Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Gifts

As another seasonal posting to follow on from last year’s effort,

I thought I would access all the ‘New Year’s Gift’ title returns on EEBO, and pull out a plum. There’s material for a whole whacky doctorate out there in the unexpected range of early modern ‘new year’s gift’ publications. There are the godly:

A lecture or exposition vpon a part of the. v. chapter of the epistle to the Hebrues As it was read in Paules the. 6. day of December. 1572. By Edward Deryng. Prepared and geuen for a new yeres gift to the godly in London and els where, for this yeare. 1573.


Londons Nevv-yeeres gift. Or The vncouching of the foxe A godly sermon preached at Pauls Crosse, the first of Ianuarie. 1608. By Thomas Iackson, Bachelour of Diuinitie

(and alongside these, the denunciatory ‘gifts’, admonishing Catholics, etc). Then there are the gifts of advice, to offspring and godchildren, like:

The father's new-years-gift to his son containing divers useful and necessary directions how to order himself both in respect to this life and that which is to come / written by the Right Honourable Sir Matthew Hale


The lady's new-years gift, or, Advice to a daughter, 1688 ~ I had forgotten that Lord Halifax’s life-and-spirit-withering admonitions about enduring marriage to a husband with any one of a range of ‘inconvenient’ vices was published under this banner.

Then the literary: Nicholas Breton offered

A smale handfull of fragrant flowers selected and gathered out of the louely garden of sacred scriptures, fit for any honorable or woorshipfull gentlewoman to smell vnto. Dedicated for a Newe-yeeres gyft, to the honorable and vertuous lady, the Lady Sheffeeld.

and also Thomas Churchyard’s unconvincing attempt to reverse the real roles of the producers and consumers of poetry:

A light bondell of liuly discourses called Churchyardes charge presented as a Newe yeres gifte to the right honourable, the Earle of Surrie, in whiche bondell of verses is sutche varietie of matter, and seuerall inuentions, that maie bee as delitefull to the reader, as it was a charge and labour to the writer, sette forthe for a péece of pastime (1580).

~ ‘delightful’ to the writer, and a ‘charge and labour’ to the reader, surely?

Over and over again, New Year’s gift books were political. This one has a particular pathos in its complete failure to anticipate (amid its heartfelt wishes that the King come to London and make reconciliation with Parliament) the very near and impending future:

A new-yeers gift for the Kings most excellent Majesty now at Windsore, from his loyall and faithfull subjects residing in and about the cities of London and Westminster; and a declaration of the Kings Majesties speedy coming to London., (1649).

In the end I opted for:

THE NEW-YEERES GIFT: PRESENTED AT Court, from the Lady PARVULA to the Lord MINIMUS, (commonly called Little JEFFERIE) Her Majesties Servant, with a Letter as it was penned in short-hand: wherein is proved LITTLE THINGS are better then GREAT. Written by MICROPHILVS. (1636).

As you see, this is addressed to one of the few people at court capable of making King Charles look tall, his pituitary dwarf Jeffrey Hudson, and it is the kind of predictable ragging that finally led Hudson to shoot one of his tormentors dead:

“SIR, MAY it please your diminutive eminence, permit a devoted lover of your concise dimensions, to present very lowly, as most fitting to your person, (in remembrance of this New-yeare) a small Token of my unparralleld affection. Confesse I must Compendious SIR my gift is somewhat of the least, but my hope is, being there in so like your selfe it will not displease you.”

It is indeed an appropriately diminutive volume, mainly taken up with a paradox in praise of littleness: “little women (as most nimble-spirited) best for generation” and such factoids. There’s a more immediately relevant passage about the meaning of having dwarf-attendants in a royal court: ‘Master Slater’, the author, adds deeper possibilities to the overt reason:

“Your little low person (me thinkes) is natures humble pulpit, out of which shee reads graces diviner lectures to High-aspiring Mortals: and whereas some in the world (wedded to errour) may fondly imagine your residence at Court, to bee rather for wonder and merriment, then for any use or service; you may require from them no lesse satisfaction then a publique recantation: For as it hath beene the custome of famous Princes to use (at chiefe times) some ceremony which represented some hidden Morall … So (at all times) the residence of dwarfes in Courts hath a twofold Representment, Theologicall, and Politicall, the first to the Soveraigne, the second, to the Subiect: For the first, as Philip King of Macedon betimes every morning had a little boy came unto him, and cryed, Philippe, memento te esse mortalem, O Philip, remember how thou art mortall: So little dwarfes (boyes in proportion, though perchance men in discretion) being about a Monarch, though silent, yet their very persons (being with Princes of the same naturall extraction) are as a voice crying, Rex, memento te esse minimum: O King remember how thou art little, borne like others little, to teach thee to Heaven, humility, to Earth, humanity: For the second, the civill regard in relation to the subiect: the residence of dwarfes about Monarchs hath beene by those who are grounded Politicians accounted emblemattically necessary, to denote those who desire to approach neere Princes ought not to bee ambitious of any Greatnesse in themselves, but to acknowledge all their Court-lustre is but a beame of the Royall Sunne their Master, which when, and to whom, he please hee can send forth or withdraw.”

I did enjoy (at this time of sales and credit squeezes) the digression onto “Peripateticall madcaps” who shop high and purchase low:

“another, who going to the Faire, after hee stately stalked thorow the chiefe Streets, cheapning Orient Iewels, choise pictures, new-fashion'd plate, rich hangings, and the dearest imbroideries, departed home with the buying only of a woodden dish: or of a third, who going to their shops that sell costly apparrell, calls confidently to see a suit of an hundred pounds, and when they were agreed of the price, quarrels with his boy for following him without his purse.”

~ which more or less describes my habitual promenade from John Lewis to TK Maxx. I wonder when the 'New Year's Gift' lost out to present-giving on Christmas Day? I recall once reading through all the exchanges of gifts between Elizabeth Tudor and her courtiers, which gave me a strong impression that you gave gold, and got back 'parcel-gilt'.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Splat that pike! Disfigure that peacock! - words for early modern festive occasions

“It was the opinion of Lucallus the Noble Roman, that there was as much care to be taken in the well managing a Feast, as in the Marshalling of an Army; that the one might be as pleasing to Friends, as the other terrible to Enemies;

in cutting up therefore all manner of small Birds,

We say ‘thigh them’ as Wood-cocks, Pidgeons, Partridges, &c.

The term for a Plover, is, ‘Mince it’;

for a Quail, ‘wing it’;

for a Pheasant, ‘allay it’;

a Curlew, ‘attach it’;

a Bittern ‘unjoynt it’;

a Peacock, ‘disfigure it’;

a Crane, ‘display it’;

a Hern, ‘Dismember it’;

a Mallard, ‘unbrace it’;

a Chicken, ‘frust it’;

a Hen, ‘spoil her’;

a Capon, ‘Sawce it’;

a Swan, ‘chit it’;

a Goose, ‘tear her’;

a Coney, ‘unlace her’;

a Dear, ‘Creak it’;

Brawn, ‘leach it’;

and for Fish, viz. A Salmon, ‘chine it’;

a Lamprey, ‘string it’;

a Pike, ‘splat it’;

a Place or Tench, ‘sawce it’;

Bream, ‘splay it’;

a Haddock, ‘side it’;

a Barbel, ‘tusk it’;

a Trout, ‘culpon it’;

an Eel, ‘transon it’;

a Crab, ‘tame it’;

a Sturgeon, ‘Tranch it’;

and a Lobster, ‘barb it’.

Thus having the terms, we shall direct such as need it how to cut up some of these, by which means being brought dexterously to handle their Knife and Fork, they may the better manage the rest, To life a Swan, slit her right down in the middle of the breast, also through the back bone, from the Neck to the Rump, and so laying the divided parts in the Dish, the inward parts downwards; let your Sauce be chaldron, apart in Saucers, and then every one may cut as best likes the party. To rear or break a Goose, is to take off the legs very fair, then to cut off the belly piece round, close to the lower end of the breast, and with your Knife lace her down, quite through the breast on each side, a thumb’s breadth from the breast bone, then take off the wings on each side, with the Flesh you first laced, raising it from the bone, and then cut up the Merry-thought, and having cut up an other piece of Flesh which you formerly laced, then turn the Carcass and cut it asunder, the back bone above the Loins, take the Rump end of the back and lay it at the sore end of the Merry thought with the Skinny side upward, then lay your pinions on each side contrary, set your legs on each side contrary behind them, that the bond end of the Leg may stand up in the Middle of the Dish, and the wing pinions on the out sides of them put under the wing pinions on each side, the long slices of Flesh which you cut off the breast bone and let the ends meet under the leg bones. To deal in like manner with a Turkey or Bustard, raise the leg very fair, then open the Joint with the sharp point of your Knife, but take not the legs off, then lace down the breast on both sides, and open the breast pinion, but take it not off; then raise up the Merry-thought between the breast bone and the top of the Merry-thought; lace down the Flesh on both sides of the breast bone. And raise up the Flesh called the Brawn, turn it outwards on both sides, but break it not, nor cut it off, then cut off the wing pinions, at the Joint next the Body, and stick on each side the pinion in the place where you turned out the Brawn, but cut off the sharp end of the pinion, take the middle piece, and you will find it just fit the place: and in the like manner a Capon, Pheasant, and most Fowls of largeness may be cut up. A Capon cut up in this manner, only differs in placing, slit the Gizzard, in the place where the pinions, of the Turkey, as aforesaid are laid. In dismembering a Hern, take off both the legs and lace it down the breast, then raise up the Flesh, and take it quite off with the pinion, then stick the head in the breast, and set the pinion, on the contrary side of the Carcass, and the leg on the other side, by which means the bones ends will meet cross over the Carcass, and the other wing crossing over, on the top of the Carcass. To unbrace a Mallard, raise the pinions and legs, but take them not off, raise the Merry thought from the breast, and with your Knife lace it sloping on each side the breast. To unlace a Coney, place the belly upwards, and take off the flaps from the Kidneys, then put in the point of your Knife between the Kidneys, and loosen the Flesh from the bone on each side, then turn up the back, and cut it cross between the wings, and lace it down close by the done on each side, then open the Flesh from the bone against the Kidneys, and pull open the legs softly with your hands, but not quite off, then thrust in your Knife, between the Ribs and Kidneys, and slit out, and lay the Legs close together. In displaying a Crane, unfold his Legs, and cut off his Wings by the Joints, then take up his Wings and Legs and sauce them with Mustard, Vinegar, Salt, and Powder of Ginger well mixed together: The same Sauce is for a Hern, and though a Bittern is to be dismembered, after the same manner, yet seldom any thing is used with it, except Salt: And for a Partridge minced, Wine, Ginger and Salt over a Chafing-dish of Coals, and the like for Quails. In allaying a Pheasant, you must raise the Wings and Legs, and cut it up as a Capon.

--- This may give an Insight to the Art of Carving, which however it may be disesteemed by some, and thought beneath their Notice, yet we tell them that to be ignorant is it, shows a great defect in Table-knowledge, for a Carver not being at hand at all times in all places. It will look very odd to see Ladies with covered Table before them, to which they have brought keen Appetites, and yet sit gazing on each other, and none of them knowing how to begin according to the accepted way of dividing their Dainties; or to tear them to pieces, after the rustick manner, is very undecent, and not only upbraids them with want of all, but in some manner shows, such delicates have often strangers to their Bills of Fare…”

Adapted from The ladies dictionary, being a general entertainment of the fair-sex a work never attempted before in English (1694). Imagine unjointing and munching through a bittern or a bustard (it recalls the surreal recipes in James Hamilton-Paterson’s Cooking with Fernet Branca – ‘bustard with custard’ was one). Out cycling last Sunday, we saw a flock of fieldfares: Birds Britannica tells me how tasty they were considered.

I had trouble deciphering some of this: the EEBO images are from a tight-bound copy, but I did get ‘frust’ right for carving a chicken (and this made me think of Hector in Troilus and Cressida announcing that he will ‘frush’ the Greek who unwisely shows up in ‘goodly’ armour – ‘strike violently’, but with this sub-sense of carving a chicken.

As for your own carving at Christmas, we seem to have lost ‘merrythought’ as a word for the wish-bone. John Aubrey cannot be right can he?

1697 J. AUBREY Remaines Gentilisme & Judaisme (1881) 92 'Tis called the merrythought, because when the fowle is opened, dissected, or carv'd, it resembles the pudenda of a woman. 1708 Brit. Apollo 26 Nov., For what Reason is the Bone next the Breast of a Fowl, &c. Called the Merry-thought..? The Original of that Name was doubtless from the Pleasant Fancies, that commonly arise upon the Breaking of that Bone.

Image off the Web Gallery of Art, Vincenzo Campi, a poulterer's stall, painted 1580's.

Season’s greetings to all fellow bloggers.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

“The understanding being a most subtile fire”: the 'virtuosi of France' talk

I have been reading A general collection of discourses of the virtuosi of France, upon questions of all sorts of philosophy, and other natural knowledg made in the assembly of the Beaux Esprits at Paris, by the most ingenious persons of that nation, render'd into English by G. Havers, Gent. (1664). (Usual early modern title: inviting a coffee break after reading it all, only 500-odd pages to go…)

The introduction, which explains that the ‘virtuosi of France’ demanded anonymity in the record made of their debates, is signed ‘Eusebius Renaudot’, so a very little poking around discovers that the original compiler was Théophraste Renaudot (c.1586-1653). I assume it was his son who ushered the English translation into print. As the brief Wikipedia entry says of the very considerable figure of Théophraste: “French physician, philanthropist, and journalist”. Renaudot invented the recruitment agency (the ‘bureau d'adresse et de rencontre’), published the first weekly newspaper in France, and, the Wikipedia entry says, ‘starting in 1633, he organized weekly public conferences on subjects of interest and published the proceedings; the conferences were discontinued in 1642, when Richelieu died. About 240 conference proceedings were translated into English and published in London in 1664 and 1665’.

The translation’s other introductory material briefly points out the merits of the work: the original penseurs were committed to the vernacular language for their discussion, and, seeking brevity, omitted all parading of authorities. And (most politely), these ‘French Gentlemen’ have left “the Determination of each Question to the judgement of the Reader, who is made the Arbiter of the Dispute, and may, in the grateful Variety of Opinions, freely give his suffrage to That which shall seem to him founded upon the most convincing Reasons; or else having them all before him, establish a better of his own.”

So we have here the discussions of an earlier and more public (French) Royal Society, ranging over all kinds of topics, expressing viewpoints that fluctuate unpredictably between the Cartesian and the credulous, and generally opening out the kunstkammer of the early modern mind.

Here are discussions of women, the soul, sorcerers, the senses, the arts, codes, sleep-walking, fossilia, and all kinds of matters medical. As ever, the incidentals amaze: the early 17th century apparently saw the first self-winding watch (they are discussing – what else? - perpetual motion): “his Invention who exactly fastned a Girdle to his skin, which rising and falling as he took his breath, serv'd for a perpetual spring to a Watch that hung at it, (which by that means needed not winding up) was not the Perpetual Motion which we mean...”

Or here, in a discussion of feigned diseases, one of the most hazardous ways of earning a living in early modern showbiz I have ever come across:

“One of the hardest cheats to be discover'd was that of a Jugler of Flanders, who every morning, having first stopp'd his fundament very exactly, swallow'd down half a pound of Butter and some Quicksilver after it: which put him into such hideous motions and gestures, that every one judg'd him possest. At night he unstop'd himself, and voided his Devil backwards.”

I can’t think that the performer would have lasted long, but his trick seems to have been feigning a very convincing diabolic possession by inducing symptoms he simply couldn’t control. A pair of Siamese twins (revealingly discussed as just a singular ‘monster’) whose speciality act was singing are remembered as: “mention'd by Buchanan in the fifteenth Book of his History, born in Northumberland with two heads, four armes, two breasts, and onely two leggs; It was instructed in Musick, so that each head sung its part melodiously, and discours'd together pertinently.” This made me think of Trinculo, Stephano, and Caliban.

Perhaps appropriately, considering the nationality of these thinkers, the sections on eating and fasting are good. Here are two terms very familiar to our culture, which I did not expect to see in an early 17th century text:

“Amongst which we should speed ill if we look'd for abstinence in those who have a Boulimie, or Canine Hunger, proceeding either from the too great suction of the Mesaraick Veins, of which the Stomack is made sensible by the Nerves of the sixth Conjugation; or because the Melancholy humour design'd to stimulate the stomack, and provoke Appetite by its acrimony, continually flows thither, and not after the concoction is perfected: The cure of which Malady consists in eating, and chiefly in drinking pure Wine, which is distributed more speedily then any nourishment. But when those Mesaraick Veins suck no more Chyle, either because their passages are stop'd, or for that the above mentioned acide liquor is diverted elsewhere, then ariseth a disease call'd Anorexie, or Nausea, whereunto the abstinence of those must be referr'd who have continu'd some weeks, yea moneths, and years, without eating and drinking.”

But I was, as ever, ignorant, and find that both are named disorders well before this date. Here are the OED’s earliest entries:

1398 TREVISA Barth. de. P.R. VII. xlv. (1495) 258 Bolismus is inmoderate and vnmesurable as it were an houndes appetyte. Ibid. XVIII. xxvii. 786 Houndes haue contynuall Bolisme, that is inmoderat appetyte. 1598 SYLVESTER Du Bartas (1608) 210 One while the boulime, then the anorexie…rage with monstrous ryot. 1651 FULLER Abel Rediv. (1867) I. 222 He fell into a most devouring and unsatiable bulimy. 1661 LOVELL Hist. Anim. & Min. 365 The boulimos and dog like appetite.

1598 SYLVESTER Furies 450 (D.) Then the Anorexie, Then the Dog-hunger or the Bradypepsie. 1650 BAXTER Saints Rest IV. vi, These are sick of the anorexia, and apepsy, they have neither appetite nor digestion.

And, oh dear, this naturally sent me off to Joseph Sylvester’s translation of du Bartas, and the grim relish of his account of ‘The Furies’ who assail Adam after the fall of man. Unsurprisingly (considering the nature of the sin he committed) Adam and his descendents get afflicted by eating disorders:

Now, the third Regiment with stormy stours
Sets-on the Squadron of our Naturall Powers,
Which happily maintain us (duly) both
With needfull food, and with sufficient growth.
One-while the Boulime, then the Anorexie,
Then the Dog-hunger, or the Bradypepsie,
And childe-great Pica (of prodigious diet)
In straightest stomacks rage with monstrous ryot…

Close to this passage, either Du Bartus or his translator interjects a personal note about the horror of fever, and the effect of fours years of illness on his mental capacities. But I have no time to pursue that secondary question, my subject here was ‘the virtuosi of France’, and this informal and yet highly committed book, one that makes them look like proto-bloggers.

My image is Annibale Carracci's astonishingly modern 'The Bean Eater'. Not exactly 'the Dog-hunger', but a marvellous picture.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Early Modern Teeth Veneers

Yesterday evening I was giving an M.A. class on Shakespeare’s so-called ‘Dark Lady’ sonnets. Instead of doing some solid class preparation, I’d spent a deal of Thursday afternoon frantically interrogating EEBO with keyword searches, ‘Mistress NEAR black’, ‘black NEAR beauty’, etc, as ever in the hope that something might emerge that had been missed by those diligent Victorian gentlemen who actually read the books themselves (well, what can I say? I have a busy life).

So I have looked at lots of commentaries on the Song of Songs, and being ‘black, but comely’, but on this last day of term I don’t have the energy to sum up early modern opinions about that smokingly hot Bible text. Instead, I dwindle down to one of the poets I turned up, John Collop.

Collop’s vauntingly titled Poesis rediviva, or, Poesie reviv'd (1656) was not up to the aim projected in its title. Perhaps part of his notion of ‘reviving’ poetry involved echoing earlier writers rather closely:

‘Prophanum vulgus. The People.’

“Th'rabble's an echo made 'twixt Knave and Fool,
To work his ends, the politician’s tool:
While he the Devil’s quilted Anvil is,
On which he frames all that we find amiss…”

That’s a direct crib from Webster’s Bosola in The Duchess of Malfi:

“A Polititian is the divells quilted anvil,
He fashions all sinnes on him, and the blowes
Are never heard”

but with Collop rather witlessly losing the point of the silent fashioning of sins on that ‘quilted anvil’. In the book as a whole, after our poetaster has aired his opinions about various preachers, sects, doctors and treatments, he gets onto the subject of women. Not having anything much to say, he falls back on praising yellow skin, ‘Ethiopian Beauty’, the larger lady (in ‘To Dionysia the plump Lady, S D.’), etc. - anything on which he can jangle out a few conceits and paradoxes.

One poem did strike me:

‘On Pentepicta: A Lady with enamell'd Teeth, black, white and yellow. F.W.

The wiseman teeth call'd flocks of sheep;
Sure Jacob’s speckled flocks here keep.
Where teeth are checker'd black and white,
Nay gilt too to enrich delight:
Her mouth ope, you at Chess may play,
With teeth resembling night and day.
Each fondling reach will praise what's white;
Is there in Chalk such strange delight?
Give me the mouth like th'Temple floor,
With speckled Marble paved o're,
Or - oh more rich! - in gold thus set,
A row of pearl, then one of jet.

I think that this is just a burlesque (any foolish poet can attain the praise of white teeth, he says) but it does seem that you could get your stained teeth enameled. In the poem by Royall Tyler (there’s a name for you!) below, jeering at the cosmetic construct that is ‘Flirtilla’, one 18th century practitioner of this particular aid to beauty is actually named. White enamel is obvious, gold quite conceivable, but having your teeth enameled black seems altogether implausible. Another stray reference in a play of 1655 by William Rider turns up a character writing a burlesque poem to a ‘loathly lady’, whose teeth are enameled with blue, black and yellow (i.e., simply discoloured: but the reference does suggest that white enameling existed as a practice).

[Collop’s opening line took me back to the Song of Solomon anyway: ‘Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn, which came up from the washing; whereof every one bear twins, and none is barren among them.’]

Royall Tyler, 1757-1826: ‘To Miss Flirtilla Languish’

Flirtilla, the pride of the street,
Oh listen to Tippy's fond lay;
I swear, by my shoe bows, so neat,
No beauty was ever so gay.

Her pudding is puff'd to her chin,
Her chignon is frizzled with taste,
Milk of roses has soften'd her skin,
And her neck is white over with paste.

The rouge on her cheeks spreads its rose,
Her braids on her neck sweetly play;
No waist has my love to her clothes.
And her hair is, with Marechalle, gray.

With a grace my Flirtilla trips in,
Her umbrella display'd to the wind,
From her ruff in and out bobs her chin;
And her spencer keeps bobbing behind.

Of the mouse's sleek skin are her brows,
And her eyes they so languish beneath;
She is scented with Jonquil and rose
And GREENWOOD enamel'd her teeth.

I have found out a gift for my fair,
To LANE'S sweet scented shop did I go,
I there bought her a Tete of false hair,
But she pouted at all I could do.

For he ne'er could be true, she oft said,
Who a present could make to his fair;
Who could purchase a Tete for her head,
Without any braids to the hair.

To see, when my charmer trips by,
Some beau point his Opera glass;
How he looks down Cornhill, with a sigh,
As a shopping Flirtilla doth pass.

On him she may leer, if she please,
Or nod as she passes the street;
But let him not kiss her, or squeeze,
For he'll rub the Carmine from her cheek.

I'd give my Canee and Bootees,
My Pantaloons, Pudding and Vest,
If once my Flirtilla would please,
To press me to what once was her breast.

In wedlock I'd keep her from harm,
No nurs'ry should spoil her soft health,
Fleecy hosi'ry should keep my dear warm,
If I failed for to warm her myself.

My image is from the Web Gallery of Art, and is Goya's 'Out Hunting for Teeth!' The commentary there suggests that the young lady is pulling teeth from the jaw of the hanged man for purposes of witchcraft. This is wrong: witches are never depicted as disgusted at what they do. Rather, she is collecting nice white teeth to push into the gap the barber surgeon is about to make in her own discoloured smile. Like 'Waterloo teeth'.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

A Visiting Professor of Melancholy Studies, 1640?

“Heartbeating, swelling of the face, want of appetite, greife, sighing, causeles teares, insatiable hunger, extreame thirst, sownings, oppressions, suffocations, continuall watchings, Headach, Melancholy, Epilepsy, Ragings, Furor uterinus, Satyriasis; and diverse other desperate Symptomes, which for the most part admit neither cure, nor mitigation…”

~ some of the dire symptoms of love melancholy, as described in Dr Jacques Ferrand’s

Erotomania or A treatise discoursing of the essence, causes, symptomes, prognosticks, and cure of love, or erotique melancholy (1640).

A worse symptom still (I suppose) is spontaneous gender-reassignment, references to which Ferrand dutifully notes, but ‘dare not believe’. If it happens, it affects women love-melancholics:

Hippocrates seemes to attribute to passionate love the power of transforming women into men; where he sayes, that in the citty Abdera, Phaethusa, being stricken with the love of Pytheus, and not being able to enjoy him for a long time; by reason of his absence; she became a Man, and grew hairy all over her body, had a mans voyce, and a long beard on her chin. The same he affirms in the Aphorisme following to have befallen to Namysia, wife to one Gorgippus: and addes withall, that it was impossible for her to have recovered to her former womanhood againe.”

Ferrand discusses the anatomical probabilities of this, and finds that, if it does occur, Aristotle’s account of the difference of the two genders perhaps allows a mechanism:

“It may very easily then be, according to this doctrine of Aristotle, and of Galen that a woman, being enflamed with the violence of love, may put forth those her genitall parts, which are no other, then those of a man reversed, or turned inward as the same Doctour affirmes: whom not withstanding all our Modern Anatomists doe unanimously contradict: as you may see at large in the Anatomicall Quaestions of Andreas Laurentius.

These things are amusing enough, but there’s a real mystery about this book (I use this cliché in the sense of ‘I haven’t the time or inclination to research this properly’). Whoever James or Jacques Ferrand was, his connections are all with Christ Church, Oxford. The book has the usual parade of commendatory verses, all by students of that college.

Now 1640 was the year of the death of the Christ Church author who ought to be cited throughout this work, but isn’t, Robert Burton, whose Anatomy of Melancholy treats largely of love melancholy. Maybe I will post a large section of this latter text, and a similar extract from Burton’s work up to ‘Turnitin’, and see if I can make pioneering use of that resource to detect a 17th century plagiarist.

Ferrand’s first name appears as James or Jacques, and he refers to his own medical practice (and successes in diagnosing love melancholy) abroad. Unless someone did a translation for him, he writes a normal 17th century learned English, with the usual polyglot smattering of Greek and Latin phrases.

I think he was ‘Visiting Professor of Melancholy Studies’ at Christchurch, drawn there by Burton’s reputation. Burton’s will survives – I must check if he left any legacy to promote continued study of his big subject.

But, to round this off, some of the many ways listed to prevent, diagnose and cure love melancholy:


1. “The most powerfull and effectual cause of all, and therefore the most dangerous, is, the use of hot, provocative, Flatulent and Melancholy Meats”

2. “But they must be sure to take heed of all manner of Aromaticall things, and all fried or salt meats: because that Salt, by reason of its Heat and Acrimony, provokes to lust those that use to eate it in any great quantity … And this is the reason that Fishes are more fruitfull, and multiply faster, then any other living creatures whatsoever. And we see that vessells of salt commonly produce great store of Mice: the Female conceaving without a Male, meerely by licking of the salt: if we may believe Aristotle.

  1. “It is also very good to bath the privy members in Vineger.”


1. Valescus de Tarenta, the most famous Physitian of his Age, observes the chapping of the Lips in Women to be a signe of their Inclination to this Malady: for that it denotes the Intemperate Heat of the Matrix … Aristotle in his Lib. 2. de Gener. Animal. cap. 7. will have the Eyes also to bee very considerable in these Predictions … because, saith he, the Eye is the most Spermaticall part about the Head.”


Ferrand offers (in what is possibly the only sensible piece of advice in the whole book), the amenable Ovid:

1. “Let each man have two Mistresses in store:

And 'twere much better, if he could have more.

Thus, whilst the mind 'twixt two it selfe doth share,

One Love will still each others force impaire.”

2. “But the most famous, and certaine Remedy of all, was the Leucadian Rocke, from the top whereof distracted Lovers would throw themselves downe headlong into the sea.”

(Ferrand does concede “the harshnesse and unpleasantnesse of this Remedy.”)

There’s a Shakespeare allusion in one of the commendatory verses, that by Richard Goodridge of Christ Church:

“Were thy story of as much direfull woe,
As that, of Iuliet and Hieronymo:
Here's that would cure you…”

He imitates the closing couplet of Romeo and Juliet, and gives us a nice pairing of Elizabethan woe-tragedies.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

A General History of Whoring, 1697

I have been reading, with gratified astonishment, the anonymous publication of 1697, God's judgments against whoring. being an essay towards a general history of it, from the creation of the world to the reign of Augustulus (which according to common computation is 5190 years) and from thence down to the present year 1697: being a collection of the most remarkable instances of uncleanness that are to be found in sacred or prophane history during that time, with observations thereon.

I pointed out this simultaneously learned and ill-judged book to my colleague Blair Worden (who really knows about this period) and he noticed straight away that the printer, Richard Baldwin, was a regular printer of radical tracts. It was all intended very seriously by a late 17th century writer immensely antagonized by what he calls “Advocates of Lechery”. He writes against libertinage, and foresees trouble – if anyone rebuked to their face theBeaux and Debauchees of this present Age, he would run a hazard of being whipp'd through the Lungs, with a Damn him for a canting foul-mouth'd Coxcomb”.

Apart from that of being run through by an indignant rakehell, the author did see the inherent problem in his project: “the Design of the following Essay is not to minister Fuel to those Impure Flames which have consum'd so many particular Persons, Families, and Nations, but is intended as a Caveat and Warning to all those who are guilty of that reigning Sin of Uncleanness” (he begins). But he then embarks on a work which tactlessly gathers together every discreditable Bible episode, and supplies chapter and verse on every classical depravity. So, if you wanted a detailed summary of what Tiberius got up to at Capraea, here it all is. What emerges is a version of Sir Walter Ralegh’s History of the World (which has the same type of historical scope and sources), but focused almost entirely on fornication, history’s “remarkable instances of uncleanness”. Our pious-minded author, oblivious to his effect, runs first through Bible history, then the Jewish Historians, and on into the classical historians, pursuing his learned theme with unremitting enthusiasm (and giving the impression that humanity in general has also pursued the practical matter with unremitting enthusiasm too).

The introductory list of contents is fabulous: here are some extracts from D, F and W:

  • Damocles leaps into scalding Oyl to avoid Sodomy. 211
  • David's Amours with Maacha, and the Opinions of the Rabbins concerning it. 68
  • David's Adultery and Punishment, and Remarks on it. 64, 65
  • David's Concubines, their uncleanness and punishment. 75
  • Darius's Incest and Punishment. 148, 225

  • Firmus drank two Buckets of Wine at once. 273
  • Fishes, the luxury and niceness of the Romans in them, mourn'd for when dead, deck'd with Jewels, Octavius's Expence about 'em. 282, 283.
  • Fore-skin, why circumcis'd. 13
  • Fornication, why so called. 307
  • ---Schoolmens Opinion of it. 315
  • Fowl, the niceness and luxury of the Romans about 'em. 283
  • Furniture of Houses excessive. 292, 294
  • War occasion'd at Sparta by the Lust of Chelidonis. 200
  • Wenches naked wait at Table. 277
  • Whores and Whoremongers, their Character by Solomon. 87

· Whoredom the cause of Apostacy, and of the Deluge. 6, 7

  • ---the Judgments denounc'd against it in the New Testament. 122, &c.
  • ---its Original. 1, 2, 3
  • Wild Beasts, vast numbers of 'em in the Theatres. 287
  • Women that kill'd themselves to avoid being defil'd. 304
  • Woman taken in Adultery, the reason of our Saviour's acquitting her; what he wrote upon the Ground at that time. 109

Immensely hot under the collar though he is about adultery, ‘digamy’, polygamy, concubinage, and the ‘keeping of misses’, as you see, the author still has spare indignation about the other depravities his fornicators have indulged.

Generally, the author can keep more or less on track, as bad things happen to most of the adulterers in the Bible. However, there are episodes where due condemnation is not to be found. And there is a certain, scarcely deniable raciness to the commentary … for instance, when he gets to the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. The author speculates about what drove the inhabitants to demand intercourse with the angels visiting Lot:

“This is the first Instance we meet with of Lusts arriving to such a prodigious height, as to seek after Unnatural Objects, and it would seem their Incontinence was so fierce, that they furiously sought after every opportunity, to gratifie their brutish desires, especially upon Strangers; for they had so mutually polluted one another, that it's probable their villainous pleasures that way, had lost much of their relish.

From there, he plunges on with the continued story of Lot, and how his daughters came to seduce him. No immediate thunderbolt ensues: the author points this out himself, which is to his credit. But I was struck by his ingenious speculations on the way the behaviour of Lot’s daughters might be attributable to the adverse environmental factors of their upbringing. He has a point, but an oddly worldly one:

“The next Instance we meet with, is that of Lot's Incest with his own Daughters, or rather their Incest with him. This passage has many strange Circumstances that deserve our observation. It is not improbable that the lewd Conversation of the Sodomites had before-hand infected the minds of those Damsels, for it's a hard matter to touch pitch and not to be defiled; Divines are of different opinions concerning those Women, some believing that they had actually been married, and others, that they were only betrothed, but which soever of 'em it was, it's certain they had lost their Males; and perhaps their Fathers offer to prostitute them to save his Guests, and their having been ear witnesses at least to those unnatural villanies practis'd by the Sodomites, might possess them with extenuating thoughts of the wickedness they had in design: Yet it appears by their abominable Intrigue to Intoxicate their Father, that they durst not propound any such thing to him when he was Sober, their wickedness appears to be so much the greater, that they had but just escap'd from that storm of divine Wrath which over took the Sodomites for their Vile Lusts; That they had but a very little before seen their Mother turn'd into a Monument of God's displeasure, for having a hankering mind after that impure City, and her wicked Relations in it; That they had no doubt been often times witnesses to the vexation of their Fathers Righteous Soul at the lustful practises of the Sodomites, and yet all this was not able to restrain them from pursuing their unclean design, and commiting one sin to obtain the Commission of another. Their pretence that there was no Man left to come in unto them after the manner of all the Earth, and that therefore they were under necessity a of raising up Seed to their Father, appears to have been an ill founded suggestion of the Devil, to hide their sin from their Eyes, for they could not but know that they had left men behind them in Zoar, they might have seen from the hill, that the whole Country was not ruined, and those divine Judgments had only swallowed up the Cities of the Plain; or they might speedily have been better inform'd by their Father. Their wickedness is also aggravated by this, that as they were Sisters by Nature, they were Sisters in Iniquity, and they had no regard to their own, nor their Father's good Name, nor the scandal which by this lewd practice they gave to the Enemies of true Religion. The Scripture is silent as to any Judgments inflicted either upon their Father or themselves, but informs us plainly that the issue which they had by this Unlawfull Congress, were accursed, and their posterity like other spurious brood were mortal Enemies to the people of God, and perpetually excommunicated from the Church by Divine Command, Deut. 23. 3. And thus Lot had an eternal blemish fixt upon his Chastity, which did formerly so much distinguish him from the other Inhabitants of Sodom, and was punished by being the Author of Debauching his Daughters himself, whom he so rashly offered to be Debauched by others; so that we see raging Lust leaps over all the bounds of Law and Nature, and if not curb'd in time may rise to a surprizing and prodigious height, and bring down stupendous Judgments upon People and Persons.

In this next passage, he considers one of the odder biblical prohibitions and punishments, which he finds strongly indicates just what an overriding priority with God chastity must be:

“Chastity was so strictly enjoyned unto this select people of God, that they were not only forbid to suffer any of their Daughters to be Whores, or any of their Sons to be Whore-Masters, as some think the word which in our Translation Deut 23. 17. is Sodomites, ought to be rendered, but all manner of immodesty was strictly forbid; and therefore if any Woman seeing her Husband and another Man a Quarrelling, should be so impudent in her Fury or Passion as to take the other Man by the Secret Parts to oblige him to forbear Quarrelling with her Husband, her hand was to be cut off without any pity, tho' every Man knows that a Pressure or Gripe in those parts would quickly Force her Husband's Antagonist to quit the Fray.---And by much more reason would those Judges have Condemned Women who put their hands to those parts upon a Lustful Account.

Unsurprisingly, he interprets circumcision as “a mark of God's displeasure at Incontinence upon the Instrument of Generation. The author nowhere escapes the charge of knowing rather too much about the subject he is denouncing. Here, the zoophiles of his universal history of sexual misdemeanor run on into what looks dangerously like a learned joke:

“The Egyptians and Canaanites are also charged with Bestiality, their Men and Women having committed Confusion with Beasts, and thus Pasiphae is accused of having accompanied with a Bull, Polyphantes with a Bear, Semiramis with an Horse, and the Women of Mendis in Egypt with Goats.---Nay if we may believe the Fables of the Jews, the false Prophet Balaam, who was slain amongst the Midianites, was guilty of Bestiality with his Ass, which they foolishly collect from those Words of the Beast, viz. Am not I thine Ass which thou hast ridden upon?

Once into the madder Roman emperors, the author can really enjoy himself (in whatever way it was that he was enjoying himself). But rather than any out-and-out naughty passage, I extract finally his version of the famous passage in North’s Plutarch describing Cleopatra at Cydnus. I cannot see here that he had so far weakened as to read a profane text like Antony and Cleopatra: it his independent rewrite. But anyone wanting to set a literary-critical exercise could print together North, Shakespeare, and this remarkable ‘Anon’:

Dalleus, who carried the Message to her, had no sooner seen her admirable Beauty, but he told her, It was impossible that so beautiful a Creature could receive any ill treatment at the Hands of Antony, and therefore advis'd her to make towards him in splendid Equipage. Accordingly she embarks in the River Cydnus, the Head of her Barge did shine with inlaid Gold, the Sails were of Purple Silk, the Oars of Silver, which beat Time to the Flutes and Hautbois, she her self lay all-along under a Canopy of Cloth of Gold curiously embroider'd, dress'd as Venus is ordinarily represented, and beautiful young Boys stood on each side like Cupids, to fann her; her Maids were dress'd like Sea-Nymphs and Graces, some steering the Rudder, some working at the Ropes; the Perfumes diffus'd themselves from the Vessel to the Shore, which was all cover'd with Multitudes, the People running out of the City to see this strange Sight, left Antony alone upon the Tribunal, and a Rumor was spread abroad, That Venus was come to feast with Bacchus, for the common Good of Asia. As soon as she arriv'd, Antony sent to invite her to Supper, but she thought it more decent that Antony should come to her, who made no great Difficulty to do it; he found the Preparations very magnificent, but nothing was so admirable as the great number of Lights, which were all of a sudden let down in such a multitude of Branches, and so ingeniously dispos'd, some in Squares and some in Circles, that Fame cannot speak of a greater piece of Curiosity.”

It is among the 12,500 texts which the text creation project over on EEBO has made a full text of, so it is very readily accessible. (How I wish they’d get round to doing Paul Fairfax’s English Faustbook!)