, garlic, ricewine, and dark soy sauce. (This is my favorite). You can prepare your seasonings a day ahead.
  2. Prepare hot coals in your grill, and make them smoke with dampened wood placed on top once they are well hot and glowing.
  3. Scrub your oysters well, making sure they are tightly closed, or close when tapped. Remove any beards and loose material. Keep them in a bucket of cold salted water by the grill until it is ready.
  4. Place the oysters, curved side down on the grill and cover tightly.
  5. After a minute or two check under the cover. The oysters will start to open. As they do, using heavy, fire-proof gloves, take the oysters off the grill and remove the top shell. Add a spoonful of seasoning to each oyster, put them back on the grill and cover. Let them grill for another 2 minutes or so. You don’t want them overcooked because they will get tough. You just want the juices and seasonings to be bubbly.
  6. Serve straight from the grill piping hot, as is, or with a garden salad and crusty bread.

 

Mar 042016
 

ss1

On this date in 1881 according to A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (http://www.bookofdaystales.com/arthur-conan-doyle/ ), Dr Watson and Sherlock Holmes began their first adventure. Doyle wrote A Study in Scarlet in 1886, and the story marks the first appearance of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. For verisimilitude Doyle gave some exact dates in the story, 3 March 1881, being one of them. The book’s title derives from a speech given by Holmes, to his friend and chronicler Watson on the nature of his work, in which he describes the story’s murder investigation as his “study in scarlet” — “There’s the scarlet thread of murder running through the colourless skein of life, and our duty is to unravel it, and isolate it, and expose every inch of it.”

The story, and its main characters, attracted little public interest when it first appeared. Only 11 complete copies of the magazine in which the story first appeared, Beeton’s Christmas Annual for 1887, are known to exist now and they have considerable value. Although Doyle wrote 56 short stories featuring Holmes, A Study in Scarlet is one of only four full-length novels in the original canon. The novel was followed by The Sign of the Four, published in 1890. A Study in Scarlet was the first work of detective fiction to incorporate the magnifying glass as an investigative tool.

I came to A Study in Scarlet in my mid teens, after I had read a number of the Holmes short stories. I won’t talk about the plot itself. You’ve either read it, in which case you know it, or you haven’t, in which case I won’t spoil it for you. When I first read it I was mystified by it for several reasons. For one, Holmes is initially described by Watson as a queer duck with very odd ideas. For example, he does not know anything about the motion of the earth and does not care to know:

ss4

My surprise reached a climax, however, when I found incidentally that he was ignorant of the Copernican Theory and of the composition of the Solar System. That any civilized human being in this nineteenth century should not be aware that the earth travelled round the sun appeared to be to me such an extraordinary fact that I could hardly realize it.

“You appear to be astonished,” he said, smiling at my expression of surprise. “Now that I do know it I shall do my best to forget it.”

“To forget it!”

“You see,” he explained, “I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it.

When I first read this I was dumbfounded for all manner of reasons, and still find it ludicrous. Yes, Doyle wants us to see Holmes as brilliant but quirky. However, this description of him makes no sense. You can’t forget things at will; the brain is not like an expandable storage unit that can be filled; and you cannot guess ahead of time what information might be useful to you even though your profession is highly specialized. Incredibly intelligent and creative scientists, for example, have been known to take inspiration from all manner of seemingly unrelated spheres such as art and foreign travel.

ss3

Second, I was perplexed when the story broke off from the main narrative of capturing a murderer and shifted, without warning, to Mormons in Utah. In fact I stopped reading at this point because I thought this was a new story, and only picked up the book again some time later because I was out of reading material at the time, and discovered that this digression was, in fact, essential to the plot even though at first it seemed irrelevant. Doyle did the same thing in The Valley of Fear, but by then I was prepared, and soldiered on even though I find these “digressions” tedious and pointless. They disrupt the flow of the narrative for me. They also show a lack of understanding of the United States in the 19th century and are rather preposterous. I don’t like narratives that need a lengthy back story for explanation. Admittedly the one in The Valley of Fear is more engaging than the one in A Study in Scarlet, but it is still very farfetched.

ss2

Finding a recipe for Holmes is a challenge because his eating habits are largely absent from the books. If Holmes is true to form, eating is of no interest to him. Doyle certainly shows little interest in describing food in any of his writings. So I have to invent something. As I mentioned in my post on Doyle, the Beeton in Beeton’s Christmas Annual where A Study in Scarlet first appeared, was cookbook author, Isabella Beeton’s, husband. So a Beeton recipe is suitable. I have chosen boiled chicken with oysters simply because it is suitably Victorian. There are many cookbooks available now masquerading as the Sherlock Holmes Cookbook, but they are no more than collections of period recipes with no connexion to the Holmes stories, so I’ll follow suit. Oysters were popular in sauces and dishes in the Victorian period, in part because they were cheap and readily available. The combination of poultry and oysters is delectable. I first came across this combination when I was living and working on the coast of North Carolina where they routinely cooked turkey with an oyster stuffing for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Delightful.

ss5

Here’s Isabella Beeton’s recipe including some ever-charming notes. The twist here is that the bird is stuffed with fresh oysters, then stuffed into a large glass jar, which is immersed in boiling water to cook. In this way the bird does not come in contact with the water, and the cooking juices are preserved. Nowadays I would use a sealable boiling bag for the same effect.

SPACE FOR FOWLS.—We are no advocates for converting the domestic fowl into a cage-bird. We have known amateur fowl-keepers—worthy souls, who would butter the very barley they gave their pets, if they thought they would the more enjoy it—coop up a male bird and three or four hens in an ordinary egg-chest placed on its side, and with the front closely barred with iron hooping! This system will not do. Every animal, from man himself to the guinea-pig, must have what is vulgarly, but truly, known as “elbow-room;” and it must be self-evident how emphatically this rule applies to winged animals. It may be urged, in the case of domestic fowls, that from constant disuse, and from clipping and plucking, and other sorts of maltreatment, their wings can hardly be regarded as instruments of flight; we maintain, however, that you may pluck a fowl’s wing-joints as bare as a pumpkin, but you will not erase from his memory that he is a fowl, and that his proper sphere is the open air. If he likewise reflects that he is an ill-used fowl—a prison-bird—he will then come to the conclusion, that there is not the least use, under such circumstances, for his existence; and you must admit that the decision is only logical and natural.

BOILED FOWL, with Oysters.

(Excellent.)

  1. INGREDIENTS.—1 young fowl, 3 dozen oysters, the yolks of 2 eggs, 1/4 pint of cream.

Mode.—Truss a young fowl as for boiling; fill the inside with oysters which have been bearded and washed in their own liquor; secure the ends of the fowl, put it into a jar, and plunge the jar into a saucepan of boiling water. Keep it boiling for 1-1/2 hour, or rather longer; then take the gravy that has flowed from the oysters and fowl, of which there will be a good quantity; stir in the cream and yolks of eggs, add a few oysters scalded in their liquor; let the sauce get quite hot, but do not allow it to boil; pour some of it over the fowl, and the remainder send to table in a tureen. A blade of pounded mace added to the sauce, with the cream and eggs, will be found an improvement.

Time.—1-1/2 hour. Average cost, 4s. 6d.

Sufficient for 3 or 4 persons.

Seasonable from September to April.

THE FOWL-HOUSE.—In building a fowl-house, take care that it be, if possible, built against a wall or fence that faces the south, and thus insure its inmates against many cold winds, driving rains, and sleets they will otherwise suffer. Let the floor of the house slope half an inch to the foot from back to front, so as to insure drainage; let it also be close, hard, and perfectly smooth; so that it may be cleanly swept out. A capital plan is to mix a few bushels of chalk and dry earth, spread it over the floor, and pay a paviour’s labourer a trifle to hammer it level with his rammer. The fowl-house should be seven feet high, and furnished with perches at least two feet apart. The perches must be level, and not one above the other, or unpleasant consequences may ensue to the undermost row. The perches should be ledged (not fixed—just dropped into sockets, that they may be easily taken out and cleaned) not lower than five feet from the ground, convenient slips of wood being driven into the wall, to render the ascent as easy as possible. The front of the fowl-house should be latticed, taking care that the interstices be not wide enough even to tempt a chick to crawl through. Nesting-boxes, containing soft hay, and fitted against the walls, so as to be easily reached by the perch-ladder, should be supplied. It will be as well to keep by you a few portable doors, so that you may hang one before the entrance to a nesting-box, when the hen goes in to sit. This will prevent other hens from intruding, a habit to which some are much addicted.

Feb 282016
 

jt5 jt4

Today is the birthday (1820) of John Tenniel, Victorian graphic artist and political cartoonist who is generally known to the world as the first illustrator of Lewis Carroll’s works. Historians of the period know his political cartoons very well because they had a major impact on popular opinion, but they are not widely known outside of academic circles any more. I’ve covered his works several times here as an adjunct to discussions of Carroll. Now it’s time to give him his due directly.

Tenniel was born in Bayswater, West London. He was a quiet and introverted person, both as a boy and as an adult; a man whose “life and career was that of the supreme gentlemanly outside, living on the edge of respectability.” In 1840, whilst fencing with his father, Tenniel received a serious wound in his right eye from his father’s foil, which had accidentally lost its protective tip. Over the years Tenniel gradually lost sight in his eye but he never told his father of the severity of the wound, because he did not wish to upset him.

Tenniel was self taught as a youth but became a student of the Royal Academy of Arts in 1842. He found the training there unhelpful, though, and continued educating himself even as a student. He drew the classical statues at the London’s Townley Gallery, copied illustrations from books of costumes and armor in the British museum, and drew the animals from the zoo in Regent’s Park as well as the actors from the London theatres, which were drawn from the pits. It was in these studies that Tenniel learned to love detail. He did, however, become impatient with his work from life and was the happiest when he could draw from memory.

Tenniel’s first book illustration was for Samuel Carter Hall’s The Book of British Ballads, in 1842. While engaged with these illustrations, various contests were taking place in London, as a way for the government to combat the growing Germanic Nazarenes’ style and promote a truly national English school of art. Tenniel planned to enter the 1845 House of Lords’ competition to win the opportunity to design the mural decoration of the new Palace of Westminster. Despite missing the deadline, he submitted a 16-foot (4.9 m) cartoon, An Allegory of Justice, to a competition for designs for the mural decoration of the new Palace of Westminster. For this he received a £200 premium and a commission to paint a fresco in the Upper Waiting Hall (or Hall of Poets) in the House of Lords.

jt14

At Christmas 1850 Tenniel was invited by Mark Lemon to fill the position of joint cartoonist (with John Leech) on Punch. He had been selected on the strength of his recent illustrations to Aesop’s Fables. He contributed his first drawing in the initial letter appearing on p. 224, vol. xix. His first cartoon was Lord Jack the Giant Killer, which showed Lord John Russell assailing Cardinal Wiseman. In 1861, Tenniel was offered John Leech’s position at Punch, as chief political cartoonist.

Because his task was to construct the willful choices of his Punch editors, who probably took their cue from The Times and would have felt the suggestions of political tensions from Parliament as well, Tenniel’s work, as was its design, could be scathing, and rather unpleasant to modern sensibilities. The restlessness of the Victorian period’s issues of working class radicalism, labor, war, economy, and other national themes were the targets of Punch, which in turn influenced Tenniel. His cartoons published in the 1860s made popular the portrait of the Irishman as a subhuman being, wanton in his appetites and most resembling an orangutan in both facial features and posture. Many of Tenniel’s political cartoons expressed strong hostility to Irish Nationalism, with Fenians and Land leagues depicted as monstrous, ape-like brutes, while “Hibernia”—the personification of Ireland—was depicted as a beautiful, helpless young girl threatened by these “monsters” and turning for protection to “her elder sister”, the powerful armored Britannia.

When examined separately from the book illustrations he did over time, Tenniel’s work at Punch alone, expressing decades of editorial viewpoints, often controversial and socially sensitive, was created to echo the voices of the British public. Tenniel drew 2,165 cartoons for Punch, a liberal and politically active publication that mirrored the Victorian public’s mood for liberal social changes. Thus Tenniel, in his cartoons, represented for years the conscience of the British majority. Here’s a gallery:

jt3 jt2 jt16 jt15 jt8 jt7

Despite the thousands of political cartoons and hundreds of illustrative works attributed to him, much of Tenniel’s fame stems from his illustrations for Alice. Tenniel drew 92 illustrations for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There. Carroll originally illustrated Wonderland himself, but his artistic abilities were limited. Engraver Orlando Jewitt, who had worked for Carroll in 1859 and having reviewed Carroll’s drawings suggested that he employ a professional illustrator. Carroll was a regular reader of Punch and was therefore familiar with Tenniel. In 1865 Tenniel, after long talks with Carroll, illustrated the first edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

jt17

One of the most unusual and original elements of the Alice books is the placement of Tenniel’s illustrations on the pages. There was a physical relation of the illustrations to the text, intended to subtly mesh illustrations with certain points of the text. Carroll and Tenniel expressed this in various ways including bracketing, where two relevant sentences would bracket an image, thus defining the moment that Tenniel was trying to illustrate. Tenniel also produced L-shaped illustrations that contained relevant text within them, so that text and illustration were totally integrated.

jt12

The grotesque quality in Tenniel’s work was one of the main reasons Carroll wanted him as the illustrator for the Alice books. Tenniel had a knack of combining the grotesque, fantasy, and realism in one package, as did Carroll. Thus the illustrations of Alice blend smoothly with the text which has exactly the same quality.

jt11 jt6

Tenniel was honored as a living national treasure and for his public service by being knighted in 1893 by Queen Victoria. This was the first such honor bestowed on an illustrator or cartoonist. His colleagues saw his knighthood coming as gratitude for “raising what had been a fairly lowly profession to an unprecedented level of respectability.”

jt13

What else to celebrate Tenniel than a dish from Mrs Beeton? What else but oysters? Steak with oyster sauce was a favorite “manly” meal for Victorian gentlemen. Here’s Beeton’s recipes (three in all to create the dish). You’ll note that she says these dishes are seasonable from September to April. That’s because these months have an “r” in them – months when oysters are at their best, and not breeding.

jt9

MELTED BUTTER MADE WITH MILK.

 INGREDIENTS.—1 teaspoonful of flour, 2 oz. butter, 1/3 pint of milk, a few grains of salt.

Mode.—Mix the butter and flour smoothly together on a plate, put it into a lined saucepan, and pour in the milk. Keep stirring it one way over a sharp fire; let it boil quickly for a minute or two, and it is ready to serve. This is a very good foundation for onion, lobster, or oyster sauce: using milk instead of water makes it look so much whiter and more delicate.

Time.—Altogether, 10 minutes. Average cost for this quantity, 3d.

OYSTER SAUCE, to serve with Fish, Boiled Poultry, &c.

  1. INGREDIENTS.—3 dozen oysters, 1/2 pint of melted butter, made with milk, No. 380.

Mode.—Open the oysters carefully, and save their liquor; strain it into a clean saucepan (a lined one is best), put in the oysters, and let them just come to the boiling-point, when they should look plump. Take them off the fire immediately, and put the whole into a basin. Strain the liquor from them, mix with it sufficient milk to make 1/2 pint altogether, and follow the directions of No. 380. When the melted butter is ready and very smooth, put in the oysters, which should be previously bearded, if you wish the sauce to be really nice. Set it by the side of the fire to get thoroughly hot, but do not allow it to boil, or the oysters will immediately harden. Using cream instead of milk makes this sauce extremely delicious. When liked, add a seasoning of cayenne, or anchovy sauce; but, as we have before stated, a plain sauce should be plain, and not be overpowered by highly-flavoured essences; therefore we recommend that the above directions be implicitly followed, and no seasoning added.

Average cost for this quantity, 2s.

Sufficient for 6 persons. Never allow fewer than 6 oysters to 1 person, unless the party is very large.

Seasonable from September to April.

A more economical sauce may be made by using a smaller quantity of oysters, and not bearding them before they are added to the sauce: this may answer the purpose, but we cannot undertake to recommend it as a mode of making this delicious adjunct to fish, &c.

BEEF-STEAKS AND OYSTER SAUCE.

  1. INGREDIENTS.—3 dozen oysters, ingredients for oyster sauce (see No. 492), 2 lbs. of rump-steak, seasoning to taste of pepper and salt.

Mode.—Make the oyster sauce by recipe No. 492, and when that is ready, put it by the side of the fire, but do not let it keep boiling. Have the steaks cut of an equal thickness, broil them over a very clear fire, turning them often, that the gravy may not escape. In about 8 minutes they will be done, then put them on a very hot dish; smother with the oyster sauce, and the remainder send to table in a tureen. Serve quickly.

Time.—About 8 to 10 minutes, according to the thickness of the steak.

Average cost, 1s. per lb.

Sufficient for 4 persons.

Seasonable from September to April.

 

Jan 272016
 

by Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson),photograph,2 June 1857

Today is the birthday (1832) of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known by his pen name Lewis Carroll, an English writer, mathematician, logician, Anglican deacon, and photographer. His most famous works are Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass, but his work in mathematics and logic, though limited in scope and much less well known, is of enduring value.

I’ve had a hard time appreciating the Alice books all of my life. When I was 4 years old my father read me the first chapter of Wonderland as a bedtime story, and that night I had a nightmare that I still remember vividly—everything in the world swirling in a kaleidoscopic jumble. For decades thereafter I could not hear or read the tales, see the classic illustrations, or watch depictions in films without recoiling in horror. I’m a little better now. In fact I managed to control my infantile fears long enough to write a post on the Mad Hatter here 3 years ago: http://www.bookofdaystales.com/mad-hatter-day/ For the moment I’ll pass over these books and return a little later. Meanwhile, a little about his personal life, then his mathematics and photography, plus minor quirks.

lc6

During his early youth, Dodgson was educated at home in Croft-on-Tees in North Yorkshire. His reading lists preserved in the family archives testify to a precocious intellect: at the age of seven, he was reading books such as The Pilgrim’s Progress. He also suffered from a stammer – a condition shared by most of his siblings – that often influenced his social life throughout his years. At the age of twelve, he was sent to Richmond Grammar School (now part of Richmond School) in nearby Richmond.

In 1846, Dodgson entered Rugby School where he was evidently unhappy, as he wrote some years after leaving:

I cannot say … that any earthly considerations would induce me to go through my three years again … I can honestly say that if I could have been … secure from annoyance at night, the hardships of the daily life would have been comparative trifles to bear.

Scholastically, though, he excelled with apparent ease. “I have not had a more promising boy at his age since I came to Rugby”, observed mathematics master R. B. Mayor.

He left Rugby at the end of 1849 and entered Oxford University in May 1850 as a member of his father’s old college, Christ Church. He had been at Oxford only two days when he received a summons home. His mother had died of “inflammation of the brain” – perhaps meningitis or a stroke – at the age of 47. His early academic career wavered between high promise and irresistible distraction. He did not always work hard, but was exceptionally talented in mathematics and achievement came easily to him. In 1852, he was awarded first-class honours in Mathematics Moderations, and was shortly thereafter nominated to a Studentship by his father’s old friend Canon Edward Pusey. In 1854, he obtained first-class honours in the Final Honours School of Mathematics, placing first on the schools list. He remained at Christ Church studying and teaching, but the next year he failed an important scholarship through his self-confessed inability to apply himself to study. Even so, his talent as a mathematician won him the Christ Church Mathematical Lectureship in 1855, which he continued to hold for the next twenty-six years. Despite early unhappiness, Dodgson was to remain at Christ Church, in various capacities, until his death.

lc7

Traces of Dodgson (and Alice) can be found all around Christ Church to this day. For example, almost opposite opposite Christ Church is Alice’s Shop on St Aldate’s. It was formerly frequented in Victorian times by Alice Liddell, the inspiration for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, who used to buy sweets there. She lived at Christ Church with her father Henry Liddell, who was Dean of the College and Cathedral.

The shop was featured as the Old Sheep Shop in Through the Looking-Glass. One of the original John Tenniel illustrations shows the inside of the shop. It was used as a setting in Chapter 5 of the book (Wool and Water) and is owned by a sheep in the story:

She looked at the Queen, who seemed to have suddenly wrapped herself up in wool. Alice rubbed her eyes, and looked again. She couldn’t make out what had happened at all. Was she in a shop? And was that really — was it really a sheep that was sitting on the other side of the counter? Rub as she could, she could make nothing more of it: she was in a little dark shop, leaning with her elbows on the counter, and opposite to her was an old Sheep, sitting in an arm-chair knitting, and every now and then leaving off to look at her through a great pair of spectacles.

lc8

The shop is characteristic of the dream-like qualities within the Looking-Glass world, in that every time Alice tries to focus on a specific object on its many shelves it changes shape and shifts to another shelf. At another point the shop itself vanishes and Alice finds herself outside with the sheep in a boat, having been given a pair of knitting needles which turn into oars in her hands. The sheep herself continues to be make scornful, personal remarks and then finally, on appearing back in the shop, sells Alice an egg, which promptly turns into Humpty Dumpty.

The overwhelming commercial success of the first Alice book changed Dodgson’s life in many ways. The fame of his alter ego “Lewis Carroll” soon spread around the world. He was inundated with fan mail and with sometimes unwanted attention. According to one popular, but almost certainly apocryphal, story, Queen Victoria herself enjoyed Alice In Wonderland so much that she commanded that he dedicate his next book to her, and was accordingly presented with his next work, a scholarly mathematical volume entitled An Elementary Treatise on Determinants. Dodgson himself vehemently denied this story, commenting “… It is utterly false in every particular: nothing even resembling it has occurred”; and it is unlikely for other reasons. As T.B. Strong comments in a Times article, “It would have been clean contrary to all his practice to identify [the] author of Alice with the author of his mathematical works.” He also began earning quite substantial sums of money, but continued with his post at Christ Church even though he disliked teaching.

lc9

In 1856, Dodgson took up the new art form of photography under the influence first of his uncle Skeffington Lutwidge, and later of his Oxford friend Reginald Southey. He soon excelled at the art and became a well-known gentleman-photographer, and he seems even to have toyed with the idea of making a living out of it in his very early years.

A study by Roger Taylor and Edward Wakeling exhaustively lists every surviving print, and Taylor calculates that just over half of his surviving work depicts young girls, though about 60% of his original photographic portfolio is now missing. Dodgson also made many studies of men, women, boys, and landscapes; his subjects also include skeletons, dolls, dogs, statues, paintings, and trees. His pictures of children were taken with a parent in attendance and many of the pictures were taken in the Liddell garden because natural sunlight was required for good exposures.

lc13 lc11 lc5

He also found photography to be a useful entrée into higher social circles. During the most productive part of his career, he made portraits of notable sitters such as John Everett Millais, Ellen Terry, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Julia Margaret Cameron, Michael Faraday, Lord Salisbury, and Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

lc10

By the time that Dodgson abruptly ceased photography (1880), he had established his own studio on the roof of Tom Quad at Christ Church, created around 3,000 images, and was a master of the medium, though fewer than 1,000 images have survived time and deliberate destruction. Dodgson reported that he stopped taking photographs because keeping his studio working was too time-consuming. He used the wet collodion process which required considerable skill and experience.

lc12

Controversy continues to surround Dodgson’s interest in Alice and other girls as photographic models. I honestly cannot make up my mind as to whether his interest was prurient, or simply part of a common Victorian aesthetic. For me, chronocentrism is as intriguing and troublesome as ethnocentrism. It’s impossible for me to put myself into the mind of a Victorian mathematician, or in the moral milieu of the time.

lc20 lc21

Dodgson invented a writing tablet called the nyctograph that allowed note-taking in the dark, thus eliminating the need to get out of bed and strike a light when one woke with an idea. I find this so incredibly personal; I have never had the urge to wake in the middle of the night and write my ideas down. The device consisted of a gridded card with sixteen squares and system of symbols representing an alphabet of Dodgson’s design, using letter shapes similar to the Graffiti writing system on a Palm device.

He also devised a number of games, including an early version of what today is known as Scrabble. He appears to have invented — or at least certainly popularized — the “doublet” (word ladder), a form of brain-teaser that is still popular today, changing one word into another by altering one letter at a time, each successive change always resulting in a genuine word. For instance, CAT is transformed into DOG by the following steps: CAT, COT, DOT, DOG.

Within the academic discipline of mathematics, Dodgson worked primarily in the fields of geometry, linear and matrix algebra, mathematical logic, and recreational mathematics, producing nearly a dozen books under his real name. Dodgson also developed new ideas in linear algebra (e.g., the first printed proof of the Kronecker-Capelli theorem), probability, and the study of elections (e.g., Dodgson’s method) and committees; some of this work was not published until well after his death.

lc22

His mathematical work attracted renewed interest in the late 20th century. Martin Gardner’s book on logic machines and diagrams, and William Warren Bartley’s posthumous publication of the second part of Carroll’s symbolic logic book have sparked a reevaluation of Carroll’s contributions to symbolic logic. Robbins’ and Rumsey’s investigation of Dodgson condensation, a method of evaluating determinants, led them to the Alternating Sign Matrix conjecture, now a theorem. The discovery in the 1990s of additional ciphers that Carroll had constructed, in addition to his “Memoria Technica”, showed that he had employed sophisticated mathematical ideas in their creation.

Dodgson’s life remained little changed over the last twenty years of his life, throughout his growing wealth and fame. He continued to teach at Christ Church until 1881, and remained in residence there until his death. He died of pneumonia following influenza on 14 January 1898 at his sisters’ home, “The Chestnuts” in Guildford. He was two weeks away from turning 66 years old. He is buried in Guildford at the Mount Cemetery.

lc3

Here’s a few favorite quotations:

It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.

She generally gave herself very good advice, (though she very seldom followed it).

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

“Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
“I don’t much care where –”
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.”

One of the deep secrets of life is that all that is really worth the doing is what we do for others.

If everybody minded their own business, the world would go around a great deal faster than it does.

“Alice laughed. ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said. ‘One can’t believe impossible things.’
I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.

I’m not strange, weird, off, nor crazy, my reality is just different from yours.

If you drink much from a bottle marked ‘poison’ it is certain to disagree with you sooner or later.

English mathematician, writer and photographer Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll (1832 - 1898) with Mrs George Macdonald and four children relaxing in a garden. (Photo by Lewis Carroll/Getty Images)

In Hints for Etiquette: Or, Dining Out Made Easy, Dodgson mocks dining habits of his era:

As caterers for the public taste, we can conscientiously recommend this book to all diners-out who are perfectly unacquainted with the usages of society. However we may regret that our author has confined himself to warning rather than advice, we are bound in justice to say that nothing here stated will be found to contradict the habits of the best circles. The following examples exhibit a depth of penetration and a fullness of experience rarely met with:

I

In proceeding to the dining-room, the gentleman gives one arm to the lady he escorts– it is unusual to offer both.

II

The practice of taking soup with the next gentleman but one is now wisely discontinued; but the custom of asking your host his opinion of the weather immediately on the removal of the first course still prevails.

III

To use a fork with your soup, intimating at the same time to your hostess that you are reserving the spoon for beefsteaks, is a practice wholly exploded.

IV

On meat being placed before you, there is no possible objection to your eating it, if so disposed; still in all such delicate cases, be guided entirely by the conduct of those around you.

V

It is always allowable to ask for artichoke jelly with your boiled venison; however there are houses where this is not supplied.

VI

The method of helping roast turkey with two carving-forks is praticable, but deficient in grace.

I am so thoroughly reminded of Mrs Beeton’s rules and admonitions by this parody. Here she is on oysters – tribute to the Walrus and the Carpenter:

lc23

FRIED OYSTERS.

  1. INGREDIENTS.—3 dozen oysters, 2 oz. butter, 1 tablespoonful of ketchup, a little chopped lemon-peel, 1/2 teaspoonful of chopped parsley.

 Mode.—Boil the oysters for 1 minute in their own liquor, and drain them; fry them with the butter, ketchup, lemon-peel, and parsley; lay them on a dish, and garnish with fried potatoes, toasted sippets, and parsley. This is a delicious delicacy, and is a favourite Italian dish.

 Time.—5 minutes. Average cost for this quantity, 1s. 9d.

 Seasonable from September to April.

 Sufficient for 4 persons.

 lc18

THE EDIBLE OYSTER:—This shell-fish is almost universally distributed near the shores of seas in all latitudes, and they especially abound on the coasts of France and Britain. The coasts most celebrated, in England, for them, are those of Essex and Suffolk. Here they are dredged up by means of a net with an iron scraper at the mouth, that is dragged by a rope from a boat over the beds. As soon as taken from their native beds, they are stored in pits, formed for the purpose, furnished with sluices, through which, at the spring tides, the water is suffered to flow. This water, being stagnant, soon becomes green in warm weather; and, in a few days afterwards, the oysters acquire the same tinge, which increases their value in the market. They do not, however, attain their perfection and become fit for sale till the end of six or eight weeks. Oysters are not considered proper for the table till they are about a year and a half old; so that the brood of one spring are not to be taken for sale, till, at least, the September twelvemonth afterwards.

SCALLOPED OYSTERS.

I.

INGREDIENTS.—Oysters, say 1 pint, 1 oz. butter, flour, 2 tablespoonfuls of white stock, 2 tablespoonfuls of cream; pepper and salt to taste; bread crumbs, oiled butter.

Mode.—Scald the oysters in their own liquor, take them out, beard them, and strain the liquor free from grit. Put 1 oz. of batter into a stewpan; when melted, dredge in sufficient flour to dry it up; add the stock, cream, and strained liquor, and give one boil. Put in the oysters and seasoning; let them gradually heat through, but not boil. Have ready the scallop-shells buttered; lay in the oysters, and as much of the liquid as they will hold; cover them over with bread crumbs, over which drop a little oiled butter. Brown them in the oven, or before the fire, and serve quickly, and very hot.

Time.—Altogether, 1/4 hour.

Average cost for this quantity, 3s. 6d.

Sufficient for 5 or 6 persons.

II.

Prepare the oysters as in the preceding recipe, and put them in a scallop-shell or saucer, and between each layer sprinkle over a few bread crumbs, pepper, salt, and grated nutmeg; place small pieces of butter over, and bake before the fire in a Dutch oven. Put sufficient bread crumbs on the top to make a smooth surface, as the oysters should not be seen.

Time.—About 1/4 hour.

Average cost, 3s. 2d.

Seasonable from September to April.

STEWED OYSTERS.

  1. INGREDIENTS.—1 pint of oysters, 1 oz. of butter, flour, 1/3 pint of cream; cayenne and salt to taste; 1 blade of pounded mace.

 Mode.—Scald the oysters in their own liquor, take them out, beard them, and strain the liquor; put the butter into a stewpan, dredge in sufficient flour to dry it up, add the oyster-liquor and mace, and stir it over a sharp fire with a wooden spoon; when it comes to a boil, add the cream, oysters, and seasoning. Let all simmer for 1 or 2 minutes, but not longer, or the oysters would harden. Serve on a hot dish, and garnish with croutons, or toasted sippets of bread. A small piece of lemon-peel boiled with the oyster-liquor, and taken out before the cream is added, will be found an improvement.

 Time.—Altogether 15 minutes.

 Average cost for this quantity, 3s. 6d.

 Seasonable from September to April.

 Sufficient for 6 persons.

 THE OYSTER AND THE SCALLOP.—The oyster is described as a bivalve shell-fish, having the valves generally unequal. The hinge is without teeth, but furnished with a somewhat oval cavity, and mostly with lateral transverse grooves. From a similarity in the structure of the hinge, oysters and scallops have been classified as one tribe; but they differ very essentially both in their external appearance and their habits. Oysters adhere to rocks, or, as in two or three species, to roots of trees on the shore; while the scallops are always detached, and usually lurk in the sand.

 OYSTER PATTIES (an Entree).

289. INGREDIENTS.—2 dozen oysters, 2 oz. butter, 3 tablespoonfuls of cream, a little lemon-juice, 1 blade of pounded mace; cayenne to taste.

Mode.—Scald the oysters in their own liquor, beard them, and cut each one into 3 pieces. Put the butter into a stewpan, dredge in sufficient flour to dry it up; add the strained oyster-liquor with the other ingredients; put in the oysters, and let them heat gradually, but not boil fast. Make the patty-cases as directed for lobster patties, No. 277: fill with the oyster mixture, and replace the covers.

Time.—2 minutes for the oysters to simmer in the mixture.

Average cost, exclusive of the patty-cases, 1s. 1d.

Seasonable from September to April.

THE OYSTER FISHERY.—The oyster fishery in Britain is esteemed of so much importance, that it is regulated by a Court of Admiralty. In the month of May, the fishermen are allowed to take the oysters, in order to separate the spawn from the cultch, the latter of which is thrown in again, to preserve the bed for the future. After this month, it is felony to carry away the cultch, and otherwise punishable to take any oyster, between the shells of which, when closed, a shilling will rattle.

TO KEEP OYSTERS.

  1. Put them in a tub, and cover them with salt and water. Let them remain for 12 hours, when they are to be taken out, and allowed to stand for another 12 hours without water. If left without water every alternate 12 hours, they will be much better than if constantly kept in it. Never put the same water twice to them.

OYSTERS FRIED IN BATTER.

 INGREDIENTS.—1/2 pint of oysters, 2 eggs, 1/2 pint of milk, sufficient flour to make the batter; pepper and salt to taste; when liked, a little nutmeg; hot lard.

 Mode.—Scald the oysters in their own liquor, beard them, and lay them on a cloth, to drain thoroughly. Break the eggs into a basin, mix the flour with them, add the milk gradually, with nutmeg and seasoning, and put the oysters in the batter. Make some lard hot in a deep frying-pan, put in the oysters, one at a time; when done, take them up with a sharp-pointed skewer, and dish them on a napkin. Fried oysters are frequently used for garnishing boiled fish, and then a few bread crumbs should be added to the flour.

Time.—5 or 6 minutes.

Average cost for this quantity, 1s. 10d.

Seasonable from September to April.

Sufficient for 3 persons.

EXCELLENCE OF THE ENGLISH OYSTER.—The French assert that the English oysters, which are esteemed the best in Europe, were originally procured from Cancalle Bay, near St. Malo; but they assign no proof for this. It is a fact, however, that the oysters eaten in ancient Rome were nourished in the channel which then parted the Isle of Thanet from England, and which has since been filled up, and converted into meadows.

lc19

“O Oysters,” said the Carpenter,
“You’ve had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?’
But answer came there none–
And this was scarcely odd, because
They’d eaten every one.

 

Dec 092015
 

jm1

Today is the birthday (1608) of John Milton, an English poet, polemicist, man of letters, and a civil servant for the Commonwealth of England under Oliver Cromwell. He wrote at a time of religious flux and political upheaval, and is best known for his epic poem Paradise Lost (1667), written in blank verse.

The phases of Milton’s life parallel the major historical and political changes in Stuart Britain. Under the increasingly personal rule of Charles I and its breakdown in constitutional confusion and war, Milton studied, travelled, wrote poetry mostly for private circulation, and launched a career as pamphleteer and publicist. Under the Commonwealth of England, he ceased being thought dangerously radical and even heretical; the shift in accepted attitudes in government placed him in public office, and he even acted as an official spokesman in certain of his publications. The restoration of the monarchy in 1660 deprived Milton, now completely blind, of his public platform, but this period saw him complete most of his major works of poetry.

jm9

Plenty has been written on Milton’s life and politics which you can read if it takes your fancy. I’m mainly interested in his theology, both in plain prose tracts and in poetry. Like many writers before him, Milton attempted to integrate Christian theology with classical modes. In his early poems, the poet narrator expresses a tension between vice and virtue, the latter invariably related to Protestantism. In his later poems, Milton’s theological concerns become more explicit.

Milton embraced many heterodox Christian theological views which in earlier centuries would have had him burnt at the stake. He rejected the Trinity, for example, in the belief that the Son was subordinate to the Father – a position related to the heretical Arianism. In his 1641 treatise, Of Reformation, Milton expressed his dislike for Catholicism and episcopacy, presenting Rome as a modern Babylon, and bishops as Egyptian taskmasters.

jm10

Through the Republic, Milton often presents England, rescued from the trappings of a worldly monarchy, as an elect nation akin to the Old Testament Israel, and shows its leader, Oliver Cromwell, as a latter-day Moses. These views were bound up in Protestant views of the Millennium, which some sects, such as the Fifth Monarchists predicted would arrive in England. Milton, however, would later criticize the “worldly” millenarian views of these and others.

The Restoration of the Stuart monarchy in 1660 began a new phase in Milton’s work. In Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes, Milton mourns the end of the godly Commonwealth. The Garden of Eden may allegorically reflect Milton’s view of England’s recent Fall from Grace, while Samson’s blindness and captivity—mirroring Milton’s own lost sight—may be a metaphor for England’s blind acceptance of Charles II as king.

Despite the Restoration of the monarchy, Milton did not lose his personal faith; Samson shows how the loss of national salvation did not necessarily preclude the salvation of the individual, while Paradise Regained expresses Milton’s continuing belief in the promise of Christian salvation through Jesus Christ.

Milton had come to stand apart from all sects, though apparently finding the Quakers most congenial. He never went to any religious services in his later years. When a servant brought back accounts of sermons from nonconformist meetings, Milton became so sarcastic that the man eventually resigned his position. Milton did, however, call in the Areopagitica for “the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties” (applied, however, only to the conflicting Protestant denominations, and not to atheists, Jews, Muslims or Catholics). Milton argued for disestablishment as the only effective way of achieving broad toleration.

Milton’s understanding of humanity by itself and in relation to God are crystallized in his classic epic, Paradise Lost.

jm2

The poem is separated into twelve “books” or sections, the lengths of which vary greatly (the longest is Book IX, with 1,189 lines, and the shortest Book VII, with 640). The Arguments at the head of each book were added in subsequent imprints of the first edition. Originally published in ten books, a fully “Revised and Augmented” edition reorganized into twelve books was issued in 1674, and this is the edition generally used today.

The poem follows the epic tradition of starting in medias res (in the middle of things), the background story being recounted later.

Milton’s story has two narrative arcs, one about Satan (Lucifer) and the other following Adam and Eve. It begins after Satan and the other rebel angels have been defeated and banished to Hell, or, as it is also called in the poem, Tartarus. In Pandæmonium, Satan employs his rhetorical skill to organize his followers; he is aided by Mammon and Beelzebub. Belial and Moloch are also present. At the end of the debate, Satan volunteers to poison the newly created Earth and God’s new and most favored creation – humankind. He braves the dangers of the Abyss alone in a manner reminiscent of Odysseus or Aeneas. After an arduous crossing of the Chaos outside Hell, he enters God’s new material World, and later the Garden of Eden.

jm3

At several points in the poem, an Angelic War over Heaven is recounted from different perspectives. Satan’s rebellion follows the epic convention of large-scale warfare. The battles between the faithful angels and Satan’s forces take place over three days. At the final battle, the Son of God single-handedly defeats the entire legion of angelic rebels and banishes them from Heaven. Following this purge, God creates the World, culminating in his creation of Adam and Eve. While God gave Adam and Eve total freedom and power to rule over all creation, he gave them one explicit command: not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil on penalty of death.

The story of Adam and Eve’s temptation and fall is a fundamentally different, new kind of epic: a domestic one. Adam and Eve are presented for the first time in Christian literature as having a full physical relationship while still being without sin. They have passions and distinct personalities. Satan, disguised in the form of a serpent, successfully tempts Eve to eat from the Tree by preying on her vanity and tricking her with rhetoric. Adam, learning that Eve has sinned, knowingly commits the same sin. He declares to Eve that since she was made from his flesh, they are bound to one another ‒ if she dies, he must also die. In this manner, Milton portrays Adam as a heroic figure, but also as a greater sinner than Eve, as he is aware that what he is doing is wrong.

jm5

After eating the fruit, Adam and Eve have lustful sex. At first, Adam is convinced that Eve was right in thinking that eating the fruit would be beneficial. However, they soon fall asleep and have terrible nightmares, and after they awake, they experience guilt and shame for the first time. Realizing that they have committed a terrible act against God, they engage in mutual recrimination.

Meanwhile, Satan returns triumphantly to Hell, amidst the praise of his fellow fallen angels. He tells them about how their scheme has worked and humankind has fallen, giving them complete dominion over Paradise. As he finishes his speech, however, the fallen angels around him become hideous snakes, and soon enough, Satan himself turns into a snake, deprived of limbs and unable to talk.

jm4

Eve’s pleas to Adam reconcile the two to a degree. Her encouragement enables them both to approach God, to “bow and sue for grace with suppliant knee”, and to receive grace from God. In a vision shown to him by the angel Michael, Adam witnesses everything that will happen to humankind until the Great Flood. Adam is very upset by this vision of the future, so Michael also tells him about humankind’s potential redemption from original sin through Jesus Christ (whom Michael calls “King Messiah”).

Adam and Eve are cast out of Eden, and Michael says that Adam may find “a paradise within thee, happier far”. Adam and Eve also now have a more distant relationship with God, who is omnipresent but invisible (unlike the tangible Father in the Garden of Eden).

You will have to read the whole thing to glean the poetics above this bald epitome. There are some extremely lofty moments that capture the spirit:

The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heav’n of hell, a hell of heav’n

Better to reign in Hell, than to serve in Heaven.

Solitude sometimes is best society.

Long is the way and hard, that out of Hell leads up to light.

Abashed the devil stood and felt how awful goodness is and saw Virtue in her shape how lovely: and pined his loss

All is not lost, the unconquerable will, and study of revenge, immortal hate, and the courage never to submit or yield.

Never can true reconcilement grow where wounds of deadly hate have pierced so deep.

Each fragment you find that resonates can leave you with a sense of the awe and wonder that Milton felt.

jm6

After that, a recipe seems rather lowly, but I found this one in The Whole Duty of a Woman: Or a Guide to the Female Sex (1696), quite the epitome of thoughts about women in the 17th century. The title continues — From the age of sixteen to sixty, &c. Being directions, how women of all qualities and conditions, ought to behave themselves in the various circumstances of this life, for their obtaining not only present, but future happiness. I. Directions how to obtain the divine and moral virtues of piety, meekness, modesty, chastity, humility, compassion, temperance and affability, with their advantages, and how to avoyd the opposite vices. II. The duty of virgins, directing them what they ought to do, and what to avoyd, for gaining all the accomplishments required in that state. With the whole art of love, &c. 3. The whole duty of a wife, 4. The whole duty of a widow, &c. Also choice receipts in physick and chirurgery. With the whole art of cookery, preserving, candying, beautifying, &c. Written by a lady.

 I am not sure that Milton would approve of the author’s vision of the contemporary Eve, but the book gives considerable insight into the thinking of the times. You can find the whole text online in a number of places. This is a simple scan of the 1737 printing:

https://archive.org/stream/wholedutyawoman00unkngoog#page/n17/mode/2up

jm7

From it I have chosen this recipe:

A Shoulder of Mutton with Oysters.

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

My take on this is fairly obvious. Start with a boned shoulder of lamb – you’re not going to find mutton. Lay it out flat and spread it with freshly shucked oysters and sprinkle liberally with sweet green herbs such as savory and marjoram, plus salt and pepper to taste. Then roll it and tie it firmly with baking twine. Roast at around 400°F, basting frequently until the outside is deeply browned, about an hour, depending on size. Lamb is best when it is pink inside.

Remove the lamb from the roasting pan and cover it with foil to rest whilst you make the gravy. Add flour to the pan in equal quantity to the pan juices and cook over medium high heat to form a roux. Then, whisking vigorously, stir in a mix of claret and stock to make a thick gravy, seasoned with freshly grated nutmeg and black pepper.

Unroll the shoulder on a platter, push the oysters to one side, and slice the meat thickly. Then bathe the platter with the hot gravy and serve garnished with parsley and lemon slices. I’d recommend some boiled new potatoes and poached greens as side dishes.

Nov 152015
 

malo1

Today is the feast of Saint Malo (also known as Maclou or Mac’h Low, in Latin, as Maclovius or Machutus, born c. 27 March 520 died 15 November 621), the mid-6th century founder of Saint-Malo in Brittany. He is one of the seven founder saints of Brittany. Details of Malo’s career are preserved in three medieval ‘Lives’ (Vitae) which seem to include incidents associated with several different people of similar names. Despite this confusion, it appears that Malo was born about the year 520, probably in Wales.

His name may derive from the Old Breton machlou, a compound of mach “warrant, hostage” and lou (or loh) “brilliant, bright, beautiful,” but this is only conjecture. In any event, literal/linguistic meanings of names are not very important.

Malo is said to have been baptized by Saint Brendan and to have become his favorite disciple. However, serious doubt has been cast on the authenticity of this section of his life. He is said to have been one of those specially selected by Brendan for his famous voyage.

malo2

It was traditionally from Llancarfan Abbey that Brendan and Malo, with numerous companions, set forth for the discovery of the “Island of the Blest”. He then put to sea on a second voyage and visited the Island of Cézembre, in the seaward front of St Malo, where he stayed for some time. Supposedly, Maclovius was a dead giant, whom Brendan revived with his holiness. Brendan then baptized him, before allowing him to return to the dead. It was supposedly on the occasion of his second voyage that he evangelized the Orkney Islands and the northern isles of Scotland. It is remarkable that Saint Brendan also labored at Cézembre where he is said to have had a hermit’s cell on a precipitous rock in the sea, whither he often retired. This may be the derivation of the association between the two men, although Sabine Baring-Gould (of werewolf fame) suggests that, in this case, Brendan is a mistake for Branwaladr.

At Aleth, opposite St Malo, Malo placed himself under a venerable hermit named Aaron, on whose death in 544, he succeeded to the spiritual rule of the district subsequently known as St Malo, and was consecrated first Bishop of Aleth.

In old age the disorder of the island compelled saint Malo to leave, but the people soon begged the saint to come back. On his return matters were put right, and the saint, feeling that his end was at hand, determined to spend his last days in solitary penance. Accordingly he proceeded to Archambiac, a village in the diocese of Saintes, where he passed the remainder of his life in prayer and mortification. His death, reported in Archingeay (in the same diocese) is chronicled on 15 November, a Sunday, in the year 621 (although this may have been a different saint named Marcoult).

Due to its famous founder, the city of Saint-Malo is one of the seven stages in the Tro Breizh (“Tour of Brittany”, in Breton), a pilgrimage celebrating the seven founding saints of Brittany. There are also three towns in North America named for St Malo — 2 in Canada and 1 in Louisiana.

malo6

Indirectly, the name, Islas Malvinas (Falkland Is), can be traced to Saint Malo, as it is derived from the French name, Îles Malouines, named by Louis Antoine de Bougainville in 1764 after the first known settlers who were mariners and fishermen from the port of Saint-Malo.

malo7

Pontoise Cathedral is dedicated to Saint Malo.

malo4

Lesmahagow Priory in South Lanarkshire was also dedicated to him, in the Latin form of his name Machutus before it was secularized in the 16th century. Nearby is my father’s last resting place.

malo5

Saint-Malo in Brittany is famous for its oysters that come from beds in nearby Cancale. They’re usually eaten on the half shell so I can’t really give a recipe du jour other than to grab a sack of oysters and an oyster knife and have at it. Fresh lemon and black pepper are the typical accompaniments. You’ll have to fork over a fair raft of Euros, but it’s worth it — once. More than with just about any other food, the exact provenance of the oysters, and not the recipe, is the key. My interest in oysters around the world almost rivals my fascination with tripe dishes. Yes, I have special tastes.

Jun 132015
 

agr2

Today is the birthday (40 CE) of Gnaeus Julius Agricola,a Gallo-Roman general responsible for much of the Roman conquest of Britain. The De vita et moribus Iulii Agricolae (Concerning the Life and Death of Agricola or, more usually, simply Agricola), written by his son-in-law the Roman historian Tacitus, is the primary source for most of what is known about him. (see http://legacy.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/tacitus-agricola.asp )There is also detailed archaeological evidence from northern Britain.

Agricola began his military career in Britain, serving under governor Gaius Suetonius Paulinus. Subsequently he served in a variety of positions. He was appointed quaestor (financial officer) in Asia province in 64, then tribune of the plebs (largely a ceremonial position) in 66, and praetor (state legal and military official) in 68. He supported Vespasian during the Year of the Four Emperors, and was given a military command in Britain when the latter became emperor. When his command ended in 73, he was made patrician (noble) in Rome and appointed governor of Gallia Aquitania. He was made consul and governor of Britannia in 77. While there, he completed the conquest of what is now Wales and northern England, and led his army to the far north of Scotland, establishing forts across much of the Lowlands. He was recalled from Britain in 85 after an unusually lengthy service, and thereafter retired from military and public life.

Agricola was born in the colonia of Forum Julii, Gallia Narbonensis (now Fréjus in France). Agricola’s parents were from noted Gallo-Roman political families of senatorial rank, his ancestors were Romanized Gauls of local origin. Both of his grandfathers served as imperial governors. His father, Lucius Julius Graecinus, was a praetor and had become a member of the Roman Senate in the year of Agricola’s birth. Some time between August 40 and January 41, the Roman emperor Caligula ordered his death because he refused to prosecute the Emperor’s second cousin Marcus Junius Silanus.

His mother was Julia Procilla. Tacitus describes her as “a lady of singular virtue”. Tacitus states that Procilla had a fond affection for her son. Agricola was educated in Massilia (Marseille), and showed what was considered an unhealthy interest in philosophy: one of his father’s passions.

He began his career in Roman public life as a military tribune, serving in Britain under Gaius Suetonius Paulinus from 58 to 62. He was probably attached to the Legio II Augusta, but was chosen to serve on Suetonius’s staff and thus almost certainly participated in the suppression of Boudica’s (Boadicea) uprising in 61. Returning from Britain to Rome in 62, he married Domitia Decidiana, a woman of noble birth. Their first child was a son. Agricola was appointed as quaestor for 64, which he served in the province of Asia under the corrupt proconsul Lucius Salvius Otho Titianus. While he was there, his daughter, Julia Agricola, was born, but his son died shortly afterwards. He was tribune of the plebs in 66 and praetor on June 68, during which time he was ordered by the governor of Spain, Galba, to take an inventory of the temple treasures.

In June 68, the emperor Nero was deposed and committed suicide, and the period of civil war known as the Year of the Four Emperors began. Galba succeeded Nero, but was murdered in early 69 by Otho, who took the throne. Agricola’s mother was murdered on her estate in Liguria by Otho’s marauding fleet. Hearing of Vespasian’s bid for the empire, Agricola immediately gave him his support. Otho meanwhile committed suicide after being defeated by Vitellius.

After Vespasian had established himself as emperor, he appointed Agricola to the command of the Legio XX Valeria Victrix, stationed in Britain, in place of Marcus Roscius Coelius, who had stirred up a mutiny against the governor, Marcus Vettius Bolanus. Britain had suffered revolt during the year of civil war, and Bolanus was a mild governor. Agricola reimposed discipline on the legion and helped to consolidate Roman rule. In 71, Bolanus was replaced by a more aggressive governor, Quintus Petillius Cerialis, and Agricola was able to display his talents as a commander in campaigns against the Brigantes in northern England.

agr3

When his command ended in 73, Agricola was enrolled as a patrician and appointed to govern Gallia Aquitania. There he stayed for almost three years. In 76 or 77, he was recalled to Rome and appointed suffect (replacement) consul, and betrothed his daughter to Tacitus. The following year, Tacitus and Julia married. Agricola was appointed to the College of Pontiffs, and returned to Britain for a third time, as its governor (Legatus Augusti pro praetore).

Arriving in midsummer of 77, Agricola found the Ordovices of north Wales had virtually destroyed the Roman cavalry stationed in their territory. He immediately moved against them and defeated them. He then moved north to the island of Mona (Anglesey), which Suetonius Paulinus had failed to subjugate in 60 because of the outbreak of the Boudican rebellion, and forced its inhabitants to sue for peace. He established a good reputation as an administrator, as well as a commander, by reforming the widely corrupt corn taxes. He introduced Romanizing measures, encouraging communities to build towns on the Roman model and educating the sons of the native nobility in the Roman manner.

agr1

He also expanded Roman rule north into Caledonia (modern Scotland). In the summer of 79, he pushed his armies to the estuary of the river Taus, usually interpreted as the Firth of Tay, virtually unchallenged, and established some forts. Though their location is left unspecified, the close dating of the fort at Elginhaugh in Midlothian makes it a possible candidate.

agr4

In 81, Agricola “crossed in the first ship” and defeated peoples unknown to the Romans until then. Tacitus, in Chapter 24 of Agricola, does not tell us what body of water he crossed, although most scholars believe it was the Clyde or Forth. The text of the Agricola has been emended here to record the Romans “crossing into trackless wastes”, referring to the wilds of the Galloway peninsula. Agricola fortified the coast facing Ireland, and Tacitus recalls that his father-in-law often claimed the island could be conquered with a single legion and auxiliaries. He had given refuge to an exiled Irish king whom he hoped he might use as the excuse for conquest. This conquest never happened, but some historians believe the crossing referred to was in fact a small-scale exploratory or punitive expedition to Ireland, though no Roman camps have been identified to confirm such a suggestion.

Irish legend provides a striking parallel. Tuathal Teachtmhar, a legendary High King, is said to have been exiled from Ireland as a boy, and to have returned from Britain at the head of an army to claim the throne. The traditional date of his return is 76–80, and archaeology has found Roman or Romano-British artifacts in several sites associated with Tuathal.

The following year, Agricola raised a fleet and encircled the tribes beyond the Forth, and the Caledonians rose in great numbers against him. They attacked the camp of the Legio IX Hispana at night, but Agricola sent in his cavalry and they were put to flight. The Romans responded by pushing further north. Another son was born to Agricola this year, but he died before his first birthday.

agr6

In the summer of 83, Agricola faced the massed armies of the Caledonians, led by Calgacus, at the Battle of Mons Graupius. Tacitus estimates their numbers at more than 30,000. Agricola put his auxiliaries in the front line, keeping the legions in reserve, and relied on close-quarters fighting to make the Caledonians’ unpointed slashing swords useless as they were unable to swing them properly or use thrusting attacks. Even though the Caledonians were put to rout and therefore lost this battle, two thirds of their army managed to escape and hide in the Highlands, or the “trackless wilds,” where they engaged in continuous guerrilla war. Battle casualties were estimated by Tacitus to be about 10,000 on the Caledonian side and 360 on the Roman side.

agr7

A number of historians have reckoned the battle to have occurred in the Grampian Mounth within sight of the North Sea. The site of the battle may have been Kempstone Hill, Megray Hill or other knolls near the Raedykes Roman camp; these points of high ground are near the Elsick Mounth, an ancient trackway used by Romans and Caledonians for military maneuvers. However, following the discovery of the Roman camp at Durno in 1975, most scholars now believe that the battle took place on the ground around Bennachie in Aberdeenshire.

Satisfied with his victory, Agricola took hostages from the Caledonian tribes. He may have marched his army to the northern coast of Britain, as evidenced by the discovery of a Roman fort at Cawdor (near Inverness). He also instructed the prefect of the fleet to sail around the north coast, confirming (allegedly for the first time) that Britain was in fact an island.

Agricola was recalled from Britain in 85, after an unusually long tenure as governor. Tacitus claims Domitian ordered his recall because Agricola’s successes outshone the Emperor’s own modest victories in Germany. He re-entered Rome unobtrusively, reporting as ordered to the palace at night. The relationship between Agricola and the Emperor is unclear; on the one hand, Agricola was awarded triumphal decorations and a statue (the highest military honors apart from an actual triumph). On the other hand, Agricola never again held a civil or military post, in spite of his experience and renown. He was offered the governorship of the province of Africa, but declined it, whether due to ill health or (as Tacitus claims) the machinations of Domitian. In 93, Agricola died on his family estates in Gallia Narbonensis aged fifty-three. Rumors circulated attributing the death to a poison administered by the Emperor Domitian, but no positive evidence for this claim was ever produced.

Tacitus wrote as a eulogy (underscoring the notion that Agricola was an honest man in a corrupt world):

Under Domitian, it was the principal part of our miseries to behold and to be beheld: when our sighs were registered; and that stern countenance, with its settled redness, his defense against shame, was employed in noting the pallid horror of so many spectators. Happy, O Agricola! not only in the splendor of your life, but in the seasonableness of your death. With resignation and cheerfulness, from the testimony of those who were present in your last moments, did you meet your fate, as if striving to the utmost of your power to make the emperor appear guiltless. But to myself and your daughter, besides the anguish of losing a parent, the aggravating affliction remains, that it was not our lot to watch over your sick-bed, to support you when languishing, and to satiate ourselves with beholding and embracing you. With what attention should we have received your last instructions, and engrave them on our hearts! This is our sorrow; this is our wound: to us you were lost four years before by a tedious absence. Everything, doubtless, O best of parents! was administered for your comfort and honor, while a most affectionate wife sat beside you; yet fewer tears were shed upon your bier, and in the last light which your eyes beheld, something was still wanting.

If there be any habitation for the shades of the virtuous; if, as philosophers suppose, exalted souls do not perish with the body; may you repose in peace, and call us, your household, from vain regret and feminine lamentations, to the contemplation of your virtues, which allow no place for mourning or complaining! Let us rather adorn your memory by our admiration, by our short-lived praises, and, as far as our natures will permit, by an imitation of your example.

The Romans introduced a great many foods to Britain including garlic, onions, shallots, leeks, cabbages, peas, celery, turnips, radishes, and asparagus. They also domesticated wild fruits such as apples, and imported cherries, mulberries, and grapes. Amongst the many herbs that they introduced to Britain were rosemary, thyme, bay, basil and savory, and the spices pepper, ginger, and cinnamon. Famously, they cultivated oysters at Colchester.

Oysters were in very high demand in Rome and, because of this, supplies became limited. The Roman chef Apicius reports that oysters were shipped to Rome from all over the empire although his description for preserving them for travel would not have worked. He gives several recipes for oysters including a sauce that appears to be a kind of mayonnaise. Ingredients are pepper, lovage, egg yolks, vinegar, broth, olive oil and wine, with honey optional. He also gives one that is a kind of vinaigrette using pepper, lovage, parsley, dried mint, cumin, honey, vinegar and broth. His recipe for oyster croquettes could easily be replicated:

Cook the firm parts of oysters, remove the hard and objectionable parts, mince the meat very fine, mix this with cooked spelt [or flour] and eggs. Season with pepper, shape into croquettes and fry. Underlay a rich fish sauce.

agr5

The mayonnaise from Apicius would make a good dipping sauce. For me, I’ll stick with a dozen Colchester oysters on the half shell with a squeeze of lemon.

agr8

May 272015
 

id5

Today is the birthday of Isadora Duncan, (Angela Isadora Duncan), U.S.-born dancer and dance theorist, famed throughout Europe and the U.S. for her style. Although born in California, she lived in Western Europe and the Soviet Union from the age of 22 until her death at age 50. She performed to acclaim throughout Europe after being exiled from the United States for her pro-Soviet sympathies.

As I hope I always am, I will be up front about my bias here: I don’t like Duncan’s dance or her theories about it. It seems to me to be a product of its time without much endurance beyond that, although it soldiers on in little isolated pockets via her disciples. I have no quarrel with the general notion of physical and mental freedom, just not really enamored of its expression in Duncan’s work.

id10

Duncan began her dancing career by teaching lessons in her home from the time she was six through her teenage years. Her different approach to dance is evident in these preliminary classes, in which she “followed [her] fantasy and improvised, teaching any pretty thing that came into [her] head,” A desire to travel led Duncan to Chicago where she auditioned for many theater companies, finally finding a place in Augustin Daly’s company. This job took her to New York City where her unique vision of dance clashed with the popular pantomimes of theater companies.

id3

Feeling unhappy and limited with her work in Daly’s company and with U.S. audiences, Duncan decided to move to London in 1898. There she found work performing in the drawing rooms of the wealthy and drew inspiration from the Greek vases and bas-reliefs in the British Museum. The money she earned from these engagements allowed her to rent a dance studio to develop her work and create larger performances for the stage. From London, Duncan traveled to Paris, where she drew inspiration from the Louvre and the Exposition Universelle of 1900.

In 1902, Loie Fuller visited Duncan’s studio and invited Duncan to tour with her. This took Duncan all over Europe creating new works using her innovative dance technique. This style consisted of a focus on natural movement instead of the rigid technique of ballet. She spent most of the rest of her life in this manner, touring in Europe as well as North and South America, where she performed to mixed critical reviews. Despite the critics’ mixed reactions, she became quite popular for her distinct style and inspired many visual artists, including Antoine Bourdelle, Auguste Rodin, Arnold Ronnebeck, and Abraham Walkowitz, to create works based on her dance.

id9

Duncan disliked the commercial aspects of public performance like touring and contracts because she felt they distracted her from her real mission: the creation of beauty and the education of the young. To achieve her mission, she opened schools to teach young women her dance philosophy. The first was established in 1904 in Grunewald. This institution was the birthplace of the “Isadorables” – Anna, Maria-Theresa, Irma, Lisel, Gretel, Erika, Isabelle, and Temple (Isadora’s niece) – Duncan’s protégées, who would go on to continue her legacy. Later, Duncan established a school in Paris that was quickly closed due to the outbreak of World War I.

Breaking with convention, Duncan imagined she had traced the art of dance back to its roots as a sacred art ( a fantasy which, as an anthropologist, I find hard to deal with). She developed within this notion free and “natural” movements inspired by the classical Greek arts, folk dances, social dances, nature and natural forces as well as an approach to the new U.S. athleticism which included skipping, running, jumping, and leaping. I hope, however, we can remember that all human movement is derived from culture.

id4

Duncan’s philosophy of dance moved away from rigid ballet technique and towards her perception of natural movement. To restore dance to a high art form instead of entertainment, she sought a connexion between emotions and movement: “I spent long days and nights in the studio seeking that dance which might be the divine expression of the human spirit through the medium of the body’s movement.” Duncan took inspiration from ancient Greece and combined it with the U.S. conception of freedom. This is exemplified in her costume of a white Grecian tunic and bare feet. Inspired by Grecian forms, her tunics also allowed a freedom of movement corseted ballet costumes and pointe shoes did not.

id1

Her focus on “natural” movement emphasized steps outside of codified ballet technique. She also cited the sea as an early inspiration for her movement. Some attribute the founding of modern dance to Duncan, but I think this is over-reaching. She is certainly ONE of the inspirations, but modern dance is a very different animal.

Both in her professional and private lives, Duncan flouted traditional mores and morality. She was bisexual, and alluded to her Communism during her last United States tour, in 1922–23; Duncan waved a red scarf and bared her breast on stage in Boston, proclaiming, “This is red! So am I!”

id11

The circumstances of Duncan’s death are well known. On the night of September 14, 1927 in Nice, she was a passenger in an Amilcar automobile owned by Benoît Falchetto, a French-Italian mechanic who was demonstrating it for her. She wore a long, flowing, hand-painted silk scarf, created by the Russian-born artist Roman Chatov, a gift from her friend Mary Desti, the mother of film director Preston Sturges. Desti, who saw Duncan off, had asked Duncan to wear a cape in the open-air vehicle because of the cold weather, but Duncan would only agree to wear the scarf. As they departed, Duncan reportedly said to Desti and some companions, “Adieu, mes amis. Je vais à la gloire!” (“Farewell, my friends. I go to glory!”); but according to American novelist Glenway Wescott, Desti later told him that Duncan’s actual last words were, “Je vais à l’amour” (“I am off to love”). Desti considered this embarrassing, as it suggested that she and Falchetto were going to her hotel for a tryst.

Her silk scarf, draped around her neck, became entangled around the open-spoked wheels and rear axle, hurling her from the open car and breaking her neck. Desti said she called out to warn Duncan about the shawl almost immediately after the car left. Desti took Duncan to the hospital, where she was declared dead.

The New York Times noted in its obituary: “Isadora Duncan, the American dancer, tonight met a tragic death at Nice on the Riviera. According to dispatches from Nice, Miss Duncan was hurled in an extraordinary manner from an open automobile in which she was riding and instantly killed by the force of her fall to the stone pavement.” Other sources described her death as resulting from strangulation, noting that she was almost decapitated by the sudden tightening of the scarf around her neck. The accident gave rise to Gertrude Stein’s mordant remark that “affectations can be dangerous.”

My wife and I once attended an “arts costume party” where we were supposed to come dressed as our favorite artists. I went as Vincent, suitably dressed in period clothes with my ear swathed in bloody bandages; my wife dressed in a Grecian tunic with bare feet. She was instantly recognizable, while everyone was terribly worried about what had happened to my ear.

id13

Duncan told others that her mother was desperately sick while pregnant with her, and survived only by eating oysters and sipping champagne. This, she believed, was the food of the goddess Aphrodite. I’m a tad skeptical of the latter claim – maybe the former too: Duncanesque though. In any event, it’s a good excuse for me to prattle on a bit about oysters. Longtime readers know about my love of tripe, but I have never really gone on much about oysters which are, in fact, my second favorite after tripe. I like cooked oysters all right, and have had more than my fair share of them in fritters, soups, etc. But you won’t find me eating them cooked when I can get them on the half shell.

There are really two issues about oysters on the half shell: what you put on them, and where they are from (and what type). These are both things I can prattle on about more or less indefinitely. What to put on them can be a complex question. I’m content to shuck them and eat them plain, slurping the liquor from the shell as the sauce. But I’ll also commonly indulge in the usual squirt of lemon, dash of hot sauce, or grind of black pepper. A horseradish sauce can work for me too. Some Asian cultures have some pretty nifty ideas too, although mostly they want to cook them. Here in Yunnan they are grilled with a spicy topping. In Japan they’re much more comfortable with raw stuff, and I’ve had some delectable multi-layered hot, sweet, sour, salty sauces dribbled over them.

Type of oyster is one of those things you can’t really argue about. I’ve had them all over the world. Grand Central train station oyster bar in New York is a good (but uber-expensive) place to sample different varieties if you don’t want to travel. My tastes are simple – I like them ALL !!

Truth be told, I’ve usually drunk beer with oysters. In England and Ireland it’s quite common to drink Guinness with oysters which provides a bitter contrast. For champagne I’d go with a Moët & Chandon brut if I could afford it these days. I don’t know where I scared up the money to drink it (with strawberries) when I was an undergraduate.