Category Archives: Non classé

All Good Things Must Come to an End – Concluding Blog Post

Over the course of this project, my colleagues and I have used George III’s menus as a lens to assess various aspects of the royal court and life in the late eighteenth century. Our work stemmed from transcribing these menus, and as such has allowed us to shed light on unexplored aspects of life in Georgian England. These menus, which offer a daily display of the court’s food, include people of note such as equerries and named servants, which allows for a deeper investigation into George’s court. In using the menus and further resources then, the project’s themes can be analysed and explored, particularly in how they offer an insight into life in the Georgian court and into George III as a person.

A bust of Dr Willis in Greatford, Lincolnshire. By Joseph Nollekens

Inspired by the royal menus, aspects of the Georgian court, such as those staff that accompanied the king to Kew, and Kew Palace itself, have been well explored. For the court, the menus can allow for an insight into some of the main players in George’s life and their interactions with each other and the king. In this, further reading of the diaries of Fanny Burney and writings on Dr Willis offer insights into the relationships between these two and the rest of the royals. Noting the king’s home, George’s presence in the Kew Palace helps to contextualise the royals in their location and their relationships, particularly as the king was moved to Kew to treat his madness. Together with the staff too, this allows for a glimpse into what the conditions for those in the kitchen were like, particularly as the kitchens in Kew Palace have survived until today! This shows then how valuable the menus are as a way to begin viewing life in George’s court, proving useful to begin interpreting court relationships, such as during the Kings treatment at Kew. Though as an entry to exploring the Georgian court, the menus are not without shortcomings. Without further reading around the menus for instance, little insight can be gained into the king’s time at Kew, with only those attending the royals such as Burney and Willis offering some perspective into life in George’s court.[1] Aside of the personalities in court though, the menus offer a view into George himself, presenting him with a depth of personality rarely seen.

By exploring the king’s hobbies and his favoured culinary habits, the use of George’s menus offers a more human view into a king so often caricatured as a lunatic. In his hobbies, namely gardening and hunting, depictions of George create an image of a more relatable king with a love of agriculture and the kingly sport of hunting. [2] Meanwhile, in his culinary habits, viewing George’s menus can offer an insight into what was available regarding seasonal  foods, though those studied for this project were largely from winter. In this too, readers can also guess what the king’s preferred foods were, should they wish to read through all of the king’s menus such as his fondness for French cuisine. [3]

Vol-au-vents are among the many French dishes that can seen in the George III’s menus

Viewing the king’s medical history can also give an insight into George himself. Retrospective analysis of the king’s illness can offer an insight into what ailed him from a modern medical perspective. Meanwhile, the role of Dr Willis in aiding the king allows for an insight into the treatment George received and what ideas regarding ‘madness’ in the period were. In all of these instances the, the royal menus have allowed for a broad look into George III as a man, while also displaying how he was viewed and treated by others. In his illness too, his treatment helps show how the king fit into medical ideas compared to the rest of his subjects. In all of these occasions though, the issue arises of George only being presented by other people, making this view somewhat impersonal. This is likely due to his constant presence in the limelight, where many would scrutinise the king on a daily basis for his hobbies and his health.

From these examples then, it is clear that using George’s menus for a project was of great value in exploring such a broad area of history. By offering insight into an array of contemporary themes and ideas, the menus grant a personal insight into life in the royal court, even allowing for events to be explored to the day using other literature.[ In this too, the people associated with the menus can be explored too, as such offering a more in depth view into the life of George than could be thought possible by simply looking at what the king ate.

[1] Fanny Burney: The Keeper of the Robes, https://drbp.hypotheses.org/890; Dr Willis: The Cure to the King’s Madness or his Personal Torturer?, https://drbp.hypotheses.org/1016

[2] King George III: Farmer and Hunter, https://drbp.hypotheses.org/868

[3] British Cuisine is too French, https://drbp.hypotheses.org/873

Bibliography:

Burney, Frances, The Diary and Letters of Madame D’Arblay, Vol. 2 (London, 1891)

Burney, Frances, The Diary and Letters of Madame D’Arblay, Vol. 1 (Boston, 1910)

Brooke, John, King George III (Tiptree, 1972)

Historic Royal Palaces, The Royal Kitchens at Kew https://www.hrp.org.uk/kew-palace/history-and-stories/the-royal-kitchens-at-kew/#gs.8cxtda,

Unknown, Farmer George and His Wife (c. 1780s) https://www.rct.uk/collection/630059/farmer-george-his-wife

Rowlandson, Thomas, King George III returning from hunting through Eton (c. 1800) https://www.rct.uk/collection/913717/king-george-iii-returning-from-hunting-through-eton

Scull, Andrew, Madness in Civilisation (London, 2015)

LS9-226_0060, January 31, 1789

Dr Willis: The Cure to the King’s Madness or his Personal Torturer?

Earlier in the year, I transcribed a number of King George III’s menus from February 1789. In each instance, the title of ‘Dr Willis’s servant’ appeared, prompting me to investigate who this Dr Willis was. With this motivation too, I decided to explore Willis’s life and the treatment he conducted on the king, viewing this in the context of late eighteenth-century medicine. This idea of medicine was largely based on older religious and humoral ideas, shortly before the medical revolutions of the nineteenth-century, and as such appears alien compared to more modern treatment. In exploring Dr Willis, his rise as a physician and his appearance in George’s household will be explored, while his treatment of the king will be evaluated regarding contemporary medical ideas. In this too, the damage done to the king by Dr Willis will be recognised, but only insofar as his actions were in-line with the period’s medical practices.


Born to the minister of Lincoln Cathedral in 1718, Francis Willis was raised to be a religious man. He graduated Oxford University with an MA in 1741 and, having returned to study medicine, gained a medical MD in 1759. Between these years, Willis had married and had turned their home into a mental asylum, and would later go on to help found the Lincoln General Hospital in the 1760s. In 1788, aged seventy, Willis was summoned to court to aid the king, under Lady Harcourt’s recommendation, and began his work in December. Willis was well liked by many at court, such as Fanny Burney, for his manner and wit, but was seen as a quack by other royal physicians. By 17 February 1789, the king was seen to have been cured, and Willis’s job was done. He remained in court for a month after, to keep an eye on the king, and would return to Lincolnshire with a sizeable pension. In later life, Willis would help treat the queen of Portugal for her madness, no doubt aided by his reputation for aiding mad monarchs. Having retired from aiding the royal court in 1801, sending his son to help when the king would relapse, Willis would continue to practice medicine until his death in 1807, aged 89.

Dr Willis is noted here in George’s menu from January 1789 during their stay at Kew

In his service to the royals, Dr Willis was seen as a man of experience for his previous medical work in Lincolnshire, and aided the king as such. In this, the contemporary methods Willis used to treat the king were paired with other methods of psychological aid, meaning that the two parted on good terms despite Willis’s treatment. Though this is surprising considering the treatment George received. The King was tortured and abused in the name of ‘curing’ his madness and, while shocking by modern standards, this treatment was common in treating those deemed ‘mad’. Though simply stating that Willis’s methods were torturous is not enough to understand what the king underwent. In looking into the medical ‘aid’ Willis conducted, compared to medical knowledge in the period, an insight into what George endured is clear.

 

 

A portrait of Dr Willis by John Russel from the same year as the menu above

While by no means malicious, Willis’s treatment of the king was definitely harmful to his overall condition, though it was not uncommon for the period. For treatment, the king would regularly be bound in a chair and gagged, while suffering a wealth of mental and emotional abuse in the form of Willis’s ‘lectures’. In other instances, the king’s legs would be blistered to draw out bad humours, and would even be confined to a straightjacket if he were to remove the bandages from the wounds. George would also even be beaten by one of Willis’s assistants, perhaps even the one mentioned in the royal menus! Though compared to other cases of dealing with madness in the period, the king’s treatment was not out of the ordinary.


In madhouses, where the majority of the mentally ill were treated, conditions were as bleak as what the king endured, with cases such as William Belcher’s offering a harrowing example of treatment for the ‘mad’. As such, George received the same treatment, with Willis even stating that he would draw no distinction in treatment between the king or any other patient. In this then, while the king’s treatment may have been torturous, they were not uncommon in the context or done maliciously, as proven by the positive relationship between George and Willis. Despite this though, the treatment was not wholly effective, perhaps even delaying the king’s recovery from illness and damaging him overall. Furthermore, Willis’s treatment had no long-term effectiveness, with the king’s madness returning the next century and being permanent as of 1810.

“bound and tortured in a straight-waistcoat, fettered, crammed with physic with a bullock’s horn, and knocked down, and declared a lunatic by a Jury that never saw me…”

Belcher’s description of his treatment, Andrew Scull, Madness in Civilisation (London, 2015) p. 139


From this therefore, it is clear to modern audiences that Willis’s treatment was indeed harmful to the king by modern standards, though in his own context Willis acted as one would have with the knowledge they had. Indeed, Brooke’s analogy of Willis being no more cruel than a contemporary dentist removing teeth without anaesthetic speaks volumes about ideas of medicine, and of Willis in the eighteenth century.

Bibliography:

Brooke, John, King George III (Tiptree, 1972)
Burney, Frances, The Diary and Letters of Madame D’Arblay, Vol. 2 (London, 1891)
Clarke, John, The Life and Times of George III (London, 1972)
Hibbert, Christopher, George III: A Personal History (London, 1998)
Porter, Roy, “Willis, Francis” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2012)
Scull, Andrew, Madness in Civilisation (London, 2015)
Smith, Leonard, Peters, Timothy, “Introduction to ’Details on the Establishment of Doctor Willis, for the Cure of Lunatics’ (1796)” in History of Psychiatry, Vol 28 (3), (September, 2017)

LS9-226_0060, January 31, 1789

British Cuisine is too French

King George III’s dinner menu, 1789, 9 December

Despite the animosity between the British and the French in the times of King George III, the royal palate became rather fond of French cuisine. Dishes like ‘Des Pomme de Terre en gratin’, ‘Gateau de Mille feuille’, and ‘Cotelets des Poularde glac’ were listed in the royal menus of December 1789, as is the case for many of the wealthy.

Although this fad only really gathered steam in the nineteenth century, it does not come as a surprise that the royal household, with their wealth and proximity to Continental influence, should be trendsetters in their time. There were French eating houses, and French cooks were highly valued and considered a necessary presence in the kitchen of any “respectable Country Gentleman’s household”.[1]

French influence could be observed in both ingredients and methods of food preparation, such as meat that is fricasseed or ragoued, or served with sauces in particular. However, not everyone was as impressed by French cuisine. Hannah Glasse denounced its excessiveness, lamenting “I have heard of a Cook that used six Pounds of Butter to fry twelve Eggs, when every Body knows, that understands cooking, that Half a Pound is full enough, or more than need be used…so much is the bling Folly of this Age, that they would rather be imposed on by a French Booby, than give Encouragement to a good English Cook!”.[2] However, she also included plenty of French, or French-inspired dishes in her own cookbook. This derision of French cuisine was probably not unique to Glasse, for such extravagance could not be afforded by the less-than-wealthy and not to mention, there was a burgeoning sense of nationalist pride to be taken in British cuisine.

Hannah Glasse, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, 1747

French cuisine was not the only foreign influence to be found in eighteenth century England, where trade, immigration, and imperialism had brought all kinds of marvels.

Tea, coffee, sugar, spices had been introduced to the British diet, not without a keen awareness of their originating countries.[3] With the introduction of these new-fangled ingredients, the meaning of food grew to become representative of their cultures. Recipes for non-British dishes such as German ‘sour-crout’, Indian ‘pellow’ (pilau), and ‘China Chilo’ flourished as more and more Britons developed a taste for the exotic, but at the same time, the rivalry between national dishes grew ever stronger.

British food was exalted for its simplicity and plainness and roast beef became the country’s national dish. As Howes and Lalonde describes it, for some, “to eat British food was to affirm one’s participation in the British nation in a more resolutely self-conscious way than could have been the case previously”.[4] For others, foreign food was simply too costly, and they continued to subsist on ‘traditionally’ English fare which was much more affordable.


[1] Emma Kay, “Britain’s Own French Revolution”, Dining with the Georgians: A Delicious History (Gloucestershire: Amberley Publishing Limited, 2014).

[2] Glasse, “To the Reader”, pp. III.

[3] Troy Bickham, “Eating the Empire: Intersections of Food, Cookery and Imperialism in Eighteenth-Century Britain”, Past & Present, no. 198 (2008), pp. 71-109, http://www.jstor.org/stable/25096701.

[4] David Howes and Marc Lalonde, “The History of Sensibilities: Of the Standard of Taste in Mid-Eighteenth Century England and the Circulation of Smells in Post-Revolutionary France”, Dialectical Anthropology 16, no. 2 (1991), pp 125-135, http://www.jstor.org/stable/29790373, pp. 128.

Transcription 101: Learn the basics of transcription.

Have you ever wanted to learn how to read and transcribe old historical texts but had no idea on where to start? If so, then I am here to give you my basic tips on how to transcribe historical document. When transcribing you must keep in mind that you are not reading modern text, therefore the techniques you were taught for reading shouldn’t be used in transcribing. In this blog I will be using the Wednesday 17th December 1789 Royal Menu as a template to teach the basics of transcription.[1]

It might seem daunting at first to transcribe due to the handwriting, but this should not stop attempting to transcribe a historical document. To begin, there are different techniques that can be used to transcribe. When I transcribe the first thing I do and  would suggest to do is some research and find out any historical background information of the document; this includes when the documents was written, who wrote it and why it was written, this will give you context for your document. The document that I am using as an example of transcription was written in December 1789, therefore placing it into historical context was written during the Georgian era. It is also stated as a Royal Menu, thus from this we can take that the document will hold food items and meals.

This is the date at the top of the Royal Menu.

The next step I would suggest is to skim read the document, not only does this help through the possibility of being able to pick up on a couple words and letters, but it then makes the process of transcription easier as you start to get used to the handwriting. A mistake that is often made is that people translate words rather than transcribing them. Taking a look at the document, the food ‘brocoli’ appears multiple times; it is very easy to read this as our modern day word ‘broccoli’, but this wrong and can cause many mistakes; as this translating rather than transcribing. Therefore by taking a document letter by letter may seem a long process, but it helps you transcribe accurately and not make the error of translating.

‘Brocoli’

If you are finding it difficult to read the document or are unable to figure out letters, do not panic or give up! The best advice for this would be to leave it and come back after with a pair of fresh eyes; and by this point you may have figured out the word or letter from it being repeated within the document. If you still are unable to identify the word or letter, there are many useful online tools and resources which can be used that offer guidance. One of the tools I used for this document; it offers the alphabet, and this allows me to identify letters that I was unable to solve initially.[2]   

You may also come across different lines, dashes or even little squiggles throughout a document. Some of the can be used as decoration for the end of a word, while others separate text. One common letter that comes in multiple early modern history English texts is what is commonly called a long s, which sometimes can look like an ‘f’ or ‘ʃ’. This is just simply the letter‘s’. Taking a look at the royal menu we can see that the abbreviation of ‘Oys.’ is common throughout the document. Previously ‘oyster sauce’ was stated as menu item; therefore it can be figured out that ‘Oys.’ is an abbreviation for oyster sauce. Other more common abbreviations can be seen in the form of what looks like an infinity sign connected with a ‘c’; this translated to modern day is ‘etc’, however written in transcription it is ‘&c.’     

An example.

Remember it is difficult to transcribe everything on the first go and this does not mean that you won’t be able to transcribe the document. It is fine to leave the document and come back to it later with fresh eyes, there are also online resources that help transcribing which you can use. It is also vital that you do not translate when you are transcribing, as this can change the original lettering of a word and in some instances change the meaning of a word. Once you have conquered and transcribed your first document you will develop your transcription techniques, which will make it easier to transcribe further documents. If you are going to transcribe a document let me know what techniques you use and how you got along in the comments. Also now that you can read, why not check out what foods were eaten during a Georgian Christmas here?!

[1] LS9-226_0015; 17 December 1789

[2] Andrew Zurcher,. English Handwriting 1500-1700, an online course https://www.english.cam.ac.uk/ceres/ehoc/index.html [accessed 5 April 2019]


Royal Kitchens at Kew

By George III’s reign the main residence at Kew was the Dutch house, and the kitchens needed to supply food to all those present in the household at the time; typically, the King himself, his wife Charlotte, and the Princesses. Among these numbers were also the staff themselves, meaning the kitchens needed to handle a huge amount of food at a time. The kitchens were constructed separately to the Dutch house, and where originally built to serve the culinary needs of the White House. The kitchens were not consistently open until 1788, when the royal family began to stay in the household for increased lengths of time.

Following Queen Charlotte’s death in 1818 the kitchens were left unused and abandoned until 2012. [1] Before we delve into the kitchen staff and resources, we should first establish what the kitchens were comprised of. It included a large main area with four rooms leading from it specifically suited for the holding and preparation of different foods or for certain tasks. One of the four rooms was the bread house for the production and baking of bread, another was a cold room for the storing of meats and fish. It was extremely important to keep fish fresh as they were an example of a more luxurious and expensive food. It has been estimated that fish such as Turbots could individually cost approximately £1 10 shillings, which would cost over £60 in modern terms. [2] The other two rooms were sculleries for the storage of silverware and the cleaning of utensils and other cooking equipment. [1] Outside of the kitchen area there was also an ice house for the storage of food needing preserving for longer periods of time. The structure is located under earth, allowing for a natural method of cooling perishable food.

The Ice House. Picture taken by Jasmine Moran at Kew Gardens 03/05/19

The kitchen also had additional upstairs space which contained offices, one being that occupied by the Clerk of the Kitchen William Gorton. There was also another storage space for the more exorbitant dry products, named the dry larder for which he held the key. [1] There was also an exterior to the kitchens, which held the kitchen gardens. This is where most of the vegetables were sourced for the royal menu.

William Gorton’s listed menus. Picture taken by Jasmine Moran at Kew Gardens 03/05/19
Kitchen Garden. Picture taken by Jasmine Moran at Kew Gardens 03/05/19

Despite the fact there were rarely visitors or feasts during the King’s periods of confinement, there was still a significant number of staff working to ensure the kitchen functions ran smoothly. Surprisingly, considering the emphasis on a woman’s place in the domestic environment, there were no women employed in Kew kitchens. Instead there were 23 men and boys working, which was the norm in a Georgian kitchen. [1] This was half the usual number of staff held in a palace kitchens. The lack of staff was because of the small size of the Dutch house, and the lack of feasts held. [3] I was also interested to learn that all the staff in the kitchens had to swear their loyalty to the monarch.

When considering the other staff, there were various different roles in a Georgian kitchen, some of which were surprising to me. For example, there were Scourers who were tasked with cleaning the dishes. While this is not surprising in itself, there was also a master Scourer who also had his own assistant. Evidently the cleanliness of the dishes was of the upmost importance and needed to be supervised intensely. In the second scullery three men had the job of ensuring the silverware was spotless. There were three porters, two for coal and one general porter. Another interesting feature is the presence of a Turnbroach who was responsible for rotating the spits on which meats were cooked. [4]

Another crucial member of the kitchen was William Gorton, as the Clerk of the Kitchen he was responsible for all aspects of its organisation, with the help of his assistant Samuel Wharton, another Clerk of the kitchen. He was the author of the menus which were written every evening for the following day. Although he was in charge of budgeting and food expenditure he was restricted by the Board of the Green Cloth. [2] This was essentially responsible for the administration of the royal palaces, including food. [6] Another essential member of staff, and one which Gorton communicated with regularly concerning the construction of each menu was the Master cook William Wybrown, who originally started working in the kitchens as a child.

Interestingly, Wybrown was featured in a rather dramatic poem which detailed the occasion a louse was found on the George III’s plate, depicting him questioning the pages and cooks demanding who the louse belonged to and how it got there. Evidently it was considered a catastrophic mistake which was ridiculed extensively. Wybrown is given a less than flattering description in the poem;

“the great Cook-Major comes! his eyes – Fierce as the redd’ning flame that roasts and fries; His cheeks like Bladders, with high passion glowing, or like a fat Dutch Trumpeter’s when blowing.”


Pindar, Peter, The Lousiad: an heroi-comic poem. Canto I, (London, 1786), P. 20. [7]

It is interesting to note how seemingly small occurrences could influence the reputation of a household’s kitchen, making it a public mockery.

It is clear the kitchens were a bustling hub of the palace and was essential to the well-being of the entire household. Although in the case of Kew palace the kitchen staff was fairly limited in comparison to other royal palaces, it still had the same functioning as any other royal palace and served it well for the years in which the royals resided there.


References

[1] University of Reading, A History of Royal Food and Feasting, <https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/royal-food/0/steps/17090> [date assessed 28 April 2019].

[2] Historical Royal Palaces, Factsheet Royal Kitchens at Kew, <https://hrpprodsa.blob.core.windows.net/hrp-prod-container/11112/factsheet-royal-kitchens-at-kew-final_2.pdf>  [date assessed 29 April 2019], pp. 1-2.

[3] University of Reading, A History of Royal Food and Feasting, <https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/royal-food/0/steps/17089> [date assessed 28 April 2019].

[4] University of Reading, A History of Royal Food and Feasting, <https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/royal-food/0/steps/17091> [date assessed 26 April 2019].

[5] University of Reading, A History of Royal Food and Feasting, <https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/royal-food/0/steps/17091> [date assessed 26 April 2019].

[6] The National Archives, Records of the Lord Steward, the Board of Green Cloth and other officers of the Royal Household, <https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C202> [date assessed 30 April 2019].

[7] Pindar, Peter, The Lousiad: an heroi-comic poem. Canto I, (London, 1786), p. 1. Bibliographic number: T041275 (estc), <https://data.historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/view?pubId=ecco-0835100700&terms=The%20Lousiad%20an%20heroi-comic%20poem&pageId=ecco-0835100700-220> [date assessed 20 April 2019].

Kew Palace: History and the Grounds

This post will provide context to the grounds and history of Kew palace, where the menus which are included in our series of posts were written and served. This residence changed fairly dramatically over its history, hosting some influential and royal guests. Frederick Prince of Wales was one occupant who shaped the grounds and houses on the property greatly, including the Royal kitchens (which will be discussed in the next post). George III, the main figure in this project, saw it as a family refuge, slightly removed from the bustle of London. In his later reign while mentally unstable, which will be discussed in later posts, he was confined there. The area of Kew Gardens and Richmond were also key to the menus, especially for the sourcing of foods through farming and hunting.

Kew itself is situated in Richmond, London, extremely close to Richmond park, the site of another, larger royal palace. The original grounds were far different to what stands today. Originally the land contained a larger palace which was used as the primary royal residence, built and remodelled for Frederick Prince of Wales. This was located opposite the Dutch house, which is now the largest and only palace on the grounds; the site of which has been commemorated with a sundial. [1]

The Dutch House at Kew Gardens, taken by Jasmine Moran at Kew Palace 03/05/19

The Dutch house was built in 1631 for silk merchant Samuel Fortrey, however, from the early 1700s it was utilized by Fredrick Prince of Wales and his wife Princess Caroline as a short-term retreat. It was likely they would have occupied the White House. From contemporary sketches we can understand what the original house must have looked like; below is a sketch of the palace from a text detailing the appearance of Kew. [2]

The White House at Kew, 1763 [2]

As the image depicts it was a more fitting royal establishment than the house which stands today, nevertheless, George and his family happily spent many times at the Dutch house. With its beautiful exterior and huge size its shocking that it would become derelict.

Sadly, the White House fell into disrepair and was demolished in 1802 for the preparation of a new “castellated Palace”. [3] Work began in the early 1800s, however George grew tired of its development by 1806 due to his developing eye issues. Although £100,000 had been spent and a significant amount had been constructed the project was abandoned. It stood for 20 or so more years before it was destroyed by George IV. [3]

The grounds had gone through many tumultuous years, and by the end of Georges’ reign the Dutch house was the only one standing (apart from Queen Charlottes’ cottage). It was also a house which saw much emotional hardship, particularly periods such as the confinement of George III during his bouts of insanity and then the death of Queen Charlotte in 1818. Although most of the original palace no longer stands, the red brick Dutch house (the current Kew palace), Queen Charlotte’s cottage retreat, and the kitchens remain.

The kitchens, which were constructed separately to the rest of the accommodation were large and well-suited for the royal inhabitants. They were created to be functional for a significantly larger property, being the White house, and contained many of the most important implements to a Georgian kitchen. The kitchens were the site for the preparation of the Royal menus and their creation, with some foods being sourced on Kew Garden grounds, or in the Richmond area, which was the site of another palace. This will be examined more closely in the next post.


References:

[1] Rachel Knowles, The White House – a Regency History guide, <https://www.regencyhistory.net/2014_02_01_archive.html> [date assessed 25 April 2019].

[2] A Description of the Gardens and Buildings at Kew, in Surrey, (Brentford, 1763), p. 15. Bibliographic number: T117923 (estc), <https://data.historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/view?pubId=ecco-0085801500&terms=A%20Description%20of%20the%20Gardens%20and%20Buildings%20at%20Kew> [date assessed 15 April 2019].

[3] Richmond Libraries’ Local Studies Collection, Local History Notes, <https://www.richmond.gov.uk/media/6315/local_history_kew_palaces.pdf> [date assessed 28 April 2019], p. 3.

A King, A Court, A Banquet and Menu: An Introduction.

Whilst our handle, Just Georgian Things, may allude to all things relating to the Georgian period, for the next couple of weeks or so, we will be focusing on the time during the reign of King George III. In particular, the relationship between the king’s personal life and health and food but also how important food was during the period in general and how we can analyse this best through his reign. Whilst it may seem a strange comparison to make, when looking at the food that graced the royal tables, it is important to examine the driving force behind their presence as well as understand how George as a person, influenced George as a King and consequently a host to those were invited to dine in the royal palace at Kew.

George William Frederick, as he was publicly baptised on the 21 June 1738, ruled as the King of the United Kingdom and Ireland from 1760 until his death in 1820. He was married to Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in 1761 and together, they had fifteen children – their first-born son the future king of England, George IV.[1] For the most part, George enjoyed a quiet and private life, much like his wife Charlotte which meant that his reign was free from the scandals of mistresses and court intrigue.

George with Princess Charlotte and 6 of their
children, 1771. Royal Collection Trust. RCIN 604687.

So, what does come to mind when considering George’s reign? Most monarchies are remembered for something whether that be political gain, exploration, outspoken views or the eradication of certain practises etc. but George is somewhat different in his legacy. Numerous things ailed the king, from political struggles in the Americas to the tragedies and scandals that plagued his siblings, yet he is most widely known for something more personal – his health – and that in large, dictated the types of food and drink present in the dining room as well as defined him for future generations.[2]

Whilst his health will be discussed in greater detail in future blogs, as it encompasses a wide range of topics, it is important to note that it will be heavy focus and played a great role in both the foods that he ate, the pastimes he enjoyed and the way in which he was viewed both by nobility and the laity. In relation to his health, we will be exploring how public perceptions of his health were shaped by his treatment and how these related to the foods that graced the royal table as well as discussing the issue of retrospective diagnosis as his illness was not identified before his death.

Alternatively, we will also be examining and analysing documents from the Kew Ledger – a series of menus in which the year 1789 will be our focus. [3] It is through these menus that we will endeavour to explore the day to day life of the king in relation to food, by transcribing their contents and analysing our findings by taking certain aspects such as locations or suppliers to determine how food was organised and sourced in the Georgian period. We will also be examining the kitchens in which the food was prepared, alongside the people who prepared it and taking a closer look at how important and special occasions such as Christmas were organised.

Grocery Delivery List. Kew Ledger.

Over the next two weeks or so, we aim to explore all of this and more, to try and gain an understanding of not only the importance of food but also the organisation of the household and dining table whilst analysing the king’s personal life and reputation to see the hand he played in the organisation of food at his court.


[1] John Cannon, George III (2013), <https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/10540> [date accessed 12 April 2019]

[2] John Cannon, George III (2013), <https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/10540>
[date accessed 12 April 2019]

[3] The National Archives, The Kew Ledger, LS 9/226, 1788 Dec-1801 May.

From Private to Public: What has Happened to Private Libraries?

After our class visit to Special Collections, which was both eye opening and better than I ever imagined it would be, I could not help but wonder what has caused such a decline in the popularity of private libraries. I began to consider why people would have had private libraries within their homes in the early modern period and who these people would have been. I spoke to my nan, as I do about every thought that crosses my mind more than once, and asked her opinion on what she thought about these types of collections of books that seem to be a rarity in today’s society. I can clearly remember as a child that my nan and grandad had quite a large collection of books in their home that largely revealed their personalities and interests. There was a mixture of different types of books from cookery books to guides on war medals, children’s fiction, autobiographies and some travel guides for various parts of the world. I reflected on the similarities and differences between this type of collection and those that I saw in special collections that belonged to the Russell family. The Russell Collection also contained a variant of genres including literature, travel, sport and law and, similarly to my grandparent’s collection of books, reflected the interests of the family themselves.[1]In contrast to my grandparents relatively small collection of books, the Russell’s family library is rather extensive for a private library and sheds light on the status and wealth of the family to own so many books that would have been a considerable cost at the time.


https://www.essex.ac.uk/departments/language-and-linguistics/research

I then began to question why a family of a certain status would have had a private library at all and what the books would have meant to them in accordance to the purpose that they served. From the module readings on private libraries it became quite clear that books were used, as they are today, for a variety of activities and this changed and developed over time. For example, by the sixteenth century, books were being kept more frequently and carefully by certain members of early modern society. This is evident in Hannah Murphy’s article which discusses the physician Georg Palma’s private library and how this, along with other similar private libraries and collections, have influenced archives and accessible documents today.[2]While Murphy’s article solely comments on the private libraries of medical professionals of the time, she sheds light on the importance of the condition of the books and how this shaped medicine in later years as well as the reflections it provides on the physician’s career itself. She comments, “Owning a book did not mean that it had earned a stamp of approval. It did not necessarily even mean that it had been read… Palma was a dutiful reader… A well-read book in his library is easily spotted.”.[3]

The importance of books and reading during this period was unmistakable but I delved further into readings on the eighteenth century to try and distinguish whether reading for leisure was something that was just as much a part of society as it is today. From an initial reading of Naomi Tadmor’s article I would have concluded that reading for leisure was most certainly prominent in early modern society. However, from a second reading it cannot be ignored that reading, whether for leisure or another purpose, was very much limited to a certain sector of society as it had been in previous centuries before. Tadmore focuses on women’s experiences of reading during this time but discusses, in her selected cases of two families, the husband’s experience also.[4]Alongside these experiences which are brought to life through diaries kept by the husband’s within the family, Tadmore identifies four key reasons as to why people, from a considerably average social status, would have read at this time; these were, “reading was part of a daily routine which consisted mostly of hard work. Secondly, reading was part of a religious discipline. Thirdly, reading was part of a social life, and, fourthly, reading was done intermittently”.[5]These reasons for reading, in my opinion, reflect extraordinarily in regard to why books were purchased in this period and what they meant to individuals within the family as well as the family as a whole. While not everyone had the opportunity to have a private library in their home, alongside the fact that a large number of the population could not read very well or at all, for those who did have access to books they were both personal and a gateway for socialization within a family. 

Mr Richardson, reading the Manuscript of Sir Charles Grandison in 1751 to his Friends. Cambridge, University Library, Nn.49.2

Using this experience and knowledge of private libraries, and reflecting on the lack of them today, it is rather sad that such a disinterest in books seems to be apparent in modern society. As someone who was read to frequently growing up and reads for enjoyment today, a visit to special collections is surely enough to spark an excitement and interest once more in private libraries as to have such a treasured collection is surely priceless! 


Bibliography:

[1]Library Services <https://library.essex.ac.uk/c.php?g=664204&p=4698553#s-lg-box-wrapper-17338635>University of Essex, <https://www.essex.ac.uk> [accessed 3rdApril 2019]

[2]N. Tadmore, “In the even my wife read to me’: women, reading and household life in the eighteenth century”, in J. Raven, N. Tadmore & H. Small, eds. The practice and representation of reading in England (Cambridge, 1996) pp. 162-174

[3]Tadmore, “In the even my wife read to me” p. 166

[4]H. Murphy “Common Places and Private Spaces: Libraries, Record-Keeping and Orders of Information in Sixteenth-Century Medicine”, Past & Present 230 (2016) pp. 253-268

[5]Murphy, “Common Places and Private Spaces”, pp. 259,260

Collecting Knowledge and Family Secrets.

In the modern world, spending time in the kitchen and developing new methods and recipes for cooking has somewhat diminished – with many preferring the sociability and immediate readiness presented by restaurants and fast-food establishments. With so much choice and a wide-range of cuisine styles, it is easy to see why but whilst we are spoilt for choice, are we depriving ourselves of the same choices and styles in our own kitchens?

Elaine Leong’s article on collecting knowledge has made me consider what culinary secrets my family may hold, if any and why such knowledge has not been passed down to me as readily as it may have been for a first-born daughter in an early modern household. Leong explains that the family worked as a collective and that no one member was exempt from contributing to the pages of what would become a family book, dedicated to food recipes and medicinal recipes for the curing or relief from ailments but also of lineage and family history. [1] Whilst I can’t imagine my parents keeping such records, as they too prefer the efficiency of modern-day dining and have the luxury of modern healthcare, I thought of my nan, who seems to always be hand-preparing food for our visits.

Upon speaking with her, I soon came to the realisation that whilst early modern households preferred the handwritten sources of knowledge, my Nan retained hers internally. When I questioned her on any potential family recipes passed down from her mother and Nan she simply replied with “It’s all in my head. I remember because I watched my mother do it so often, it just became something ingrained.” To my surprise she also told me that she had never measured anything and that written recipes, because of their reliance on measurements, were better thought of rather than written down – as by reading them, you felt restricted to follow them precisely. Instead she judges her quantities based on visual appearance – something else she attributes to watching her mother closely in the kitchen. All the recipes she then went on to give examples of tended to be those of the dessert type – puddings and cakes.

When I questioned her further on why she had never passed down the knowledge to my mother, she simply replied that it was because she didn’t need it and had never asked or showed an interest in collecting the knowledge. My mother, whilst she cooks many fresh and homey meals, does not tend to make things such as bread and puddings from scratch – which is mainly since they are so cheaply and readily available in the supermarkets pre-made. Modern-day families tend to be working families now, with each member absent from the house daily, going about work and education. When and if the entire family does reside in the same room at the same time, time is very much of the essence and so in respect of my mother’s household, there simply isn’t the time to invest so much in to baking and dessert making.

Only a few hours after the initial conversation with my Nan, I received another call from her – correcting her early notion that every recipe she had was mentally retained as she had a digitally kept version of a recipe for Irish Soda Bread passed down from my granddad’s side of the family. It had come in to her possession after a distant family member had come across the recipe in his ancestors’ collections and had transcribed it digitally to distribute to those members of the family that lived too far from him to be able to verbally communicate. Upon glancing at the recipe, I suddenly came to a realisation about my own habits of collecting information.

Whilst I have already mentioned my awareness of my Nan hand-preparing food, I personally, had never asked for her advice when preparing food, myself. The digital format of the soda bread recipe was so familiar to me that I realised that I had spent a great deal of time looking up recipes through search engines, rather than collecting it generationally and I had done so naturally and without thought. With everything so readily available via the internet and with the devices connected to the internet being so vast and numerous, I had flocked to them for the answers to my questions, rather than speaking with the people in my family. As a product of my time, I also tend to buy ready-made ingredients from the supermarket and much of my daily food is plucked from the depths of my freezer. Whilst I cannot change my past actions, glancing over the surface of the potential culinary secrets of my family has made me determined to give use to my kitchen and to make the most of the knowledge that could be available to me, if I only I could stray from the convenience of the internet and verbally and physically communicate with those around me.

[1] Elaine Leong, Collecting Knowledge for the Family: Recipes, Gender and Practical Knowledge in the Early Modern English Household (2013) <https://doi.org/10.1111/1600-0498.12019> Wiley Library Online Library <https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/> [date accessed 28 March 2019]

The Goldsworthy family: Siblings of George III’s royal court

Reading the menus of George III’s court, I found that the name ‘Miss Goldsworthy’ was repeated under the Princess’s dinner with no exception. This led me to wonder; who was Miss Goldsworthy and how significant was she, as she was named directly in the royal menus? As such, I investigated the Goldsworthy name in the court of George III, looking into his servants and equerries, and found two siblings of great importance and interest.

In the royal court, which was comprised of those closest to the king, such as his doctors and his family’s servants, Equerries were of great importance. Drawn from the military aristocracy, equerries acted as servants to the king who were in charge of the king’s horses, and it was among these men that Miss Goldsworthy’s brother, Phillip, served King George. From this then, I will look into the lives of the Goldsworthy siblings to see how significant they were in the life of George III, and to view what their roles were in George’s court. I hope to emphasise too how significant these siblings were in court, and display how well respected they were by George and his family.


Miss Martha Caroline Goldsworthy, sub governess and carer to George’s daughters, was an integral part of the royal household under George III. Martha came into service with the royal household following her predecessor, Mrs Coultsworth, retiring in 1772 and was hand picked by the royal household. She was a well read and highly literate woman, and her numerous writings between her and Mary Hamilton are a testament to this, though they are held at the University of Manchester so viewing them is somewhat difficult. Miss Goldsworthy’s writings do however grant an insight into life during the period, such as in how oppressive the winters were and how it affected the royals’ daily routine. To the both the royal household and royal children, Martha, or ‘Gooly’ as she was known, was well liked, particularly more than her counterpart Miss Gomm. Together though, both ladies were a fierce duo, earning themselves the title of ‘twin dragons of decorum’. In 1816, having served the royal household for 33 years, Martha Goldsworthy passed away at the age of 76 , having had no children of her own.

Martha Caroline Goldsworthy’s grave, as seen in Bath Abbey

The closeness of Miss Goldsworthy to the royal household is clear therefore, and would have made for a strong bond between her and the princesses in her care. This is made clearer too as she even lived in the Queen’s house while she was in service to the royals, meaning she was close to the family at all times. Though this closeness was only allowed directly by the royal household, as they directly employed her, and was likely due to the prestige of her family. This prestige would have not only come from her brother, the equerry, but also from her notable ancestors such as Phillip Vanbrugh, an officer in the Royal Navy and former governor of Newfoundland. As stated, Martha’s brother Phillip also served in the royal court and can give another insight into court life under George III.


Phillip Goldsworthy, George’s favoured equerry, was born in 1737 and educated at Cambridge University, later entering George’s service as an equerry in 1779. In his service, Phillip attached himself warmly to the royal family and was well liked, even becoming Clerk Martial and the King’s Chief Equerry in 1788. From others’ accounts, Phillips drab descriptions of court life entertained others at court and his dry wit made him popular with courtiers and royals alike. In his service too, Phillip is seen in accounts alongside his sister, which would suggest that the siblings remained close while in close proximity to the royal family. In his other endeavours, Phillip maintained a seat in parliament for Wilton from 1794 until his death in 1801. Like his sister, he had no children, though he did leave some legacy. In later life, Phillip appears in a painting alongside George and the Prince of Wales, displaying him clearly as a figure of importance.

Phillip Goldsworthy can be seen on the right of the painting alongside David Dundas in ‘George III and the Prince of Wales Reviewing Troops’ (1798)

From these insights then, Phillip Goldsworthy offers a humorous understanding of life in the Georgian court and in how one could rise to power in the aristocracy. As with his sister the position of his family doubtlessly helped him achieve his position, but his merits and his relationship with the king and court were undoubtedly strong. Though while he may have been close to the royals, his closeness to his sister is relatively unknown, not helped by the difficulty of accessing Martha’s letters. Phillips lack of literary nature also harm efforts to find sources on the siblings’ feelings towards each other, a fact that can’t be helped by going to Manchester.
Overall, using the Goldsworthy siblings to view the royal court helps in assessing the dynamics and relationships in the Georgian court. This assessment is hampered by a lack of available sources, though the literature surrounding them is still available and definitely useful. As both died childless though, it is unfortunate that the Goldsworthy legacy died with them, but needless to say the impact they had on the royal household was significant indeed.

Bibliography:

LS9-226_0060, January 31, 1789

Sophie Loussouarn, “Governesses of the Royal Family and the Nobility in Great Britain, 1750 – 1815” in Isabelle Baudino, Jaques Carre, Cecile Revauger eds. The Invisible Woman: Aspects of Women’s Work in Eighteenth-Century Britain (Cornwall, 2005) 

Christopher Hibbert, George III: A Personal History (St. Ives, 1998) 

Morris Marples, Princes in the Making: A Study of Royal Education (London, 1965) 

Robert, Martha Caroline Goldsworthy, Sub Governess to the daughters of George III (11 March, 2010) https://www.flickr.com/photos/32157648@N08/4443208972/in/photostream/

G. Kearsley, The British chronologist; comprehending every material occurrence, ecclesiastical, civil, or military, relative to England and Wales, from the invasion of the Romans to the present time (London, 1775) 

‘Goldsworthy, Phillip (c. 1737-1801)’ in Lewis Namier, John Brooke eds. The History of Parliament: the house of Commons 1754-1790 (1964) http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1754-1790/member/goldsworthy-philip-1737-1801

George III, Samuel Shoemaker, ‘A Pennsylvania Loyalist’s Interview with George III. Extract from the MS. Diary of Samuel Shoemaker’ in The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 2 No. 1 (1878) p. 38

William Beechey, George III and the Prince of Wales Reviewing Troops (1798) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:George_III_and_the_Prince_of_Wales_Reviewing_Troops_(1798).jpg

Seasonality and Preservation

Understanding seasonality and preserving food could be the one of the most important topics within an early modern household. Seasonality determines what household tasks you do, and when you do them, especially if the household was to be productive and efficient. Preservation refers to the storage of food, and a process of keeping food throughout the winter. It can also include how the preserved food items are used throughout the year. Without knowledge of either seasonality or preservation the household and the members within would have an even harder time surviving.

The Gard’ners Kalendar by John Reid lays out monthly tasks to ensure that the garden is fruitful. It suggests how to prepare the garden, what vegetables or fruit to plant and even which pests to eliminate. When reading Reid’s directions, I noticed how the North American Farmer’s Almanac is very similar to it. This suggests that seasonality is still an important concept today, but now on a larger scale. Farmers may use an almanac to help them when planting crops to ensure they make enough of a profit to keep their business afloat. The Farmers’ Almanac sometimes also has natural health remedies and recipes which mirrors the texts read by women in the early modern period. Weather predictions are also made in each type of calendar which confirms the ideas that weather is the most important factor relating to the production of food.

Texts such as the Gard’ners Kalendar were likely directed towards women since they were the ones who did most of the gardening and preparation of food. However, The Farmers’ Almanac seems to be aimed more towards men, at least in the first decades of its publication. It is interesting to note who oversaw the gardening in the different time periods and countries.

Recipes for preserving food were probably added to a women’s own personalized cookbook. As she used a recipe, new steps or ingredients were added while other sections of the recipe could be taken out entirely. I fond it interesting that people still do this to recipes today. It shows that no recipe is guaranteed to be perfect, nor will everyone agree with the measurements and types of ingredients. However, what might work for someone, may for whatever reason, not work for someone else. I think it is important to not be completely reliant on the instructions of recipes because sometimes they just don’t work out. But following the recipes when preserving food is more important since the food needs to be stored safely for an extended period of time. Once the fruits and vegetables had been grown at the right time and nurtured with the correct supplements, the produce could be preserved. It’s important to think of the preservation process as a science since it requires careful amounts of chemicals and other ingredients to ensure the food is safe to eat later. It amazes me how well early modern households were able to preserve their food. Preservation is still an important way of storing and selling food today. I have made jam before, so I know it is quite the process to get all the measurements and timing right. Reading about seasonality and preservation has made me realize and appreciate how much time and effort goes into growing, harvesting, and preparing all sorts of food.

Response to The Mystery of the Elf Hoof

So, we’ve come to the end of our university project. Our website is finished, and we are almost ready to graduate – scary stuff. If you haven’t seen the website yet, you really should, it’s awesome (no bias here at all). My section was dealing with the weird and wonderful that can be found in Baker’s recipes, and talking about whether she meant what we thought, whether she was actually trying these recipes and if people were using supernatural style ingredients in their cooking.

On the initial draft I got a bit carried away, and ended up being far too specific about an individual ingredient. It was largely a response to Lisa Smith’s post, discussing whether or not Baker was using elves feet in her recipes.

On page 102 recto of Baker’s book she provides a recipe to help convulsive fits in children, which featured the ingredients a dead mans skull and elves feet. Specifically the hoof of an elf that lives in the mountains, preferably with ten claws on one of his feet.

While not completely impossible, it is unfortunately unlikely that Baker’s recipe originally called for actual elves hooves. Historian Lisa Smith wrote a blog post about what she thinks Baker may have been eluding to with this mysterious ingredient. Her theory concludes that Baker was referring to a type of herb – suggesting that elecampane or mandrake are the most likely culprits.

Courtesy of Wellcome Images

Elecampane can also go by the name of elf dock, or elf wort, which already suggests a connection between the plant and elves hooves. The plant was used for a lot of medical recipes, and there is even a variety that grows specifically in the mountains. The roots even (supposedly) look a little like claws. The problem with this is that elecampane is generally used for whooping cough, and to soothe colds rather than being associated with epilepsy or convulsions. In Culpeper’s Complete Herbal & English Physician (originally published in 1653) he describes the uses of elecampane as:

“The fresh roots of Elcampane preserved with sugar, or made into a syrup or conserve, are very effectual to warm a cold windy stomach, or the pricking therein, and stitches in the sides caused by the spleen; and to help the cough, shortness of breath, and weezing in the lungs. The dried root made into powder and mixed with sugar, and taken, serves to the same purpose, and is also profitable for those who have their urine stopped, or the stopping of women’s courses, the pains of the mother, and the stone in the reins, kidneys, or bladder; it resists poison, and stays the spreading of the venom of serpents, as also putrid and pestilential fevers, and the plague itself.”

Well the uses are certainly varied, however do not mention being useful for seizures or the falling sickness. Judging by Baker’s many recipes for convulsive fits we can guess that it was quite prominent at the time, so if elecampane was being used to help seizures it likely would be mentioned here. Baker’s recipes are generally fairly typical for the time so it is unlikely that she would be using this herb in a way no one else was. So what about mandrakes?

Mandrakes have a long history of being associated with magic, even today they appear in the Harry Potter franchise. Sorry, J.K. Rowling did not come up with the idea that mandrakes scream when they are pulled from the soil, the idea of the mandrakes curse has existed for hundreds of years. Because of their human-like shape people believed that when they were pulled from the ground mandrakes would scream and kill whoever was near. There were some ways around this, strangely featuring hungry dogs.

Credit: Wellcome Library

Mandrakes were used in herbal remedies, including to help epilepsy so it already seems more convincing than elecampane. However mandrakes tend to grow in swampy areas with rich soils, rather than in mountains as instructed by Bakers recipe. They were also viewed as dangerous, and gave quite powerful hallucinations. Bearing in mind that this is a recipe intended for children would a mother be inclined to use a root that is known to be dangerous even in the 17th century? While people were known to use opium to calm children at this time, the dangerous effects of this were not as widely known.

One of the problems with assuming that Baker was referring to a herb is that way the instructions are phrased it makes it sound like some sort of animal. The main reason for this is because it refers to the ‘elves’ living in the mountain – not growing. While this may seem pedantic, when you are trying to work out what exactly someone who lived 400 years ago is thinking sometimes pedantry is necessary. When referring to where you can find plants elsewhere in the book Baker always seems to say grow, so why the sudden change to lives? Lives suggests some kind of animal rather than a plant.

For me was what pushed me to eliminate elcampane from the possibilities. But why does it not completely eliminate mandrakes as a possibility? Well, this is because of the myths surrounding the mandrakes. As stated earlier, mandrakes bear resemblance to human figures, and because people believed that they screamed when pulled up it is likely they thought mandrakes were living creatures rather than plants. Looking at old images and diagrams of mandrakes seemed to confirm this, as they are generally drawn as human with extra planty bits. This could explain why it is described as having lived on a mountain, rather than grown. The claws would be parts of the root.

But if mandrakes are meant to be humanoid, then that fits in with the foote and perhaps the clawes, but what makes less sense if the houfe. One comment on Lisa’s blog posts points to the fact that elks were often used to help seizures.

In A Compleat History of Druggs, on the section on elks it reads:

“he is very subject to the Falling-Sickness; and as soon as he is attack’d with this disease, he fails not to put his left foot to his left Ear, to cure himself thereof; which has given Occasion to the antients to believe that the Elk’s claw, or the Horn upon the left Foot, was a specific for the Epilepsy.”

Now we have a living creature, with hooves and claws which were used as medicine to help cure epilepsy. While Elks generally live in woods and forests they are found on mountains, which again fits in with the description given by Baker. The only thing that gives cause for concern is that she states the best kind have ten claws, and even if you count split hooves as two claws it still doesn’t quite match the description. There were also no Elks found in Britain at this time, and the Eurasian variety tended to live in forest areas rather than in the mountains.

However, because elks have such a strong association with curing epilepsy and they are sometimes described as having claws it seems most likely to me that this is what the recipe originally called for. I think she was given this recipe by someone who had connections to the continent, and unfortunately mistranslated one word.

It needs that extra ‘something’

When working on 17th century manuscripts you occasionally come across strange and unusual ingredients. There are often things you have not come across, especially if like me your culinary knowledge stems mainly from watching Jamie Oliver or MasterChef. These can be interesting and helpful, especially in expanding your knowledge of botany, for instance hart’s-tongue, which while it sounds disturbing is actually a type of fern. Sometimes, however, you come across an ingredient that makes you feel a little bit ill.

harts-tongue-fern-c-ray-w
Hart’s tongue – a lot less disturbing than it sounds

This was my experience when recently transcribing one of Bakers recipes. The previous page had the type of ingredients I have learnt to expect from her medical recipes, namely a variety of plants and spices – though a lack of honey which seems to be in an awful lot of her instructions. Cheerfully typing away I started on the next page, a “precious medisen for aches” – seems standard enough. The first line of the recipe however disturbed me (animal lovers look away now), as it called for a “whelpe”.  That’s right ladies and gentleman; all you need to do to get rid of that ache after a hard day’s work is kill a puppy. “the fatter the better” Baker suggests.

puppy
I’m not kidding, here it is.

I love animals, I always have. My boyfriend’s dogs are basically now mine (much to his objection) and I just can’t imagine deciding to drown a puppy to get rid of an ache. It was a stark reminder that while recipes can transcend time periods, the ideals with those recipes are always changing.

Don’t worry, puppies aren’t the only morbid ingredient Baker recommends in her recipes. For instance if your child is having convulsive fits one ingredient you need to acquire is the powder of a dead mans head.

Did the medical recipes within early modern recipe books represent early modern medicine and medical understanding?

Having just completed my online exhibition text on the use of medicinal recipes within the receipt book of Margaret Baker, I was researching how the medical recipes within Baker’s book compared with medicinal understanding in the time period. This involved studying the medical recipes in Baker’s book and determining whether the ingredients used in her medical recipes were the same ingredients that would have been recommended by physicians of the time in order to treat a particular disease or ailment. The result of this examination was that Baker’s medical recipes were heavily comparable to the recipes of early modern physicians.

As a result of this research, I began to wonder whether the medical recipes present in other early modern recipe books would tie in as closely with early modern medical knowledge. Therefore, the goal of this blog post will be to examine the medical recipes from a different early modern recipe book, one written by a Mrs. Elizabeth Hirst and dated 1684. From this research, I will hopefully gain a better understanding as to whether Margaret Baker’s medical knowledge was an exception to the norm, or whether it was common for women of the household to possess extensive medical knowledge in early modern England.

An example of one of the recipe’s in Hirst’s recipe book

The first recipe from Hirst’s book is a recipe entitled “To stop Rhewme in the eye” (Hirst 31). Rhewme (or rheum) is a watery thin mucus that discharges from the eyes and crusts together.  The recipe instructs the user to make a plaster from several herbs, as well as frankincense and the white of an egg, and apply it to the temple of the patient. In JohnGerard’s Herball, he explains that the user can make a remedy to “keepeth backe the watering of the eies” using rofeleaves, frankincense and the white of an egge (Gerard 1211). Hirst’s recipe is clearly very similar to Gerard’s, although she substitutes the rofeleaves for several other herbs. Nonetheless, her recipe conforms to the medical knowledge of the time, and Culpeper’s Pharmacopoeia seems to suggest that the herbs are not really necessary at all. Culpeper says that “Frankincense… being applied to the temples, stops the rheum that flows to the eyes” (Culpeper 74). This demonstrates the Frankincense was the key ingredient that Hirst needed to include in her recipe, and her inclusion of this demonstrates her knowledge of early modern medicinal practice.

The second recipe that I will be examining is a much simpler recipe that is designed “to cure a feaver” (Hirst 37). The recipe simply instructs the user to infuse rhubarb in white wine, and make the patient drink it in the morning. Hirst explains that this will allow the passing of stool and help trapped wind to escape. In Pharmacopoeia, Culpeper states that rhubarb “sleeped all night in white wine” will “purgeth but gently” (Culpeper 11). This purging is reffering to the passing of bile in the stool. Once again, this demonstrates that Hirst appeared to possess extensive medical knowledge, and this particular recipe shows that she is not only aware of the recipe but also how the remedy works.

A final recipe that I will explore is a recipe “to take away pimpl’s or redniss in ye face”(Hirst 39). Hirst informs the reader to take a small piece of brimstone and mix it with white wine to form a cream, which should then be applied to the skin of the patient. Once again, we can find a very similar recipe in Gerard’s Herball, Gerard’s version uses white wine vinegar as opposed to white wine, and adds in the root of an iris as well as the brimstone. Gerard states that the recipe “taketh away sun burning, freckles/spots, the morphew, with all deformities of the face”(Gerard 1341). However, Brimstone appears to be the ingredient that actively heals the skin, as Culpeper states that “brimstone… takes away leprotics, scabs and lech” (Culpeper 42), all three of which are skin issues. Once again, Hirst demonstrates that she has an excellent understanding of medicine, and that the recipe she has used conformed to the medical theories of her contemporaries.

Although a rather small sample size, all three of the recipes that I selected from Hirst’s recipe book were recipes that were thought to be scientifically accurate in the early modern period. This demonstrates that Hirst appeared to have an excellent knowledge of medicine for a woman of her time. Whether the recipes are her own or not, she was clearly very well read and likely studied the medical field of her own volition. This evidence, supported by the study I have already conducted on the recipes in Margaret Baker’s book, appears to demonstrate that early modern women (or at least the ones who published recipe books) were quite knowledgeable when it came to medicinal practise and theory. It appears that Baker’s aptitude for medical recipes was not an exception to the norm, but rather, at least in the case of Hirst, her peers possessed an equal or perhaps even greater understanding of medicine than Baker did.

By Felix Wills

Bibliography

Culpeper, Edward, Pharmacopoeia Londinensis, or the London Dispensatory  (Royal College of Physicians) London, 1720

Gerard, John , The Herball, or Generall Historie of Plantes (Sidney Thomson Fisher) London, 1636

Hirst, Elizabeth , Receipt Book (Wellcome Library MS-2840) London, 1684

 

The Use of Medical Recipes by Women Outside of the Household

When one examines the recipe books of Early Modern Europe, it is not a challenge to find a plethora of recipes designed to cure certain ailments and heal the human body. This makes it clear that a large number of housewives had an interest in medicine and its practice, and inside the home a number of women probably actively engaged in the practice of medicine. However, outside of the household the story was rather contrasting. It was not that women did not want practice medicine outside of the household, but rather that many men disapproved of it. Male physicians and apothecaries actively sought to limit, and later even ban, the women who wanted to practice medicine. An example of this was the Paris Surgeon’s Guild, who after 1484 would only accept the widows of former Master Surgeons as members of the guild, and later in 1694 women were outright barred from membership. One could assume that this systematic persecution of women in the medical field resulted in the non-presence of female medical practitioners outside of the home, but this would not be true. There were still women who chose to practice medicine outside of the home, and this blog post will examine two sources that demonstrate the vital role that some women played in Early Modern medicine and healing.

Saint Elizabeth cares for a patient in a hospital in Marlburg, Germany (1598)

The  first source that will be examined is a letter written by Lady Mary Wortley Mortagu to a woman named Sarah Chiswell (a friend in England). The letter was written in April 1717, and concerns Montagu’s observation of the process that was used in Turkey to treat Smallpox. Montagu was living in Turkey as she was the wife of the British ambassador to Turkey. As Montagu is writing to a friend, I see little reason as to why she would lie about the events that she describes in her letter, and therefore they are most likely factually accurate.

Montagu starts of her letter by saying that “the Small Pox so fatal and so general amongst us is here entirely harmless by the invention of engrafting“. The Turkish, through a process that was known to Montagu as ‘engrafting’, but was more commonly known at the time as variolation have managed to totally eradicate the harmful effects of the disease. Montagu explains that there is a set of old women whom “make it their business” to carry out the procedure. Although it is not clear whether this means this women pursued this venture for profit or simply for the good of the people, it is clear that these elderly women carried out the treatment. Montagu then describes the process of ‘engrafting’ in great detail, frequently referring to the old woman throughout. For example, “the old woman comes with a nutshell full of the matter of the best sort of small-pox and asks what veins you please to have open’d“. This implies that the old woman has a good understanding of the anatomy of the human body, further emphasising her knowledge and involvement in the practice of medicine. Montagu also makes it clear that these women do not perform medicine just within their household, but rather that “every year thousands undergo this operation“. Obviously there are not thousands of people within these women’s households, and so it seems they were treating the community at large. Towards the end of the letter Montagu mentions that she wants to have the process carried out on her son, demonstrating the trust she has in the medical knowledge that these women possess.

The second source is another letter, this time written by a man named J. Hare to the famous Early Modern physician Hans Sloane. Hare was a vicar for the Parish of Cardington in Bedfordshire, England. The letter describes a man who falls ill and is subsequently treated by a local woman. Hare assures Sloane of the accuracy of his claims, saying “I affirm and in Testimony have subscribed my name” at the end of the letter. As Hare is a man of God, a testimony from him almost guarantees the authenticity of his statement.

The letter starts out by describing that a man within a household where Hare was staying had had an ear pain for two or three days, and upon a female servant searching the man’s ear she noticed small maggot like creatures within the ear cavity. Hare then says that a woman from the neighbourhood was sent for. According to Hare, the woman “applyd to it ye steam of warm milk“. The woman was sent for from the local area, and so was most likely already known within the area as a healer and practitioner of medicine. The woman applies the treatment to the patient, and a little later Hare manages to pick 24 maggots out of the man’s ear, although some still remain that were too far into the ear to reach. Hare then says he “left him for about an hour… & then returning to him, I could at first perceive nothing but a think bloody matter but by degrees they worked outward and I pickd out nine more“. Hare states the next day, the man was better and complained of no more pain. It seems the treatment the village woman had applied was likely responsible for the  uptake in the man’s condition, as he had complained for several days of pain and suddenly no longer felt any. This exhibits the medical knowledge that this woman possessed, and gives us further evidence that women practiced medicine outside of their own homes. Interestingly enough, steam and is still known today to be an effective treatment for ear pain. Steam helps to clear the ear drum of pus and wax, which was most likely the bloody substance that Hare describes, and this seemed to push the maggots out of the patient’s ear.

Both these sources demonstrate that in the  Early Modern period, some women were not only demonstrating exceeding medical knowledge, but they were also actively practicing outside of their home environment. Women were likely responsible for healing a large number of people from within their local communities, and even though they often were not allowed to become licensed medical practitioners, this did not stop them from trying to make a difference.