Category Archives: Household

Children Family Household School

Thou shalt be burned with them in Hell Fire


These fragments come from a 17th century book entitled A Little Book for Children and Youth.  As well as revealing details of the ubiquitous religious tyranny which children in this period were subjected to, the text also offers some lovely domestic detail about a typical day in the life of a 17th century school child.

The reason why I write these instructions for little Children is because I find by sad Experience how the Towns and Streets are filled with lewd wicked Children, and many Children as they have played about the Streets have been heard to curse and swear and call one another Nick-names, and it would grieve ones Heart to hear what bawdy and filthy Communications proceeds from the Mouths of such. And the little ones they learn of the bigger, and so soon as they go or speak they are running fast to Hell. But my dear Child, thou that hast this little book in thine hand to read, I hope thou wilt not learn of the naughty Children to swear and lye and call thy Play-fellows Nick-names, and profane the Sabbath as they do.  If thou do as they do, thou shalt be burned with them in Hell Fire, for they are the Devil’s Children.

A Child of God is one that dearly loves God and Christ. He knows that the Lord Jesus Christ so loved him that he came down and suffered Hunger and Thirst, Misery and Sorrow. Now this Child that loves Jesus has a special love for them that he think loves Christ, and if at any time he hear any discoursing of Christ, and of good things, O! how he does love to be among them, and will sit three or foure hours together a listening. He is very careful of himself that he do not Curse or Swear or Lye nor do anything that is offending to God. And if at any time he unawares tells a Lye, or speaks a naughty Word, or Plays, when the poor child thinks upon what he has done he falls a-weeping and he cannot be contented until he has been upon his knees in some corner, and there begged pardon for what he has done.

A good Child is one that loves his Book, and if his Father and Mother send him to School, then up he gets in the morning betimes, he dresses himself, and then as soon as he is drest, he goes into some corner to Prayers, and having done, he goes to his Father and Mother and makes obedience to them, and then he prays to his Mother to give him Breakfast that he may be gone, then away he hies to School and strives to be there before any of the rest of the Schollars. And those two hours at Noon, which are allowed to Schollars to play, if his School-fellows are rude and wanton, he will not go to play amongst them, but will seek about the Town or Street to find out such Children as are good and civil, and will spend the time in Discoursing  with them about God and Christ, and the matters of another World. And so will keep them company until one of the clock, that is time to go to School again. And whilst he is at School, let the other Schollars play and do what they will, this good Child will be careful to mind his Book, and learn his Lesson. And then towards Night as soon as he comes home, having made obedience to his Father and Mother, he asketh his Mother if she have anything for him to do. If she says no, then he takes his Bible and reads a chapter, and then he tell his Father and Mother what he has learn’d at School and then he goes by himself into some corner to Prayers.

© 2009-2012 All Rights Reserved
Household Medicine Women

To perfume gloves excellently

Following my series of posts on Gervase Markham’s The English Housewife, today’s fragments are some snippets of advice for the housewife on perfuming gloves, making cider, and creating a medicinal salve from a lump of butter.

When our English Housewife is exact in the rules before rehearsed [that is, cooking and home medicine], shee shall then sort her mind to the understanding of other House-wifely secrets, right comfortable and meet for her use.

First I would have her furnish herself of verie good Stills, for the distillation of all kindes of Waters, which Stills would either be of Tinne or sweet Earth, and in them shee shall distill all sorts of waters meete for the health of her Household, as Sage water which is good for Rhumes and Collickes, Radish water which is good for the stone, Angelica water good for infection, Vine water for itchings, Rose water and Eye-bright water for dimme sights, Treacle water for mouth cankers, Allum [mineral salt] water for old Ulcers, and a world of others, any of which will last a full yeare at the least.

Then shee shall know that the best waters for the smoothing of the skinne and keeping the face delicate and amiable are those which are distilled from Beane flowers, Strawberries, Vine leaves, Goats milke, from the whites of Egges, from the Flowers of Lillies, any of which will last a yeare or better.

To make an excellent sweet water for perfume you shall take Basill, Mint, Marjorum, Sage, Balme, Lavender and Rosemary, of each one handfull of Cloves, Cinamon and Nutmegges,  then three or four Pome-citrons [a citrus fruit resembling a large lemon] cut into slices. Infuse all these into Damaske-rose water the space of three daies, and then distill it with a gentle fire of Charcoale, then when you have put it into a very cleann glasse, take Musk, Civet and Ambergreece [OED: A wax like substance found floating in tropical seas] and put into a rag of fine Lawne, and then hang it within the water. This being either burnt upon a hot pan, or else boiled in perfuming pannes with Cloves, Bay-leaves, and Lemmon pills, will make the most delicate perfume that may be without any offence, and will last the longest of all other sweet perfumes.

To perfume gloves excellently, take the oyle of sweet Almonds, oyle of Nutmegges, oile of Benjamin [a sweet tree gum] each a dramme, of Ambergreece one grain, fat Musket (Musk) two graines. Mixe them all together and grinde them upon a Painters stone, and then anoint the gloves therewith. Yet before you anoint them let them be dampishly moistened with Damaske Rose water.

To make very good washing balls take Storaxe [fragrant gum resin] of both kindes, Benjamin [a tree resin], Calamus Aromaticus [fragrant reed?], Labdanum [another gum resin used in perfuming] of each a like, and braise them to powder with Cloves and Arras (?)  Them beate them all with a sufficient quantitie of Sope till it bee stiffe, then with your hand you shall worke it like paste and make round balls thereof.

If during the month of May before you salt your butter you save a lumpe thereof, and put it into a vessell, and so set it into the sunne the space of that moneth, you shall finde it exceeding soveraigne and medicinable for wounds, strains, aches, and such grievances.

Perry is made of Peares only, and your Cider of Apples, and for the manner of making thereof it is done after one fashion, that is to say after your Peares or Apples are well picked from stalkes, rottennesse and all manner of other filth, you shall put them in the presse mill which is made with a mill-stone running around in a circle, under which you shall crush your Peares or Apples, and then straining them through a bagge of haire cloth into close vessels.  You shall save that which is within the haire cloth bagge, and putting it into severall vessells, put a pretty quantitie of water thereunto, and after it hath stood a day or two, and hath been well stirred, press it all again.

© 2009-2012 All Rights Reserved
Dining Food Household

A world of sallats

These snippets come from Gervase Markham’s The English Housewife (1615).  Having outlined the moral qualities the early modern housewife must possess, Markham provides her with lengthy a chapter on cookery. What follows are some of his rather charming remarks regarding salad.

When it comes to cookery, the Housewife must be ‘cleanly both in body and garments, she must have a quick eye, a curious nose, a perfect taste and a ready care (she must not be butter fingered, sweet-toothed, nor faint-hearted).

Salads: ‘there be some simple and some compounded, some onely to furnish out the table, and some both for use and adornation. Your simple Sallats are Chibols (spring onions) pilled, washt cleane, and halfe of the green tops cut cleane away, so serv’d on a Fruit dish, or Scallions (shallots), Radish-roots, boyled Carrets, Skirrets (water parsnips), and Turneps, with such like served up simply. Also all young Lettice, Cabage lettice, Purslan, and divers other hearbes which may be served up simply, without anything but a little Vinegar, Sallat oyle, and Suger. So is Samphire, Beane-cods, Sparagus, and Coucumbers, served in likewise with Oyle, Vinegar, and Pepper, with a world of others, too tedious to nominate.

Your compound Sallats are first the young Buds and knots of all manner of whollsome hearbes at their first springing, as Redde-sage, Mints, Lettice, Violets, Marigolds, Spynage, and many other mixed together and then served up to the table with Vinegar, Sallet oyle and Sugar.  To compound an excellent Sallat which indeed is usual at great feasts, and upon Princes tables, take a good quantity of blauncht Almonds, and with your shredding knife cut them grossly, then take as manie Raisyns cleane washt, as many Figges shred like the Almonds, as many Capers, twice so many Olives, and as manie Currants as of all the rest cleane. A good handfull of the small tender leaves of red Sage and Spinnage; mixe all these well together with a good store of Sugar, and lay them in the bottom of a great dish. Then put unto them Vinegar and Oyle, and scrape more Sugar over all. Then take Oranges and Lemons, paring away the outward pills, cutte them into thinne slices and cover the Sallat all over. Which donne, take the fine thinne leaf of the red Coleflowere, and with them cover the Oranges and Lemons, then over those lay old Olives and slices of well pickled Coucumbers, together with the inward hart of your Cabage lettice cut into slives. Then adorn the sides of the dish and the top of the Sallet with more slices of Lemmons and Oranges and so serve up.

A salad good and daintie for the fine adorning of the table: Take your pots of preserved Gilliflowers, lay the shape of the flower in a fruit dish, then with your Purslan leaves, make the green Coffin of the flower, and with the Purslan stalkes, make the stalke of the flower and the divisions of the leaves and branches.  Then with thin slices of Coucumber make their leaves in true proportion jagged or otherwise; and thus you may set it forth some full blowne, some halfe blowne, and some in the budde which will be pretty and curious.  If you will set forth yellow flowers, take the pots of Primroses and Cowslips, if blew flowers then the pots of Violets, or Buglosse flowers, and these Sallats are both for shewe and use, for they are more excellent to taste than to looke on.

Now for Sallats for shewe only and the adorning and setting out of a table with numbers of dishes: they be those which are made of Carret roots of sundrie colours well boiled and cut out into many shapes and proportions, as some into knots, some in the manner of Armes, some like Birds, and some like wilde beasts, according to the art and cunning of the workman and these for the most part are seasoned with Vinegar, Oyle, and a little pepper.

A world of other Sallats there are, which time and experience may bring to our Housewifes eye.

© 2009-2013 All Rights Reserved
Household Women

She shall have knowledge of all sorts of hearbes

‘I hope my mate will ease my state’

These fragments come from The English Housewife, written by Gervase Markham, and first published in 1615.  Markham’s book, which contained advice on everything from perfuming gloves to curing the plague, became an instant best-seller and served as a domestic bible for middle class women everywhere. What follows are his general remarks on what constitutes an ideal housewife, illustrating the extent to which the role of wives and women in the 17th century was tightly bound up in notions of the home.

She ought, above all things, to be of an upright and sincere religion, and in the same both zealous and constant; giving, by her example, and incitement and spurre, unto all her family to pursue the same steppes, and to utter forth by the instruction of her life these vertuous fruits of good living.  Let our English Housewife learn from the worthy Preacher and her Husband those good examples which she shall with all carefull diligence see exercised among her servants.  It is meete that our Housewife be a woman of great modesty and temperance as well inwardly as outwardly; inwardly as in her behaviour and carriage towards her Husband, wherein she shall shunne all violence of rage, passion and humour, coveting less to direct than to be directed, appearing ever unto him pleasant, amiable and delightfull, and though occasion, mishaps, or the misgovernment of his will may induce her to contrarie thoughts, yet vertuously to suppresse them, and with a milde sufferance rather to call him home from his error, than with the strength of anger to abate the least sparke of his evil, calling into her minde that evil and uncomely language is deformed though uttered even to servants, but most monstrous and ugly when it appears before the presence of a Husband.

Outwardly as in her apparrell and dyet, both which she shall proportion according to the competency of her husband’s estate and calling, making her circle rather straight than large, for it is a rule if we extend to the uttermost we take awaie increase, if we go a hayre breadth any part, wee builde stronge forts against the adversities of fortune.  Let the Housewifes garments bee comely, cleanly and strong, made as well to preserve the health as adorn the person, altogether without toyish garnishes, or the glosse of light colours, and as farre from the vanity of new and fantastic fashions, as neere to the comely imitations of modest Matrons.  Let her dyet be wholesome and cleanly, prepared at due hours and cookt with care and diligence, let it be rather to satisfie nature than our affections, and apter to kill hunger than revive new appetites. Let it proceede more from her owne yarde than the furniture of the markets.

 One of the most principal vertues which doth belong to our English Housewife is the preservation and care of the familie touching their health and soundnesse of bodie.  It is meete that shee have a physicall kinde of knowledge how to administer many wholesome receipts or medicines for the good of their healths, as well to prevent the first occasion of sicknesse, as to take away the effects and evil of the same when it hath made seazure on the body.

I hold the first and most principall knowledge of our Housewife to be in Cookery, together with all the secrets belonging to the same; because it is a duty really belonging to the woman, and shee that is utterly ignorant therein may not by the lawes of strickt justice challenge the freedome of marriage, because indeed she may love and obey, but she cannot serve and keepe him in that true dutie which is ever expected.  She shall have knowledge of all sorts of hearbes belonging to the Kitchin, whether they bee for the pot, for sallets, for sauces, for servings, or for any other seasoning or adorning, which skill of knowledge of the hearbes she must get by her owne labour and experience. She shall also know the time of the yeare, month and moone in which all hearbes are to be sowne, and when they are in the best flourishing, that gathering all hearbes in their height of goodnesse, she may have the prime use of the same.

After her knowledge of preserving and feeding her family, our English Housewife must also learne how, out of her own endeavours, she ought to cloath them outwardly and inwardly; outwardly for defence from the colde and comelinesse to the person; and inwardly for cleanliness and neatness of the skinne, whereby it may be kept from the filth of sweat or vermine.

When our English Housewife knowes how to preserve health by wholesome physic, to nourish by good meate, and to cloth the body with warme garments, she must not then by anie means be ignorant in the provision of bread and drinke; she must know both the proportions and compositions of the same; and for as much as drinke is in everie house more generallie spent than bread, being indeede made the verie substance of all entertainment.

To conclude, our English Housewife must be of chaste thought, stout courage, patient, untired, watchfull, diligent, witty, pleasant, constant in friendship, full of good Neighbour-hood, wise in discourse but not frequent therein, sharpe and quicke of speech, but not bitter or talkative, secret in her affaires, comfortable in her counsailes, and generally skilfull in all the worthy knowledges which do belong to her vocation.

In subsequent posts I’ll be exploring Markham’s chapters on cooking, gardening, and preserving, and sharing some of his household tips and tricks.

© 2009-2012 All Rights Reserved
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