Sunday, May 06, 2007

Langley Marish: Milton, and the hair of the dog.

At last, with the arrival of the first summer month, first Sunday of the month, a trip over to the Kederminster Library in the church at Langley Marish, which adjoins Slough.

Here Sir John Kederminster (I suppose the family name locates their origins in the town of Kidderminster) was granted permission in 1613 to rebuild the south aisle, and he at that time “intendeth by Gods favour for ever to annex and have within the said ile or chappell many good and godly books for the use, good instruction, better help and benefit in study of such vicars or curates as shall for ever hereafter enjoy the cure or vicaridge”.

A library of 296 books was purchased, most of them books published between 1610 and 1631, the year Sir John died, though his widow, Mary, followed the terms of his will by adding a further 11 books before her death in 1637. Sir John must have had an agent at the Frankfort book fairs: these are theological works in Latin, great solid multi-volume editions of Luther, Augustine, Aquinas, Bede, Calvin. Among the English books are Jewel’s Defence of the Apology of the Church of England (1570), the sermons of Lancelot Andrews (perhaps the mighty XCVI sermons of 1629), and those of Bishop Arthur Lake (also 1629). (I saw just one or two of these books, of course, as opened by the volunteer curator, Muriel Kemp.)

“For ever hereafter”, Kederminster, a London draper made good, and so concerned to have a learned clergy, established his library: and, amazingly, it is still there, apart from one or two volumes too precious for even this carefully tended refuge.

Edward Jones is the Miltonist who has been through all these books, hoping to find Milton’s hand in a marginal annotation.

For it is likely that Milton came here to study: as Gordon Campbell says in his ODNB entry, “On 12 May 1636 Milton's father resigned as assistant to the Company of Scriveners on the grounds of his ‘removal to inhabit in the country’. This phrase (in a manuscript that is now lost) indicates the retirement of Milton's family to Horton, Buckinghamshire (later Berkshire). Milton may have used the nearby libraries at Eton College and Langley (the Kedermister Library) to support his programme of private study.”

So, I spent an afternoon in the 17th century. My photographs include of the former family pew of the Kederminsters, moved to the aisle wall at some point, and now a kind of foyer to the library itself. This is all Jacobean woodwork, with Bible texts (mostly from the Psalms), an eye-of-God motif all along the ceiling. The imitation marble painting is all apparently original, just cleaned. The work seems to have been finished in 1623 – the year of the Shakespeare first folio. The belfry was open too, with the bell-ringers on duty. I got to ring a 1649 bell, half a ton of metal swinging with astonishing ease, or resting poised at the top of its movement with the ease of a perching bird, before you ever so gently start its unstoppable rush back round. The bell-ringers even demonstrated ringing the bells ‘backwards’, the old alarm signal to the parish.

My other photograph is something that I had never seen before: the illuminated title page of John and Mary Kederminster’s Pharmacopolium (1630): their meticulous five hundred page manuscript collection of remedies. The husband and wife were clearly very proud of their joint book, had the grand title page made, and placed this cure of bodies among their benefactions for the cure of souls.

Here’s ‘For the biting of madd dogg’:

“Take Liver, lightes and hearte of the dogg and boyle them very drye, and let the partie eate some of it, and beate some of it to powder and lett him drincke of it, until three Changes of the moone be past; and fill the wound with the Hayre of the Dogg until the ranckling of the Sore bee past, then annoynt it with Sallett oyle to get out the Haire, Then you must applie some good Salve unto it to heale it.”

A near-original ‘hair-of-the-dog’ cure. So, to round off, here’s the OED’s ‘dog’ quotations in relation to the phrase, as used in relation to alcohol, and also still apparently recommended in its original literal sense as a piece of sympathetic magic in the later 18th century:

1546 J. HEYWOOD Prov. I pray thee let me and my fellow have a hair of the dog that bit us last night. 1611 COTGRAVE Our Ale-knights often use this phrase, and say, Give us a hair of the dog that last bit us. [1760 R. JONES Treat. Canine Madness 204 The hair of the dog that gave the wound is advised as an application to the part injured.]

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