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Friday, April 24, 2015

Language and Sin in 1806 Montreal

Taking boats, sitting in carriages, and wandering on foot, a man makes his way from Charleston to New York, then winds around Lake Ontario and Southern Canada. His adventures recall the excitement and the trials of modern travel: at one point he gets sick, and reluctantly stays in his room while friends go out and tell him about their day.

I was drawn to the generously-titled Journal of a tour from Charleston, So. Carolina, to New-York, Ballstown Springs, Falls of Niagara, down Lake Ontario and the River St. Laurence to Montreal; and the course of returning by Lake Champlain Vermont and New York in the year 1806 in the Rosenbach library because of one of the final destinations it mentions: Montreal. I’m Emily, a curatorial intern at the Rosenbach this spring and a graduate student of material culture. I did my undergraduate degree in Montreal, and thought I might explore the city again from afar through the lens of 1806.
The journal recalls a tour that covered a lot of ground. The anonymous writer pasted in a folded hand-drawn map at the end of the book. A shaky red line notes the travel path, sweeping across many miles on land and water. At the top right corner of the map is Montreal, marking the uppermost part of the loop traveled. 

Journal of a tour from Charleston... 1806. AMs 227/19 Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia
 After first arriving in Montreal, writer is quick to realize the possible mix-ups and amusements of visiting a bilingual city. “Upon first going out, I witnessed a curious effect of the diversity of language. I was lead through the marketplace, where my attention was caught by a laughable bargain going forward by interpretation.” A conversation is conducted between a French-speaking farmer and English-speaking ship captain, where the farmer was not receiving the price that he desired for his produce. “The greatest obstacle of the bargain was a command, which the farmer had received from “ma femme,” an authority which the waggish interpreter did not fail to enlarge upon in both the respects of length and loudness.”

Journal of a tour from Charleston... 1806. AMs 227/19 Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia
Language was but one element of Montreal’s character that the writer explains to his unknown audience, perhaps family or his own future reference. His facts may have come from other books, or tips from the acquaintances he made while paying visits to local homes. He explains that the population was around 12,000 people, mostly of French origin, and that the architecture was largely black colored stone placed on narrow streets. He lauds great public edifices, including a courthouse and a large cathedral, and describes the terrain of the island and mountain that he says gave the city its name.

The writer is especially interested in gaining access the convents in Montreal. He writes “The greatest objects of curiosity, which Montreal afforded, in my estimation, were the convents, but most of my acquaintance being Protestants, we had been several days in the city without finding any person who had the influence to procure admission.” Finally meeting some amenable hosts and former convent school pupils at a dinner, he is able to see three convents. 

Journal of a tour from Charleston... 1806. AMs 227/19 Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia
 The writer’s travel group talks with nuns and dines. They see living quarters, schools, and hospitals administrated within the buildings. During one tour, the narrator, evidently becoming quite comfortable with his host from the dinner, says “I saw an oblong box, resembling a projecting closet; and, addressing my informant, asked, if so small a space could contain all her sins.” Laughing, the two leave the confessional space and attend a final convent visit. The writer, after finding a few last meals and conversations, eventually leaves Montreal and makes his way slowly back to Charleston.
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Emily Pazar, is a curatorial intern at the Rosenbach this spring and a graduate student in the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture at the University of Delaware.

Friday, April 17, 2015

A Dinner Menu Fit for Joseph Conrad

This week's post comes from our intern Callan Carrow, who wrote a few weeks ago about the Whitman massacre
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Though you may be familiar with Heart of Darkness author Joseph Conrad, you probably haven’t heard of his wife, Jessie Conrad. An Englishwoman from a working-class background, she married Joseph, who was sixteen years her senior, in 1896. And she was in fact an author in her own right -- a cookbook author, that is.
Jessie Conrad. A Handbook of Cookery for a Small House. London, 1923. The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia
Jessie Conrad’s A Handbook of Cookery for a Small House, from the Rosenbach’s collections, was first published in 1923 as a practical, everyday guide to cooking for a modest 4-person household. In the Introduction, Jessie gives advice on the amount of time and care required for good cooking:
“Cooking ought not to take too much of one’s time. One hour and a half to two hours for lunch, and two and a half for dinner is sufficient...For my part I never went into the kitchen before half-past eleven for a half-past one lunch of three dishes. But once the cooking is begun one must give all one’s attention and care to it. No dish, however simple, will cook itself...
The bane of life in a small house is the smell of cooking. Very few are free from it. And yet it need not be endured at all. This evil yields to nothing more heroic than a simple but scrupulous care in all the processes in making food ready for consumption.”

Jessie apparently took her cooking very seriously. Despite her reputation as a generous hostess, she reportedly once heaped her wrath upon Ford Madox Ford, a friend of her husband’s, after he left his wet trilby hat in her oven to dry while she was cooking her Sunday roast.

Joseph Conrad, who seemed an appreciative recipient of his wife’s cooking, contributed to the book in the opening Preface. He praises the cookbook as the most morally pure form of writing:  
 “Of all the books produced since the most remote ages by human talents and industry those only that treat of cooking are, from a moral point of view, above suspicion. The intention of every other piece of prose may be discussed and even mistrusted; but the purpose of a cookery book is one and unmistakable. Its object can conceivably be no other than to increase the happiness of mankind.”

A Handbook of Cookery seems to have been well-received during its time. The Delineator, an American women’s magazine, featured the book in its August 1922 issue. Praising Jessie as an accomplished wife and homemaker, it reported that she “kept the home together and made it famous for the spirit and quality of its hospitality,” and that “the simple meals served at the Conrad home became famous.” London’s The Spectator also gave the book this brief review on June 22, 1923:

“Charming preface by Joseph Conrad is a pleasant surprise in a cookery book. It is a good book, too: the directions are clear and simple and we feel that if a recipe turned out badly we could put our failure down to only our own clumsiness and stupidity.”

Bon app├ętit!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Coryat's Crudities

Title page of Coryat's Crudities by Thomas Coryat.  London: 1611.  The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia, EL1 .C833c
I've been kicking around the idea of developing a Hands-On Tour relating to humor (if you haven't been on one of our Hands-On Tours yet or don't know what they are you can learn more about them and find upcoming topics here).  That's a broad topic, obviously, but in a collection as diverse as the Rosenbach's I know I and many of my colleagues often come across items that are good for a laugh or keep us smiling for days, whether because they're quirky or witty or ironic or just absurd.  Those are laughs and smiles that should be shared with visitors, and there's plenty of books and objects to choose from.  Shakespeare and Ben Jonson penned plenty of merry jests in their day and between George Cruikshank's political cartoons and Jonathan Swift's books we've got lots of satire in our collection.  But in a slightly more obscure vein, we also have a book that I think might represent an early instance of a type of comedy Dean Martin popularized in the 1970s: the celebrity roast.

The book is Coryat's Crudities from 1611, written by English courtier Thomas Coryat of Odcombe.  It's an account of his travels through Europe from May-October 1608, and the title deserves to be quoted in full: Coryat's Crudities: Hastily Gobled up in Five Moneths Travells in France, Savoy, Italy, Rhetia Commonly Called the Grisons Country, Helvetia alias Switzerland, Some Parts of High Germany and the Netherlands; Newly Digested in the Hungry Aire of Odcombe in the County of Somerset, and Now Dispersed to the Nourishment of the Travelling Members of this Kingdome.  You can gather from the title that Coryat considered himself quite the wit, but aside from its style his travelogue had a lasting impact on English society, popularizing several Italian innovations such as the umbrella and the fan, the use of forks in dining, as well as the gentleman's custom of taking a Grand Tour throughout Europe to complete one's education.

Coryat's adventures abroad included a gondola ride in Venice during which he was pelted with eggs, a long bout of sea-sickness on the journey from Dover to Calais, and ascending part of the Alps in a chair.  He also climbed on top of the Great Heidelberg Tun (a huge wine barrel)...

...and had a run-in with a courtesan in Venice, whom he described as "the crafty and hot daughter of the Sunne."   

Coryat solicited some clever verses in praise of the book from various friends, a common practice at the time (and still done today on dust jackets, albeit not usually in verse).  It was at this point that his patron, Prince Henry (James I's eldest son)--who may have considered Coryat something of a buffoon--stepped in and secretly asked other members of his court and literary men to inundate Coryat with as many verses as they could write.  Coryat wrote in his prefatory material that he received over 1000 verses from such literary luminaries as Ben Jonson, John Donne, Michael Drayton, the architect Inigo Jones, and others.  "I solicited not half those worthy Wights for these verses," Coryat wrote, adding that Prince Henry, "gave me a strict and expresse commandment to print all those verses which I had read to his Highness."  The final number of verses printed, 55, was still outlandish, forcing readers to plow through almost two hundred pages of sarcastic poetry before getting to Coryat's actual travelogue.  It didn't help that Coryat was a bit eccentric, a little provincial, and that he happened upon some misadventures in his travels.  All of this made him an easy target for his wittier roasters, with Ben Jonson taking on the role of Roastmaster in a series of prose and verse introductions to the work.  Jonson joked in a note on the "character of the author," "It is thought he lives more by letting out of ayre then drawing in; and feared his belly will exhibite a Bill in Chauncery against his Mouth for talking away his meals.  He is always Tongue-Major of the company, and if ever the perpetual motion be to be hoped for, it is from thence." Donne mocked the ponderously large volume itself: "Infinite worke, which doth so farre extend,/ That none can study it to any end;" "If man be therefore man, because he can/ Reason, and laugh, they booke doth half make man;" "Therefore mine impotency I confesse;/ The healths which my braine beares, must be far less;/ Thy Gyant-wit o'rethrowes me, I am gone,/ And rather than reade all, I would reade none."  George Henton zinged some good one-liners at poor Coryat, "Whose Brain-pan hath more Pan than Braine by odds,/ to make thee all Pan with the semi-gods."

The verses roasted Coryat in seven languages, including Greek and Welsh, as well as "Utopian" (concocted by Henry Peacham).  But the most over-the-top contribution was John Hoskins's nonsense introduction to his verse (comparing Coryat to a porcupine): "Encomiological Antispastics consisting of Epitrits, the fourth in the first syzugie, which the vulgar call Phaleuciac hendecasyllabes; trimeters Catalecticks with Antispastic Asclepiads, trimeters Acatalectics consisting of two dactylicall commaes of some learned named Choriambicks both together dicoli distrophi, rhythmicall and hyperrythmical, amphibological, dedicated to the undeclinable memory of the autarkesticall Coryate, the onely true travelling Porcupen of England."  Hoskins even wrote a tune to help you sing his verse out loud:

Coryat took the mostly good-natured ribbing in stride, and his book proved influential enough that he may have had the last laugh in all this. And at the very least, Coryat's Crudities has earned a place in any humor/comedy Hands-On Tour we might offer here, though we'd love to know what you think of that idea.  Sound like a fun tour or more like something that would draw hecklers?  Any other historical roasts, jokes, pranks, and witticisms you think we should include?

Patrick Rodgers is a curator at the Rosenbach Museum & Library

Friday, April 03, 2015

Passover and Easter

With both Passover and Easter falling over the same weekend, here is a Rosenbach object for each. I wrote a post along the same lines back in 2012; you can check it out if you're interested in seeing the earliest printed depiction of a matzoh or a renaissance drawing of the crucifixion.

Service for the two first nights of Passover: in Hebrew and English: according to the custom of the German and Polish Jews. Carefully revised and corrected, by Isaac Levi. London: E. Justins, A.M. 5568 [i.e. 1808 C.E.].
Ro3 808h. The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia

Unlike the prayer book with the matzoh, which was acquired by Dr. Rosenbach, this 1808 Haggadah was a Rosenbach family item.

Service for the two first nights of Passover: in Hebrew and English: according to the custom of the German and Polish Jews. Carefully revised and corrected, by Isaac Levi. London: E. Justins, A.M. 5568 [i.e. 1808 C.E.].
Ro3 808h. The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia
Unfortunately, as former Rosenbacher Greg Giuliano wrote, "Sadly the little information we have about this wine-stained Haggadah speaks of tragedy for the Rosenbach family. Hyman Polock Rosenbach, oldest of the seven Rosenbach children, inscribed it “First used by me April 19th 1886.” His father Morris had recently died and leading the Passover seder had become the responsibility of the oldest son. Unfortunately, Hyman, an accomplished journalist, soon developed a severe drinking problem. Philip Rosenbach’s inscription below Hyman’s in the Haggadah indicates that just five years later Philip replaced his debilitated and ailing brother at the head of the seder table. Hyman died a year later in 1892."

Gradual leaf. Spanish, 1500-1550. 1954.1881. The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia

Turning to an Easter item, this page is a leaf from a gradual and the musical text reads "Resurrexi et adhuc tecum alleluia" (the alleluia is cut off by the page break) This is the beginning of the introit for Easter Sunday and translates as "I am risen, and I am always with you, alleluia".  You can hear the chant performed  by French Benedictine monks in this video:

Our leaf is Spanish and was produced in the first half of the 16th century. The page is quite large (30 1/2" x 21") which is not unusual, since it was intended to be sung from by a group. The historiated letter R at the upper left contains two images. In the upper scene Jesus stands on a conquered demon, holding a cross staff and extending his hands to rescue soul from hell. In the lower scene, the resurrected Christ appears to the Virgin Mary and other figures.

Gradual leaf (detail). Spanish, 1500-1550. 1954.1881. The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia

Kathy Haas is the Associate Curator at the Rosenbach Museum & Library and the primary poster at the Rosen-blog