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A King’s Banquet

Whether it be College catering, or spicy titbits from our rare books and early printed music, there is a feast of food-related material in the King’s College special collections. We table here an exhibition of serious, as well as fun, documents covering five hundred years of food at King’s. From food fights to food scarcity, the salutary effect of warm beer, or the economics of the price of corn, the special collections are sure to have something to satisfy any appetite!

the price of wheat

During the years between 1799 and 1801 widespread rioting broke out throughout England, mostly about the scarcity of food and soaring prices of bread. The cost of a loaf of bread was at an all-time high of 1 shilling and 9 pence. This was caused in part by a series of poor harvests as a result of unseasonally bad weather in England and equally poor harvests in Europe which limited imports. Sir Gilbert Blane (1749–1834) deals with the causes and remedies in his inquiry in 1800. Trained as a physician, we can perhaps be forgiven a wry (or even rye?) smile when we learn that Blane had previously been the personal physician to Admiral Sir George Rodney (1718–1792) on board HMS Sandwich!

Gilbert Blane, Inquiry into the causes and remedies of the late and present scarcity and high price of provisions (London, 1817) (Shelfmark: Keynes.A.10.16.(10.)). Title page

Blane, Inquiry into the causes and remedies of the late and present scarcity and high price of provisions. Summary

That particular volume came to King’s as part of the antiquarian book collection bequeathed by John Maynard Keynes. He was First Bursar (Financial Officer) at King’s from 1924 to 1944, and converted our land-based endowment to a stock portfolio. His predecessor bursars had to maximise the income from our land holdings, and compiled tables of the prices of wheat and malt during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

‘Prices of Malt clear of the Excise Duty with the Mean Prices’, January 1782-October 1806 (Ref: KCE/1060)

‘Prices of Wheat with the Mean Prices’, January 1782-October 1806 (Ref: KCE/1060)

The price of wheat per quarter (1/4 of a ton) ranged from just under 1 pound per quarter in the early eighteenth century, to well over 5 pounds in January 1796, and was in the 7-8 pounds per quarter range in the winter and spring of 1800-1801. The 1799–1801 scarcity came at the end of a decade of bad harvests and hard winters—the problem was not so much that the rioters were fed up, as that they were not fed up!

Charles Simeon. Etching by an unknown artist (undated) (Ref: KCAC/1/4/Simeon/2)

King’s did what it could towards poor relief. During the 1788 famine Charles Simeon (1759–1836, KC 1779) ‘organized a [University] subscription to enable bread to be sold at half-price in Cambridge and twenty-four neighbouring villages and rode round on horseback each Monday to make sure that the bakers were doing this.'[ODNB] In 1795 King’s College fellows were again occupied with poor relief. It was ‘agreed that ten guineas be given between the parishes of Grantchester Coton and Barton to be distributed at the discretion of Mr Simeon.’

Governing Body minutes, 16 January 1795 (Ref: KCGB/4/1/1/2)

We are not exempt from scarcity even in modern times. During World War II the College accommodated some of the Dunkirk evacuees, followed by an RAF transport unit, a quantity of relocated Queen Mary’s College students and faculty, and a miscellany of American and British military men in various stages of training. The acting bursar GHW ‘Dadie’ Rylands had to deal with the problems of rationing: an allowance of only half a sausage per head per week!

Part of a letter from the Acting Bursar to Sainsbury’s, about rationed meat (carbon copy), 14 November 1941 (Ref: KCAR/3/1/1/11)

Luckily for King’s we had enough space for a kitchen garden. Despite reduced staff, in 1941 the head gardener ‘produced large quantities of tomatoes, lettuces, onions, and savoys for use in Hall. ‘ In 1945 he supplied 550 pounds of tomatoes and 57 dozen lettuces.

Entry from George Salt’s college gardens journal, 1941 (Ref: GS/2/5 p 75)

Entry from George Salt’s college gardens journal, 1945 (Ref: GS/2/5 page 92)

what they ate

Go back a couple of centuries before the wheat shortage, however, and according to Robert Speed’s The Counter Scuffle (1621) there was plenty of food to waste! This publication was one of the most influential mock poems of the time and went through 19 editions by the end of the seventeenth century. It tells the story of a food fight which broke out during a Lent dinner in the Wood Street Counter, a debtors’ prison. At the end of the fight, the prison keeper is found hiding under a table with his clothes and codpiece stuffed with food!

Robert Speed, The Counter Scuffle (London, 1648). (Shelfmark: Thackeray.J.65.48). Title page

Speed, The Counter Scuffle. Part of the description of the food

Speed, The Counter Scuffle. Part of the description of the fight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The foodstuffs being thrown around the prison dining hall are the same as King’s fellows and scholars were eating about 40 years earlier. The College’s dining accounts for 16-19 October 1579 list various types of fish (ling, plaice, tench, and pickerel–but no eels or herring), mutton and loin of veal, and the ‘flesh’ included beef, rabbits, pigeons, and chickens. The College also purchased milk, butter, eggs, pepper, sugar, currants, dates, cinnamon, cloves and mace during those days. Other pages in the accounts record the purchase of mustard. (See The Potticaries Bill blog and an article about early dining practices at King’s for more details).

College dining accounts for 16–19 October 1579 (Ref: KCAR/4/1/6/19 opening 276)

One would never catch Oxbridge dons engaging in such puerile behaviour as displayed in The Counter Scuffle, however. Why play or fight with your food when you can be academic about it? It is hard to imagine that the humble sausage would inspire a volume of poetry, but that is exactly what happened when Thomas Warton (1728–1790), sometime Poet Laureate and friend of Dr Johnson, put together his volume of poetry The Oxford Sausage in 1764 whilst he was Professor of Poetry at the University of Oxford. Here we have his new edition ‘adorned with cuts, engraved in a new taste, and designed by the best masters.’ The volume’s engraved frontispiece depicts Mrs Dorothy Spreadbury, the inventress of the Oxford sausage. There is apparently some doubt about the authenticity of this claim, but who would be so bold as to challenge such a formidable-looking lady!

The Oxford sausage: or, Select poetical pieces, written by the most celebrated wits of the University of Oxford (Oxford, 1777) (Shelfmark: Chawner.A.5.105). Title page.

The Oxford sausage. Frontispiece showing Mrs Dorothy Spreadbury.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over 50 years later in 1823 Cambridge decided it needed to acknowledge Oxford’s Sausage: ‘Oxford has its sausage, and why not Cambridge its tart?’ reads the preface to The Cambridge Tart, a volume of ‘epigrammatic and satiric-poetical effusions dainty morsels, served up by Cantabs, on various occasions’ put together by Richard Gooch (1791–1849) in 1823 under the pseudonym ‘Socius’. The engraved frontispiece depicts a baked tart, framed by laurel wreaths, a lyre and a mortarboard!

The Cambridge tart: epigrammatic and satiric-poetical effusions; &c. &c. Dainty morsels, served up by Cantabs, on various occasions. Dedicated to the members of the University of Cambridge / By Socius (London, 1823) (Shelfmark: P.25.13). Title page

The Cambridge tart. Opening

The Cambridge tart. Opening

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

what they drank

Of course with your sausage you need something to drink, perhaps a nice chilled beer on a summer’s day? Even better, a nice warm beer, perhaps, as the writer of this little treatise explains to us the ‘many reasons that beere so qualified is farre more wholsome than that which is drunke cold’. It is a most serious subject indeed, with chapters that explain ‘that actuall hot drink doth quench the thirst as well as cold drink, or better’ and ‘the hurt that ariseth from the use of actuall cold drink’ and ‘the benefit that ariseth from the use of actuall hot drink’.

Warme beere, or, A treatise wherein is declared by many reasons that beere so qualified is farre more wholsome then that which is drunke cold (Cambridge, 1641) (Shelfmark: Thackeray.J.66.45). Title page

King’s had its own brewer, and brewery, for several hundred years. They brewed six barrels of ale at a time, and two of small beer.

College brewing numbers (undated) (Ref: KCAR/3/1/3/4 – memo on brewing)

John Pontifex (self-styled Coppersmith, Back-Maker, Brewer’s Millwright and Brewer’s Architect) sold us a six barrel brewer in 1829. It took three pages to describe it completely and it cost a shilling short of 213 pounds.

Part of an invoice for the brewing equipment purchased by King’s College from John Pontifex, 1829 (Ref: KCA/723)

 

Plan of the brewhouse of King’s College, by Richard Woods (undated) (Ref: KCD/365)

There was a fire in the brewhouse in 1871, and in 1881 the College voted to stop brewing its own beer. Two years later the brewhouse was converted to kitchen offices.

On the subject of brewing—hot drinks this time—we turn now to tea, coffee and chocolate. All were relatively new arrivals in Europe in the seventeenth century when Philippe Sylvestre Dufour (1622–1687) published his treatise De l’usage du caphé, du thé, et du chocolat. Here we have the latin translation of that work which appeared in Paris in 1685. It includes a separate treatise on each of the three drinks, under the title Tractatus novi de potu caphé; de Chinesium thé; et de chocolata. Each treatise includes a splendid engraved frontispiece depicting the origins of each drink. It is thought to be the first work in any language to describe all these new beverages in Europe.

Philippe Sylvestre Dufour, Tractatus novi de potu caphé; de Chinesium thé; et de chocolate (Paris, 1685) (Shelfmark: Thackeray.J.47.33). Title page

Dufour, Tractatus novi de potu caphé; de Chinesium thé; et de chocolate. Frontispiece

 

Dufour, Tractatus novi de potu caphé; de Chinesium thé; et de chocolate. Frontispiece to the chocolate treatise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dufour, Tractatus novi de potu caphé; de Chinesium thé; et de chocolate. Frontispiece to the tea treatise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DRINKING SONGS

Would the King’s Dining Hall have ever resounded with drinking songs? Probably not, because the Founder’s statutes dictated that conversation in the Hall be conducted in Latin ‘unless a reasonable cause requires otherwise’, and always in a ‘modest and courtly’ fashion. Theological tracts were to be read at dinner, in good monastic style.

But such strictures don’t govern the College’s Rowe Music Library which has more than its fair share of music related to food and drink. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, one of the most common forms of popular song was the catch, a type of round. So-called catch and glee clubs sprang up in towns and cities, populated by men who liked to combine singing with feasting. While many catches of this period were bawdy in nature, at least as common was the subject of food and drink, with Henry Purcell, the greatest English composer of his generation, contributing to the repertoire such gems as ‘I gave her cakes and I gave her ale’, ‘He that drinks is immortal’ and ‘Wine in a morning makes us frolic and gay’. This catch in praise of punch is by Thomas Tudway (c. 1650–1726), organist of King’s College from 1670 until his death. The ‘S’ mark on the second stave shows the point at which the second voice should enter.

Thomas Tudway, ‘A Catch upon a Liquor call’d Punch’, in The Second Book of the Catch Club or Merry Companions (London, c. 1731) (Shelfmark: Rw.112.77)

The song sheet was ubiquitous in the early eighteenth century, with prints of love songs and operatic arias both available in abundance. This perhaps understandably anonymous song, ‘The Double Entendre’, appears at first sight to be about a maiden drinking a glass of wine, but each verse leaves open the possibility of a double meaning at the end of its third line, before things are resolved (after a pause and a playful ‘tal-lal-lal-lal’) with propriety. This song contains an optional flute part doubling the melody printed at the bottom, a practice common at the time.

‘The Double Entendre’ (London, c. 1730) (Shelfmark: Rw.110.25/71)

good taste

When it comes to sharing food with others one should properly consider etiquette. John Tresidder Sheppard (1881–1968, KC 1900, Provost 1933–54) was elected to the debating society known as The Cambridge Apostles in 1902. In 1903 he presented a paper styled ‘May we eat cheese with a knife?’ in which he considered, among other things, the question of bad manners. He opined that vulgarity of manners is due to the shock that others experience when witnessing, for example, ‘the knife-tip in the mouth’ rather than that the person committing the offense, or the offense itself, is somehow inherently vulgar.

Paper read by JT Sheppard to the Apostles, 6 June 1903 (Ref: JTS/1/3/2). Page 1

Paper read by JT Sheppard to the Apostles (Ref: JTS/1/3/2). Pages 5-6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Apostles gave their customary impenetrable vote on his question:

Apostles’ vote on Sheppard’s paper, 6 June 1903 (Ref: KCAS/39/1/14)

how they made it

Another Kingsman, Osbert Burdett (1885–1936, KC 1903) also took the subject of cheese rather seriously. He wrote books about Blake and Gladstone (among others) as well as his rather humorous book A Little Book of Cheese which surveys English and foreign cheeses, shares some recipes and also incorporates tantalising titbits about the monstrous nature of smoking whilst enjoying cheese, all the while presenting us with curious facts such as which cheese was Thomas Hardy’s favourite!

Osbert Burdett, A Little Book of Cheese (London: Howe, 1935) (Shelfmark: UXL PSU Bur). Title page

Osbert Burdett, A Little Book of Cheese. Introduction

Osbert Burdett, A Little Book of Cheese. Page 87

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, cheese is all very good, but what if you have a sweet tooth? In this charming little book, the Banbury cake—one of the more erudite cakes that we have—tells its own story! Banbury cakes have been made in Banbury in Oxfordshire since the sixteenth century. During the eighteenth century the recipe had become more similar to Eccles cakes, but had originally enjoyed a filling of currants, mixed peel, brown sugar, rum and nutmeg encased in an oval of pastry. Appropriate for afternoon tea, and often stocked in railway stations as well as being sent as far afield as Australia and America, Banbury cakes were also presented to Queen Victoria on her way to Balmoral each August.

The History of a Banbury Cake: an entertaining book for children (Banbury, 1830s) (Shelfmark: Rylands.C.Banb). Title page

The History of a Banbury Cake. Preface and Opening

Staying with children’s literature, here we have the first edition of Beatrix Potter’s story The Pie and the Patty-Pan, which tells the story of a cat called Ribby who invites a dog named Duchess for afternoon tea, for whom Ribby bakes a mouse pie. The book remained one of Potter’s favourites, and the illustrations are considered to be some of her most beautiful.

Beatrix Potter, The Pie and the Patty-Pan (London, 1905) (Shelfmark: Rylands.C.Pot.Pie.1905.a). Title page

Potter, The Pie and the Patty-Pan. Ribby baking the pie made of mouse.

Potter, The Pie and the Patty-Pan. Description of the pie made of mouse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OK, that’s quite enough frivolity: time to get serious. Only the most ardent researcher of food history would attempt this enormous tome (852 pages) all about the techniques and history of canning food! That being said, it includes fascinating morsels about one of the most important men in the history of preserving food from whose research we have all benefited. Nicolas Appert (1749–1841), known as ‘the father of canning’, devised his new method for conserving foods by experimenting with placing them in air-tight glass jars that were then subject to heat. He published his results in 1810 in Paris as L’Art de conserver, pendant plusieurs années, toutes les substances animales et végétales. We’re sure many a feast has been had throughout the country after the shops have closed by raiding the back of the larder for tins of preserved food!

AW Bitting, Appertizing; or, The art of Canning; Its History and Development by A.W. Bitting (San Fransisco, 1937) (Shelfmark: CXM T Bit). Title page

Nicolas Appert (1749–1841)

Facsimile title page of Nicolas Appert’s treatise L’Art de Conserver (Paris, 1810)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One cannot have a discussion about food without mentioning Apicius. Also known as De re culinaria or De re coquinaria (On the Subject of Cooking), Apicius is a collection of Roman recipes, thought to have been compiled in the first century AD. It has been attributed to various historical figures named Apicius, including the gourmet Marcus Gavius Apicius, although the connection is impossible to prove. The first printed edition appeared in Milan in 1498. Our edition, of which only 100 copies were printed, dates from 1709 and includes a commentary by Martin Lister (1639–1712), the English physician and naturalist, who related the material in the original work to medicine and healing.

Apicii Coelii De opsoniis et condimentis: sive arte coquinaria, libri decem. cum annotationibus Martini Lister (Amsterdam, 1709) (Shelfmark: M.37.52). Title page

Apicii Coelii De opsoniis et condimentis. Engraved frontispiece

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting down to the nitty gritty of making food at King’s, bear in mind that the cooks were preparing food for around 100 fellows, scholars, choristers, lay clerks, chaplains and servants. Judging by the inventories, they seem to have had to do so in a kitchen less well-equipped than most modern British households. The kitchen inventory for 1598 (updated in 1605) notes 8 pots and pans with only 2 lids (for oven cooking), with the various necessary ironwork and tripods for suspending them over the fire (admittedly not part of most modern kitchens), a single set of bellows and tongs (the coal rake went missing sometime between 1598 and 1605), 4 skillets, 2 grills and an iron peele (for putting things into the oven and retrieving them again). There were only 2 ladles and 2 cooking spoons listed, 2 knives and a cleaver, a single colander and a grater. There was a mortar and pestle and also a querne for grinding the mustard. The food had to fit on 3 meat serving plates and 14 pie plates but there were dozens of other dishes and platters. Storage consisted of two large lead cisterns (presumably for water), a box (presumably wooden) for oatmeal and various probably wooden pails and tubs. What did they want with a wheelbarrow?

The King’s College kitchen inventory for 1598 and 1605 (Ref: KCAR/4/1/5/5, opening 19)

The brewhouse inventory in that same volume lists mash vats, wort vats, coolers, tuns, a fire fork and coal rake, pails, copper kettles and funnels, a pair of scales, 2 bushel baskets and a French fan, a hops basket and a horsemill. The bakery was equipped with, among other things, 2 stonking lead weights of 100 pounds each, and 2 smaller weights of 24 pounds each. 

Where they got it

Who supplied our brewer and baker? An early College experiment with self-sufficiency in the form of a home farm in Grantchester had proven non-viable and certainly by 1570 the College got much of its wheat and malt as rent from our properties (endowed at the College’s foundation or acquired later), or bought it in the Cambridge markets and fairs. The cost depended upon whether it was delivered to College or not, and whether the barley was malted or not (we had a malt house) but it was definitely ground in the College’s mill house by the College’s mill horse. For example, one Grantchester tenant had to provide from his holding an annual rent of 40 shillings in addition to ‘halfe a quarter of good and marchandizable wheate sweete cleane and well dressed and three quarters & a halfe of good & marchandizable malt of Barley well dried and cleene, eight to be allowed by the [College] bruer to be delivered yearley’ to the College during Michaelmas term.

Part of a lease between King’s College and Otewell Hill for land in Grantchester, 2 October 1585 (Ref: KCAR/3/3/1/1/2, page 373)

For meat and fruit, by the late sixteenth century the College had an orchard, a swan house and a pigeon house. Beef, like malt and wheat, was sometimes part of the rent due to us. For example the tenant at Prescot in Lancashire had to deliver ’12 fatt oxen, of a lardge bone, soe that the Bulke or Fower quarters of every of the said Twelve Oxen, killed [and with the organs removed], shall weigh ffortie Stone at the least … or else … Twentie pounds of good & Lawfull money of England, in lieu & full recompense’.

Part of a lease between King’s College and Charles Lord Strang (son and heir apparent to the Earl of Derby), 15 May 1649. (Ref: KCAR/3/3/1/1/5 fo 76v)

Large quantities of mutton and beef were also purchased: in the 1579–80 financial year for example, 1,757 stone of beef was bought (equivalent to over 10,000 kg) as well as about 750 sheep. 800 cod, 15 lings and two barrels of preserved herring were bought, and expenses for veal, milk, rabbits, pork, chickens and eggs all appear at feast times in the dining accounts, so apparently the College had no fish ponds, dairy herds, coney warrens, pigsties and/or hen houses. At least in 1533 we had bees, because we repaid the Vice-Provost 2 shillings 8 pence for bee skeps (skepes pro apibus) and clay vessels (vasilibus luteis).

Beekeeping expenses in the annual accounts for late summer 1533 (Ref: KCAR/4/1/1/10, exp. nec.)

Vegetables possibly came from a kitchen garden. Certainly there was a kitchen garden by 1899, and at some point pigs had been introduced: ‘The produce of our 2 kitchen gardens (about 7 acres) and orchard (about 1 acre – very poor) … includes early + late vinery, tomato + cucumber houses, greenhouses + forcing pits … all the plant houses have been rebuilt one by one since I took then over in 1893 and the orchard has been largely replanted. Pigs were formerly a great feature but I have abolished them … I recommend tomatos strongly – not cucumbers … Grape growing cannot be done cheaply on a small scale … The great use of the garden is to supply vegetables quite fresh and in variety. For instance except in full summer quite fresh salads are scarcely to be bought, and even then there is little but cos lettuce.’

Pages from a letter to the Bursar from the Head Gardener (25 May 1899) (Ref: KCD/26 pages 1, 4, 5, 6)

That’s the final course of our offerings at this sitting.

Bon appétit!

an invitation

The special collections are open to visitors by appointment. For further information email library@kings.cam.ac.uk or archivist@kings.cam.ac.uk.

Further Reading

Purchases of food are listed in the Commons Books (described here) and the Mundum Books (described here).

Copies of leases are found in the Ledger Books (described here).

For a discussion of the price of wheat around 1900, see Minchinton, W. E. “Agricultural Returns and the Government during the Napoleonic Wars.” The Agricultural History Review, vol. 1, no. 1, 1953, pp. 29–43.

This exhibition is part of the 2021 Open Cambridge Festival on the 2021 Heritage Open Day theme of ‘Edible England’. Details of all the other events can be found at https://www.opencambridge.cam.ac.uk/events

 

GB/JC/PKM

In tempore pestis

Plague in 1532-3

Charles Creighton’s A History of Epidemics in England has a chapter on plague in the Tudor period. There was scarcely a year without an outbreak between 1511 and 1538. King Henry VIII’s restless travelling between royal houses was driven by his fear of plague and the English Sweat. The universities went in fear too. Local outbreaks in Cambridge in 1532 and Oxford in 1533 hit the universities hard.

According to the Annals of Cambridge, in 1532 the Fellows, Scholars, and Bachelors of St John’s College were absent ‘in Easter term, during which, for fear of the plague, they had dwelt in the country’. And some time during the 1532-3 financial year (financial years began, as did academic years, at Michaelmas on September 29), the town of Cambridge paid 5 shillings to ‘John Blonnfeld yoman of the Kyngs garde cummyng in massage to enquir whether that the plage reynyid in Cambrigge or no’. The answer was not recorded, but the King’s College accounts suggest that it did.

Two entries in the accounts record payments for people to go out and retrieve choristers, or at least young boys. Bowers (p 266) says in 1542 another boy similarly had to be retrieved, so this was not unheard of, nor necessarily entirely attributable to the plague. The first payment was ‘extra duty’ pay to a Chapel clerk called Malard:

Extract from ‘Feoda et Regarda’ for 1532-3 [KCAR/4/1/1/10]

Item solutum vjo die novembris malard clerico exeuns pro choristis  ij s

Also, paid on 6 November to Malard, clerk, going out for choristers   2 s

Whether Malard was recovering boys trying to escape home away from the plague, or having to recruit new choristers, is not clear.

It is interesting to speculate about the relationship of this Malard to a Mallard, not a member of the College, who was one of three supplementary payees for the 22 March exequies (for more on the exequies, see below).

Payments for exequies, for 22 March 1532-3 [KCAR/4/1/1/10]

This is the other occasion where a young boy had to be retrieved:

Extract from ‘Custus Equitantum’ for 1532-3 [KCAR/4/1/1/10]

Item solutum pro expencis hanckocson equitandi ad ware ultimo die Augusti pro puero faciente fugam        xx d

Also, paid for expenses for Hanckocson riding to Ware on the last day of August for the boy who fled          20 d

A news story published by Gonville and Caius College this past April notes that they locked their College gates in times of plague. We may  not have been quite so rigid in 1532, as the accounts note a payment to someone who brought the money from one of our Lincolnshire estates but – rather than being prohibited from entering, he chose not to enter College ‘for fear of the plague’.

Extract from ‘Expense Necessarie’ for 1532-3 [KCAR/4/1/1/10]

Item solutum xxvio die octobris pro expensis factis super R Robardes adducentem pecunias a Wylloughtun ad collegium & non audentem intrare ob metum pestis.  vj d

Also, paid on 26 October for expenses for R Robardes bringing money from Willoughton to college and not daring to come in for fear of the plague.  6 d

Another curious thing is that two horses were brought back from Norfolk, during the plague. There are plenty of entries for College horses being treated in this year – one, ‘vocati hyrishoby’ (‘called the Irish Hobby’ – the breed is now extinct), stayed at Babraham to recover for 3 days around 15 October – but there is no reason given for horses being at Norfolk, or whose need it was to bring them back during the plague, as noted in the extract below.

Extract from ‘Custus Stabuli’ for 1532-3 [KCAR/4/1/1/10]

Item solutum xxijo die octobris W. Rawlyns pro pabulo equino ij equorum redeuntis a norfolcia in tempore pestis per ij noctes                          xx d

Also, paid on 20 October to W. Rawlins for horse fodder for bringing back 2 horses from Norfolk during the plague, for 2 nights          20 d

Commons reimbursements

The news story cited above notes that in times of plague the members of Gonville and Caius took to the country, ‘without loss of stipend of other privileges’. This seems also to have been the case at King’s in 1532-3. The commons expenses record these reimbursements, and they are only recorded from September to December 1532 and April to June 1533, suggesting that the plague raged in Cambridge during Michaelmas term, improved with the dispersal of people from the urban area, and then got worse again when they returned, a situation with which we today are all too familiar.

Extract from commons expenses for Michaelmas 1532 [KCAR/4/1/1/10]

The above is from the commons expenses for Michaelmas 1532. It says:

In primis solui pro communis xxiijor sociorum & scholarium absentium ob metum pestis a vigilia Michaelis usque in 3m diem decembris videlicet per ix septimanas & dimidium ut patet per billam M Turges xj li viij s & pro communis ix sociorum absentium eodem tempore per viij septimanas [& dimidium] cuilibet xij d per septimanam iij li xvj s vj d Item pro communis iiijor sociorum absentium consimiliter per vij septimanas & dimidium 30 s Item pro communis ij sociorum et unius scholarium absentium eodem tempore per iiijor septimanas & dimidium xiij s vi d Et pro communis quinque sociorum absentium eodem tempore per quinque septimanas et dimidium xxvij s vj d Item pro communis iij sociorum et unius scholarium absentium eodem tempore per vj septimanas et dimidium xxvj s Et pro communis unius socii absentis consimiliter per iij septimanas et dimidium iij s vj d Et pro communis vij sociorum et iiijor scholarium absentium eodem tempore per unam septimanam et dimidium xvj s vj d  [Total:] xxj li ij s vj d

Which, translated, begins

First I paid out for commons for 24 Fellows and Scholars absent for fear of plague from the vigil of Michaelmas to 3 December, that is for 9 ½ weeks, as appears in the bill of M Turges [a bursar] £11 8s, and for commons for 9 Fellows absent at the time for 8 [½] weeks at 12d per week £3 16s 6d…

A similar list of reimbursements is recorded for 19 April to 18 June.

If we presume nobody is counted twice in any one term, that’s a total of 61 Fellows and Scholars who eventually evacuated for all or part of the 9 ½ weeks from 28 September to 3 December 1532, and 51 who evacuated from 19 April to 18 June, out of a possible maximum of 70. Most, if not all, were back in time to say the December exequies, or specified prayers (see below).

The chaplains, clerks and choristers were entitled to commons allowance under the statutes, but the accounts record no payments to these members, so either they did not evacuate or they were not reimbursed for it.

The saddest thing about the 1532-3 plague is that 3 choristers died. Roger Bowers lucidly explored the plague’s effects on the choir in his chapter in the Chapel 500th anniversary book, so we need only reproduce here the entries showing that two women were hired to bleach and oversee the choristers’ bedding during the plague, and then we paid for shrouds to bury 3 choristers:

Item solutum ijbus mulierculis per manus W. Byrlyngam pro lotione et supervisione supellectilium chorustarum in tempore pestis    iiij s j d

Item solutum pro iijbus lintheaminibus ad sepiliendum iij chorustas    iij s

Also, paid 2 women by the hand of W. Burlingham, for bleaching and overseeing the choristers’ bedding in the time of plague 4 s 1 d

Also, paid for 3 shrouds for burying 3 choristers 3 s

Extract from ‘Exhibitio Chorustarum’ for 1532-3 [KCAR/4/1/1/10]

The College at that time consisted of up to 70 Fellows and Scholars plus the Provost, 10 chaplains, 6 clerks (men in holy orders), 16 choristers and 16 servants. It’s not clear just how many of the adults in College died; perhaps their families took them home to bury. What is likely, from the head counts compiled c. 1900 (cat. no. KCHR/3/1/13/2), is that in 1532-3 there was about 30% turnover amongst the Fellows and Scholars, 40% among the chaplains and clerks (who seem to have been readily replaced), and possibly 100% amongst the choristers.

Exequies

The accounts record payments to members for saying exequies, or prayers (it is probably more accurate to think of them as memorial services, possibly including music) for Henry VI and his parents as required by statute on nine specified dates. It appears that, during the plague, all of the required exequies were in fact observed. Low numbers at this time might reflect deaths, but might also reflect people who chose to stay away, shirk their duties and forgo their payments and commons reimbursement.

Exequy dates # Fellows & Scholars participating
(full complement: 70)
# Chaplains & Clerks participating
(full complement: 16)
# Choristers participating
(full complement: 16)
17 and 19 December, 3 January 57-61 14-15 10-12
22 March 59 13 2
21 May 31 14 0
20 June 47 14 5
15 and 31 August, 23 September 50-61 13-14 13-15
Table: Numbers of participants celebrating exequies during 1532-3

More questions than answers

The 1532-3 accounts raise various tantalising questions. For example, is it remarkable that so many workmen came from as far away as Royston, Bassingbourn and Luton to work on the new Choristers’ room and other repairs? Is it remarkable that the audit was held at Grantchester instead of in the College in 1532-3? Were there more widows being paid that year for wheat and horse food, than usual? Was it remarkable that we were buying wheat – weren’t our tenants supposed to supply it? Was it a hard winter – did we pay more for fuel, or buy more than usual (pro-rataed considering the evacuation)? Some of these might be answered with research in the existing accounts documents. Unfortunately, if not surprisingly, there is a gap of nearly 10 years in the accounts books around 1532 which complicates any such research.

Acknowledgements

Many thanks are extended to Michael Good for suggesting the blog, and for solving the ‘hyrishoby’ puzzle.

Bibliography

Bowers, Roger. ‘Chapel and Choir, Liturgy and Music, 1444-1644’ in King’s College Chapel 1515-2015: Art, Music and Religion in Cambridge; JM Massing and N Zeeman, eds (London: Harvey Miller Publishers, 2014) pp 258-283.

Cooper, Charles Henry. Annals of Cambridge, Vol. 1 (Cambridge: Warwick & Co, 1842) pp 346, 353-4.

Creighton, Charles. A History of Epidemics in Britain, Vol. 1 (Cambridge: CUP, 1891; https://www.gutenberg.org/files/42686/42686-h/42686-h.htm  accessed 19 October 2020) pp 293-7 and index for ‘London, plagues in’.

PKM

PMJ

 

Demonology!

On this, the spookiest day of the year, we thought we’d share some images and text from books which tackle the subject of demons, devils, spirits and witches; all creatures regarded as a serious threat to body and soul in times past.

Our first tome is The hierarchie of the blessed angels, a long didactic poem by  the playwright Thomas Heywood (ca. 1570-1641) which also features Lucifer and his fallen angels, and includes many folkloric anecdotes and tales of demonic creatures engaged in spreading dread and devilment. Note the tumbling angels falling towards a demonic mouth on the right hand side of the title page below.

Keynes.C.10.01 title page

The hierarchie of the blessed angels. Their names,orders and offices. The fall of Lucifer with his angels by Thomas Heywood: London, 1635. Keynes.C.10.01

One illustration within the volume depicts the Archangel Michael standing victorious over the defeated Satan and his minions:

The Archangel Michael
Page 494 of Keynes.C.10.01

A detail from another appears to show a court of horned demons in hell:

Demons in hell. A detail from Keynes.C.10.01 page 406

Elsewhere, men of God try to ward off the forces of evil:

Detail from page 462 of Keynes.C.10.01

The poem has many evocative descriptions of various creatures up to the kind of  mischief and mayhem you might associate with Halloween:

Pugs and hob-goblins disturbing people’s sleep with their revels. Extract from page 574 of Keynes.C.10.01

Spooky inhabitants of church yards. Extract from page 505 of Keynes.C.10.01

Another passage vividly describes the marks by which evil creatures may be identified, including hooked noses and flaming eyes:

Extract from page 581 of Keynes.C.10.01

One of the anecdotes later in the text tells of a German illusionist who performed an aerial display with a woman and child in tow, only to end his life being burned at the stake as a witch:

Extract from page 613 of Keynes.C.10.01

Other works on demonology held in the Library include a late 16th-century Latin tome by a German theologian, Peter Thyraeus (1546-1601) and an 18th-century pamphlet by theologian William Whiston (1667-1752):

Title page of Daemoniaci, hoc est: De obsessis a spiritibvs daemoniorvm hominibvs by Peter Thyraeus, Cologne, 1598. D.8.5/1

Title page of An account of the daemoniacks, and of the power of casting out demons … by William Whiston: London, 1737. Keynes.F.10.14/8

The latter work describes the manner in which demons were cast out in the early years of Christianity:

Extract from page 56 of Keynes.F.10.14/8

Whatever you are doing this Halloween, stay safe out there, and watch out for things that go bump in the night!

AC

LGBT History Month in King’s Library

King’s Library and Archives were pleased to join the rest of the College in marking the start of LGBT history month by putting on an exhibition in the Library featuring items written by and relating to prominent LGBT King’s figures, including the novelist E.M. Forster and codebreaker Alan Turing, along with a display of borrowable LGBT-themed books. We are delighted to be able to share the exhibition here.

One of the earliest books about sexual practices to cover the subject of homosexuality, albeit in a negative way, was Psychopathia sexualis (1886), written by the Austro-German psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing (1840–1902). Here we see an English translation, by Kingsman Arthur Vivian Burbury (1896–1959).

Richard von Krafft-Ebing, Aberrations of sexual life (London, 1951) (Shelfmark: Store K Burb)

It was nearly thirty years later, in 1913, that novelist and Kingsman E.M. Forster (1879–1970) began his novel Maurice, which was ‘dedicated to a happier year’. He shared drafts with close friends and revised it throughout his life, taking their suggestions into account. It was published in 1971, shortly after he died. The 1987 Merchant Ivory adaptation of Maurice was partially filmed on location at King’s, and a number of Porters and Fellows appeared as extras in an early dining scene.

E.M. Forster, Carbon typescript of the 1932 version of Maurice. Penultimate page. (Reference: EMF/1/5/4)

E.M. Forster, Carbon typescript of the 1932 version of Maurice. Final page (Reference: EMF/1/5/4)

E.M. Forster, Carbon typescript of the 1932 version of Maurice. Opening (Reference: EMF/1/5/4)

Among E.M. Forster’s collection of books held in King’s College Library there is a copy of the first edition of Virginia Woolf’s fictional biography Orlando, given to him by the author herself. At the midpoint of the book the male Orlando goes to bed for several days and on awaking finds himself changed into a woman, remaining so for the rest of the book. Woolf dedicated Orlando to her great friend and lover Vita Sackville-West (1892–1962), who was the inspiration for the central character.

Virginia Woolf, Orlando: a biography (London, 1928) (Shelfmark: Forster.WOO.Orl.1928)

Some two decades later the now famous ‘Kinsey scale’ was created in order to demonstrate that sexuality does not fit into two discrete categories of homosexual and heterosexual. Instead, Alfred Kinsey (1894–1956) believed that sexuality was fluid and subject to change over time. The scale first appeared in his very influential work Sexual behaviour in the human male in 1948.

Alfred C. Kinsey [et al.], Sexual behaviour in the human male (Philadelphia, 1949) and Sexual behaviour in the human female (Philadelphia, 1953) (Shelfmarks: IKS Kin/1 and IKS Kin/2)

Famous WW2 codebreaker and Kingsman Alan Turing (1912–1954) sent this poignant letter to his friend Norman Routledge (1928-2013), also a Kingsman, shortly before his trial for gross indecency in 1952. To avoid prison Turing had to agree to hormonal treatment that amounted to chemical castration.

Letter from Alan Turing to Norman Routledge, February 1952 (Reference: AMT/D/14a)

                        Turing believes machines think
                        Turing lies with men
                        Therefore machines do not think
                                    Yours in distress

                                                                     Alan

This is E.M. Forster’s copy of a 1954 report by the Church of England issued for private circulation which advocated the legalisation of homosexual acts in private and the creation of a government commission on the subject. This appeared just two years after Turing’s tragically early death.

The problem of homosexuality: an interim report (London, 1954) (Shelfmark: Forster.CHU.Pro.1954)

In the same year Peter Wildeblood (1923–1999) was sent to prison for homosexuality along with Lord Montagu of Beaulieu and Michael Pitt-Rivers. He wrote an account of the infamous and high-profile trial and his time in prison which was published in 1955. He later gave evidence to the Wolfenden Committee. This is E.M. Forster’s copy of the book, showing Wildeblood’s description of what happened to him immediately after sentencing at the Winchester Assize Court.

Peter Wildeblood, Against the law (London, 1955) (Shelfmark: Forster.WILD.Aga.1955)

The ‘Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution’, chaired by John Wolfenden (1906–1985), first met in September 1954. Its report, published in 1957, recommended that homosexuality should be legalised, but it was not until 1967 that this became law. This is E.M. Forster’s copy.

Parliamentary debates (Hansard), House of Commons, official report, 596/22 (26 November 1958) (Shelfmark: Forster.PAR.1958)

In addition to our exhibition of rare materials we also displayed a sample of modern books from the holdings of King’s Library which can be borrowed by members of College.

On the day of the exhibition launch, King’s College, along with many other Cambridge Colleges, the University Library and the Guildhall, flew the rainbow flag which has been the symbol of LGBT pride for some four decades.

The rainbow flag being flown from the Gibbs building in King’s College.

JC

Rupert Brooke papers online

ScreenshotNot only does today mark the anniversary of Rupert Brooke’s death, it also marks the launch of a new online resource which offers unprecedented access to his archives.

Exactly three years ago, on the centenary of Brooke’s death, King’s College acquired the Schroder Collection. This had been the largest private collection of Rupert Brooke papers, so by adding them to our already extensive collection of his papers, we provided scholars who were able to visit our reading room with access to papers which might only have been seen by Brooke’s biographers before.

The Schroder Collection had cost £500,000 and the purchase was only possible because of generous grants from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Friends of the National Libraries, along with other private donations.

In 2017 King’s College received a further grant from the Friends of the National Libraries, enabling us to digitise approximately half of the Schroder papers. Archivists selected the letters between Rupert Brooke, Edward (‘Eddie’) Marsh and William Denis Browne as a large body of papers that offered in-depth insight into the friendships, from all three sides because they each wrote to each other about the third party. It is rare in archives to have both sides of a correspondence, let alone all three sides of a triangle of correspondents.

If you are reading this blog, it is likely that you will have heard of Rupert Brooke, one of the College’s most famous and possibly even controversial alumni. He is best known as the poet who wrote ‘The Old Vicarage, Grantchester’ and ‘The Soldier’ (these can be read on the Rupert Brooke Society’s website), but perceptions of him are constantly evolving. At the time of his death, there was a ‘myth’ surrounding him, with an obituary by Winston Churchill in The Times, a controversial  Memoir by Edward Marsh and  Brooke being called a ‘young Apollo’ (Frances Cornford) and ‘the most handsome man in England’ (W.B. Yeats). Later biographies have focussed on Brooke’s complicated relationships. The jury is still out, so to speak, and these papers may help fuel that debate, allowing people to form their own opinions.

While Brooke is relatively well known, Marsh and Denis Browne have not received the same attention. It is hoped that this new online resource will change that.

Denis Browne had attended Rugby School, in the year below Brooke, then followed him to Cambridge, although Denis Browne matriculated at Clare College. Both were involved in dramatic productions at Cambridge and during World War 1 both joined the Hood Battalion. Denis Browne was among those who buried Brooke on the Greek island of Skyros. He gave an account of Brooke’s death and burial in a letter to Marsh.  In another letter, Denis Browne pre-empted his own tragic death. On 4 June 1915, Denis Browne died at Gallipoli and his body was never found.

On 11th March 1913, Brooke introduced Denis Browne to Marsh at a dinner after Pétrouchka at Covent Garden. Marsh and Denis Browne quickly became close friends.

Marsh was Private Secretary for Churchill, as well as publisher of the Georgian Poetry anthologies (with Brooke) and a patron of the arts. After Brooke’s death, Marsh acted as his literary executor until 1934.

The new online resource can be seen on the Cambridge University Digital Library.

The Archivists would like to thank the volunteers Mandy Marvin, Harriet Alder, Maddie McDonagh, and Thelma May for their assistance in the creation of metadata for this project. They were the first to respond to our original project announcement and call for volunteers on this blog – we were sorry that we couldn’t accommodate everybody who offered their time for this project. We are also very grateful to the Friends of the National Libraries for enabling the creation of this resource.

 

PGM

FNL_Logo__green

“Only connect”: Laura Mary Forster and Charles Darwin

Amongst our fascinating collection of books from the personal library of E.M. Forster (1879-1970) are some which were passed down to him by relations. These include a number of volumes which once belonged to his aunt, Laura Mary Forster (1839-1924):

Laura Mary Forster's bookplate

The bookplate of Laura Mary Forster (1839-1924)

In his biography of Marianne Thornton, Laura’s aunt, E.M. Forster provides a brief outline of Laura’s character:

“Miss Forster never married … she followed the Thornton pattern of intellectual and philanthropic activity, but she could be censorious of her elders, and is constantly taking them up and dusting them before she replaces them, with a word of c0mmendation, on their shelf. In her later life she changed – became gentler, wiser, greater.”

Some of the volumes formerly owned by Laura are especially interesting, since they feature bindings with blind-tooled and stamped leatherwork of her own design. These include a volume by John Ruskin on the medieval Italian artist Giotto, which has a design based around circles, making reference to Giotto’s reputed ability to draw a perfect circle freehand without the aid of a compass.

Binding of Ruskin's work on Giotto

Front cover of: John Ruskin “Giotto and his works in Padua …” (London: Arundel Society, 1854. Forster.RUS.Gio.1854)

It is possible that Laura’s designs were influenced by her association with the arts and crafts designer William Morris (1834-1896), with whom she is known to have corresponded and sent samples of her work. The Arts and Crafts Exhibitions Society exhibit for 1889 featured several of Laura’s book-bindings and also embossed leather chair seats produced by Morris and Co. from her designs.

Another work, a three volume set of “The life and letters of Charles Darwin”, which was given to Laura by the editor, Darwin’s son Francis, features a floral design based on poppies.

Binding of volume 2 of "Life and letters of Charles Darwin"

Front cover of volume two of: Francis Darwin (ed.) “The life and letters of Charles Darwin…” (London: John Murray, 1887. Forster.DARW.Lif/2.1887)

This set is one of the jewels of the Forster collection, since attached inside the front cover of the first volume is an autograph letter from Charles Darwin himself, addressed to Laura and thanking her for allowing him to stay at her house in Surrey in 1879. A transcript of the letter appears in a footnote on page 224 of the third volume.

Darwin letter page 1

First page of a letter to Laura Mary Forster from Charles Darwin, written in 1879

Forster.DARW.Lif1.1887 letter page 02

Second page of Darwin’s letter to Laura

Transcript of Darwin letter

Transcript of Darwin’s letter, from volume three of “The life and letters of Charles Darwin”

Laura was a lifelong friend of Darwin’s eldest daughter Henrietta, with whom she conducted a lively correspondence. Many of these letters survive, including some which convey Laura’s leaning towards Darwinism. Whilst stating that: “it is against one’s taste to come from furry animals, tidal or otherwise”, and remaining steadfast in her Christian faith, she nevertheless believed that: “it is of practical use to get a just estimate of one’s place in creation”. Other relations regarded Darwinism with horror, and Laura relates wryly that one family acquaintance: “…expects every time he comes down to see me hung up on one of the large oaks opposite our house…”

Bibliography:

Forster, E.M. Marianne Thornton (André Deutsch, 2000)

Kelvin, N. (ed.) The collected letters of William Morris, Volume II, Part B: 1885-1888 (Princeton University Press, 1987)

AC