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Sunday, March 17, 2019

A Medieval Hodge-Podge.


The first recipes we have for Hodgepodge come from the late fourteenth and early fifteenth century.  Each of the recipes features goose as the main ingredient indicating that there was a general appreciation of goose in the noble houses of the time.

The first recorded recipe came from the collection of the Magister Coquinae of the Royal Court.  No dish was cooked in his kitchens without him at least having approved it.  Feeding the Royal household was the highest of responsibilities. This is witnessed by considerable the land grants recorded to the name of whoever held this royal office.

The hogge pot had already existed for centuries, however.  Many who fail to realize this have given spurious derivations to the name.  As another result, they have also been at a loss to explain the long history. 

Hogge is actually an Anglo-Saxon word.  While later generations gave it fanciful derivations from various French terms,[1] from the word “hot,” etc., the word is actually an early cousin of our modern “huge”.  It means big, great, huge.  Hogge pot means “big pot”.

Most of us are likely to have accepted long ago that peasants of the deep middle ages placed communal pots in the midst of one or more of their hovels.  Every edible plant was gathered up, in its season, and added to the simmering pot.  The resulting soup was always changing in hue and taste.  The smell of food was always in the air, a genuine comfort in times when food could be hard to come by.

At first it was not only peasants who had a hogge pot.  Even the nobility had hogge pots in their more commodious wooden abodes.  It is presumed that the contents of their pot included meat — a thing rare among the pots of the peasants.  On the practical level, they needed a better diet in order to hunt and fight with ferocity.  This expressed itself culturally through rules of dominants laying claim to the best from the goods and services of life.


As life improved in the West, more meat became available.  For centuries still, the prerogative of eating it at daily meals was the jealous right of the nobility.  The hogge pot remained the peasants’ way.  The contents were almost entirely vegetable.  The pot simmered continuously through all seasons.  A touch of meat made one’s pot a special treat and (presumably) one’s household popular.

Diet was so much improved by the reign of the English King Richard II that the upper class hogge pot shrank down to the size of a single meal (often for scores or hundreds of diners) and filled up with goose or another featured meat.  Thus the recipes we have by way of our earliest examples bear only the most distant relationship to the original hogge pot.  Even the name had been made more fun to say: people now ate “hotch potch”.  This would later become “hodgepodge”.

So then, the first recipes of hogge pot that survive are not descriptions of the original communal “big pot” but rather recorded for the use of cooks of noble houses.  The facts that they come in relatively rapid succession, the earliest chronologically being the recipe from King Richard’s kitchen, and that all feature goose at first, strongly suggests that the English dish was popular and soon borrowed by those who had eaten it as guests at the king’s hall.  There were, nevertheless, immediately variations from one noble kitchen to another.

The lives at all levels of English society began to experience noticeable improvement beginning with the upper classes under Richard.  Progress rapidly increased in household life and diet in the 15th century.  It is then that the hotch potch was left behind to become a culinary delight of the lower classes.  It generally included one or more meats as well as vegetables.  The recipes and depictions of the nobility, their kitchens and tables, make clear that they had gone onto bigger and better things.


Next: A Look at Some Recipes




[1] In his dictionary, Johnson has it: “Hodge-Podge.” n.s. [hochepot, quasi hachis en pot, French. Our word is also written hodgepot, hotch pot, and hotchpotch. Teut. hutspot.  See Hotch Potch.
1. A medly of ingredients boiled together.
The 1971/81 edition of the O.E.D. has: hogpoch, hogepotche, hodge-potch, hodg-podge, -poge (hogg-podge, hodge-bodge), hodg-podg hodge-podge [a corruption of HOTCHPOTCH; prob. assimilated to the familiar personal name HODGE].



Also at Virtual Grub Street:
  • Dietary Rules for Barnacles: Innocent III to Gordon Ramsey.  March 4, 2019.  “The Barnacle was a marvel of God, a confusion to those in authority in such matters.  Their people turned to them for clarification.”
  • Shakespeare’s Barnacles.  March 3, 2016.  “Prospero will wake, he fears, before they can murder him, and will cast a spell on them.”
  • The King's Esnecce.  January 13, 2019.  “It comes as no surprise, then, that when Maud’s son, Henry Plantagenet, Count or Duke of most of the western territories of France, and, by terms of the treaty, heir to Stephen, next rose to the throne as Henry II, he was quick to arrange for the safest possible means of transit across the channel.”
  • Check out the Medieval Topics Article Index for many more articles about this fascinating time.
  • Check out the English Renaissance Article Index for many more articles and reviews about this fascinating time.


Sunday, March 10, 2019

Office of The Lord Great Chamberlain and the Earls of Oxford

The Lord Great Chamberlain is the sixth of the “great” offices of feudal responsibility to the English monarch.[1]  The “great” offices began as hereditary offices.  The Great Chamberlain remains such to this day.  It is, however, reduced to an entirely ceremonial position.

The office was created by Henry I for the Vere family.  It was awarded first to Albericus (Aubrey) de Vere, in 1133.  Like all hereditary offices, it was created as reward for highly valued feudal allegiance to the king.  Close, dependable alliance with the power of the De Veres was sufficiently attractive that they received special favors that kept them close at hand.  The original office required the holder of it to remain continually in physical attendance upon the king at Court.

The Vere’s were not yet the holders of the Earldom of Oxford.  That would come in 1141 at the hand of the Empress Matilda (a.k.a. Maude) during the years of civil war following the death of Henry I without an heir, and would be confirmed, in 1156[2], by her son, King Henry II.  The Vere’s had gone back and forth in their loyalty between she and King Stephen during the war.  In this way she sought to assure their loyalty.  Nevertheless, they remained with a foot in every camp.

Between the creation of the Lord Great Chamberlain and King Edward II’s coronation in 1308, the office  seems to have separated itself from continual attendance upon the king.  Records from the coronation of Richard II, however, indicate that he held the rights and fees of the office that went with that ceremony, and had “from time immemorial”.[3]

What precisely the coronation duties were, at that time, cannot be determined from available period records.  Only the duty of presenting the king’s ewer before and after the feast that followed is explicitly mentioned.  All offices of the Lord Great Chamberlain, relating to the coronation of Henry IV, were refused to the Earl of Oxford, whose support had been erratic, and given to Thomas Erpingham.


The memorandum regarding the coronation of James I, in 1603, regarding the request of the 17th Earl, Edward de Vere, to perform the then traditional duties, and receive the traditional gifts and fees, for the office, gives us the first detailed description of what those duties and fees had come to be.

Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford, asks that as he is Great Chamberlain of England,… that it should please the King that he should likewise at the Coronation… do the said office and services as he and his ancestors have formerly done. . . . That is to say that the said Earl on the day of the said Coronation, on the morning before the King rises, ought to enter into the chamber where the King lies, and bring him his shirt, and stockings, and under- clothing. And that the said Earl and the Lord Chamberlain for the time being together on that day ought to dress the King in all his apparel. And that he may take and have all his fees, profits, and advantages due to this office. . . . That is to say forty yards of crimson velvet for the said Earls robes for that day . . . then the Earl should have the bed where the King lay on the night before the Coronation, and all the apparel of the same, with the coverlet, curtains, pillows, and the hangings of the room, with the King's nightgown, in which he was vested the night before the Coronation. He also asks as his ancestors from time immemorial served the noble progenitors of our Lord the King with water before and after eating the day of the Coronation, and had as their rights the basins and towels and a tasting cup ... as appears in the records of the Exchequer.[4]
The direct male line of the Earls of Oxford was broken with the death of Henry, the 18th Earl, in 1625.   The Earldom fell to a male Vere cousin.  It lapsed altogether with the death of the 20th Earl, in 1703.

Peregrine Bertie, the Baron Willoughby, being more directly related to the line of earls, through his mother Mary Vere, eventually received the hereditary office of Lord Great Chamberlain.  Bertie was created Earl of Lindsey, in 1626, and he and his male heirs to that title became the hereditary holders of the office.  The family was created Dukes of Ancaster, in 1715, thus transferring the office to that title.

With the death of Peregrine Bertie, the 3rd Duke of Ancaster, and of his lone a male heir, the 4th Duke, a year later, the office was renamed Deputy Lord Great Chamberlain and divided between the 3rd Duke’s eldest daughters.  It has remained in the joint possession of ever more distant relatives since that time.



[1] The great officers of the Crown are: 1. Steward, the Lord High, of England; 2. The Lord High Chancellor; 3. The Lord High Treasurer; 4. The Lord President of the Council ; 5. The Lord Privy Seal; 6. The Lord Great Chamberlain of England ; 7. The Lord High Constable of England; 8. The Earl Marshal of England; and 9. The Lord High Admiral.
[2] Dictionary of National Biography (1906).  1137.
[3] Collections relative to claims at the coronations of several of the kings of England (182).  15.
[4] Purdy, Gilbert.  Edward de Vere was Shakespeare; at long last the proof.  285.  Citing Oxford Authorship, Col. S. P. Dom. James I (July 7, 1603) http://www.oxford-shakespeare.com/StatePapers14/SP_14-2-76_ff_187-207.pdf.


Also at Virtual Grub Street:
  • Dietary Rules for Barnacles: Innocent III to Gordon Ramsey.  March 4, 2019.  “The Barnacle was a marvel of God, a confusion to those in authority in such matters.  Their people turned to them for clarification.”
  • Shakespeare’s Barnacles.  March 3, 2016.  “Prospero will wake, he fears, before they can murder him, and will cast a spell on them.”
  • The King's Esnecce.  January 13, 2019.  “It comes as no surprise, then, that when Maud’s son, Henry Plantagenet, Count or Duke of most of the western territories of France, and, by terms of the treaty, heir to Stephen, next rose to the throne as Henry II, he was quick to arrange for the safest possible means of transit across the channel.”
  • Check out the Medieval Topics Article Index for many more articles about this fascinating time.
  • Check out the English Renaissance Article Index for many more articles and reviews about this fascinating time.


 

Monday, March 04, 2019

Dietary Rules for Barnacles: Innocent III to Gordon Ramsey.


In This Series:



The first historical notice of the Barnacle found, as of yet, is the account of Giraldus Cambrensis, circa 1188, in his account of Ireland.  The account makes two things clear: 1) the Barnacle myth was not a new one even then; and 2) the Barnacle was a matter of debate vis-à-vis Christian dietary rules.

They do not breed and lay eggs, like other birds; nor do they ever hatch any eggs; nor do they seem to build nests in any corner of the earth. Hence bishops and clergymen in some parts of Ireland do not scruple to dine of these birds at the time of fasting, because they are not flesh, nor born of flesh.[1]
Further commentary by Muller, in his Lectures on the Science of Language, strongly suggests that the record of these dietary debates goes back well beyond Cambrensis’ work and extended to the Jewish religion.

The Jews also seem to have been interested in this question, which touched them by raising a doubt whether Barnacle geese should be killed as flesh or as fish. Mordechai (Riva, 1559, leaf 142 a) asks whether these birds are fruits, fish, or flesh, i.e. whether they must be killed, in the Jewish way, as they would if they were flesh. He describes them as birds which grow on trees, and he says that Rabbi Jehudah of Worms (died 1216) used to say that he had heard from his father, Rabbi Samuel of Speyer (about 1150), that Rabbi Jacob Thom of Ramerii (died 1171, the grandson of the great Rabbi Rash'i, about 1140) had decided that they must be killed as flesh. This would carry the legend back to the twelfth century; and it is certain, at all events, that Rabbi Isaak of Corbeil, in his ‘Sofer Mizwoth Katan’ (1277) prohibited the eating of Barnacle geese altogether, because they were neither flesh nor fish.[2]
The Barnacle was a marvel of God, a confusion to those in authority in such matters.  Their people turned to them for clarification.  In those days, a person’s religion was expected to fend off the confusion and ignorance into which the age had fallen.


The matter was of sufficient importance that “Pope Innocent III., at the General Lateran Council, 1215, had to prohibit the eating of Barnacle geese during Lent.”[3]  The debate had gone on, vigorously, for at least 40 years already.[4]

Barliates sunt aves de ligno crescentes, quas vulgus bernestas sive bernekas appellat. Fertur enim quod lignum de abiete marinis aquis incidens quum successu temporis putrescere ceperit, humorem ex se crassum emittit : ex quo densato formantur parvæ species avium ad magnitudinem alaudarum. Primumque sunt nudæ. Deinde maturantes plumescunt ac rostris ad lignum pendentes per mare fluitant usque ad maturitatem, donec se commorantes abrumpant sic que crescant et roborentur usque ad debitam formam.
***
De his itaque certum est quod in orbe nostro circa Germaniam nec per coitum gignunt nec generantur. Sed nec earum coitum apud nos ullus hominum vidit. Unde et carnibus earum in XL nonnulli etiam christiani in nostra ætate in locis ubi avium hujusmodi copia est uti solebant.  Sed innocentius papa tertius in Lateranensi concilio generali hoc ultra fieri vetuit. Hae volucres herbis et graminibus (ut anseres) vivunt, potum vero differre sicca comedentes nullatenus possunt.
Barliates are birds that grow on wood, which the vulgar call bernestas or bernekas.  It is said that, over time, the fir tree repeatedly struck by the motion of the sea, putrefies, becomes soaked, and sends forth growth from itself: from this are formed small bird-forms about the size of Larks.  The aforementioned are unfledged.  They grow feathers while they hang from the tree by their beaks floating in the sea until they mature, at which time, having grown in form and strength they break off.
***
It is certain, therefore, that in the world around Germany it is not generated by the sexual act.  No man among us has seen it engage in coitus.  Hence some Christians  in our time, near where the birds inhabit, have  grown used to eating the flesh of them during Lent.  However, Pope Innocent III in the Lateran General Council declared they would henceforth be banned. These are birds, for they eat herbs and grasses (like geese), live on dry land, differ in no way.

Dietary considerations of another sort are involved when popular television chef Gordon Ramsay instructs us on how to cook Gooseneck Barnacles “Tapas Style” in the following video.  


Goose Barnacles Tapas Style (2:03) - Gordon Ramsay


These are the barnacles thought for centuries to be Barnacle Goose fetuses.  After those centuries and a few more, those crustaceans remain a regional delicacy of Portugal.  Today, we look not to our Popes or Councils but to our television chefs to tell us if we can enjoy our foods.




[1] Muller, Max.  Lectures on the Science of Language (1885). 598.
[2] Ibid. 593.
[3] Ibid. 594.  Citing Bellovacensis, Vincentius, Speculum Naturae.  xvii. 40.  Transl. my own.
[4] If we accept that Rabbi Jacob Thom of Ramerii was involved in it before his death in 1171.


Also at Virtual Grub Street:

  • Shakespeare’s Barnacles.  March 3, 2016.  “Prospero will wake, he fears, before they can murder him, and will cast a spell on them.”
  • The King's Esnecce.  January 13, 2019.  “It comes as no surprise, then, that when Maud’s son, Henry Plantagenet, Count or Duke of most of the western territories of France, and, by terms of the treaty, heir to Stephen, next rose to the throne as Henry II, he was quick to arrange for the safest possible means of transit across the channel.”
  • Connections: Henry II, Toulouse, 1159.  November 27, 2018.  “Once he became Chancellor, Becket never looked back.  He abandoned his duties as Archdeacon and preaching duties attached to his other positions.  He outfitted a lavish  household and lived like a secular lord.”
  • Check out the Medieval Topics Article Index for many more articles about this fascinating time.
  • Check out the English Renaissance Article Index for many more articles and reviews about this fascinating time.


 

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Giraldus Cambrensis on the Myth of the Barnacle (c. 1188).


Barnacle Goose brooding in Sweden.
Bengt Nyman/Wikimedia Commons
In This Series:


According to Max Muller,[1] the first written record discovered relating to the Barnacle appears in Giraldus Cambrensis’ Topographia Hiberniae (circa 1188).  Cambrensis’ account largely confirms the description of the source of the myth that I have provided in my “Shakespeare’s Barnacles” [link].  Muller has provided an English translation (apparently his own):

This is what Giraldus says in his ‘Topographia Hiberniae’:
There are in this place many birds which are called Bernacae: against nature, nature produces them in a most extraordinary way. They are like marsh-geese, but somewhat smaller. They are produced from fir timber tossed along the sea, and are at first like gum. Afterwards they hang down by their beaks as if from a seaweed attached to the timber, surrounded by shells, in order to grow more freely. Having thus, in process of time, been clothed with a strong coat of feathers, they either fall into the water or fly freely away into the air. They derive their food and growth from the sap of the Wood or the sea, by a secret and most wonderful process of alimentation.  I have frequently, with my own eyes, seen, more than a thousand of these small bodies of birds, hanging down on the sea-shore from one piece of timber, enclosed in shells, and already formed. They do not breed and lay eggs, like other birds; nor do they ever hatch any eggs; nor do they seem to build nests in any corner of the earth. Hence bishops and clergymen in some parts of Ireland do not scruple to dine of these birds at the time of fasting, because they are not flesh, nor born of flesh. 

What we now call “barnacles” were then considered to be the eggs of the small goose the Celtic peoples called “barnacles”.

Dimock’s edition informs us that the earliest manuscripts of the Topographia — dedicated to Henry II — date to 1188 or shortly before.[2]  The materials from which they were written were gathered from Cambrensis’ personal travels in Ireland in 1185 and 1186.[3]


 Already, then, in 1186, the myth of the Barnacle Goose was common currency among the Irish.  No earlier reference seems to have been discovered since Muller’s Lectures.  Muller himself cites a good many references in the intervening centuries, beginning with Vincentius Bellovacensis’ Speculum Naturae (circa 1215) and ending with the ‘Philosophical Transactions,’ 1678.[4]

‘A Relation concerning Barnacles, by Sr. Robert Moray, lately one of His Majesties Council for the Kingdom of Scotland,’ we read (p. 925):

Being in the Island of East, I saw lying upon the shore a cut of a large Firr-tree of about 2 1/2 foot diameter, and 9 or 10 foot long; which had lain so long out of the water that it was very dry: And most of the Shells, that had formerly cover’d it, were worn or rubb’d off. Only on the parts that lay next the ground, there still hung multitudes of little Shells; having within them little Birds, perfectly shap’d, supposed to be Barnacles.
***
The Shells hang at the Tree by a Neck longer than the Shell. Of a kind of Filmy substance, round, and hollow, and creassed, not unlike the Wind-pipe of a Chicken; spreading out broadest where it is fastened to the Tree, from which it seems to draw and convey the matter which serves for the growth and vegetation of the Shell and the little Bird within it.
This Bird in every Shell that I opened, as well the least as the biggest, I found so curiously and compleatly formed, that there appeared nothing wanting, as to the internal parts, for making up a perfect Seafowl: every little part appearing so distinctly, that the whole looked like a large Bird seen through a concave or diminishing Glass, colour and feature being everywhere so clear and neat. The little Bill like that of a Goose, the Eyes marked, the Head, Neck, Breast, Wings, Tail, and Feet formed, the Feathers every where perfectly shap’d, and blackish coloured; and the Feet like those of other Water fowl, to my best remembrance. All being dead and dry, I did not look after the Internal parts of them. . . . . Nor did I ever see any of the little Birds alive, nor met with any body that did.
The myth of the goose that hatched from barnacle shells was difficult to let go of.  Still current near the end of the 17th century, even the more modern scientists of the time hesitated to let it go.


[1] Muller, Max.  Lectures on the Science of Language (1885). 597-8.
[2] Giraldi Cambrensïs Opera James F. Dimock, M.A., ed. (1867) “The first edition, dedicated to Henry II., which appeared early in 1188, if not before, contains far less than half of the treatise as it finally issued from his pen some thirty years, perhaps, afterwards.” xi.  Dimock indicates that the text of Chapter XV, which contains the information on the Barnacle, was complete in the first manuscripts.
[3] Ibid.  “His materials for it were collected during his stay in Ireland in parts of the years 1185 and 1186, and the work itself was partly written there, and completed directly after his return. It records what he himself saw, or was there told and believed, penned at the very time, or soon afterwards, whilst everything was still fresh in his memory.” xiii.
[4] Muller.  “I shall begin with one of the latest accounts, taken from the ‘ Philosophical Transactions,’ No. 137, January and February 1677—8. Here, in ‘A Relation concerning Barnacles, by Sr. Robert Moray, lately one of His Majesties Council for the Kingdom of Scotland,’…” 586-7.


Also at Virtual Grub Street:

  • Shakespeare’s Barnacles.  March 3, 2016.  “Prospero will wake, he fears, before they can murder him, and will cast a spell on them.”
  • The King's Esnecce.  January 13, 2019.  “It comes as no surprise, then, that when Maud’s son, Henry Plantagenet, Count or Duke of most of the western territories of France, and, by terms of the treaty, heir to Stephen, next rose to the throne as Henry II, he was quick to arrange for the safest possible means of transit across the channel.”
  • Connections: Henry II, Toulouse, 1159.  November 27, 2018.  “Once he became Chancellor, Becket never looked back.  He abandoned his duties as Archdeacon and preaching duties attached to his other positions.  He outfitted a lavish  household and lived like a secular lord.”
  • Check out the Medieval Topics Article Index for many more articles about this fascinating time.
  • Check out the English Renaissance Article Index for many more articles and reviews about this fascinating time.


 

Shakespeare’s Barnacles.

John Turnbull/Wikimedia Commons
In This Series:



In Act IV, Sc. I, of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Caliban urges the shipwrecked serving men Trinculo and Stephano to go together with him to murder the wizard Prospero.  They are more interested in teasing him with reasons for delay.  At last, Caliban cries out:

I will haue none on't: we shall loose our time,
And all be turn'd to Barnacles, or to Apes
With foreheads villanous low.
Prospero will wake, he fears, before they can murder him, and will cast a spell on them.

Like most serving men in Shakespeare, Caliban is intended to be the source of comic moments in this play.  His thoughts are colorful with fractured imaginings.  As is his name: an anagram of the word “Cannibal” (itself originally a demotic pronunciation of the South Sea native Caribs’ name for themselves).

Here he has shown some grasp of early modern phrenology vis-à-vis the almost-human ape so fascinating then to the English public.  Low foreheads, he teaches us, in passing, were already considered a sign of villainy — low behavior.  Villains, in his opinion, were little more than apes.  There’s a joke in this.  Even Caliban, on his way to murder his master, feels superior to villains and apes for their sloping foreheads.

But why “barnacles”?  Why crustaceans that cling all their adult lives to the hulls of ships?


Well, for another century or so, still, barnacles would only tangentially refer to those crustaceans.  Certain types of what we now call “Barnacles” were actually thought to be strange eggs.  They were opened by the curious to discover what appeared to be the fetuses of birds of some sort.  The body of those barnacles, with its long lacy cirri,  look much like a feathered hatchling.  Some variations even included long black almost goose-like necks.  The ends of the necks were shaped like a beak.

At least as early as the 12th century (from which we have the account of Giraldus Cambrensis [link]), the Scots and Irish connected these observations to yet another mystery.  Each winter small geese[1] appeared in the land.  No one had ever seen these geese mate or lay eggs.[2]  Curious minds wondered where were the eggs from which surely all geese emerge?

At the same time, the many trees that toppled over from age and water-saturation along the sea shore, during the warmer months during which the geese were absent, were discovered to be populated with shells that displayed living flesh quite similar to the morphology of an egg fetus within them when pried open.  There seemed clearly to be (1) eggs the birds from which were never seen and (2) geese the eggs of which were never seen.  Voilà!  The mysterious geese generations had called “barnacles”[3] were now explained.  They hatched from the shells that appeared on the fallen trees and logs along the sea shore.  The shells were barnacle eggs.

This marvel was so striking that it remained an exotic source of astonishment to mankind until the end of the 17th century even though the myth was soundly debunked by both Albertus Magnus and Roger Bacon.  Many Latin pages of the profoundest medieval learning were spent discussing the stunning “fact” of nature and its implications.  Not only that, but the original downed trees and logs were transformed in time through the magic of learned scholarship into living, standing trees, called “Barnacle Trees” or “Goose Trees”. 

How mysterious the ways of God!  Barnacles were born from heavily shelled eggs that grew on trees.

Even the early exponent of direct scientific observation, the august botanist John Gerarde, ended his famous 1597 Herball[4], centuries later, with his eye witness account of the Barnacle:

many of these shels I brought with me to London, which after I had opened, I founde in them liuing things without forme or shape; in others which were neerer come to ripenes, I found liuing things that were very naked, in shape like a Birde; in others, the Birds covered with soft downe, the shell halfe open, and the Birde readie to fall out, which no doubt were the foules called Barnakles.
…we conclude and ende our present volume, with this woonder of England. For which Gods name be euer honored and praised.
While he had not seen the hatchlings move, he had seen the actual fledged chicks nestled in the egg.  In  his eyes it was definite confirmation of the tales of the Barnacle Geese hatching from seawater shells.



[1] Dresser, H. E.  A Manual Of Palaearctic Birds. (1902). 596.  Bernacle Goose. Branta Leucopsis.  “Hind-crown, lores, nape, hind-neck, breast, and upper back deep black; rest of the head and upper throat white;… wing 15.8”.
[2] Ibid.  Even in 1902, the nesting habits and location of this diminuitive goose were uncertain.  “scarcely
anything is known respecting its nidification, but it probably breeds in Greenland.”  It is also said to breed in Iceland and Northern Sweden.  It winters in Scotland, Ireland and Northern Europe.
[3] Ibid.   Oie-bemache, French ; Weisswangcngans, German ; Brandgans, Dutch ; Bramgaas, Dan. ; Hvidkindct Gaas, Nonv. ; Hvitkindad Gas, Swed.”
Max Muller lists the common medieval names in his wonderful Lectures On The Science Of Language. (1885). II. n603-4.  English: Bernacle, Scoth goose, Tree Geese, Brant Geese. Scotch: Clakis or claiks, clak-guse, claik-gees, Barnacle. Orcades: Rodgans. Dutch: Ratgans. German: Baumgans. Danish: Ray-gaas, Radgaas. Norwegian: Raatne-gans, goul, gagl. Iceland: Helsingen. French: Bernache, Cane a collier. Nonnette, Religieuse; Macquerolle, (?) Macreuse. (?)
Latin: Bernicula, Bernacula, Bernacla, Bernicla, Bernecla, Bernecela (Fred. II. Imp., de Arte Venandi), Bernaca, Bernicha, Bernecha, Berneca, Bernichia, Branta (ab atro colore anser scoticus), Bernesta, Barneta (Gervasius Tilb.,) Barnaces (Brompton, p. 1072), Barliata (Isidorus) Barbata (Albertus Magnus). Barbata (or Bar-hates) may be misread for Barliata or Bachadae.
Cf. Ducange, s. v. Menage, s.v. Bernache. Diefenbach, Glossarium Latino- Germanicum: ‘ Galli has aves Macquerolles et Macreuses appellant, et tempore Quadragesimali ex Normannia Parisios deferunt. Sed
revera deprehensum est a Batavis, anseres hosce ova parere,’ &c. (Willoughby).
Another name is given by Scaliger. Julius Caesar Scaliger, ad Arist. de Plantis, lib. i.:—‘Anates (inquit, melius dixisset Anseres) Oceani, quas Armorici partim Crabrans, partim Bernachias vocant. Eae creantur ex putredine naufragiorum, pendentque rostro a matrice, quoad absolutae decidant in subjectas aquas, unde sibi statim victum quaerunt: visendo interea spectaculo pensiles, motitantesque tum pedes, tum alas.’
[4] Gerarde, John.  The Herball or General Historie of Plantes Gathered by John Gerarde of London Master in Chirurgurie (1597). 1392.

Also at Virtual Grub Street:

  • Hedingham Castle 1485-1562 with Virtual Tour Link.  January 29, 2019. “Mr. Sheffeld told me that afore the old Erle of Oxford tyme, that cam yn with King Henry the vii., the Castelle of Hengham was yn much ruine,…”
  • Why Shakespeare Appears on Title Pages from 1598.  November 20, 2018.  ‘These he finds unconvincing.  The author’s name having appeared in a number of title pages after 1598, he continues, “it would seem foolish for publishers not to attach the Shakespeare brand to his previously unattributed plays—unless they had other reasons not to do so.”’ 
  • The Battle Over Shakespeare's Early and Late Plays. September 24, 2018. “The answers to the post-Oxford dilemma, of course, are three.”
  • Edward de Vere Changes the Course of History: Christmas, 1580. September 17, 2018. “First Secretary to the Queen, Sir Francis Walsingham, had been pressing the Queen since at least the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre, in France, in 1573, to recognize that Catholicism was, by its nature, unalterably inimical to her person and her throne.”
  • Check out the English Renaissance Article Index for many more articles and reviews about this fascinating time and about the Shakespeare Authorship Question.
 





Monday, February 25, 2019

Review of Peck’s Leicester’s Commonwealth with Download Link.

The Copy of a Letter Written by a Master of Art of Cambridge (1584) and Related Documents, edited by D. C. PECK.
Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press: 1985.   ISBN: 978-0821408001.  [Reprinted in PDF format, 2006]  227 pp.

It is particularly important to read well researched books on matters of Oxfordian interest written by scholars unaware or unconcerned about the Authorship Question.  Alternative perspectives challenge popular conceptions that can too easily turn out, in the end, to be misconceptions.

Dwight Clark Peck’s edition of The Copy of a Letter Written by a Master of Art of Cambridge (a.k.a. Leicester’s Commonwealth) is such a study.

The present edition is a collation of nine copies of the 1584 text; Appendix A lists these nine and cites the only three variants found. In order to assist smooth reading and emphasize the book’s content rather than its typographical idiosyncrasies, I have elected to regularize the spelling in both the text and the other quoted documents, with abbreviations silently expanded.
The scholarly Introduction is separately and thoroughly annotated.  The endnotes to the text are even more extensive.  The observations throughout are thoughtful and informed.

The position, held by some, that Edward de Vere might have written Leicester’s Commonwealth, for one example of a misconception, while always questionable, is revealed to be untenable by Peck’s exceptional analysis.  Four closely reasoned pages on this other authorship question make clear the likely authors:

To summarize the much-vexed authorship problem, then, our reflections suggest that Leicester’s Commonwealth was written chiefly by Charles Arundell, probably with the as­sistance of all or some of the group comprising Lord Paget, Thomas Fitzherbert, William Tresham, Thomas Throgmorton, and possibly still others; so far this conclusion confirms the assertion of Father Parsons and the opinions of the scholars Pollen and Hicks.
No attempt is made to exclude De Vere.  He simply does not come into view when the history is impartially considered.

By the same token, the purblindness of mainstream scholars deprived of legitimate facts that they are required to ignore or deny, can be highly informative.  The “old play” that has long been understood, by mainstream scholars, to have provided the text of the Ulysses and Agamemnon portion (a.k.a. “the Camp Portion”) of Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida, proves to be an impenetrable mystery that “may never be solved”.  They are positively are not allowed to connect it to the Ulysses and Agamemnon play performed by “Oxenford’s Boys” in 1584[1].


The Earl of Leicester portrayed in Leicester’s Commonwealth is not allowed to be compared to the Achilles described by Ulysses in the opening speech of Ulysses and Agamemnon[2] though both are described in identical language.  Moreover, the old play is not allowed to be the play we find embedded in Troilus and Cressida.  The fact that the play was performed less than a year after the existence of  Leicester’s Commonwealth had been reported by Walsingham’s spies — that is to say, at a time that the scandal was the subject of every courtier’s whispered gossip — is not allowed into evidence. 

The powerful relationship between the works is either coincidence or the “old play” was written by another.  On this occasion, another who was neither Shakespeare or the Earl of Oxford and certainly not both at once.

All of this said, it is essential that an edition of the Commonwealth be absolutely rigorous.  The facts must be perfectly analysed (inasmuch as they can be known).  This is what Peck has accomplished with his edition.  It is difficult to believe that it could have been better done.  Anything that can be added can only be added because Peck created the essential foundation for further study, further debate.

All of this said, the author does have the habit of referring to the two dominant parties at Court as “Catholic” and “Protestant”.  Although this is common practice now for centuries, it is misleading in important ways. 

Leicester was not a religious man for all that he was the leader of the Puritan religious faction in England.  Their alliance was one of necessity.  The Puritans stood at the brink of being interdicted for their rejection of the Queen as the head of the church and of her bishops as her lieutenants.  Leicester made their excuses for them in the council room in exchange for intelligence on the country’s Catholic sympathizers and the utility they provided via their various offices.

His opponents at Court are more properly referred to as the “Howard-Vere faction” for all that many of them were indeed practicing Catholics.  Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, second in command, as it were, until the execution of Norfolk robbed the faction of its only natural leader, was also not at all a religious man.  If fact he was reckless at times, per reports, in his pursuit of forbidden books and his declarations, among his private friends, against many articles of faith.

Both factions existed mainly for reasons surrounding Leicester’s outsized influence with the Queen.  Of particular concern was the matter of her marriage.   Leicester wielded his forces in order to keep himself the only viable marriage partner for the Queen.  The Howard-Vere factions used theirs (far less effectively) to attempt to arrange a marriage to two successive Dukes of Anjou.  While the Dukes’ Catholic faith was not insignificant in their calculations, the overriding point was that there be no marriage to Leicester.


Howard, Arundell, and Southwell received word of their imminent arrest from an unnamed friend on the Privy Council, and the former two took refuge in the Spanish ambassador’s house in the middle of the night. Although he had never spoken with them before, Mendoza saw in his hospitality a chance to win valuable contacts;…
The last of their power was ended through trials, executions and escape into exile.  Mendoza was dismissed and transferred into France.  He and numerous French Catholics provided resources to the Howard-Vere exiles, and, soon afterwards, numerous pamphlets calling for the overthrow of Leicester and the Queen began to appear.  Among them was  Leicester’s Commonwealth.

With this, Elizabeth’s tolerance of the Catholics in her realm came to an end.  Her Secretary Walsingham — a vicious anti-Catholic — immediately rose to be her foremost councilor in the matter.  Slights real and imagined resulted in imprisonment, torture and drawing-and-quartering for English printers and publishers.  For noblemen such slights resulted in the destruction of their power and fortunes, if not execution.  The council, led by Walsingham, called repeatedly for the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots.   Censorship laws were strengthened and vigorously enforced.

Apart from his tendency to see his subject too much through the perspective of a religious conflict, Dwight Clark Peck’s work verges on perfection.

Dr. Peck’s book can be downloaded in pdf format for free.  Click on the cover page at the beginning of this review to go to the download page.



[1] Purdy, Gilbert Wesley.  Ulysses and Agamemnon (1584). “In actuality, according to the minimal records of the time, the play was performed on St. John’s Day, December 27, by “Earl of Oxenford his boys,” a name briefly given to the Boys of St. Pauls.”  Introduction, 243.
[2] Purdy. “The heavens themselves, the planets, and this centre observe degree, priority, and place, insisture, course, proportion, season, form, office, and custom, in all line of order; and therefore is the glorious planet Sol in noble eminence enthron'd and spher'd amidst the other, whose medicinable eye corrects the influence of evil planets, and posts, like the commandment of a king, sans check to good and bad. But when the planets in evil mixture to disorder wander, what plagues and what portents, what mutiny!  What raging of the sea, shaking of earth, commotion of the winds, frights, changes, horrors, divert and crack, rend and deracinate the unity and married calm of states quite from their fixure!...”  350 ff.

Also at Virtual Grub Street:

  • Shakespeare as Burleigh's Guest at Castle Hedingham?  February 4, 2019.  “Like the once popular game in which a large circle of people is formed and a message whispered in the ear of the first person, who whispers it in the ear of the next, and so on, around the entire group, we do not know what exactly was the original message but only that the message we hear from the last person is strangely suggestive.”
  • Why Shakespeare Appears on Title Pages from 1598.  November 20, 2018.  ‘These he finds unconvincing.  The author’s name having appeared in a number of title pages after 1598, he continues, “it would seem foolish for publishers not to attach the Shakespeare brand to his previously unattributed plays—unless they had other reasons not to do so.”’ 
  • The Nymphs of Doctor Foreman’s Macbeth.  October 21, 2018. “How did Foreman make the mistake of describing them precisely as Holinshed?  But differently from the text we have of Macbeth?  To consider Foreman’s account a simple mistake would require an astronomically improbable coincidence.”
  • The Battle Over Shakespeare's Early and Late Plays. September 24, 2018. “The answers to the post-Oxford dilemma, of course, are three.”
  • Check out the English Renaissance Article Index for many more articles and reviews about this fascinating time and about the Shakespeare Authorship Question.