Friday, September 29, 2017

The Comfort of Soup

by Lauren Gilbert

Dinner at Haddo House, 1884 by Edward Emslie

It’s officially autumn (even though the temperatures do not reflect it where I live), and my menu planning is making a seasonal shift. As temperatures cool and winter approaches, a richer and more sustaining menu appeals. Soup is a favourite of mine for this time of year. An ancient dish, I suspect it evolved as soon as man figured out how to put edible things in a pot of water over heat. Soup is featured in virtually all culinary traditions and, of course, is a significant part of food history in Great Britain. As a history enthusiast, I enjoy reading details of normal life, including food, whether I’m reading fiction or non-fiction, as it gives an immediacy and life to the material.

The Forme of Cury

Peasant fare, elegant fare, or invalid fare, soup was a staple of the British diet. Early cookery books don’t show as many recipes for soup as for other dishes. I suspect this is because it was assumed that individuals already knew how to make the standard daily dish for the household, made from local ingredients to personal taste. The Forme of Cury, a cookbook from c. 1390 (originally a scroll showing authorship by “the Chief Master Cooks of King Richard II”), contained some soup recipes designed to be served to the nobility. The names frequently included “soppes” or sowp” as the dish was served over bread. One was “Fenkel in Soppes” which was shredded fennel, cooked in water and oil with onions, seasoned with saffron, salt and a spice mixture (“powder douce” which was a sweet spice mixture, left to the cook’s taste, that would contain some combination of cinnamon, galangal (related to ginger), nutmeg, sugar, etc.). It was served over toasted bread. Another similar recipe was “Slete Soppes”, which called for sliced leeks (white part only) to be cooked in wine, oil and salt, also served over toasted bread. A rather different matter is a “Cold Brewet”, which combines ground almonds cooked in wine and vinegar, seasoned with aniseed, sugar, green fennel shoots with ginger and cloves and mace. Cooked chopped kid and chicken meat is transferred to a clean dish, seasoned with salt and pepper, and boiled with the almond mixture. This soup was served cold.


Soup also had a medicinal function. Lady Elinor Fettiplace, during the Elizabethan era, put together a household book which included a recipe for almond soup designed for “a weake Back” in her recipes for October. For this soup, a rack of mutton and a chicken were boiled in water with raisins, prunes, and the roots and leaves of ditch fern until the meat was tender. The meat was removed and the broth strained. (Additional broth should be crushed out of the meat.) The broth was then thickened with ground almonds. The recommended dosage was 12 spoonfuls in the morning (fasting, i.e. before eating anything), and 12 spoonfuls before dinner.


There were also soups designed for particular religious periods. Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy         included a section of a Variety of Dishes for Lent, which included eel soup. This recipe harked back to the medieval recipes as it was served over toasted bread. For every pound of eels used, the cook used a quart of water, a crust of bread, 2 or 3 blades of mace, pepper, an onion and a bundle of sweet herbs. (One pound of eels made a pint of soup, so the cook could control the quantity accordingly.) The pot was covered tightly and boiled until half the liquid was gone. The broth was then strained. Bread was toasted, cut into small pieces and placed in a dish; the broth was then poured over it.


During the Georgian era, turtle soup was considered the ultimate in elegant fare. Live sea turtles were captured and kept for fresh meat by sailors. Any left were brought in by sailors returning to port in the 1740’s-1750’s and sold for very high prices to the nobility. The popularity of the turtle was assured. At one point, as many as 15,000 live turtles were brought into England in a year. Different cuts of turtle meat had flavours reminiscent of fish, veal, beef or pork. The Compleat Housewife by Eliza Smith contains instructions for cleaning and preparing turtle soup. Once the meat from the body and fins are cleaned, cut them in pieces and stew together until tender, then strain off the liquid. Thicken the liquid and put the meat back in with kyon butter (possibly a compound butter of some kind), spices, pepper, salt, shallots, sweet herbs and Madeira wine to taste. The dish is put into the deep shell of the turtle, and baked in the oven. The extreme cost of a live turtle and the flavours of the meat resulted in recipes for Mock Turtle Soup, which used a variety of substitutions for the turtle, including beef, veal, oysters, tongue and calves’ heads. Hanna Glasse’s recipe includes a calf’s head (including the tongue and brains), veal broth, force-meat balls and eggs. The 67th edition of Mrs. Rundell’s A New System of Domestic Cookery published in 1844 contains 3 recipes for Mock Turtle Soup. Mock Turtle Soup maintained its popularity into the 20th century. (One could even find canned varieties.) Lewis Carroll based his character, the Mock Turtle, in Alice in Wonderland on this soup (a turtle with the head and back feet of a cow).

The Mock Turtle from ALICE IN WONDERLAND by John Tenniel

Soup recipes evolved over time as new ingredients became available and tastes changed. A classic example of this was Mulligatawny Soup. This soup was a chicken soup flavoured with curry. Rea Tannahill in Food in History indicated this soup appeared in England in the 18th century. British trade in India had been established since the 17th century and curry became a popular seasoning during the Georgian era. By the Victorian era, this soup was very popular. The edition of Mrs. Rundell’s A New System of Domestic Cookery mentioned previously has 4 recipes. The word “mulligatawny” (also spelled Multaanee and Malagatanee) was a corruption of the Tamil for pepper water. (The Tamil are an ethic group found in India and Sri Lanka.) The basic recipe called for onions and shallots, 2 chickens (or rabbits) pepper, butter, curry powder and turmeric, 2 quarts of strong broth, lemon juice and, if desired, a little curry powder to make it hotter. Keep in mind that curry powder was a spice mix made at home, to personal taste. (See English Historical Fiction Authors blog HERE.) One variation included cloves, and some garlic; another was made with veal, and the fourth included peas. This was a good way to use up leftover meat or vegetables. Subsequent versions included chopped apples. Cream could also be added; coconut milk may have been included. This soup is also still popular today.

Over the centuries, soup has been a common thread in culinary history. As we look back at some of the older recipes, the variety of seasonings and ingredients that are used today may seem surprising. We may not combine ingredients in exactly the same way, but it is easy to imagine how some of these soups may taste and the pleasure felt by the diners as they enjoyed them, whether elegantly spooning turtle soup at a formal dinner or enjoying the warmth of mulligatawny soup on a cold fall evening.

"Fall In For Soup", engraving by Edwin Forbes 1876

Sources include:

Dickson Wright, Clarissa. A History of English Food. 2011: Random House Books, London.

Glasse, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy. A new Edition, with modern Improvements. Introduction by Karen Hess. 1805: Cottom & Stewart, Alexandria, VA. (Facsimile by Applewood Books, Bedford, MA)

Rundell, Maria Eliza Kettelby. A New System of Domestic Cookery: Founded Upon Principles of Economy and Adapted to the Use of Private Families. From the Sixty-Seventh London Edition. 1844: Carey and Hart, Philadelphia, PA. (Nabu Public Domain Reprint)

Smith, Eliza. The Compleat Housewife. 16th edition, with Additions. 1858: London. (Reprint edition published 1944: Studio Editions Ltd., London)

Spurling, Hilary. Elinor Fettiplace's Receipt Book. 1986: Penguiin Books Ltd. Hammmondsworth, England.

Tannahill, Reay. Food in History. 1988: Three Rivers Press, New York, NY.

Websites:

THE FORME OF CURY. HERE

History.com. “A Spot of Curry: Anglo-Indian Cuisine” by Stephanie Butler, April 26, 2013. HERE

GoogleBooks.com. Rumble, Victoria R. SOUP THROUGH THE AGES: A Culinary History with Period Recipes. 2009: McFarland & Company, Ind. Jefferson, NC and London. HERE

All illustrations from Wikimedia Commons Images, except for the cover of Elinor Fettiplace's Receipt Book, which is a scan of my personal copy.

About the author:

Lauren Gilbert holds a BA in English and is a long-time member of JASNA. She lives in Florida with her husband, and is the author of Heyerwood; a Novel. Another book, A Rational Attachment, is in process and will be coming soon. Please visit her website HERE for more information.



Thursday, September 28, 2017

Playing Doctor with the Queen

by Anna Belfrage

I believe she was a happy little girl, this princess who was raised far from the corrupting influences of the royal court by her doting – if strict – mother, Princess Augusta of Saxe-Coburg. Maybe, in her later life, Carolina Matilda, princess of England and queen of Denmark, would long for those halcyon days of her childhood, days when life was simple and structured, when she was the cosseted youngest sister of George III.

Caroline Matilda w her family

However protected her upbringing, Carolina Matilda knew from the start that at some point she would be expected to marry as it benefited her brother’s kingdom. To ensure the young princess was a credit to her future husband, she was given an excellent education, and by the time she was a teenager she spoke not only English, but also Italian, French and German.

Carolina Matilda (standing) w her sister

In October of 1766, the fifteen-year-old Carolina Matilda was married by proxy to her cousin, Christian VII of Denmark. There were rumours surrounding the Danish king, mutterings that all was not well in the state of Denmark – or at least not in the head of its royal ruler – but for all George III’s concerns, he still chose to send his little sister off into the unknown. As to the Danish, it was all perfectly simple: “Avec un Coeur bon, une humeur douce (…) et une envie de plaire au roi son epoux, elle peut s’attendre à une sitiation très heureuse.” In other words, smile and please your king and all will be well.

Christian VII
The young Danish king was less than thrilled with his new wife. He didn’t want to be married; at seventeen he had hoped to enjoy some more years of carousing and whoring before he was forced into a marriage bed. Carolina Matilda was no more enthusiastic, but she knew where her duty lay, and so tried to make the best of things. Difficult to do, when she was a stranger in a country, doubly difficult when the king began to lavish all his attention and affection on a much admired prostitute.

Further to Christian’s womanizing, Carolina Matilda quickly realised her new husband was not all there. Given to panic attacks, to severe mood swings and a marked lack of concentration, the young king was restless and unhappy – and very much under the thumb of his formidable step-mother, Juliane Marie, and her cronies. Juliane Maria had a son of her own to look out for, and she was probably less than pleased when Christian’s reluctant visits to his wife’s bedchamber resulted in a little prince, born 15 months after the wedding.

Carolina Matilda giving birth to her son
The birth of an heir did not improve the relationship between the young king and queen. He remained as distant as ever, she submerged herself in the care of her son, a most doting mother. The ever restless Christian VII decided he needed to see the world, and now that there was a royal heir there was nothing to stop him from going, so in May of 1768 he set off on a grand tour, planned to take at least two years. I suspect Carolina Matilda heaved a sigh of relief. I suspect Christian did too, sitting back in his gilded carriage after waving goodbye to his assembled family.

A king on a grand tour didn’t exactly ride around unaccompanied. With Christian went a group of people numbering close to fifty, and among his inner circle was one Johan Friedrich Struensee, hired as his personal physician. Struensee was a highly educated man, a proponent of the Enlightenment. He was also a kindly and patient man, and for the first time ever Christian found a person who took his panic attacks and mental ghosts seriously, who genuinely tried to help him. In a matter of months, Struensee had become the king’s confidante, his pillar of strength, and when the king’s mental collapse in Paris forced the royal party to return home much earlier than planned, Struensee returned with them.

It is said distance makes the heart grow fonder. Not so in Christian’s and Carolina Matilda’s case. There seems to have been no correspondence between the king and queen while he was away, and his impervious, near on cruel, behaviour towards Carolina Matilda upon his return left her humiliated – and ill.

Struensee
The king proposed that his new doctor examine her. Carolina Matilda was sceptical. Struensee was far too close to the king to initially gain her confidence. The king insisted, and after some weeks of illness, Carolina Matilda finally agreed to see Struensee. The progressive doctor concluded there was nothing physically wrong with the queen, she suffered from melancholia brought on by her obvious unhappiness. Struensee ordinated exercise, such as riding, and some months later the queen had clearly recovered, riding through Copenhagen in men’s clothes, her cheeks rosy, her eyes glittering.

The cause for all that rosy happiness was not only the horse. No, Carolina Matilda had fallen in love – most unfortunately – with her husband’s physician. Struensee performed an elegant balancing act, tending to the king’s needs and anguishes during the day, to the queen’s rather more carnal desires at night. The man was as besotted as the queen, finding in Carolina Matilda an intelligent companion, a woman who listened to his progressive ideas without laughing, who supported him on various issues.

The king may have been mad as a hatter, but he was no fool. He was well aware of Struensee’s nightly visits to his queen, and he doesn’t seem to have cared. If anything, the addition of Struensee to the household had resulted in something approaching domestic bliss for both the king and queen, and for the first time ever the king would voluntarily spend time both with his wife and his son.

If the king had no issue with his present unorthodox marital situation, his court most certainly did. The immorality had to be stopped, someone should cane the queen for riding about in breeches, and as to Struensee’s visits to her bedchamber, well, really! The king shrugged and intensified his relationship with Struensee, appointing him as his chief minister.

Struensee was a man of vision. A true child of the Enlightenment, he wanted to reform society, to break away the government from the stranglehold of the prim and conservative Danish church. In less than a year, Struensee pushed through more than a thousand new laws, notably among them being a law that forbade torture. The king happily went along with all this, while in the wings his former advisors gnashed their teeth and howled in frustrated rage. A mere doctor, a foreigner (Struensee was German) to usurp their power and change their world – no, this was unacceptable.

The king, the queen and the doctor
While discontent brewed, the king, the queen and Struensee continued to play happy families. The king was given a Moorish boy as his personal page, and he spent his days romping about with his new playmate. The queen was pregnant and even if the king now and then graced her bed with his presence, it was the opinion of the court that the expected child was Struensee’s, not the king’s. Whatever the case, once the child was born, the king claimed the new-born princess as his.

The summer when little Louise Augusta was born was the high point in Caroline Matilda’s life. A new child, a lover she admired and lusted for, a husband who seemed happy enough with his games, and a son she doted upon. All was well in her little world, and she probably dreamed of many future years like this, years in which Struensee would rule, the king would play, and she would raise the future king to be a man of ideals.

Unfortunately, the Danish nobility had other plans. Ably captained by Juliane Marie, the ousted former ministers performed a coup in January of 1772. After a night of festivities, a masquerade ball no less, Juliane Marie and her men paid the king a nightly visit, scaring him into signing two arrest orders, one for Struensee, one for the adulterous queen.

At dawn, January 17 1772, Carolina Matilda was wakened by her frightened maid, who handed her a note from the king telling her she was to be arrested and taken to Kronborg. Carolina Matilda thought first of Struensee and rushed through her secret passage to her lover’s room. It was filled with grim soldiers going through his papers. The queen rushed back and tried to get access to the king, to plead her case. Not to be, and an hour or so later the queen was bundled off to captivity, holding her little daughter. Her son she was forced to leave behind.

Under substantial pressure, Carolina Matilda admitted to her affair with Struensee. He did the same, and in April of 1772, Johan Friedrich Struensee was beheaded before a huge crowd. It is said he kept on hoping for a reprieve… His mistress, the disgraced queen, signed the divorce papers in the same month. Little Louise Augusta was taken from her once she was weaned, and in May of 1772, Carolina Matilda was exiled from Denmark. She was never to see her children again. In June of 1775 Carolina Matilda died, some months shy of her twenty-fourth birthday. It is said she died of scarlet fever – but some whisper she died of a broken heart.

[This post is an Editors' Choice, and was first published on this blog on 25/11/2013]

~~~~~~~~~~

Had Anna Belfrage been allowed to choose, she’d have become a professional time-traveller. As such a profession does not exist, she became a financial professional with two absorbing interests, namely history and writing.

Presently, Anna is hard at work with The King’s Greatest Enemy, a series set in the 1320s featuring Adam de Guirande, his wife Kit, and their adventures and misfortunes in connection with Roger Mortimer’s rise to power. And yes, Edmund of Woodstock appears quite frequently. The first book, In The Shadow of the Storm was published in 2015, the second, Days of Sun and Glory, was published in July 2016, and the third, Under the Approaching Dark, was published in April 2017.

When Anna is not stuck in the 14th century, she's probably visiting in the 17th century, specifically with Alex(andra) and Matthew Graham, the protagonists of the acclaimed The Graham Saga. This is the story of two people who should never have met – not when she was born three centuries after him.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The True Will Shakespeare

by Linda Fetterly Root

A comparison of the three earliest portraits, compiled by Stratford Brice
from Public Domain Art- Wikimedia

The faces of William Shakespeare

The three earliest portraits of Will Shakespeare are compared above. The first two were likely painted while he lived and the third was used when his first Folio was published. All three portraits are ante-dated by the sculpted image at Shakespeare's burial site in Trinity Church, shown below.

A Man of Natural Talent or a Ghostwriter?

I realize there are otherwise credible people who deny the Holocaust, the moon landing, the existence of the historical Jesus, and the assassination of JFK by Lee Harvey Oswald. Most of them are motivated by a political point-of-view compatible with their belief structure. I find no such justification for questioning the contribution to world literature by a guy named William Shakespeare. This does not mean other writers might not have contributed to his works. But does anyone claim Jim Henson did not create the Muppets simply because a second inventive genius named Frank Oz was involved? In treating the question, it would be disingenuous of me to claim the insight of the many distinguished thinkers who have raised the point: Freud, Samuel Clemons, and Helen Keller, to name a few, but their acknowledge genius does not make them right. Some of the disclaimers are based on mathematical analysis of word use and structure, others on principles of linguistics or the viewpoints expressed in the plays. Mine is simplistic and based on what we do know about Shakespeare, and what I know about the nature of writers. 

Shakespeare was real


Those disclaiming Shakespeare’s authorship of his many plays do not go so far as to claim there was no such person as William Shakespeare, the young man from Stratford-on-Avon. There is no question a merchant named John Shakespeare and his wealthy wife Mary Arden gave birth to a son named William, who was baptized by that name on April 26, 1564, at Trinity Church in Stratford-on-Avon. The custom of the times would suggest the ceremony occurred approximately three days after birth, which is why April 23rd is accepted as Shakespeare's birthday. Below is the record of John Shakespeare's son William's baptism.



While some doubters stress the paucity of information about Shakespeare’s early years to question the authenticity of his achievements, that is not the case when one factors in the profile of his father. John Shakespeare was politically active at the rural level, with ties to Midland England's aristocratic families including the Catesbys and probably the Treshams and Vauxes. At one time he was the Bailiff of Stratford—in modern terms, its mayor, a position unlikely to have been awarded to a highly visible recusant.

The restored family home on Henley Street, Stratford-on-Avon
At the time of Shakespeare’s birth, his father was probably what was called a closet Catholic—those who gave the outward appearance of embracing Anglicanism, but embraced the auld religion in the privacy of the home. His wife Mary Arden was Protestant and came from a wealthy family. She gave birth to eight children, five of whom survived into adulthood.

William Shakespeare probably attended the parish school in Stratford, which kept no surviving records. Some writers presume he was home schooled, but that is unlikely. While there was no compulsory education in early modern England, there were penalties imposed for homeschooling to avoid the curricula of parish churches, and until 1762, it was against the law for Catholics to teach. In addition, the prevailing evidence indicates both of his parents were illiterate. That single fact has been used to attack Shakespeare’s authorship of the large body of literature published in his name, but it confuses literacy with intellect.

Literate or not, Shakespeare's father was a civic leader. Snitterfield, the village where John Shakespeare grew to adulthood, had no parish school, but Stratford did. In all accounts, John Shakespeare was a successful designer/fabricator of leather gloves and headgear, with more than an average dose of entrepreneurship. He did, however, suffer an economic set-back possibly associated with his association with his Catholic leanings, or because his real estate investments were lucrative, but his other money lending was not, and at one point he had been charged and fined for usury. He became reclusive and ceased attending counsel meetings. Some writers state he was rehabilitated before his death, but by that time, his son William had acquired considerable wealth and influence, and may have been responsible for his father being granted a Coat of Arms which Shakespeare himself later used.

Sketch of the Schoolhouse at Stratford (PD Art)

Shakespeare was influenced by historical and religious events, consistent with themes expressed in his poetry and plays

John Shakespeare and William Catesby, father of the leader of the Gunpowder conspirators, were both dignitaries in their separate Midland communities and were friends. On one occasion, both appeared on the same list of those who had been fined by the Protestant church hierarchy for missing mandatory services. Both families had ties to the nascent Jesuit mission to England launched by the priests Edmund Campion and his Jesuit superior, Fr. Robert Persons.

Shortly after their arrival, the priests traveled to the Midlands, a hotbed of recusancy and Counter-Reformation sentiment. Father Campion likely stayed in the Catesby home, a mere 18 miles from Stratford-on-Avon. Persons is believed to have stayed with the Shakespeares.[1] There is evidence the two Jesuits distributed copies of a document to the recusants who harbored them. It was designed to be used as a model Spiritual Will and constituted a declaration of its testator’s abiding Catholic Faith. A handwritten copy signed by John Shakespeare and believed to be, for the most part, genuine was found in the rafters of one of William Shakespeare’s houses in 1757, although the first two provisions were likely forged by the man named Jordan who discovered them. Unfortunately, the entire document was later lost. Only it’s translation survives.[2]

Some historians use the materials concerning John Shakespeare as proof his famous son William knew the later martyred and Canonized Edmund Campion personally, but while it is possible, it is speculative. Shakespeare would have been a child at the time. What is apparent is Shakespeare’s youthful exposure to the English Catholic cause and thought which surely shaped his works. During his career, Shakespeare demonstrated the ability to treat issues in a provocative manner nevertheless inoffensive to his sovereign.

The lack of record does not mean Shakespeare was uneducated

One argument against Shakespeare as the likely author of his plays is a lack of education, a highly Charlatan point of view fed by its companion argument raising the lack of historical record of his youth. Each argument feeds the other, and neither considers what I consider to be a highly salient fact: in Shakespeare’s day, a Catholic education was illegal. It is likely that a child born of a recusant family might be overlooked in a rural schoolhouse, but those who advanced to England's few universities were vetted and culled. This does not mean there were no highly educated Elizabethan Catholics, but those who were had been educated abroad. The prime mover of the Gunpowder plot, Robert Catesby, attended nearby Oxford but dropped out rather than sign the Oath of Supremacy demanded of university graduates. Had Shakespeare been sent to Oxford, he would have faced the same obstacle.

As stated above, homeschooling was a criminal offense. Also, Shakespeare’s parents did not have the expertise to teach, but once the Jesuits appeared in the Midlands during Shakespeare’s early adolescence, it would not have been that difficult to place an educated priest or layman tutor in the home under the guise of a footman or a stablemaster. Before his father’s financial problems arose, the Shakespeare household could have afforded one. Other Midlanders such as the female recusant Eliza Roper, the Dowager Lady Vaux, held her own when interrogated by men like Lord Robert Cecil and his henchman Coke when suspected of harboring the much-sought-after Hunted Priest [3]John Gerard, and survived to establish a clandestine Jesuit boys’ school at the family estate at Great Harrowden .There is evidence the Wizard Earl of Northumberland intended to establish a similar school in the courtyard at Warkworth Castle. We cannot eliminate Will Shakespeare and the author of plays like Lear simply because he did not make his way to Oxford.

Nor would he have been ignorant of the dramatic form. Not only were plays written in Latin, a part of the grammar school curriculum at parish schools like the one in Stratford, but during Shakespeare's youth, aldermen issued licenses to more than twenty traveling theatrical companies [4] . And while It is tempting to confuse the terms educated and smart, even in modern times, such assumptions invite mistake. Think of John Steinbeck packing his duffel and leaving Stanford. Ben Franklin was homeschooled, and Ben Affleck dropped out of both the University of Vermont and Occidental College. Ever hear of a guy named Bill Gates? Frank Lloyd Wright? No one accuses self-taught Abraham Lincoln of having hired a ghostwriter to draft the Gettysburg address[5]. Look at your own life and think about gifted people you have encountered and ask yourself how many of them did not acquire their genius in a classroom.

What about William Shakespeare's early history? 

From the china cabinet of Linda Root, photo by the author
To illustrate the weakness of the argument of those who find insufficient evidence of Shakespeare’s potential because of the lack of documents from his youth, I entered the name of the most famous of my grammar school classmates into several search engines, and did not find enough information to distinguish him from others of the same name, although he has served as head of a federal financial entity. Next, I tried the same with the most successful graduate of my high school class and was overwhelmed by posting and videos, but none which dated back to his youth and early successes and failures. Why should we demand more of William Shakespeare than we do of Ron Rosenfeld or Dan Spinazzola? With Shakespeare, images of his birthplace, the site of his christening, and the houses of his mother, Mary Arden and his wife, Anne Hathaway can be found in the dinnerware in my credenza. We know William Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway and they raised three children in Stratford-on-Avon, where his family remained when he moved to London. Details as to how he amassed his moderate fortune are sketchy, but hardly to the point to justify labeling his life as a husband and father living in rural England as ‘Lost Years.’

While there are several plausible stories as to what might have lured Shakespeare into the theater, and thus, to London, all of them are speculative. The fact, however, is he went, and by the time he arrived, he already had a reputation as an actor and fledgling playwright sufficiently widespread for a presumably jealous colleague, successful and prolific author Robert Greene, to call him an ‘upstart crow'.[6] ,[7] What Greene did not call him was a plagiarizer.

Robert Greene was not a fan of his youthful rival. He wrote his contemporary dramatists and begged them to put the upstart in his place. He may have thought Shakespeare's early works borrowed heavily on extant histories, but he never accused Shakespeare of putting his name to works penned by colleagues. The informative book, The Drama: Its History, Literature and Influence on Civilization, vol 13, ed. Alfred Bates, London, Historical Publishing Company, 1906, pp. 104-107 makes a compelling case for Shakespeare’s authorship of his plays by referring to Robert Greene’s acerbic criticism, written shortly before Greene’s death in 1592 in critiques approaching the polemic. In The Drama, Bates make the following point concerning Shakespeare's productivity during the years prior to the bard's arrival in London only a year before his detractor's death:
‘Even in his wrath, however, Greene bears eloquent witness to Shakespeare’s diligence, ability and success, both as actor and playwright. Of Shakespeare’s amazing industry, and also of his success, there is ample evidence. Within six or seven years he not only produced the brilliant, reflective and descriptive poems of Venus and Adonis and Lucrece but at least fifteen of his dramas, including tragedies, comedies and historical plays’.
In conclusion, an argument I find compelling is based on my experience as a writer and a former prosecutor: Shakespeare's contemporaries most often propounded as the true authors of his plays never raised their claim. Those of us who write or perform are a prideful lot. We also have acquired the gift of access to a public audience: in essence, we have Voice. Would Ben Johnson, Francis Bacon and Christopher Marlowe, all of whom have been nominated as the true Will Shakespeare have remained silent when their colleague from Stratford-on -Avon claimed their masterworks? Never.

Christopher Marloew
Sir Francis Bacon
Ben Johnson



The Stratford Bust, possibly taken from a death mask.


References:

[1] Pearce, Joseph, The Quest for Shakespeare, Ignatius Press, 2008.
[2] Roth, Steve, Hamlet: The Undiscovered Country, Open House, 2 edition (December 23, 2013)3. [3]Gerard, John. S.J., The Autobiography of a Hunted Priest (Translated from the Latin by Philip Caraman, S.J., Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1952
[4] Wikipedia, ‘Shakespeare’s Life: The Lost Years’
[5] See https://despicablewonderfulyou.wordpress.com/2013/02/24/brilliant-minds-and-great-people-not-necessarily-with-a-college-degree/
[6] Robert Greene, Wikimedia, Shakespeare’s Life: The Lord years, and ` http://www.theatrehistory.com
The Drama; Its History, Literature and Influence on Civilization: British drama – Alfred Bates, James Penny Boyd, John Porter Lamberton
[7] Bates, et al, Ibid.

~~~~~~~~~~
Linda Fetterly Root is a writer of historical fiction set in Marie Stuart's Scotland and Early Modern Britain. She is a retired major crimes prosecutor living in the Morongo Basin area of the Southern California hi-desert, on the edge of Joshua Tree National Park. She is a member of the Marie Stuart Society, the Historical Novel Society, and the Bars of California and the United States Supreme Court. William Shakespeare appears briefly in her current work-in-progress, The Deliverance of the Lamb, based upon the escape from England of flamboyant Jesuit John Gerard.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Friday, September 22, 2017

Yeavering – Anglo-Saxon Royal Palace

by Annie Whitehead
“So great is said to have been the fervour of the faith of the Northumbrians and their longing for the washing of salvation, that once when Paulinus came to the king and queen in their royal palace at Yeavering, he spent thirty-six days there occupied in the task of catechizing and baptising.” (HE II 14*)
The king in question is Edwin, seventh-century king of Northumbria, and the queen is his second wife, Æthelburg of Kent, known, according to Bede, by the nickname ‘Tate’.

Paulinus is said to have baptised people in the river Glen, which runs alongside the site of the palace. Visitors to the site will still be able to see the river, but of the palace, there is not a trace.

The view across the site towards the river

Archaeology has revealed that Yeavering at the time of Edwin’s reign was a magnificent royal vill. But Edwin didn’t build it. Rather, he rebuilt it.

What were Edwin, his wife, and the holy man Paulinus doing there? After all, it’s a forbidding place, surrounded by the towering Cheviot hills, windswept and desolate.


Edwin was technically the brother-in-law of the previous king of Northumbria, Æthelfrith, whose son, Oswald, was born to him by Edwin’s sister. Although in those days Northumbria was two distinct kingdoms, Deira (centred around York) and Bernicia (centred around Bamburgh), dynastic squabbles and bloody feuds meant that, periodically, one man ruled over both kingdoms.

The English kingdoms c. 600 (Public Domain)

In the seventh century, kings were gradually converting to Christianity.  It was no quick decision, and usually had some political element to it. Edwin was not about to make a spur of the moment conversion. The site of Yeavering was significant because it was in an area previously ruled over by Edwin's nemesis, Æthelfrith. Would conversion bring more power?

Edwin procrastinated, so much so that Pope Boniface wrote to him, and also to Edwin’s wife. Æthelburg was the daughter of Æthelberht, the Kentish king whom Augustine had converted, and a sister of Eadbald, the reigning king of Kent. When he wrote to her, Boniface urged her to bear in mind her Christian duty to evangelise, and included with his letter a gift of a silver mirror and a gold and ivory comb. To Edwin, he hinted that he would, by converting, put himself on an equal footing with the powerful king of Kent. This must have been quite an inducement.

Edwin evidently grasped what was expected of him, and offered a compromise – he expressed his willingness to convert if his advisers agreed, and undertook to place no obstacles in the way of missionary endeavour. He also offered a promise that took account of the position of Æthelburg, for he gave assurance that she and her retinue would be free to practice their own religion.

Paulinus, who travelled with ‘Tate’ from Kent, ‘bagged’ Edwin’s all-important royal soul, thus, according to Bede: when Edwin had been in exile in the court of Rædwald of East Anglia, an apparition came to him, promising him a kingdom, and salvation, if he would but remember by whose word this promise would be fulfilled. Paulinus now revealed himself now as the apparition by whose power Edwin had gained his kingdom. (HE II 12)

When the king and queen had produced a daughter, Eanflæd, Edwin was persuaded to allow Paulinus to baptise her in thanksgiving for his wife’s safe delivery.

Yeavering lies in what was the kingdom of Bernicia, forty miles north of Hadrian’s Wall, and about twenty miles inland from the great fortress of Bamburgh. It is a desolate and often a very cold place. Bede describes it as a royal vill, (town) and talks about the work of Paulinus there, but he also tells us that at some time later it was abandoned. Perhaps the archaeology and the history can be linked?

The site, showing the modern wall at the roadside

In 1949 an aerial photograph showed the marks of extensive buildings there, and the site was then excavated by Dr Hope Taylor.

He found that as a place of burial, Yeavering had a long prehistoric past. A big and seemingly elaborately defended cattle corral is likely to have gone back to the days when the area was ruled by British, not English, kings. Hope Taylor also discovered a series of buildings dating from the end of the sixth century to somewhat later than the middle of the seventh, corresponding to the reigns of Æthelfrith, Edwin, and Oswald.

Among the most important were a succession of halls. The largest, which he concluded was probably Edwin’s, was over 80 feet long and nearly 40 feet wide. Its walls were likely made of planks, 5 ½ inches thick. The fact that the post holes showed that timber were set up to eight feet into the ground, suggests that the walls must have been very high. There may have been a clerestory (a high section of wall that contains windows above eye level, with the purpose of letting in light, and/or fresh air). Its successor, probably dating to the reign of Oswald, Edwin’s nephew and successor, was equally grand.

Yeavering - digital 'fair use' image. (Attribution)

More remarkable still was a kind of grandstand, (top left of above image) shaped like a segment of a Roman amphitheatre, which stood facing a platform. When first built, possibly under Æthelfrith, it had accommodated about 150 people; later, perhaps under Edwin, it was enlarged to hold about 320.

It has been agreed that its only purpose can have been for meetings; and of a kind where one man on the platform, presumably the king, faced many. Perhaps it was here that Edwin consulted his amici, principes and consiliarii on the adoption of Christianity (though this debate more probably took place in York, where Edwin finally received his baptism.)

Yeavering in its heyday would have stood as a symbol of the might and power of Edwin, who, as one of the named ‘bretwaldas’ (overkings) in Bede’s list, wielded considerable power. A prince of Deira, he would have known the importance of establishing his authority across Bernicia, and building over the remnants of his predecessor’s hall.

And yet, the royal buildings at Yeavering were not fortified. Perhaps they should have been; there is evidence that the palace was destroyed by fire, not once, but twice, and the dates coincide with Bede’s records of Mercian incursions into Northumbria.

Additional finds included what may have been a pagan temple later converted to Christian use, and a building which might have been a small Christian church.


Yeavering, though a major centre for Bernicia, was by no means the only such centre these kings possessed. There was another, much more important, at Bamburgh, and other royal vills scattered through their kingdom, many of which may have had halls as grand. But the wonderful thing, for historians, is that we have the evidence for this one, even though there is now no trace of these once impressive and imposing buildings. To stand in this enormous field, (and it is a huge site) gazing out over the waters of the river Glen, and know that here stood the people whose lives I have studied, and written about, for years was, even on that very cold and blustery day, really quite moving. So little of Anglo-Saxon architecture remains, but thanks to Dr Hope Taylor, and to Bede, at least we know what once was here.

As to why it was, as Bede tells us, abandoned, well that remains a mystery, and one which neither the archaeology (which suggests 655, a time of Northumbrian supremacy) nor the history seem able to solve.

[*Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People]

~~~~~~~~~~

Annie Whitehead is an author and member of The Royal Historical Society. Her novels are all set in Anglo-Saxon Mercia and her latest, Cometh the Hour, includes the character of King Edwin, who was at turns related to, and then at war with the mighty pagan king, Penda.

Cometh the Hour
Amazon Author Page
Blog
Website

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

St. Germanus: A Reluctant Bishop

by Kim Rendfeld

Germanus would have a great influence on Christianity in 5th century Britain, but in his early life, he did not believe God called him to the priesthood.

Born around 380 in Auxerre to a noble family, Germanus was well educated in the liberal arts. He went to Rome to study law and was a brilliant lawyer. He married a high-ranking woman named Eustachia. The emperor was impressed with Germanus and eventually appoint him dux (duke to oversimplify) commanding the soldiers in the province with his hometown.

Back in Auxerre, Germanus was a faithful husband and a capable administrator who acted with integrity. But he had not learned humility and prayer, and he still liked worldly things. Too much.

One particular vice irritated Saint Amator, then bishop of Auxerre. Like many men of his era, Germanus loved to hunt. The problem for the bishop was how Germanus showed off his prowess. The duke hung the heads of his kills on a tree in the middle of the city, an action that strongly resembled an offering to a pagan god. I suspect Germanus had seen this ritual since he was child and might have not seen the religious contradiction. This was not the first time a pagan ritual lingered long after the population had accepted baptism.

But Christianity had been mainstream for only a few decades, after the Roman emperor had accepted baptism shortly before his death in 337. Amator might have feared a Germanus’s actions encouraged a false religion and endangered the souls he was trying to save. The bishop tried to persuade Germanus to stop.

Germanus refused. Alban Butler’s 1799 book attributes it to vanity, and Germanus likely was proud. He was high born and privileged, after all. But his first priority as duke was keeping order. He might have seen respecting a pagan ritual as a way to keep the peace.

One day while Germanus was away, Amator had the tree chopped down—a practice emulated by missionaries centuries later.

This engraving by Bernhard Rode depicts
St. Boniface, but you get the idea
(public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

We don’t know how the populace responded, but Germanus was furious. Amator fled to Autun. There, Amator had a revelation: God wanted Germanus to be the bishop’s successor. Incredibly, Amator greeted the news with joy. His faith in God’s judgment must have been quite strong.

Amator secretly asked the prefect, Julius, if he could tonsure Germanus and thus release the duke from his office. Julius consented.

Amator returned to Auxerre. When Germanus entered the church, Amator had the doors barred gave him the clerical haircut, whether Germanus wanted it or not. Amator named Germanus a deacon and the successor to the bishopric.

A dramatic story, but is it true? Maybe part of it. A hagiography written by Constantius about 30 years after Germanus’s death provides a different account. Constantius makes no mention of the hunting or the tree full of trophies or the threat against Amator. Instead, the people—aristocrats, clergy, and commoners—demanded Germanus serve as their bishop. They must have been impressed with his abilities as an administrator and his moral character. Constantius describes Germanus’s entry into the priesthood as “under compulsion, as a conscript.”

Regardless of how Germanus became a priest, he was pushed, or rather shoved, into the clergy. Remarkably, he dared not protest. He believed his forced ordination was God’s will and feared opposing it.

His life changed, including his relationship with his wife, Eustachia. A married man could be ordained into the priesthood. In fact, the wife’s good conduct might play a role, and she was often given a title to reflect her status. However, husband and wife were supposed to live as brother and sister. Germanus and Eustachia complied (and were one of the few couples that did). My guess is that she became a bishopress.

Neither Butler nor Constantius say how Eustachia or her noble family reacted to Germanus’s ordination. Butler describes her as “a lady of great quality”; Constantius says her “birth, wealth, and character were all of the highest.” And that’s it.

We might find a clue in an omission: neither author mentions children by the couple. If Germanus and Eustachia were childless, might they have taken that as a sign of God’s intentions for them? It is possible Eustachia supported her husband’s ordination for reasons besides faith. As a bishopress, she did not need a son for her high-ranking position to be secure.

Photo by GFreihalter (CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

For his part, Germanus gave his possessions to the poor and embraced an austere lifestyle. If we are to believe Constantius, he had one meal in the evening and he first took a mouthful of ash, then ate barley bread with flour he ground himself—the humblest of foods. He rejected oil, salt, vinegar, pulses, wheaten bread, and wine (except a diluted drink on Christmas Day and Easter). He wore a hair-shirt underneath his tunic and cloak. He had a leather strap around his neck with a box of relics (relics could be as tiny as a pebble from a saint’s tomb). He slept on planks with ashes in between them and did not use a pillow.

The combination of piety, nobility, and knowledge made Germanus the best spiritual warrior the Church could send to Britain in 429 to squelch the Pelagian heresy, which rejected original sin and argued for redemption through strength of will rather than divine grace. (If we are to believe Nennius’s 9th century account, Germanus also played a key role in Vortigern’s downfall, but Nennius seems to be the type to not let facts get in the way of his story.)

To the Church, the Pelagian heresy was more dangerous than paganism. It was a threat from within, and if left unchecked, might splinter the institution into factions. Church officials could not tolerate heresy, and they knew they were in for a tough fight. We’ll have more on that battle next month.

Sources

“The Life of Saint Germanus of Auxerre,” by Constantius of Lyon, translated by F.R. Hoare,
Soldiers of Christ: Saints and Saints' Lives from Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, by Thomas F.X. Noble, Thomas Head

The Lives of the Primitive Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints: Compiled from Original Monuments and Other Authentic Records, Volume 7, Alban Butler

The Text of 'Nennius': Historia Brittonum, chapters 31-49, 66, Vortigern Studies

"St. Germain,"by Andrew MacErlean, The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 6

Germanus

~~~~~~~~~~

Kim Rendfeld’s work in progress—“Betrothed to the Red Dragon,” a short story about Guinevere’s decision to marry Arthur—is set in early medieval Britain. If you’d like to get an email when it’s published, email Kim at kim [at] kimrendfeld [dot] com.

If you want read what Kim has already written, check out her two novels set in 8th century Europe.

Kim's first novel, The Cross and the Dragon, in which a Frankish noblewoman must contend with a jilted suitor and the fear of losing her husband, is available at AmazonKoboiTunesBarnes & NobleSmashwordsCreateSpace, and other vendors.You can order The Ashes of Heaven's Pillar, about a Saxon peasant who will fight for her children after losing everything else, at AmazonKoboBarnes & Noble, and iTunes.

Connect with Kim at on her website kimrendfeld.com, her blog, Outtakes of a Historical Novelist at kimrendfeld.wordpress.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/authorkimrendfeld, or follow her on Twitter at @kimrendfeld.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Dangers of the Victorian Pleasure Garden

by Mimi Matthews

The Dancing Platform at Cremorne Gardens by Phoebus Levin, 1864.

When thinking of nineteenth century pleasure gardens, most of us instantly conjure up images of Vauxhall. But those in the Georgian era weren’t the only ones to enjoy a pleasure garden in London. In 1830 Cremorne Gardens was opened in Chelsea. Over the decades that followed, it offered concerts, circuses, dancing, and fireworks. It also offered military exhibitions and feats of dangerous daring, including high-wire acts and balloon ascents. Though many of these feats were successful, earning acclaim for various wire-walkers and aeronauts, still others ended in tragedy. Gruesome injuries and even fatalities occurred with some regularity—in full view of the Victorian public.

The Collapsed Platform


In 1855, during a military fete at Cremorne Gardens, a platform collapsed under the weight of sixty soldiers carrying their muskets and bayonets. According to an 18 August 1855 edition of the Huddersfield Chronicle, the soldiers were comprised mostly of Grenadier Guards who were enacting “the capture of the Mamelon and rifle pits by the allied troops before Sebastapol.” The performance had received the patronage of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, as well as of “the highest military authorities.” Both the Household Troops and Royal Artillery were in attendance.

Banqueting halls at Cremorne Gardens, mid-19th century.

To enact the mock siege, stages of various heights had been constructed. As the Huddersfield Chronicle reports:
“Just as the spectacle was reaching its close, when the defenders of the Mamelon and the rifle-pits had been drive to the highest part of the staging by the assaulting columns below, the gallery on which they stood gave way, bringing some 60 men, with bayonets fixed on their muskets, crashing to the ground through a fall of at least 20 feet.”
During the fall, some of the men were bayoneted on their own weapons. Others broke their legs or fractured their ribs and limbs. No soldiers died at the scene, but one is reported to have suffered serious internal injuries.

The Broken Wire


An even more frightful accident occurred at Cremorne Gardens in June of 1863. The public had gathered to watch a show put on by the acclaimed acrobat Carlo Valerio. For the past two months, the twenty-five year old Valerio had been performing a high-wire act at the Gardens during which he walked along a wire cable that measured 600 feet across. The 27 June 1863 edition of The London Daily News reports that, on the night in question:
“He had advanced nearly to the point from which he usually returned backwards, when the wire rope suddenly gave way, and he fell heavily to the grassplat, a distance of upwards of sixty feet.”
Valerio’s injuries were severe. He suffered a fractured skull, a broken collar-bone, and many other injuries. According to a graphic first-hand account published in the 30 June 1863 edition of the Dundee, Perth, and Cupar Advertiser:
“When the wire slackened the unfortunate man staggered, and was precipitated violently to the ground on the back of his head, the blood pouring profusely from the wound and from his ears. Numbers of persons, particularly the females, were dreadfully shocked and affected, many of the corps de ballet being afterwards scarcely able to go through their performance. He was immediately removed, and the dance and music proceeded.”

The Ashburnham Pavilion at Cremorne Gardens, Illustrated London News, 1858.

The London Daily News states that Valerio was taken to Chelsea Hospital where he “lingered in great pain” until three o’clock in the morning, at which point “he expired” from his injuries. His death prompted an outcry against dangerous exhibitions. It was reasoned that, since acrobats would continue to test their skills in ever increasing feats and since the public would continue to arrive in droves to see such performances, it was up to the proprietors of places like Cremorne Gardens to prohibit exhibitions which put performers’ lives at risk.

In fact, Valerio’s death prompted Mr. E. T. Smith, then the proprietor of Cremorne Gardens, to write to the editor of The Era declaring just that. His letter, printed in the 28 June 1863 edition of The Era, reads in part:
“The sad accident that occurred at these Gardens on Thursday evening to the unfortunate Carlo Valerio during his performance on the wire rope, and which no person can more deeply regret than myself, induces me, with your permission, to seek the earliest moment of announcing, through your columns, that no such exhibition will ever again be permitted to take place here as long as I remain the Proprietor.”


The Flying Man's Shroud


Unfortunately, Valerio’s death was not the last fatality to occur as a result of an exhibition at Cremorne Gardens. In 1874, crowds again gathered to watch a death-defying feat. This time, the stunt was performed by M. Vincent de Groof, a thirty-five-year-old performer known as the Flying Man. According to the 11 July 1874 edition of the Belfast News-Letter, M. de Groof promised to:
“Fly a distance of 5,000 feet through the air by means of a pair of wings shaped like a bat’s, which were fixed to his shoulders and worked by his arms.”

Balloon Ascent at Cremorne Gardens, Walter Greaves, 1872.

M. de Groof ascended into the air by means of a balloon, from which he was suspended by a rope “about twenty feet below the car.” As the balloon rose to a height of approximately 1000 feet, M. de Groof flapped his wings, making for a churchyard some fifty years away. When he hit a favourable current of wind, he cut the rope, fully expecting to fly free of the balloon by virtue of the wings attached to his arms. Instead, as the Belfast News-Letter grimly relates:
“He came crashing through the air; the wing closed around him like a living shroud, and narrowly escaping the outer parapet, he fell with fearful violence on his head and right side in the road, immediately opposite the front entrance of St. Luke’s Church. Hundreds of persons immediately rushed to his assistance, and found him bleeding violently from the nose and ears, and without any sign of life.” 


In Conclusion

As the decade progressed, Cremorne Gardens’ reputation as a popular venue for wholesome entertainment began to sink. After the sun had set and Victorian families had departed, it transformed into what one Baptist minister of the 1870s referred to as “a nursery of vice.” Robberies and assaults were regularly reported, as were the goings on of prostitutes and their clients. In the end, it was this less gruesome but rather more unsavoury aspect of Cremorne Gardens which led to its closure in 1877. An increasingly prudish Victorian public objected to the goings on there, especially after dark.
________________________________________

Sources

Belfast News-Letter (Antrim, Northern Ireland), 11 July 1874.
Dundee, Perth, and Cupar Advertiser (Angus, Scotland), 30 June, 1863.
Elgin Courier (Moray, Scotland), 17 August 1855.
The Era (London, England), 28 June 1863.
Guard, Richard. Lost London. London: Michael O’Mara Books, Ltd., 2012.
Huddersfield Chronicle (West Yorkshire, England), 18 August 1855.
Illustrated London News (London, England). 5 June 1847.
London Daily News (London, England), Saturday 27 June 1863.
Thomas, Donald. The Victorian Underworld. London: Orion Publishing Group, 2014.
________________________________________

Mimi Matthews writes both historical non-fiction and traditional historical romances set in Victorian England. She is the author of The Pug Who Bit Napoleon: Animal Tales of the 18th and 19th Centuries (November 2017) and A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Fashion and Beauty (July 2018).

Her debut Victorian romance novel The Lost Letter will be released on September 19 and is currently available for pre-order.

In her other life, Mimi is an attorney with both a Juris Doctor and a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature. She resides in California with her family, which includes an Andalusian dressage horse, two Shelties, and two Siamese cats.

Website: www.MimiMatthews.com
Facebook: Facebook.com/MimiMatthewsAuthor
Twitter: Twitter.com/MimiMatthewsEsq


Sunday, September 17, 2017

Editors' Weekly Round-up, September 17, 2017

by the EHFA Editors

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