In 1651 the General Court again expressed its "utter detestation and dislike that men or women of meane condition, education and callings should take uppon them the garbe of gentlemen by the wearinge of gold or silver lace or buttons or poynts at their knees, to walke in great boots, or women of the same rank to wear silke or tiffany hoodes or scarfes."
Many persons were "presented" under this law; Puritan men were just as fond of finery as were Puritan women. Walking in great boots proved alluring to an illegal degree, just as did wearing silk and tiffany hoods. But Puritan women fought hard and fought well for their fine garments. In Northampton thirty-eight women were brought up at one time before the court in 1676 for their "wicked apparell." One young miss, Hannah Lyman, of Northampton, was prosecuted for "wearing silk in a fflaunting manner, in an offensive way and garb, not only before but when she stood presented, not only in Ordinary but Extraordinary times."
We can easily picture sixteen-year-old Hannah, in silk bedight, inwardly rejoicing at the unusual opportunity to fully and publicly display her rich attire, and we can easily read in her offensive flaunting in court a presage of the waning of magisterial power which proved a truthful omen, for in six years similar prosecutions in Northampton, for assumption of gay and expensive garments, were quashed. The ministers of the day note sadly the overwhelming love of fashion that was crescent throughout New England; a love of dress which neither the ban of religion, philosophy, nor law could expel; what Rev. Solomon Stoddard called, in 1675, "intolerable pride in clothes and hair." They were never weary of preaching about dress, of comparing the poor Puritan women to the haughty daughters of Judah and Jerusalem; saying threateningly to their parishioners, as did Isaiah to the daughters of Zion:
"The Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their cauls and their round tires like the moon.
"The chains and the bracelets and the mufflers.
"The bonnets and the ornaments of the legs and the head-bands and the tablets and the earrings.
"The rings and nose jewels.
"The changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles and the wimples and the crisping pins.
"The glasses and the fine linen and the hoods and the vails."
Every evil predicted by the prophet was laid at the door of these Boston and Plymouth dames; fire and war and poor harvests and caterpillars, and even baldness—but still they arrayed themselves in fine raiment, "drew iniquity with a cord of vanity and sin with a cart-rope," and "walked with outstretched necks and wanton eyes mincing as they go."
As an exposition of the possibilities, or rather the actual extensiveness, of a Puritanical feminine wardrobe at this date, let me name the articles of clothing bequeathed by the will of Jane Humphrey, who died in Dorchester, Mass., in 1668. I give them as they appear on the list, but with the names of her heirs omitted.
"Ye Jump. Best Red Kersey Petticoate, Sad Grey Kersey Wascote. My blemmish Searge Petticoate & my best hatt. My white Fustian Wascote. A black Silk neck cloath. A handkerchiefe. A blew Apron. A plain black Quoife without any lace. A white Holland Appron with a small lace at the bottom. Red Searge petticoat and a blackish Searge petticoat. Greene Searge Wascote & my hood & muffe. My Green Linsey Woolsey petticoate. My Whittle that is fringed & my Jump & my blew Short Coate. A handkerchief. A blew Apron. My best Quife with a Lace. A black Stuffe Neck Cloath. A White Holland apron with two breadths in it. Six yards of Redd Cloth. A greene Vnder Coate. Staning Kersey Coate. My murry Wascote. My Cloake & my blew Wascote. My best White Apron, my best Shifts. One of my best Neck-Cloaths, & one of my plain Quieus. One Callico Vnder Neck Cloath. My fine thine Neck Cloath. My next best Neck Cloath. A square Cloath with a little lace on it. My greene Apron."
It is pleasing to note in this list that not only the garments and stuffs, but the very colors named, have an antique sound; and we read in other inventories of such tints as philomot (feuillemort), gridolin (gris-de-lin or flax blossom), puce color, grain color (which was scarlet), foulding color, Kendal green, Lincoln green, watchet blue, barry, milly, tuly, stammel red, Bristol red, sad color—and a score of other and more fanciful names whose signification and identification were lost with the death of the century. In later days Congress brown, Federal blue, and Independence green show our new nation.
This wardrobe of Jane Humphrey's was certainly a very pretty and a very liberal outfit for a woman of no other fortune. But to have all one's possessions in the shape of raiment did not in her day bear quite the same aspect as it would at the present day. Many persons, men and women, preferred to keep their property in the form of what they quaintly called "duds." The fashion did not, in New England, wear out more apparel than the man, for clothing, no matter what its cut, was worn as long as it lasted, doing service frequently through three generations. For instance, we find Mrs. Epes, of Ipswich, when she was over fifty years old, receiving this bequest by will: "If she desire to have the suit of damask which was the Lady Cheynies her grandmother, let her have it upon appraisement." Hence we cannot wonder at clothing forming so large a proportion of the articles bequeathed by will and named in inventories; for all the colonists
"... studied after nyce array, And made greet cost in clothing."
Nor can we help feeling that any woman should have been permitted to have plenty of gowns in those days without being thought extravagant, since a mantua-maker's charge for making a gown was but eight shillings.
Though the shops were full of rich stuffs, there was no ready-made clothing for women for sale either in outside garments or in under-linen. Occasionally, by the latter part of the eighteenth century, we read the advertisement of a "vandoo" of "full-made gowns, petticoats and sacs of a genteel lady of highest fashion"—a notice which reads uncommonly like the "forced sales" of the present day of mock-outfits of various kinds.
About the middle of the century there began to appear "ready-made clothes for men." Jolley Allen advertised such, and under that name, in 1768, "Coats, Silk Jackets, Shapes and Cloth Ditto; Stocking Breeches of all sizes & most colours. Velvet Cotton Thickset Duroy Everlasting & Plush Breeches. Sailors Great Coats, outside & inside Jackets, Check Shirts, Frocks, long and wide Trowzers, Scotch bonnets & Blue mill'd Shirts." But women's clothes were made to order in the town by mantua makers, and in the country by travelling tailoresses and sempstresses, or by the deft-fingered wearers.
New England dames had no mode-books nor fashion-plates to tell to them the varying modes. Some sent to the fatherland for "fire-new fashions in sleeves and slops," for garments and head-gear made in the prevailing court style; and the lucky possessors, lent these new-fashioned caps and gowns and cloaks as models to their poorer or less fortunate neighbors. A very taking way of introducing new styles and shapes to the new land was through the importation by milliners and mantua-makers of dressed dolls, or "babys" as they were called, that displayed in careful miniature the fashions and follies of the English court. In the New England Weekly Journal of July 2, 1733, appears this notice:
"To be seen at Mrs. Hannah Teatts Mantua Maker at the Head of Summer Street Boston a Baby drest after the Newest Fashion of Mantues and Night Gowns & everything belonging to a dress. Latilly arrived on Capt. White from London, any Ladies that desire to see it may either come or send, she will be ready to wait on 'em, if they come to the House it is Five Shilling & if she waits on 'em it is Seven Shilling."
We can fancy the group of modish Boston belles and dames each paying Hannah Teatts her five shillings, and like overgrown children eagerly dressing and undressing the London doll and carefully examining and noting her various diminutive garments.
These fashion models in miniature effigy obtained until after Revolutionary times. Sally McKean wrote to the sister of Dolly Madison, in June, 1796: "I went yesterday to see a doll which has come from England dressed to show the fashion"—and she then proceeds to describe the modes thus introduced.
We can gain some notion of the general shape of the dress of our forbears at various periods from the portraits of the times. Those of Madam Shrimpton and of Rebecca Rawson are among the earliest. They were painted during the last quarter of the seventeenth century. The dress is not very graceful, but far from plain, showing no trace of Puritanical simplicity; in fact, it is precisely that seen in portraits of English well-to-do folk of the same date. Both have strings of beads around the neck and no other jewels; both wear loosely tied and rather shapeless flat hoods concealing the hair, Madam Shrimpton's having an embroidered edge about two inches wide. Similar hoods are shown in Romain de Rooge's prints of the landing of King William, on the women in the coronation procession. They were like the Nithesdale hoods of Hogarth's prints, but smaller. Both New English dames have also broad collars, stiff and ugly, with uncurved horizontal lower edge, apparently trimmed with embroidery or cut-work. Both show the wooden contour of figure, which was either the fault of the artist's brush or of the iron busk of the wearer's stays. The bodies are stiffly pointed, and the most noticeable feature of the gown is the sleeve, consisting of a double puff drawn in just above the elbow and confined by knots of ribbon; in one case with very narrow ribbon loops. Randle Holme says that a sleeve thus tied in at the elbow was called a virago sleeve. Madam Shrimpton's sleeve has also a falling frill of embroidery and lace and a ruffle around the armsize. The question of sleeves sorely vexed the colonial magistrates. Men and women were forbidden to have but one slash or opening in each sleeve. Then the inordinate width of sleeves became equally trying, and all were ordered to restrain themselves to sleeves half an ell wide. Worse modes were to come; "short sleeves whereby the nakedness of the arm may be discovered" had to be prohibited; and if any such ill-fashioned gowns came over from London, the owners were enjoined to wear thick linen to cover the arms to the wrist. Existing portraits show how futile were these precautions, how inoperative these laws; arms were bared with impunity, with complacency, and the presentment of Governor Wentworth shows three slashes in his sleeve.
Not only were the arms of New England women bared to an immodest degree, but their necks also, calling forth many a "just and seasonable reprehension of naked breasts." Though gowns thus cut in the pink of the English mode proved too scanty to suit Puritan ministers, the fair wearers wore them as long as they were in vogue.
It is curious to note in the oldest gowns I have seen, that the method of cutting and shaping the waist or body is precisely the same as at the present day. The outlines of the shoulder and back-seams, of the bust forms, are the same, though not so gracefully curved; and the number of pieces is usually the same. Very good examples to study are the gorgeous brocaded gowns of Peter Faneuil's sister, perfectly preserved and now exhibited in the Boston Art Museum.
Nor have we to-day any richer or more beautiful stuffs for gowns than had our far-away grandmothers. The silks, satins, velvets, and brocades which wealthy colonists imported for the adornment of their wives and daughters, and for themselves, cannot be excelled by the work of modern looms; and the laces were equally beautiful. Whitefield complained justly and more than once of the "foolish virgins of New England covered all over with the Pride of Life;" especially of their gaudy dress in church, which the Abbe Robin also remarked, saying it was the only theatre New England women had for the display of their finery. Other clergymen, as Manasseh Cutler, noted with satisfaction that "the congregation was dressed in a very tasty manner."
In old New England families many scraps of these rich stuffs of colonial days are preserved; some still possess ancient gowns, or coats, or waistcoats of velvet and brocade. In old work-bags, bed-quilts, and cushions rich pieces may be found. When we see their quality, color, and design we fully believe Hawthorne's statement that the "gaudiest dress permissible by modern taste fades into a Quakerlike sobriety when compared with the rich glowing splendor of our ancestors."
The royal governor and his attendants formed in each capital town a small but very dignified circle, glittering with a carefully studied reflection of the fashionable life of the English Court, and closely aping English richness of dress. The large landed proprietors, such as the opulent Narragansett planters, and the rich merchants of Newport, Salem, and Boston, spent large sums annually in rich attire. In every newspaper printed a century or a century and a quarter ago, we find proof of this luxury and magnificence in dress; in the lists of the property of deceased persons, in the long advertisements of milliners and mercers, in the many notices of "vandoos." And the impression must be given to every reader of letters and diaries of the times, of the vast vanity not only of our grandmothers, but of our grandfathers. They did indeed "walk in brave aguise." The pains these good, serious gentlemen took with their garments, the long minute lists they sent to European tailors, their loudly expressed discontent over petty disappointments as to the fashion and color of their attire, their evident satisfaction at becoming and rich clothing, all point to their wonderful love of ostentation and their vanity—a vanity which fairly shines with smirking radiance out of some of the masculine faces in the "bedizened and brocaded" portraits of dignified Bostonians in Harvard Memorial Hall, and from many of the portraits of Copley, Smibert, and Blackburn.
Here is a portion of a letter written by Governor Belcher to a London tailor in 1733:
"I have desired my brother, Mr. Partridge to get me some cloaths made, and that you should make them, and have sent him the yellow grogram suit you made me at London; but those you make now must be two or three inches longer and as much bigger. Let 'em be workt strong, as well as neat and curious. I believe Mr. Harris in Spittlefields (of whom I had the last) will let you have the grogram as good and cheap as anybody. The other suit to be of a very good silk, such as may be the Queens birthday fashion, but I don't like padisway. It must be a substantial silk, because you'll see I have ordered it to be trimm'd rich, and I think a very good white shagrine will be the best lining. I say let it be a handsome compleat suit, and two pair of breeches to each suit."
Picture to yourself the garb in which the patriot John Hancock appeared one noonday in 1782:
"He wore a red velvet cap within which was one of fine linen, the last turned up two or three inches over the lower edge of the velvet. He also wore a blue damask gown lined with velvet, a white stock, a white satin embroidered waistcoat, black satin small-clothes, white silk stockings and red morocco slippers."
What gay peacock was this strutting all point-device in scarlet slippers and satin and damask, spreading his gaudy feathers at high noon in sober Boston streets!—was this our boasted Republican simplicity? And what "fop-tackle" did the dignified Judge of the Supreme Court wear in Boston at that date? He walked home from the bench in the winter time clad in a magnificent white corduroy surtout lined with fur, with his judicial hands thrust in a great fur muff.
Fancy a Boston publisher going about his business tricked up in this dandified dress—a true New England jessamy.
He wore a pea-green coat, white vest, nankeen small-clothes, white silk stockings and pumps fastened with silver buckles which covered at least half the foot from instep to toe. His small-clothes were tied at the knees with riband of the same color in double bows the ends reaching down to the ancles. His hair in front was well loaded with pomatum, frizzled or creped, and powdered; the ear locks had undergone the same process. Behind his natural hair was augmented by the addition of a large queue, called vulgarly the false tail, which, enrolled in some yards of black riband, hung halfway down his back.
We must believe that the richest brocades, the finest lawn, the choicest laces, the heaviest gold and silver buckles, did not adorn the persons of New England dames and belles only; the gaudiest inflorescence of color and stuffs shone resplendent on the manly figures of their husbands and brothers. And yet these men were no "lisping hawthorn buds," their souls were not in their clothes, or we had not the signers of the Declaration of Independence and the heroes of the Revolution.
The domination of French ideas in America after the Revolution found one form of expression in French fashions of dress; and where New England women had formerly followed English models and English reproductions of French fashions, they now copied the French fashions direct, to the improvement, I fancy, of their modes. Too many accounts and representations exist of these comparatively recent styles to make it of value to enter into any detail of them here. But another influence on the dress of the times should be recorded.
The sudden and vast development of the Oriental trade by New England ship-owners is plainly marked by many changes in the stuffs imported and in the dress of both men and women. Nankeens became at once one of the chief articles of sale in drygoods shops. Though Fairholt says they were not exported to America till 1825, I find them advertised in the Boston Evening Post of 1761. Shawls appeared in shopkeepers' lists. The first notice that I have seen is in the Salem Gazette of 1784—"a rich sortment of shawls." This was at the very time when Elias Haskett Derby—the father of the East India trade—was building and launching his stout ships for Canton. We have a vast variety of stuffs nowadays, but the list seems narrow and small when compared with the record of Indian stuffs that came in such numbers a hundred years ago to Boston and Salem markets. The names of these Oriental materials are nearly all obsolete, and where the material is still manufactured it bears a different appellation. A list of them will preserve their names and show their number. Some may prove not to have been Indian, but were so called in the days of their importation.
Alrabads. Chowtahs. Neganepauts. Anjungoes. Culgees. Nenapees. Allejars. Chaffelaes. Nagurapaux. Atlasses. Corottas. Oringals. Addaties. Doreas. Paunchees. Allibanies. Deribands. Patnas. Anbraeahs. Doorguzzees. Pallampores. Arradahs. Doodanies. Ponabaguzzies. Budoys. Dorsatees. Persias. Boglipores. Danadars. Peniascoes. Bengals. Elatchies. Pagnas. Briampaux. Emertees. Poppolis. Bagatapaux. Gurrahs. Photaes. Bumrums. Guzzinahs. Pelongs. Bulschauls. Goaconcheleras. Quilts. Brawls. Gurraes. Romalls. Bafraes. Gelongs. Rehings. Bejauraupauts. Ginghams. Seersuckers. Bafts. Gunieas. Sallampores. Baguzzees. Humhums. Soraguzzes. Betelles. Humadies. Soofeys. Byrampauts. Izzarees. Seerbettees. Cushlas. Jollopours. Sannoes. Coffies. Jandannies. Seerindams. Chinachurry Januwars. Shalbafts. Cherrydarry. Luckhouris. Seerbands. Chilloes. Lemmones. Succatums. Chints. Lungees. Starrets. Cutthees. Mamoodies. Terindams. Cossas. Mahmudihiaties. Tapseils. Chenarize. Mugga-Mamoochis. Tanjeebs. Chittabullus. Mickbannies. Tepoys. Coopees. Masaicks. Tainsooks. Callowaypoose. Moorees. Taffatties. Cuttanees. Mowsannas. Tapis. Carradaries. Mulmouls. Tarnatams. Cheaconies. Mulye-Gungee. Taundah-Khassah. Chucklaes. Nicanees. Tandarees. Cadies. Nillaes.
DOCTORS AND PATIENTS
There lies before me a leather-bound, time-stained, dingy little quarto of four hundred and fifty pages that was printed in the year 1656. Its contents comprise three parts or books. First, "The Queens Closet Opened, or The Pearl of Practise: Accurate, Physical, and Chirurgical Receipts." Second, "A Queens Delight, or The Art of Preserving, Conserving, and Candying, as also a Right Knowledge of Making Perfumes and Distilling the most Excellent Waters." Third, "The Compleat Cook, Expertly Prescribing the most ready wayes, whether Italian, Spanish, or French, For Dressing of Flesh and Fish, Ordering of Sauces, or Making of PASTRY"—pastry in capitals, as is due so distinguished an article and art.
This conjunction of leechcraft and cooking was in early days far from being considered demeaning to the healing art. A great number of the cook-books of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were written by physicians. Dr. Lister, physician to Queen Anne, wrote plainly, "I do not consider myself as hazarding anything when I say no man can be a good physician who has not a competent knowledge of cookery."
The book contains a long, pompous preface, in which it is asserted that these receipts were collected originally for her "distress'd Soveraigne Majesty the Queen"—Henrietta Maria; that they had been "laid at her feet by Persons of Honour and Quality;" and that since false and poor copies had been circulated during her banishment, and the compiler, who fell with the court, was not able to render his beloved queen any further service, he felt that he could at least "prevent all disservices" by giving in print to her friends these true rules. Thus could he keep the absent queen in their minds; and also he could give a fair copy to her, since she had lost her receipts in her flight.
Though Agnes Strickland stated that copies of this Queens Closet Opened are exceedingly rare in England, several are preserved in old New England families, some of them the descendants of colonial physicians; and the book may be shown as a fair example of the methods of practice and composition of prescriptions in colonial and provincial days.
This volume of mine was one of those which were not fated to dwell among "Persons of Honour and Quality" in old England; it crossed the waters to the new land with simpler folk, and was for many years the pocket-companion of an old New England doctor. Two names are carefully written on the inside of the cover of my book, names of past owners: "Edward Talbot, His Book," is in the most faded ink, and "William Morse, His Book, in the y'r 1710, Boston." A musty, leathery smell pervades and exhales from the pages, and is mingled with whiffs of an equally ancient and more penetrating odor, that of old drugs and medicines; for many a journey over bleak hills and lonely dales has the book made, safely reposing at the bottom of its owner's pocket, or lying cheek by jowl with the box of drugs and medicines, and case of lancets in his ample saddlebags.
This country doctor, like others of his profession at the same date, had not studied deeply in college and hospital; nor had he taken any long course of instruction in foreign schools and universities. When he had decided to become a doctor, he had simply ridden with an old, established physician—ridden literally—in a half-menial, half-medical capacity. He had cared for the doctor's horse, swept the doctor's office, run the doctor's errands, pounded drugs, gathered herbs, and mixed plasters, until he was fitted to ride for himself. Then he had applied to the court and received a license to practise—that was all. I doubt not that this book of mine, and perhaps a manuscript collection of recipes and prescriptions, and a few Latin treatises that he could hardly decipher, formed his entire pharmacop[oe]ia. As he had chanced to inherit a small fortune from a relative, he became a physician of some note; for in colonial days wealth and position were as essential as were learning and experience, to enable one to become a good doctor.
I like to think of the rich and pompous old doctor a-riding out to see his patients, clad in his suit of sober brown or claret color with shining buttons made of silver coins. The full-skirted coat had great pockets and flaps, as had the long waistcoat that reached well over the hips. Knee-breeches dressed his shapely legs, while fine silk stockings and buckled shoes displayed his well-turned calves and ankles. On his head he wore a cocked hat and wig. He owned and wore in turn wigs of different sizes and dignity—ties, periwigs, bags, and bobs. His portrait was painted in a full-bottomed wig that rivalled the Lord Chancellor's in size; but his every-day riding-wig was a rather commonplace horsehair affair with a stiff eel-skin cue. One wig he lost by a mysterious accident while attending a patient who was lying ill of a fever, of which the crisis seemed at hand. The doctor decided to remain all night, and sat down by a table in the sick man's room. The hours passed slowly away. Physician and nurse and goodwife talked and droned on; the sick man moaned and tossed in his bed, and begged fruitlessly for water. At last the room grew silent, the tired watchers dozed in their chairs, the doctor nodded and nodded, bringing his eel-skin cue dangerously near the flame of the candle that stood on the table. Suddenly there was heard a sharp explosion, a hiss, a sizzle; and when the smoke cleared, and the terrified occupants of the room collected their senses, the watcher and wife were discovered under the valance of the bed; the doctor stood scorched and bareheaded, looking around for his wig; while the sick man, who had jumped out of bed in the confusion and captured a pitcher of water, drunk half the contents, and thrown the remainder over the doctor's head, was lying behind the bed curtains laughing hysterically at the ridiculous appearance of the man of medicine. Instant death was predicted for the invalid, who, strange to say, either from the laughter or the water, began to recover from that moment. The terrified physician was uncertain whether he ought to attribute the conflagration of his wig to a violent demonstration of the devil in his effort to obtain possession of the sick man's soul, or to the powerful influence of some conjunction of the planets, or to the new-fangled power of electricity which Dr. Franklin had just discovered and was making so much talk about, and was so recklessly tinkering with in Philadelphia at that very time. The doctor had strongly disapproved of Franklin's reprehensible and meddlesome boldness, but he felt that it was best, nevertheless, to write and obtain the philosopher's advice as to the feasibility, advisability, and the best convenience of having one of the new lightning-rods rigged upon his medical back, and running thence up through his wig, thus warding off further alarming demonstration. Ere this was done the mystery of the explosion was solved. When the doctor's new wig arrived from Boston, he ordered his newly purchased negro servant to powder it well ere it was worn. He was horrified to see Pompey give the wig a liberal sprinkling of gunpowder from the powder-horn, instead of starch from the dredging-box; and the explosion of the old wig was no longer assigned to diabolical, thaumaturgical, or meteorological influences.
Let us turn from the doctor and the wig to the book; let us see what he did when he singed his head and burnt his face. He whipped my little book out of his pocket and turned to page 77; there he was told to make "Oyl of Eggs. Take twelve yolks of eggs and put them in a pot over the fire, and let them stand until you perceive them to turn black; then put them in a press and press out the Oyl." Or he could make "Oyl of Fennel" if he preferred it. But probably the New England goodwife had on hand one of the dozen astounding salves described in the book, that the doctor had ere this instructed her to make, and in which I trust he found due relief.
One cannot wonder that the sick man craved water, when we read what he had had to drink. He had been given, a spoonful at a time, this "Comfortable Juleb for a Feaver," made of "Barley Water & White Wine each one pint, Whey one quart, two ounces of Conserves of Barberries, and the Juyces of two limmons and 2 Oranges." The doctor had also taken (if he had followed his Pearl of Practice) "two Salt white herrings & slit them down the back and bound them to the soles of the feet" of his patient; and I doubt not he had bled the sufferer at once, for he always bled and purged on every possible occasion.
The Water of Life was also given for fevers, a few drops at a time, and also as a tonic in health.
"Take Balm leaves and stalks, Betony leaves and flowers, Rosemary, red sage, Taragon, Tormentil leaves, Rossolis and Roses, Carnation, Hyssop, Thyme, red strings that grow upon Savory, red Fennel leaves and root, red Mints, of each a handful; bruise these hearbs and put them in a great earthern pot, & pour on them enough White Wine as will cover them, stop them close, and let them steep for eight or nine days; then put to it Cinnamon, Ginger, Angelica-seeds, Cloves, and Nuttmegs, of each an ounce, a little Saffron, Sugar one pound, Raysins solis stoned one pound, the loyns and legs of an old Coney, a fleshy running Capon, the red flesh of the sinews of a leg of Mutton, four young Chickens, twelve larks, the yolks of twelve Eggs, a loaf of White-bread cut in sops, and two or three ounces of Mithridate or Treacle, & as much Muscadine as will cover them all. Distil al with a moderate fire, and keep the first and second waters by themselves; and when there comes no more by Distilling put more Wine into the pot upon the same stuffe and distil it again, and you shal have another good water. This water strengtheneth the Spirit, Brain, Heart, Liver, and Stomack. Take when need is by itself, or with Ale, Beer, or Wine mingled with Sugar."
Who could doubt that it strengthened the spirit, especially when taken with ale or wine? Plainly here do we see the need of a doctor being a good cook. But what pot would hold all that flesh and fowl, that blooming flower-garden of herbs and posies, that assorted lot of fruits and spices, to say nothing of the muscadine?
Our ancestors spared no pains in preparing these medicines. They did not, shifting all responsibility, run to a chemist or apothecary with a little slip of paper; with their own hands they picked, pulled, pounded, stamped, shredded, dropped, powdered, and distilled, regardless of expense, or trouble, or hard work. Truly they deserved to be cured. They did not measure the drugs with precision in preparing their medicines, as do our chemists nowadays, nor were their prescriptions written in Latin nor with cabalistic marks—the asbestos stomachs and colossal minds of our forefathers were much above such petty minuteness; nor did they administer the doses with exactness. "The bigth of a walnut," "enough to lie on a pen knifes point," "the weight of a shilling," "enough to cover a French crown," "as bigg as a haslenut," "as great as a charger," "the bigth of a Turkeys Egg," "a pretty draught," "a pretty bunch of herbs," "take a little handful," "take a pretty quantity as often as you please"—such are the lax directions that accompany these old prescriptions.
Of course, the remedies given in this book were largely for the diseases of the day. Physicians and parsons, lords and ladies, combined to furnish complex and elaborate prescriptions and perfumes to cure and avert the plague; and the list includes one plague-cure that the Lord Mayor had from the Queen, and I may add that it is a particularly unpleasant and revolting one. A plague swept through New England and decimated the Indian tribes; and though it was not at all like the great plague that devastated London, I doubt not red man and white man took confidingly and faithfully medicines such as are given in this little book of mine: the king's feeble and much-vaunted dose of "White Wine, Ginger, Treacle, and Sage;" Dr. Atkinson's excellent perfume against the Plague, of "Angelica roots and Wine Vinegar, that if taken fasting, your breath would kill the Plague" (it must have been a fearful dose); "Mr. Fenton's the Chirurgeon's Posset and his Sedour Root."
Cures for small-pox and for gout are many. Varied are the lotions for the "pin and web in the eye;" so many are there of these that it makes me suspect that our forefathers were sadly sore-eyed.
One very prevalent ail that our ancestors had to endure (if we can judge from the number of prescriptions for its relief) was a "cold stomack;" literally cold, one might think, since most of the cures were by external application. Lady Spencer used a plebeian "greene turfe of grasse" to warm her stomach, with the green side, not the dirt side, placed next the skin. She could scarcely have worn this turf when she was up and around the house, could she? She must have had it placed upon her while she was in bed. Josselyn said in his "New England Rarities" that, "to wear the skin of a Gripe dressed with the doun on" would cure pain and coldness of the stomach. Thus did like cure like. A "Restorative Bag" of herbs and spices heated in "boyl'd Vinegar" is asserted to be "comfortable." "It must be as hot as can be endured, and keep yourself from studying and musing and it will comfort you much." So it seems you ought not to study nor to muse if your stomach be cold.
Many and manifold are the remedies to "chear the heart," to "drive melancholy," to "cure one pensive," "for the megrums," "for a grief;" and without doubt the lonely colonists often needed them. We know, too, that "things ill for the heart were beans, pease, sadness, onions, anger, evil tidings, and loss of friends,"—a very arbitrary and unjust classification. Melancholy was evidently regarded as a disease, and a much-to-be-lamented one. External applications were made to "drive the worms out of the Brain as well as Dross out of the Stomack." Here is "A pretious water to revive the Spirits:"
"Take four gallons of strong Ale, five ounces of Aniseeds, Liquorish scraped half a pound, Sweet Mints, Angelica, Eccony, Cowslip flowers, Sage & Rosemary Flowers, sweet Marjoram, of each three handfuls, Palitory of the VVal one handful. After it is fermented two or three dayes, distil it in a Limbeck, and in the water infuse one handful of the flowers aforesaid, Cinnamon and Fennel-seed of each half an ounce, Juniper berries bruised one dram, red Rosebuds, roasted Apples & dates sliced and stoned, of each half a pound; distil it again and sweeten it with some Sugarcandy, and take of Ambergreese, Pearl, Red Coral, Hartshorn pounded, and leaf Gold, of each half a Dram, put them in a fine Linnen bag, and hang them by a thread in a Glasse."
Think of taking all that trouble to make something to cheer the spirits, when the four gallons of strong ale with spices would have fully answered the purpose, without bothering with the herbs and fruits. I suppose the gold and jewels were particularly cheering ingredients, and perhaps entitled the drink to its name of precious water. Indeed, it would be cheering to the spirits nowadays to have the precious metals and gems that were so lavishly used in these ancient medicines.
Full jewelled were the works of English persons of quality in the time of the Merry Monarch and his sire. The gold and gems were not always hung in bags in the medicines; frequently they were powdered and dissolved, and formed a large portion of the dose. Like Chaucer's Doctour, they believed that "gold in phisike is a cordial." Dr. Gifford's "Amber Pils for Consumption" contained a large quantity of pearls, white amber, and coral, as did also Lady Kent's powder. Sir Edward Spencer's eye-salve was rich in powdered pearls. The Bishop of Worcester's "admirable curing powder" was composed largely of "ten skins of snakes or adders or Slow worms" mixed with "Magistery of Pearls." The latter was a common ingredient, and under the head of "Choice Secrets Made Known" we are told how to manufacture it:
"Dissolve two or three ounces of fine seed Pearl in distill'd Vinegar, and when it's perfectly dissolved and all taken up, pour the Vinegar into a clean glasse Bason; then drop some few drops of oyl of Tartar upon it, and it will call down the Pearl into the powder; then pour the Vinegar clean off softly; then put to the Pearl clear Conduit or Spring water; pour that off, and do so often until the taste of the Vinegar and Tartar be clean gone; then dry the powder of Pearl upon warm embers and keep for your use."
Gold and precious stones were specially necessary "to ease the passion of the Heart," as indeed they are nowadays. In that century, however, they applied the mercenary cure inwardly, and prepared it thus:
"Take Damask Roses half-blown, cut off thier whites, and stamp them very fine, and straine out the Juyce very strong; moisten it in the stamping with a little Damask Rose water; then put thereto fine powder Sugar, and boyl it gently to a fine Syrup; then take the Powders of Amber, Pearl, Rubies, of each half a dram, Ambergreese one scruple, and mingle them with the said syrup till it be somewhat thick, and take a little thereof on a knifes point morning and evening."
I can now understand the reason for the unceasing, the incurable melancholy that hung like a heavy black shadow over so many Puritan divines in the early days of New England, as their gloomy sermons, their sad diaries and letters, plainly show. Those poor ministers had no chance to use these receipts and thus get cured of "worms in the brain," with annual salaries of only L60, which they had to take in corn, wheat, codfish, or bearskins, in any kind of "country pay," or even in wampum, in order to get it at all. Rubies and pearls and gold and coral were scarce drugs in clerical circles in Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth plantations. Even amber and ivory were far from plentiful. We find John Winthrop writing in 1682, "I am straitened, having no ivory beaten, neither any pearle nor corall." Cleopatra drinks were out of fashion in the New World. So Mather and Hooker and Warham were condemned to die with uncheered spirits and unjewelled stomachs.
Another ingredient, unicorns' horns, which were ground and used in powders, must have been difficult to obtain in New England, although I believe Governor Winthrop had one sent to him as a gift from England; and John Endicott, writing to him in 1634, said: "I have sent you Mrs Beggarly her Vnicorns horne & beza stone." Both the unicorn's horn and the bezoar stone were sovereign antidotes against poison. At another time Winthrop had sent to him "bezoar stone, mugwort, orgaine, and galingall root." Ambergris was also too rare and costly for American Puritans to use, though we find Hull writing for golden ambergroose.
Insomnia is not a bane of our modern civilization alone. This little book shows that our ancestors craved and sought sleep just as we do. Here is a prescription to cure sleeplessness, which might be tried by any wakeful soul of modern times, since it requires neither rubies, pearls, nor gold for its manufacture:
"Bruise a handful of Anis-seeds, and steep them in Red Rose Water, & make it up in little bags, & binde one of them to each Nostrill, and it will cause sleep."
So aniseed bags were used in earlier days for a purpose very different from our modern one; if your nineteenth century nose should refuse to accustom itself to having bags hung on it, you can "Chop Chammomile & crumbs of Brown Bread smal and boyl them with White Wine Vinegar, stir it wel and spred it on a cloth & binde it to the soles of the feet as hot as you can suffer it." And if that should not make you sleepy, there are frankincense-perfumed paper bags for your head, and some very pleasant things made of rose-leaves for your temples, and hard-boiled eggs for the nape of your neck—you can choose from all of these.
They had abounding faith in those days. Several of the prescriptions in "The Queen's Closet" are to cure people at a remote distance, by applying the nostrums to a linen cloth previously wet with the patient's blood. They had plasters of power to put on the back of the head to draw the palate into place; and wonderful elixirs that would keep a dying man alive five years; and herb-juices to make a dumb man speak. The following suggestion shows plainly their confiding spirit:
"To Cure Deafnesse. Take the Garden Dasie roots and make juyce thereof, and lay the worst side of the head low upon the bolster & drop three or four drops thereof into the better Ear; this do three or four dayes together."
"Simpatheticall" medicines had a special charm for all the Winthrops, and that delightful but gullible old English alchemist, Sir Kenelm Digby, kept them well posted in all the newest nonsense.
In a medical dispensatory of the times the different varieties of medicines used in New England are enumerated. They are leaves, herbs, roots, barks, seeds, flowers, juices, distilled waters, syrups, juleps, decoctions, oils, electuaries, conserves, preserves, lohocks, ointments, plasters, poultices, troches, and pills. These words and articles are all used nowadays, except the lohock, which was to be licked up, and in consistency stood in the intermediate ground between an electuary and a syrup. These terms, of course, were in the Galenic practice. In "The Queen's Closet" all the physic was found afield, with the exception of the precious metals and one compound, rubila, which was made of antimony and nitre, and which was in special favor in the Winthrop family—as many of their letters show. They sent it and recommended it to their friends—and better still, they took it faithfully themselves, and with most satisfactory results.
There was also one mineral "oyntment" made of quicksilver, verdigris, and brimstone mixed with "barrows grease," which was good for "horse, man, or other beast." Alum and copperas were once recommended for external use. The powerful "plaister of Paracelsus," also beloved of the Winthrops, was not composed of mineral drugs, as might be supposed, but was made of herbs, and from the ingredients named must have been particularly nasty smelling as well as powerful.
The medicine mithridate forms a part of many of these prescriptions; it does not seem to be regarded as an alexipharmic, but as a soporific. It is said to have been the cure-all of King Mithridates. I will not give an account of the process of its manufacture; it would fill about three pages of this book, and I should think it would take about six weeks to compound a good dose of it. There are forty-five different articles used, each to be prepared by slow degrees and introduced with great care; some of them (such as the rape of storax, camel's hay, and bellies of skinks) must have been inconvenient to procure in New England. Mithridates would hardly recognize his own medicine in this conglomeration, for when Pompey found his precious receipt it was simple enough: "Pound with care two walnuts, two dried figs, twenty pounds of rice, and a grain of salt." I think we might take this cum grano salis.
Queer were the names of some of the herbs; alehoof, which was ground-ivy, or gill-go-by-ground, or haymaids, or twinhoof, or gill-creep-by-ground, and was an herb of Venus, and thus in special use for "passions of the heart," for "amorous cups," which few Puritans dared to meddle with. The blessed thistle, of which one scandalized old writer says, "I suppose the name was put upon it by them that had little holiness themselves." Clary, or clear-eye, or Christ's-eye, which latter name makes the same writer indignantly say, "I could wish from my soul that blasphemy and ignorance were ceased among physicians"—as if the poor doctors gave these folk-names! The crab-claws so often mentioned was also an herb, otherwise known as knight's-pond water and freshwater-soldier. The mints to flavor were horsemint, spearmint, peppermint, catmint, and heartmint.
The earliest New England colonists did not discover in the new country all the herbs and simples of their native land, but the Indian powwows knew of others that answered every purpose—very healing herbs too, as Wood in his "New England's Prospects" unwillingly acknowledges and thus explains: "Sometimes the devill for requitall of their worship recovers the partie to nuzzle them up inn thier devilish Religion." The planters sent to England for herbs and drugs, as existing inventories show; and they planted seeds and soon had plenty of home herbs that grew apace in every dooryard. The New Haven colony passed a law at an early date to force the destruction of a "great stinking poisonous weed," which is said to have been the Datura stramonium, a medicinal herb. It had been brought over by the Jamestown colonists, and had spread miraculously, and was known as "Jimson" or Jamestown weed.
Josselyn gives in his "New England's Rarities" an interesting list of the herbs known and used by the colonists. Cotton Mather said the most useful and favorite medicinal plants were alehoof, garlick, elder, sage, rue, and saffron. Saffron has never lost its popularity. To this day "saffern tea" is a standing country dose in New England, especially for the "jarnders." Elder, rue, and saffron were English herbs that were made settlers here and carefully cultivated; so also were sage, hyssop, tansy, wormwood, celandine, comfrey, mallows, mayweed, yarrow, chamomile, dandelion, shepherd's-purse, bloody dock, elecampane, motherwort, burdock, plantain, catnip, mint, fennel, and dill—all now flaunting weeds. Dunton wrote, with praise of a Dr. Bullivant, in Boston, in 1686, "He does not direct his patients to the East Indies to look for drugs when they may have far better out of their gardens."
There is a charm in these medical rules in my old book, in spite of the earth-worms and wood-lice and adders and vipers in which some of them abound (to say nothing of other and more shocking ingredients). In surprising and unpleasant compounds they do not excel the prescriptions in a serious medical book published in Exeter, New Hampshire, as late as 1835. Nor is Cotton Mather's favorite and much-vaunted ingredient millepedes, or sowbugs, once mentioned within. All are not vile in my Queen's Closet—far from it. Medicines composed of Canary wine or sack, with rose-water, juice of oranges and lemons, syrup of clove-gillyflower, loaf sugar, "Mallago raisins," nutmegs, cloves, cinnamon, mace, remind me strongly of Josselyn's New England Nectar, and render me quite dissatisfied with our modern innovations of quinine, antipyrine, and phenacetin, and even make only passively welcome the innocuous and uninteresting homo[eo]pathic pellet and drop.
Many other dispensatories, guides, collections, and records of medical customs and concoctions, remain to us even of the earliest days. We have the private receipt-book of John Winthrop, a gathering of choice receipts given to him in manuscript by one Stafford, of England. These receipts have been printed in the Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society for the year 1862, with delightful notes by Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, and are of the same nature as those in the Queen's Closet. Here is one, which was venomous, yet harmless enough:
"My black powder against ye plague, small-pox, purples, all sorts of feavers, Poyson; either by way of prevention or after Infection. In the Moneth of March take Toades, as many as you will, alive; putt them into an Earthen pott, so yt it be halfe full; Cover it with a broad tyle or Iron plate, then overwhelme the pott, so yt ye bottome may be uppermost; putt charcoals round about it and over it and in the open ayre not in an house; sett it on fire and lett it burne out and extinguish of itself; when it is cold take out the toades; and in an Iron morter pound them very well; and searce them; then in a Crucible calcine them; So againe; pound them & searce them again. The first time they will be a brown powder, the next time blacke. Of this you may give a dragme in a Vehiculum or drinke Inwardly in any Infection taken: and let them sweat upon it in their bedds: but let them not cover their heads; especially in the Small-Pox. For prevention half a dragme will suffice."
I do not know what meteorological influence was assigned to the month of March; perhaps it was chosen because toads would be uncommonly hard to get in New England during that month.
All the medicines in Dr. Stafford's little collection were not, however, so unalluring, and were, on the whole, very healing and respectable. He prescribed nitre, antimony, rhubarb, jalap, and spermaceti, "the sovereignest thing on earth—for an inward bruise;" and he also culled herbs and simples in vast variety. He gave some very good advice regarding the conduct of a physician, the latter clause of which might well be heeded to-day.
"Nota bene. No man can with a good Conscience take a fee or Reward before ye partie receive benefit apparent and then he is not to demand anything but what God shall putt it into the heart of the partie to give him. A man is not to neglect that partie to whom he had once administered but to visit him at least once a day & to medle with no more than he can well attend."
The account books of other old New England physicians, and other medical books such as "A Treatise of Choice Spagyrical Preparations," show to us that the seventeenth and eighteenth century medicines, though disgusting, were not deadly. We know what medicines were given the colonists on their sea journey hither: "Oil of Cloves, Origanum, Purging Pills, and Ressin of Jalap" for the toothache; a Diaphoretic Bolus for an "Extream Cold;" Spirits of Castor and Oil of Amber for "Histericall Fitts;" "Seaurell Emplaisters for a broken Shin;" and for other afflictions, "Gascons Powder, Liquorish, Carminative Seeds, Syrup of Saffron, Pectoral Syrups and Somniferous Boluses."
Cod livers were given then as cod-liver oil is given now, "to restore them that have melted their Grease." A favorite prescription was "Rulandus, his Balsam which tho' it smel not wel" was properly powerful, and could be gotten down if carefully hidden in "poudered shuger."
Cotton Mather, who tried his skilful hand at writing upon almost every grave and weighty subject, composed a book of medical advice called the "Angel of Bethesda." It was written when he was sixty years of age, but was never printed; the manuscript is preserved in the library of the American Antiquarian Society at Worcester. It begins characteristically with a sermon, and is fantastically peppered with pompous scriptural and classical quotations, as was the Mather wont. The ingredients of the prescriptions are vile beyond belief, though, as Mather said in one of his letters, they are "powerful and parable physicks," which are two desirable qualities or attributes of any physic. The book gives an interesting account of Mather's share in that great colonial revolution in medicine—the introduction of the custom of inoculation for the small-pox. His friend, Dr. Zabdiel Boylston, of Boston, was the first physician to inaugurate this great step by inoculating his own son—a child six years old. Deep was the horror and aversion felt by the colonial public toward both the practice and practitioners of this daring innovation, and fiercely and malignantly was it opposed; but its success soon conquered opposition, and also that fell disease, which six times within a hundred years had devastated New England, bringing death, disfigurement, and business misfortunes to the colonists. So universal was the branding produced by this scourge that scarcely an advertisement containing any personal description appears in any colonial print, without containing the words, pock-fretten, pock-marked, pock-pitted, or pock-broken.
Through the possibility of having the small-pox to order, arose the necessity of small-pox hospitals, to which whole families or parties resorted to pass through the ordeal in concert. Small-pox parties were made the occasion of much friendly intercourse; they were called classes. Thus in the Salem Gazette of April 22, 1784, after Point Shirley was set aside as a small-pox retreat, it was advertised that "Classes will be admitted for Small pox." These classes were real country outings, having an additional zest of novelty since one could fully participate in the pleasures, profits, and pains of a small-pox party but once in a lifetime. Much etiquette and deference was shown over these "physical gatherings," formal invitations were sometimes sent to join the function at a private house. Here is an extract from a letter written July 8, 1775, by Joseph Barrell, a Boston merchant, to Colonel Wentworth: "Mr. Storer has invited Mrs. Martin to take the small-pox in her house; if Mrs. Wentworth desires to get rid of her fears in the same way we will accommodate her in the best way we can. I've several friends that I've invited, and none of them will be more welcome than Mrs. Wentworth." These brave classes took their various purifying and sudorific medicines in cheerful concert, were "grafted" together, "broke out" together, were feverish together, sweat together, scaled off together, and convalesced together. Not a very prepossessing conjoining medium would inoculation appear to have been, but many a pretty and sentimental love affair sprang up between mutually "pock-fretten" New Englanders.
The small-pox hospitals were of various degrees of elegance and comfort, and were widely advertised. I have found four separate announcements in one of the small sheets of a Federal newspaper. From the luxurious high-priced retreat "without Mercury" were grades descending to the Suttonian, Brunonian, Pincherian, Dimsdalian, and other plebeian establishments, in which the patient paid from fifteen to as low as three dollars per week for lodging, food, medicine, care, and inoculation. At the latter cheap establishment each person was obliged to furnish for his individual use one sheet and one pillow-case—apparently a meagre outfit for sickness, but possibly merely a supplemental one.
This is a fair example of the prevailing advertisement of small-pox hospitals, from the Connecticut Courant of November 30, 1767:
"Dr. Uriah Rogers, Jr., of Norwalk County of Fairfield takes this method to acquaint the Publick & particularly such as are desirous of taking the Small Pox by way of Inoculation, that having had Considerable Experience in that Branch of Practice and carried on the same the last season with great Success; has lately erected a convenient Hospital for that purpose just within the Jurisdiction Line of the Province of New York about nine miles distant from N. Y. Harbour, where he intends to carry said Branch of Practice from the first of October next to the first of May next. And that all such as are disposed to favour him with their Custom may depend upon being well provided with all necessary accomodations, Provisions & the best Attendance at the moderate Expence of Four Pounds Lawful Money to Each Patient. That after the first Sett or Class he purposes to give no Occasion for waiting to go in Particular Setts but to admit Parties singly, just as it suits them. As he has another Good House provided near Said Hospital where his family are to live, and where all that come after the first Sett that go into the Hospital are to remain with his Family until they are sufficiently Prepared & Inoculated & Until it is apparent that they haven taken the infection."
Of all the advertisements of small-pox hospitals, inoculation, etc., which appear in the newspapers through the eighteenth century, none is more curious, more comic than this from a Boston paper of 1772:
"Ibrahim Mustapha Inoculator to his Sublime Highness & the Janissaries: original Inventor and sole Proprietor of that Inestimable Instrument, the Circassian Needle, begs leave to acquaint the Nobility & Gentry of this City and its Environs that he is just arrived from Constantinople where he has inoculated about 50,000 Persons without losing a Single Patient. He requires not the least Preparation Regimen or Confinement. Ladies and Gentlemen who wish to be inoculated only acquaint him with how many Pimples they choose and he makes the exact number of Punctures with his Needle which Produces the Eruptions in the very Picquers. Ladies who fancy a favorite Pitt may have it put in any Spot they please, and of any size: not the Slightest Fever or Pain attends the Eruption; much less any of those frightful Convulsions so usual in all the vulgar methods of Inoculation, even in the famous Peter Puffs. This amazing Needle more truly astonishing and not less useful than the Magnetic one, has this property in common with the latter, that by touching the point of a common needle it communicates its wonderful Virtues to it in the same manner that Loadstone does to Iron. And that no part of this extensive Continent may want the Benefit of this Superlatively excellent Method, Ibrahim Mustapha proposes to touch several Needles in order to have them distributed to different Colonies by which means the Small Pocks may be entirely eradicated as it has been in the Turkish Empire."
Generous Ibrahim Mustapha! despite the testimony of the Janissaries and the entire Turkish Empire, I cannot doubt that in your early youth you frequently kissed the Blarney Stone, hence your fluent tongue and your gallant proposition to becomingly decorate with pits the ladies.
Besides the scourge of small-pox, the colonists were afflicted grievously with other malignant distempers,—fatal throat diseases, epidemic influenzas, putrid fevers, terrible fluxes; and as the art of sanitation was absolutely disregarded and almost unknown, as drainage there was none, and the notion of disinfection was in feeble infancy, we cannot wonder that the death-rates were high. Well might the New Englander say with Sir Thomas Browne: "Considering the thousand doors that lead to death, I do thank my God that we can die but once."
Cotton Mather was not the only kind-hearted New England minister who set up to heal the body as well as the soul of the entire town. All the early parsons seem to have turned eagerly to medicine. The Wigglesworths were famous doctors. President Hoar, of Harvard College, President Rogers, President Chauncey, all practised medicine. The latter's six sons were all ministers, and all good doctors, too. It was a parson, Thomas Thatcher, who wrote the first medical treatise published in America, a set of "Brief Rules for the Care of the Small Pocks," printed as a broadside in 1677. Many of the early parsons played also the part of apothecary, buying drugs at wholesale and compounding and selling medicines to their parishioners. Small wonder that Cotton Mather called the union of physic and piety an "Angelical Conjunction."
Other professions and callings joined hands with chirurgy and medicine. Innkeepers, magistrates, grocers, and schoolmasters were doctors. One surgeon was a butcher—sadly similar callings in those days. This butcher-surgeon was not Mr. Pighogg, the Plymouth "churregein," whose unpleasant name was, I trust, only the cacographical rendering of the good old English name Peacock.
With all these amateur and semi-professional rivals, it is no wonder that Giles Firmin, who knew how to pull teeth and bleed and sweat in a truly professional manner, complained that he found physic but a "meene helpe" in the new land.
So vast was the confidence of the community in some or any kind of a doctor, and in self-doctoring, that as late as the year 1721 there was but one regularly graduated physician in Boston—Dr. Samuel Douglas; and it may be noted that he was one of the most decided opponents of inoculation for small-pox.
Colonial dames also boldly tried their hand at the healing art; the first two, Anne Hutchinson and Margaret Jones, did not thrive very well at the trade. The banishment of the former has oft been told. The latter was hung as a witch, and the worst evidence against her character, the positive proof of her diabolical power was, that her medicines being so simple, they worked such wonderful cures. At the close of King Philip's War the Council of Connecticut paid Mrs. Allyn L20 for her services to the sick, and Mistress Sarah Sands doctored on Block Island. Sarah Alcock, the wife of a chirurgeon, was also "active in physick;" and Mistress Whitman, the Marlborough midwife, visited her patients on snow-shoes, and lived to be seventy-eight years old, too. In the Phipps Street Burying Ground in Charlestown is the tombstone of a Boston midwife who died in 1761, aged seventy-six years, and who, could we believe the record on the gravestone, "by ye blessing of God has brought into this world above 130,000 children." But a close examination shows that the number on the ancient headstone, through the mischievous manipulation of modern hands, has received a figure at either end, and the good old lady can only be charged with three thousand additions to wretched humanity.
Negroes, and illiterate persons of all complexions, set up as doctors. Old Joe Pye and Sabbatus were famous Indian healers. Indian squaws, such as Molly Orcutt, sold many a decoction of leaves and barks to the planters, and, like Hiawatha,
"Wandered eastward, wandered westward, Teaching men the use of simples, And the antidotes for poisons, And the cure of all diseases."
A good old Connecticut doctor had a negro servant, Primus, who rode with him and helped him in his surgery and shop. When the master died, Doctor Primus started in to practise medicine himself, and proved extraordinarily successful throughout the county; even his master's patients did not disdain to employ the black successor, wishing no doubt their wonted bolus and draught.
In spite of the fact that everyone and anyone seemed to be permitted, and was considered fitted to prescribe medicine, the colonists were sharp enough on the venders of quack medicines—or, perhaps I should say, of powerless medicines—on "runnagate chyrurgeons and physickemongers, saltimbancoes, quacksalvers, charlatans, and all impostourous empiricks." As early as 1631, one Nicholas Knapp was fined and whipped for pretending "to cure the scurvey by a water of noe worth nor value which he sold att a very deare rate." The planters were terribly prostrated by scurvy, and doubtless were specially indignant at this heartless cheat.
Tides of absurd attempts at medicine, or rather at healing, swept over the scantily settled New England villages in colonial days, just as we have seen in our own day, in our great cities, the abounding success—financially—of the blue-glass cure, the faith cure, and of science healing. The Rain Water Doctor worked wondrous miracles, and did a vast and lucrative business until he was unluckily drowned in a hogshead of his own medicine at his own door. Bishop Berkeley, in his pamphlet Siris, started a flourishing tar-water craze, which lived long and died slowly. This cure-all, like the preceding aquatic physic, had the merit of being cheap. A quart of tar steeped for forty-eight hours in a gallon of water, tainted the water enough to make it fit for dosing. Perhaps the most expansive swindle was that of Dr. Perkins, with his Metallic Tractors. He was born in Norwich, Conn., in 1740, and found fortune and fame in his native land. Still he was expelled from the association of physicians in his own country, but managed to establish a Perkinean Institution in London with a fine, imposing list of officers and managers, of whom Benjamin Franklin's son was one. He had poems and essays and eulogies and books written about him, and it was claimed by his followers that he cured one million and a half of sufferers. At any rate, he managed to carry off L10,000 of good English money to New England. His wonderful Metallic Tractors were little slips of iron and brass three inches long, blunt at one end, and pointed at the other, and said to be of opposite electrical conditions. They cost five guineas a pair. When drawn or trailed for several minutes over a painful or diseased spot on the human frame, they positively removed and cured all ache, smart, or soreness. I have never doubted they worked wonderful cures; so did bits of wood, of lead, of stone, of earthenware, in the hands of scoffers, when the tractorated patients did not see the bits, and fancied that the manipulator held Metallic Tractors.
As years passed on various useful medicines became too much the vogue, and were used to too vast and too deleterious an extent, particularly mercury. Many a poor salivated patient sacrificed his teeth to his doctor's mercurial doses. One such toothless sufferer, a carpenter, having little ready money, offered to pay his physician in hay-rakes; and he took a revengeful delight in manufacturing the rakes of green, unseasoned wood. After a few days' use in the sunny fields, the doctor's rakes were as toothless as their maker.
Physicians' fees were "meene" enough in olden times; but sixpence a visit in Hadley and Northampton in 1730, and only eightpence in Revolutionary times. A blood-letting, or a jaw-splitting tooth-drawing cost the sufferer eightpence extra. No wonder the doctor cupped and bled on every occasion. In extravagant Hartford the opulent doctor got a shilling a visit. Naturally all the chirurgeons eked out and augmented their scanty fees by compounding and selling their own medicines, and dosed often and dosed deeply, since by their doses they lived. In many communities a bone-setter had to be paid a salary by the town in order to keep him, so few and slight were his private emoluments, even as a physic-monger.
The science of nursing the sick was, in early days, unknown; there were but few who made a profession of nursing, and those few were deeply to be dreaded. In taking care of the sick, as in other kindnesses, the neighborly instinct, ever so keen, so living in New England, showed no lagging part. For it is plain to any student of early colonial days that, if the chief foundation of the New England commonwealth was religion, the second certainly was neighborliness. There was a constant exchange of kindly and loving attentions between families and individuals. It showed itself in all the petty details of daily life, in assistance in housework and in the field, in house-raising. Did a man build a barn, his neighbors flocked to drive a pin, to lay a stone, to stand forever in the edifice as token of their friendly goodwill. The most eminent, as well as the poorest neighbors, thus assisted. In nothing was this neighborly feeling more constantly shown than in the friendly custom of visiting and watching with the sick; and it was the only available assistance. Men and women in this care and attention took equal part. As in all other neighborly duties, good Judge Sewall was never remiss in the sick-room. He was generous with his gifts and generous with his time, even to those humble in the community. Such entries as this abound in his diary: "Oct. 26th 1702. Visited languishing Mr. Sam Whiting. I gave him 2 Balls of Chockalett and a pound of Figgs." And when Mr. Bayley lay ill of a fever, he prayed with him and took care of him through many a long night, and wrote:
"When I came away call'd his wife into the Next Chamber and gave her Two Five Shilling Bits. She very modestly and kindly accepted them and said I had done too much already. I told her if the State of my family would have born it I ought to have watched with Mr. Bayley as much as that came to."
To others he gave China oranges, dishes of marmalet, Meers Cakes, Banberry Cakes; and even to well-to-do people gave gifts of money, sometimes specifying for what purpose he wished the gift to be applied.
The universal custom of praying at inordinate length and frequency with sick persons was of more doubtful benefit, though of equally kind intent. One cannot but be amazed to find how many persons—ministers, elders, deacons, and laymen were allowed to enter the sick-room and pray by the bedside of the invalid, thus indeed giving him, as Sewall said, "a lift Heavenward." Sometimes a succession of prayers filled the entire day.
Judge Sewall's friendly prayers and visits were not always welcome. After visiting sick Mr. Brattle the Judge writes, but without any resentment, "he plainly told me that frequent visits were prejudicial to him, it provok'd him to speak more than his strength would bear, would have me come seldom." And on September 20, 1690, he met with this reception:
"Mr. Moody and I went before the others came to neighbor Hurd who lay dying where also Mr. Allen came in. Nurse Hurd told her husband who was there and what he had to say; whether he desir'd them to pray with him; He said with some earnestness, Hold your tongue, which was repeated three times to his wives repeated entreaties; once he said Let me alone or Be quiet (whether that made a fourth or was one of the three do not remember) and, My Spirits are gon. At last Mr. Moody took him up pretty roundly and told him he might with some labour have given a pertinent answer. When we were ready to come away Mr. Moody bid him put forth a little Breath to ask prayer, and said twas the last time had to speak to him; At last ask'd him, doe you desire prayer, shall I pray with you. He answered, Ay for Gods sake and thank'd Mr. Moody when had done. His former carriage was very startling and amazing to us. About one at night he died. About 11 o'clock I supposed to hear neighbor Mason at prayer with him just as my wife and I were going to bed."
One cannot but feel a thrill of sympathy for poor, dying Hurd on that hot September night, fairly hectored by pious, loud-voiced neighbors into eternity; and can well believe that many a colonial invalid who lived through mithridate and rubila, through sweating and blood-letting, died of the kindly and godly-intentioned praying of his neighbors.
FUNERAL AND BURIAL CUSTOMS
The earliest New Englanders had no religious services at a funeral. Not wishing to "confirm the popish error that prayer is to be used for the dead or over the dead," they said no words, either of grief, resignation, or faith, but followed the coffin and filled the grave in silence. Lechford has given us a picture of a funeral in New England in the seventeenth century, which is full of simple dignity, if not of sympathy:
"At Burials nothing is read, nor any funeral sermon made, but all the neighborhood or a goodly company of them come together by tolling of the bell, and carry the dead solemnly to his grave, and then stand by him while he is buried. The ministers are most commonly present."
As was the fashion in England at that date, laudatory verses and sentences were fastened to the bier or herse. The name herse was then applied to the draped catafalque or platform upon which the candles stood and the coffin rested, not as now the word hearse to a carriage for the conveyance of the dead. Sewall says of the funeral of the Rev. Thomas Shepherd: "There were some verses, but none pinned on the Herse." These verses were often printed after the funeral. The publication of mourning broadsides and pamphlets, black-bordered and dismal, was a large duty of the early colonial press. They were often decorated gruesomely with skull and crossbones, scythes, coffins, and hour-glasses, all-seeing eyes with rakish squints, bow-legged skeletons, and miserable little rosetted winding-sheets.
A writer in the New England Courant of November 12, 1722, says:
Of all the different species of poetry now in use I find the Funeral Elegy to be most universally admired and used in New England. There is scarce a plough jogger or country cobler that has read our Psalms and can make two lines jingle, who has not once in his life at least exercised his talent in this way. Nor is there one country house in fifty which has not its walls garnished with half a Score of these sort of Poems which praise the Dead to the Life.
When a Puritan died his friends conspired in mournful concert, or labored individually and painfully, to bring forth as tributes of grief and respect, rhymed elegies, anagrams, epitaphs, acrostics, epicediums, and threnodies; and singularly enough, seemed to reserve for these gloomy tributes their sole attempt at facetiousness. Ingenious quirks and puns, painful and complicate jokes (printed in italics that you may not escape nor mistake them) bestrew these funeral verses. If a man chanced to have a name of any possible twist of signification, such as Green, Stone, Blackman, in doleful puns did he posthumously suffer; and his friends and relatives endured vicariously also, for to them these grinning death's-heads of rhymes were widely distributed.
It was with a keen sense of that humor which comes, as Sydney Smith says, from sudden and unexpected contrast, that I read a heavily bordered sheet entitled in large letters, "A Grammarian's Funeral." It was printed at the death of Schoolmaster Woodmancey, and was so much admired that it was brought forth again at the demise of Ezekiel Cheever, who died in 1708 after no less than seventy years of school-teaching. I think we may truly say of him, teaching at ninety-three years of age,
"With throttling hands of death at strife, Ground he at grammar."
For the consideration and investigation of Browning Societies, I give a few lines from this New England conception of a Grammarian's Funeral.
"Eight parts of Speech This Day wear Mourning Gowns, Declin'd Verbs, Pronouns, Participles, and Nouns. The Substantive seeming the limbed best Would set an hand to bear him to his Rest The Adjective with very grief did say Hold me by Strength or I shall faint away. Great Honour was conferred on Conjugations They were to follow next to the Relations
* * * * *
But Lego said, by me his got his Skill And therefore next the Herse I follow will A Doleful Day for Verbs they look so Moody They drove Spectators to a mournful Study."
I have a strong suspicion that this funeral poem may have been learned by heart by succeeding generations of Boston scholars, as a sort of grammatical memory-rhyme—a mournful study, indeed.
Funeral sermons were also printed, with trappings of sombreness, black-bordered, with death's-heads and crossbones on the covers. These sermons were not, however, preached at the time of the funeral, save in exceptional cases. It is said that one was delivered at the funeral of President Chauncey in 1671. Cotton Mather preached one at the funeral of Fitz-John Winthrop in 1707, and another at the funeral of Waitstill Winthrop in 1717. Gradually there crept in the custom of having suitable prayers at the house before the burial procession formed, the first instance being probably at the funeral of Pastor Adams, of Roxbury, in 1683. Sometimes a short address was given at the grave, as when Jonathan Alden was buried at Duxbury, in 1697. The Boston News Letter of December 31, 1730, notes a prayer at a funeral, and says: "Tho' a custom in the Country-Towns 'tis a Singular instance in this Place, but it's wish'd may prove a Leading Example to the General Practice of so Christian and Decent a Custom." Whitefield wrote disparagingly of the custom of not speaking at the grave.
We see Judge Sewall mastering his grief at his mother's burial, delaying for a few moments the filling of the grave, and speaking some very proper words of eulogy "with passion and tears." He jealously notes, however, when the Episcopal burial service is given in Boston, saying: "The Office for the dead is a Lying bad office, makes no difference between the precious and the Vile."
There were, as a rule, two sets of bearers appointed; under-bearers, usually young men, who carried the coffin on a bier; and pall-bearers, men of age, dignity, or consanguinity, who held the corners of the pall which was spread over the coffin and hung down over the heads and bodies of the under-bearers. As the coffin was sometimes carried for a long distance, there were frequently appointed a double set of under-bearers, to share the burden. I have been told that mort-stones were set by the wayside in some towns, upon which the bearers could rest the heavy coffin for a short time on their way to the burial-place; but I find no record or proof of this statement. The pall, or bier-cloth, or mort-cloth, as it was called, was usually bought and owned by the town, and was of heavy purple, or black broadcloth, or velvet. It often was kept with the bier in the porch of the meeting-house; but in some communities the bier, a simple shelf or table of wood on four legs about a foot and a half long, was placed over the freshly filled-in grave and left sombrely waiting till it was needed to carry another coffin to the burial-place. In many towns there were no gravediggers; sympathizing friends made the simple coffin and dug the grave.
In Londonderry, N. H., and neighboring towns that had been settled by Scotch-Irish planters, the announcement of a death was a signal for cessation of daily work throughout the neighborhood. Kindly assistance was at once given at the house of mourning. Women flocked to do the household work and to prepare the funeral feast. Men brought gifts of food, or household necessities, and rendered all the advice and help that was needed. A gathering was held the night before the funeral, which in feasting and drinking partook somewhat of the nature of an Irish wake. Much New England rum was consumed at this gathering, and also before the procession to the grave, and after the interment the whole party returned to the house for an "arval," and drank again. The funeral rum-bill was often an embarrassing and hampering expense to a bereaved family for years.
This liberal serving of intoxicating liquor at a funeral was not peculiar to these New Hampshire towns, nor to the Scotch-Irish, but prevailed in every settlement in the colonies until the temperance-awakening days of this century. Throughout New England bills for funeral baked meats were large in items of rum, cider, whiskey, lemons, sugar, spices.
To show how universally liquor was served to all who had to do with a funeral, let me give the bill for the mortuary expenses of David Porter, of Hartford, who was drowned in 1678.
"By a pint of liquor for those who dived for him. 1s. By a quart of liquor for those who bro't him home. 2s. By two quarts of wine & 1 gallon of cyder to jury of inquest. 5s. By 8 gallons & 3 qts. wine for funeral. L1 15s. By Barrel cyder for funeral. 16s. 1 Coffin. 12s. Windeing sheet. 18s."
Even town paupers had two or three gallons of rum or a barrel of cider given by the town to serve as speeding libations at their unmourned funerals. The liquor at the funeral of a minister was usually paid for by the church or town—often interchangeable terms for the same body. The parish frequently gave, also, as in the case of the death of Rev. Job Strong, of Portsmouth, in 1751, "the widow of our deceased pasture a full suit of mourning."
A careful, and above all an experienced committee was appointed to superintend the mixing of the funeral grog or punch, and to attend to the liberal and frequent dispensing thereof.
Hawthorne was so impressed with the enjoyable reunion New Englanders found in funerals that he wrote of them:
"They were the only class of scenes, so far as my investigation has taught me, in which our ancestors were wont to steep their tough old hearts in wine and strong drink and indulge in an outbreak of grisly jollity. Look back through all the social customs of New England in the first century of her existence and read all her traits of character, and find one occasion other than a funeral feast where jollity was sanctioned by universal practice.... Well, old friends! Pass on with your burden of mortality and lay it in the tomb with jolly hearts. People should be permitted to enjoy themselves in their own fashion; every man to his taste—but New England must have been a dismal abode for the man of pleasure when the only boon-companion was Death."
This picture has been given by Sargent of country funerals in the days of his youth:
"When I was a boy, and was at an academy in the country, everybody went to everybody's funeral in the village. The population was small, funerals rare; the preceptor's absence would have excited remark, and the boys were dismissed for the funeral. A table with liquors was always provided. Every one, as he entered, took off his hat with his left hand, smoothed down his hair with his right, walked up to the coffin, gazed upon the corpse, made a crooked face, passed on to the table, took a glass of his favorite liquor, went forth upon the plat before the house and talked politics, or of the new road, or compared crops, or swapped heifers or horses until it was time to lift. A clergyman told me that when settled at Concord, N. H., he officiated at the funeral of a little boy. The body was borne in a chaise, and six little nominal pall-bearers, the oldest not thirteen, walked by the side of the vehicle. Before they left the house a sort of master of ceremonies took them to the table and mixed a tumbler of gin, water, and sugar for each."
It was a hard struggle against established customs and ideas of hospitality, and even of health, when the use of liquor at funerals was abolished. Old people sadly deplored the present and regretted the past. One worthy old gentleman said, with much bitterness: "Temperance has done for funerals."
As soon as the larger cities began to accrue wealth, the parentations of men and women of high station were celebrated with much pomp and dignity, if not with religious exercises. Volleys were fired over the freshly made grave—even of a woman. A barrel and a half of powder was consumed to do proper honor to Winthrop, the chief founder of Massachusetts. At the funeral of Deputy-Governor Francis Willoughby eleven companies of militia were in attendance, and "with the doleful noise of trumpets and drums, in their mourning posture, three thundering volleys of shot were discharged, answered with the loud roarings of great guns rending the heavens with noise at the loss of so great a man." When Governor Leverett died, in 1679, the bearers carried banners. The principal men of the town bore the armor of the deceased, from helmet to spur, and the Governor's horse was led with banners. The funeral-recording Sewall has left us many a picture of the pomp of burial. Colonel Samuel Shrimpton was buried "with Arms" in 1697, "Ten Companies, No Herse nor Trumpet but a horse Led. Mourning Coach also & Horses in Mourning, Scutcheons on their sides and Deaths Heads on their foreheads." Fancy those coach-horses with gloomy death's-heads on their foreheads. At the funeral of Lady Andros, which was held in church, six "mourning women" sat in front of the draped pulpit, and the hearse was drawn by six horses. This English fashion of paid mourners was not common among sincere New Englanders; Lady Andros was a Church of England woman, not a Puritan. The cloth from the pulpit was usually given, after the burial, to the minister. In 1736 the Boston News Letter tells of the pulpit and the pew of the deceased being richly draped and adorned with escutcheons at a funeral. Thus were New England men, to quote Sir Thomas Browne, "splendid in ashes, and pompous in the grave."
Many local customs prevailed. In Hartford and neighboring towns all ornaments, mirrors, and pictures were muffled with napkins and cloths at the time of the funerals, and sometimes the window-shutters were kept closed in the front of the house and tied together with black for a year, as was the fashion in Philadelphia.
Hawthorne tells us that at the death of Sir William Pepperell the entire house was hung with black, and all the family portraits were covered with black crape.
The order of procession to the grave was a matter of much etiquette. High respect and equally deep slights might be rendered to mourners in the place assigned. Usually some magistrate or person of dignity walked with the widow. Judge Sewall often speaks of "leading the widow in a mourning cloak."
One great expense of a funeral was the gloves. In some communities these were sent as an approved and elegant form of invitation to relatives and friends and dignitaries, whose presence was desired. Occasionally, a printed "invitation to follow the corps" was also sent. One for the funeral of Sir William Phipps is still in existence—a fantastically gloomy document. In the case of a funeral of any person prominent in State, Church, or society, vast numbers of gloves were disbursed; "none of 'em of any figure but what had gloves sent to 'em." At the funeral of the wife of Governor Belcher, in 1736, over one thousand pairs of gloves were given away; at the funeral of Andrew Faneuil three thousand pairs; the number frequently ran up to several hundred. Different qualities of gloves were presented at the same funeral to persons of different social circles, or of varied degrees of consanguinity or acquaintance. Frequently the orders for these vales were given in wills. As early as 1633 Samuel Fuller, of Plymouth, directed in his will that his sister was to have gloves worth twelve shillings; Governor Winthrop and his children each "a paire of gloves of five shilling;" while plebeian Rebecca Prime had to be contented with a cheap pair worth two shillings and sixpence. The under-bearers who carried the coffin were usually given different and cheaper gloves from the pall-bearers. We find seven pairs of gloves given at a pauper's funeral, and not under the head of "Extrodny Chearges" either.
Of course the minister was always given gloves. They were showered on him at weddings, christenings, funerals. Andrew Eliot, of the North Church, in Boston, kept a record of the gloves and rings which he received; and, incredible as it may seem, in thirty-two years he was given two thousand nine hundred and forty pairs of gloves. Though he had eleven children, he and his family could scarcely wear them all, so he sold them through kindly Boston milliners, and kept a careful account of the transaction, of the lamb's-wool gloves, the kid gloves, the long gloves—which were probably Madam Eliot's. He received between six and seven hundred dollars for the gloves, and a goodly sum also for funeral rings.
Various kinds of gloves are specified as suitable for mourning; for instance, in the Boston Independent Advertiser in 1749, "Black Shammy Gloves and White Glazed Lambs Wool Gloves suitable for Funerals." White gloves were as often given as black, and purple gloves also. Good specimens of old mourning gloves have been preserved in the cabinets of the Worcester Society of Antiquity.