Mar 292018

John Keble, an Anglican churchman and poet, one of the leaders of the Oxford Movement, died on this date in 1866 and is commemorated today in the Anglican community. Generally speaking, I find the Anglican church unpalatable, and High Anglicanism even worse. I think of them as Catholic Lite at best. In those respects, Keble and the Oxford Movement do not interest me. I got more than my bellyful of Anglican theology as an undergraduate at Oxford. Enough for a lifetime and more. But Keble’s devotion to a simple Christian life, sans the ritual, I find laudable.

Keble was born on 25th April 1792 in Fairford in Gloucestershire, where his father, John Keble, was Vicar of Coln St. Aldwyns. He and his brother Thomas were educated at home by their father until each went to Oxford. In 1806 John won a scholarship to Corpus Christi College, Oxford. There, he performed brilliantly, and in 1810 he received a Double First in Latin and Mathematics. In 1811, he won both the English and Latin Essay University Prizes and became a Fellow of Oriel College. He was for some years a tutor and examiner for the University. While still at Oxford, he took Holy Orders in 1816, and became first a curate to his father, and later curate of St Michael and St Martin’s Church, Eastleach Martin, in Gloucestershire, while still tutoring at Oxford. On the death of his mother in 1823, he left Oxford and returned to live with his father and two surviving sisters in Fairford.

In 1828, he was elected Provost of Oriel College. Meanwhile, he had been writing The Christian Year, a book of poems for the Sundays and feast days of the church year. It appeared in 1827 and was effective in spreading Keble’s devotional and theological views. It was intended as an aid to meditation and devotion following the services of the Prayer Book. Though at first printed anonymously, its authorship soon became known, with Keble in 1831 appointed to the Chair of Poetry at Oxford, which he held until 1841. By the time that the copyright expired in 1873, over 375,000 copies had been sold in Britain and 158 editions had been published. Despite its widespread appeal among the Victorian readers, the popularity of Keble’s The Christian Year faded in the 20th century despite the familiarity of certain well-known hymns. I find the poems and hymns to be tiresomely Victorian, and Anglican to boot. Here’s the first stanza from Keble’s poem for Maundy Thursday, which is today this year:

O Holy mountain of my God,
How do thy towers in ruin lie,
How art thou riven and strewn abroad,
Under the rude and wasteful sky!”
’Twas thus upon his fasting-day
The “Man of Loves” was fain to pray,
His lattice open toward his darling west,
Mourning the ruined home he still must love the best.

At Oxford, Keble met John Coleridge who introduced him to the writings not only of his uncle, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, but also of Wordsworth. He dedicated his Praelectiones to and greatly admired Wordsworth, who once offered to go over The Christian Year with a view to correcting the English. John Coleridge also introduced Keble to Robert Southey, whom he found to be “a noble and delightful character.” The three all influenced Keble’s poetic vision.

In 1833, his famous Assize Sermon on “National Apostasy” gave the first impulse to the Oxford Movement, also known as the Tractarian movement. It marked the opening of a term of the civil and criminal courts and is officially addressed to the judges and officers of the court, exhorting them to deal justly. Keble contributed seven pieces for Tracts for the Times, a series of short papers dealing with faith and practice. Along with his colleagues, including John Henry Newman and Edward Pusey, he became a leading light in the movement but did not follow Newman into the Catholic Church. In 1835, his father died, and Keble and his sister retired from Fairford to Coln. In the same year, he married and the vicarage of Hursley, becoming vacant, was offered to him, and he accepted. In 1836, he settled in Hursley and remained for the rest of his life as a parish priest at All Saints Church.

In 1857, he wrote one of his more important works, his treatise on Eucharistical Adoration, written in support of George Denison, who had been attacked for his views on the Eucharist. In 1830, he published his edition of Hooker’s Works. In 1838, he began to edit, in conjunction with Pusey and Newman, the Library of the Fathers. A volume of Academical and Occasional Sermons appeared in 1847. Other works were a Life of Wilson, Bishop of Sodor and Man. After his death, Letters of Spiritual Counsel and 12 volumes of Parish Sermons were published.

Keble died in Bournemouth on 29 March 1866 at the Hermitage Hotel, after visiting the area to try and recover from a long-term illness as he believed the sea air had therapeutic qualities. He is buried in All Saints’ churchyard, Hursley.

Keble has been described thus:

He was absolutely without ambition, with no care for the possession of power or influence, hating show and excitement, and distrustful of his own abilities. Though shy and awkward with strangers, he was happy and at ease among his friends, and their love and sympathy drew out all his droll playfulness of wit and manner. A quiet country clergyman, with a very moderate income, who sedulously avoided public distinctions, and held tenaciously to an unpopular School all his life.

Keble’s brand of Anglicanism is a trifle too Victorian for me and I have struggled to find memorable quotes. This is the best I could muster.

When you find yourself overpowered, as it were, by melancholy, the best way is to go out and do something.

Peace is the first thing the angels sang.

Once you make up your mind never to stand waiting and hesitating when your conscience tells you what you ought to do, and you have got the key to every blessing that a sinner can reasonably hope for.


Keble College, Oxford University, was established in 1870 as a monument to John Keble and to the Oxford Movement. Consequently, the College traditionally placed a considerable emphasis on theological teaching, although this is less the case now. We used to call it the Fairisle College because the Victorian brickwork seemed like a fairisle knitting pattern. Victorian architectural sensibilities were not much in vogue in the 1970s. The college chapel does, however, contain  the original of William Holman Hunt’s famous painting The Light of the World, which is hung in a side chapel. One of my first adventures as a Fresher was to go to see the painting.

The image represents Revelation 3:20: “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” This provides a convenient segue to a recipe because you will notice that Jesus does not say that he will come in and preach, but he will come in and “sup.” For Jesus, eating together was the key to unity. Amen to that.

When I was a boy there were not many traditional English cheeses available. The main ones were Cheddar, Cheshire, Wensleydale, Red Leicester, Stilton, and Double Gloucester. Generic Cheddar was the norm, made in numerous factories according to a variety of recipes. The others were harder to come by. Double Gloucester is made in the region near where Keble was born, using the milk from the once almost extinct Gloucester cattle and its distinctive color came from a local wildflower known as Lady’s Bedstraw (Galium verum). Double Gloucester is a hard cheese that melts well and has a distinctive sharp tang. This soufflé recipe uses Double Gloucester to give a rich taste.

Cheese and Asparagus Soufflé


75 ml/2½ fl oz double cream
3 asparagus spears, finely chopped
2 tbsp chopped fresh chives
salt and freshly ground black pepper
100 gm/3½ oz Double Gloucester cheese, grated
3 eggs, separated
butter, for greasing
flour, for dusting


Preheat the oven to 200˚C/400˚F

Place the double cream in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the chopped asparagus spears and chives, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the grated cheese and stir until melted. Remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly.

Add two of the egg yolks to the mixture and beat well (the third egg yolk can be used in another dish).

Place the egg whites in a stand mixer and beat until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the cheese mixture.

Grease a small ovenproof pan with butter, dust with plain flour and shake out the excess. Spoon the soufflé mixture into the pan, then transfer to the oven and bake for 6-8 minutes, or until risen and golden-brown.


Serve immediately in the pan or turned out on to a plate.

May 142015

NPG 62; Edward Jenner by James Northcote

On this date in 1796 Edward Jenner administered his first smallpox vaccination. I love the fact that he was also the first person to describe the brood parasitism of the cuckoo. Jenner was born in Berkeley, Gloucestershire, as the eighth of nine children. His father, the Reverend Stephen Jenner, was the vicar of Berkeley, so Jenner received a strong basic education. He went to school in Wotton-under-Edge and Cirencester. During this time, he was inoculated (NOT vaccinated) for smallpox, which had a lifelong effect upon his general health.

Let’s take time out to talk about inoculation versus vaccination – terms which are now confused. Inoculation, also called variolation, is the act of introducing the SAME pathogen into an individual as the one you want to immunize against. So, for example, some parents deliberately have their children play with ones with chicken pox so that they will catch the disease and in future be immune. This is inoculation. Vaccination is introducing a DIFFERENT pathogen to create immunity. Jenner was inoculated, that is, he was given a mild case of smallpox to immunize him. This can be effective but it is dangerous, and can be lethal.

At the age of 14, he was apprenticed for seven years to Daniel Ludlow, a surgeon of Chipping Sodbury, South Gloucestershire, where he gained most of the experience needed to become a surgeon himself. In 1770, Jenner became apprenticed in surgery and anatomy under surgeon John Hunter and others at St George’s Hospital. William Osler records that Hunter gave Jenner William Harvey’s advice, very famous in medical circles (and characteristic of the Age of Enlightenment), “Don’t think; try.” Hunter remained in correspondence with Jenner concerning natural history and proposed him for the Royal Society. Returning to his native countryside by 1773, Jenner became a successful family doctor and surgeon, practicing on dedicated premises at Berkeley.

Jenner and others formed the Fleece Medical Society or Gloucestershire Medical Society, so called because it met in the parlour of the Fleece Inn, Rodborough (in Gloucestershire), meeting to dine together and read papers on medical subjects. Jenner contributed papers on angina pectoris, ophthalmia, and cardiac valvular disease and commented on cowpox. He also belonged to a similar society that met in Alveston, near Bristol.

Jenner was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1788, following his publication of a careful study of the previously misunderstood life of the nested cuckoo, a study that combined observation, experiment, and dissection.


His description of the newly hatched cuckoo, pushing its host’s eggs and fledgling chicks out of the nest (contrary to existing belief that the adult cuckoo did it) was only confirmed in the 20th century, when photography became available. Having observed this behavior, Jenner demonstrated an anatomical adaptation for it—the baby cuckoo has a depression in its back, not present after 12 days of life, that enables it to cup eggs and other chicks and toss them out of the nest. The adult does not remain long enough in the area to perform this task. Jenner’s findings were published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society in 1788.

“The singularity of its shape is well adapted to these purposes; for, different from other newly hatched birds, its back from the scapula downwards is very broad, with a considerable depression in the middle. This depression seems formed by nature for the design of giving a more secure lodgement to the egg of the Hedge-sparrow, or its young one, when the young Cuckoo is employed in removing either of them from the nest. When it is about twelve days old, this cavity is quite filled up, and then the back assumes the shape of nestling birds in general.”

Jenner married Catharine Kingscote (died 1815 from tuberculosis) in March 1788. He might have met her while he and other Fellows were experimenting with balloons. Jenner’s trial balloon descended into Kingscote Park, Gloucestershire, owned by Anthony Kingscote, one of whose daughters was Catharine.

Inoculation was already a standard practice, but involved serious risks. In 1721, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu had imported variolation to Britain after having observed it in Istanbul, where her husband was the British ambassador. Voltaire, writing of this, estimates that at this time 60% of the population caught smallpox and 20% of the population died of it. Voltaire also states that the Circassians used the inoculation from times immemorial, and the custom may have been borrowed by the Turks from the Circassians.

In 1765, John Fewster published a paper in the London Medical Society entitled “Cow pox and its ability to prevent smallpox”, but did not pursue the subject further. In the years following 1770, at least five investigators in England and Germany (Sevel, Jensen, Jesty 1774, Rendell, Plett 1791) successfully tested a cowpox vaccine in humans against smallpox. For example, Dorset farmer Benjamin Jesty successfully vaccinated and presumably induced immunity with cowpox in his wife and two children during a smallpox epidemic in 1774, but it was not until Jenner’s work some 20 years later that the procedure became widely understood. Indeed, Jenner may have been aware of Jesty’s procedures and success.

The initial source of infection was a disease of horses, called “the grease”, which was transferred to cattle by farm workers, transformed, and then manifested as cowpox. Noting the common observation that milkmaids were generally immune to smallpox, Jenner postulated that the pus in the blisters that milkmaids received from cowpox (a disease similar to smallpox, but much less virulent) protected them from smallpox.


On 14 May 1796, Jenner tested his hypothesis by vaccinating James Phipps, an eight-year-old boy who was the son of Jenner’s gardener. He scraped pus from cowpox blisters on the hands of Sarah Nelmes, a milkmaid who had caught cowpox from a cow called Blossom, whose hide now hangs on the wall of the St George’s medical school library (now in Tooting). Phipps was the 17th case described in Jenner’s first paper on vaccination.

Jenner vaccinated Phipps in both arms that day, subsequently producing in Phipps a fever and some uneasiness, but no full-blown infection. Later, he injected Phipps with variolous material, the routine method of immunization at that time. No disease followed. The boy was later challenged with variolous material and again showed no sign of infection.

Donald Hopkins has written, “Jenner’s unique contribution was not that he inoculated a few persons with cowpox, but that he then proved [by subsequent challenges] that they were immune to smallpox. Moreover, he demonstrated that the protective cowpox pus could be effectively used for vaccination from person to person, not just directly from cattle. Jenner successfully tested his hypothesis on 23 additional subjects. Jenner’s fame, thus, lies in the rigor of his analysis and not in being the first to vaccinate. Ahhh !! How many “facts” did I learn in school that are wrong.


Jenner continued his research and reported it to the Royal Society, which did not publish the initial paper. After revisions and further investigations, he published his findings on the 23 cases. Some of his conclusions were correct, some erroneous. The medical establishment, cautious then as now, deliberated at length over his findings before accepting them. Eventually, vaccination was accepted, and in 1840, the British government banned variolation and provided vaccination using cowpox free of charge. The success of his discovery soon spread around Europe and, for example, was used en masse in the Spanish Balmis Expedition, a three-year-long mission to the Americas, the Philippines, Macao, China, and Saint Helena Island led by Dr. Francisco Javier de Balmis with the aim of giving thousands the smallpox vaccine. The expedition was successful, and Jenner wrote, “I don’t imagine the annals of history furnish an example of philanthropy so noble, so extensive as this.”


Jenner’s continuing work on vaccination prevented him from continuing his ordinary medical practice. He was supported by his colleagues and the King in petitioning Parliament, and was granted £10,000 in 1802 for his work on vaccination. In 1807, he was granted another £20,000 after the Royal College of Physicians had confirmed the widespread efficacy of vaccination.

In 1811, Jenner observed a significant number of cases of smallpox after vaccination. He found that in these cases the severity of the illness was notably diminished by previous vaccination. In 1821, he was appointed Physician Extraordinary to King George IV, a great national honor, and was also made Mayor of Berkeley and Justice of the Peace. He continued to investigate natural history, and in 1823, the last year of his life, he presented his “Observations on the Migration of Birds” to the Royal Society.

Jenner was found in a state of apoplexy on 25 January 1823, with his right side paralyzed. He never fully recovered and eventually died of an apparent stroke, his second, on 26 January 1823, aged 73. He was survived by one son and one daughter, his elder son having died of tuberculosis at the age of 21.


In 1979, the World Health Organization declared smallpox an eradicated disease. This was the result of coordinated public health efforts by many people and organizations, but vaccination was an essential component. And although the disease was declared eradicated, some pus samples still remain in laboratories in Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, in the United States, and in State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology VECTOR in Koltsovo, Novosibirsk Oblast, Russia.

The eradication of smallpox was made possible by the fact that it must have a human vector to survive. No human carriers, no smallpox. I well remember getting vaccinated in 1965, then a requirement for all international travelers. I’ve still got the little telltale scar on my upper left arm – the stigmata of a generation. Then you needed a new vaccination every 5 years because cowpox vaccination is not 100% effective for life. I dutifully had mine but none ever took after the first.


Jenner lived and worked in the dairy lands of Gloucester famous for cheeses. Before refrigeration, Gloucester milk spoiled before it could make it to London so it was converted to cheese. There are two types of Gloucester cheese – Single Gloucester and Double Gloucester – both made since the 16th century. Prior to that Gloucester cheeses were made from sheep’s milk. Gloucester is a traditional, semi-hard cheese, at one time made only with the milk of the once nearly extinct Gloucester breed cows (and now on the verge of disappearing again).

Double Gloucester, like Cheddar, is made all over the world and, as such, varies in quality and does not have protected status. Single Gloucester is made only in Gloucestershire and is protected. Both types have a natural rind (outer layer) and a hard texture, but Single Gloucester is more crumbly, lighter in texture and lower in fat. Double Gloucester is allowed to age for longer periods than Single, and it has a stronger and more savory flavor. It is also slightly firmer. The flower known as Lady’s Bedstraw (Galium verum), was responsible for the distinctively yellow color of Double Gloucester. In the United Kingdom today, of these two types of cheese, it is the Double Gloucester which is more likely to be sold in supermarkets. Both types are produced in round shapes, but Double Gloucester rounds are larger. Traditionally, whereas the Double Gloucester was a prized cheese comparable in quality to the best Cheddar or Cheshire, and was exported out of the county, Single Gloucester tended to be consumed within Gloucestershire.

Most Double Gloucester sold in UK supermarkets is slab cheese, made in large creameries operated by major dairy companies such as Dairy Crest. It is normally sold as a supermarket own brand. This version of the cheese is pasteurized but not processed.


Gloucester cheeses are endangered again because of EU regulations (see ). The EU forbids TB vaccination of dairy cattle because immunized cows test positive for TB and so cannot be distinguished from infected animals. A strange ironic twist given that this breed is the source of Jenner’s first smallpox vaccination. Breeders had built up herds in the 1970s but are reluctant to fight the regulations, so herds are again in decline. It is estimated that only 450 purebred cows exist today.

Good traditional Gloucester cheese is hard to beat eaten as is. But you can use it as you would cheddar in recipes. For me, give me some water biscuits, a nice pot of creamery butter, and a good wedge of Gloucester and I am a happy man.