Monday, 15 November 2010

Mrs Woffington is Moving!

Folks, this is just a note to say that I've decided to move over to WordPress and I'd love you to move with me! Please come over to the new Memoirs of the Celebrated Mrs Woffington site (and add it to your bookmarks) where we can carry on the conversation. I won't take down this Blogger site just yet but I won't be updating anything over here from now on. You can find the whole site replicated on the new link so nothing's been deleted.
Speak to you soon,
Mrs Woffington.

Monday, 8 November 2010

A Photo Blog of Bath

Although not exactly 'the season' Mr Woffington and I decided it was high time for a holiday last week, and we chose Bath, not least because we had some vouchers for Thermae Bath Spa and also because one of my readers had told me about a very interesting Georgian museum which I was itching to visit. We were generally unlucky with the weather, apart from a few hours of brightness one morning, but that allowed for a walk through Royal Victoria Park (which you can see, above left, with The Royal Crescent just peeping through the trees). As its name suggests, the park was not a feature of Regency Bath, having been opened in 1830 by the 11-year-old Princess Victoria, but I'd urge you to take a stroll through it, especially during the Autumn when all the trees look stunning.

The Royal Crescent itself is obviously worth a look (see right for a view of it with the Ha-ha in the foreground). Designed by John Wood the Younger and built between 1767 and 1774, it's a masterpiece of Georgian architecture - from the front at least. One of my top tips (which a man kindly gave me as I walked past the Jane Austen Centre with my camera in my hand) is to go and have coffee at The Royal Crescent Hotel, which has a 'secret' garden at the back leading to what would have been the coach houses. As long as you can afford the ruinously expensive coffee (around £10 for two people) you can get a good look at the back of The Crescent from here, and what's really interesting is that the design of each building is completely different (some might even say it looks a bit of a mess). It seems that the well-to-do had whatever design they wanted, and Wood simply built a grand facade covering them all from the front. Talk about diplomacy!

The other big-hitting piece of Georgian architecture is The Circus (left) which was designed by John Wood the Elder, who sadly died just three months after the first stone was laid. A grand homage to the Roman Colosseum, the scheme was completed by his son (the same man who built The Royal Crescent) in 1768, at which time it was known as the King's Circus ('circus' being the Latin word for a ring or oval). To my mind, it's an even greater piece of work than The Royal Crescent - a vision of Palladian harmony which curves inwards, rather than outwards, and has 525 pictorial emblems in a frieze above the doors (all of them different, from what we could see).

But back to The Royal Crescent because I wanted to mention an excellent museum at No.1 The Royal Crescent that's well worth a visit. This Georgian town house has been beautifully restored by the Bath Preservation Trust. It was the first house to be built in The Crescent and provided luxury accommodation for the aristocracy (who would presumably just rent it for the season). The Duke of York stayed there at one time, and you can see that he would have not been without his customary elegance and comfort. The entrance hall, for example, is decorated with marbled paper (which was very fashionable in the late 18th century, as it was too costly to import real marble) and still has its original intricate plasterwork on the archway. I learnt some interesting facts from the guide in the gentleman's study, too, who told me that in Bath's heyday, wealthy visitors engaged servants from the neighbourhood on arrival, but as they didn't know them, they paid them in tokens rather than cash (you can see an example of the tokens in the study).

Thanks to my reader Leah Marie Brown for recommending the museum, and also for drawing my attention to the turnspit in the kitchen, which was powered by a dog in a wheel! People were certainly less sentimental about animals in those days, though we did learn that Lichfield was one of the few places where the use of a turnspit dog was never recorded!

Photographs © Memoirs of the Celebrated Mrs Woffington.


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Thursday, 7 October 2010

Lichfield Literature

It's the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness in Staffordshire, and that means one thing: the Lichfield Literature festival is underway. There's a range of literary treats between now and Sunday, including a handful of creative writing workshops (I have my eye on Catherine Fox's Do You Have A Novel In You? on Sunday) plus visits from the likes of Jo Brand (promoting her second volume of memoirs, Can't Stand Up For Sitting Down) and Suzanne Fagence-Cooper, who comes to talk about her book on John Ruskin's wife Effie Gray. For those fans of the so-called 'bonnet drama' there's a major treat on Saturday, when Sue Birtwistle and Susie Conklin - the writers behind the BBC adaptation of Cranford - give us a talk on Elizabeth Gaskell's world and the lengths to which the BBC production team have gone to recreate the eponymous 1840s town. For those mildly surprised to see that Mrs Gaskell had obliged the nation with a two-part Christmas special last year, now's your time to meet the actual authors behind it and to find out how they went about emulating Gaskell's timeless style. (Saturday, The George Hotel, Bird Street, Lichfield, 5.15pm to 6.15pm, £5. Tel: 01543 306270).

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Saturday, 11 September 2010

@DrSamuelJohnson's Dictionary Launch

I can't believe it's taken over a week to get around to telling you about this, but the life of an 18th-century multimedia actress is sometimes a busy one. Still, there's been plenty of nice outings to places such as London and Liverpool of late and one of the best events that Mr Woffington and I attended recently was the launch of Dr Johnson's brand new Dictionary of Modern Life: a glittering affair at his home in Gough Square.

For those unaware of Dr Johnson's recent activities (though I've mentioned them a few times), in 2009 he reemerged on Twitter and began publishing an entertaining stream of definitions on the parlous state of the modern world (a recent example: "Bestival (n.) Island Prison to which London does exile its many Fops for an annual Trial by RAIN-FALL"). Needless to say, these are now available in book form, published by the charming people at Square Peg (an imprint of Random House).

Anticipation was high when we arrived in the Great Cham's hallway and deposited our coats in the gift shop; sadly nobody had chanced full 18th-century dress, but we were led to believe that many personalities from the Twittersphere (@Discombobul8er, @CherylKerl, @SirAlanChaffing etc.) were there - though it was tricky getting to know who was who. Both wine and canapes flowed, though, and the author gave an entertaining speech. We also enjoyed a chat with the Chairman of the Johnson Society of London and the gentlemen of The Quietus, who are currently publishing excerpts of the book.

As the evening progressed, wine flowed freely and you must forgive me for not remembering a great deal more (there were some sore heads the next morning)... except to say that it was a rare pleasure to meet some digital counterparts in the real world. I believe that @Discombobul8er has also published an account of the evening here.

Photographs © Memoirs of the Celebrated Mrs Woffington.

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Thursday, 5 August 2010

Prince Frederick's Barge

There's something else I wanted to recommend at the National Maritime Museum; on the ground floor they have an extraordinary object: the original barge built for George II's eldest son, Prince Frederick (left), in 1732. It's not a reproduction! This amazingly rich, gilded boat is one of the museum's largest objects at around 19.m in length, and now very delicate. It was designed by the architect William Kent and built by John Hall on the south bank of the Thames, opposite Whitehall. There's some very elaborate carving on the front done by James Richards, who succeeded Grinling Gibbons as master carver to the Crown in 1721. It features scallop shells, urns and acanthus leaves and everything is gilded in 24-carat gold leaf.

On the very first day it was afloat, the Prince used the barge to take his mother, Queen Caroline, and his five sisters, from Chelsea to Someset House to inspect the cleaning of the royal collection of paintings. On another occasion it attended a regatta at Woolwich decorated in the fashionable style of chinoiserie (which used fanciful Chinese imagery) with the footman and 21 oarsmen dressed in Chinese costume. It was to make its final appearance long after the Prince's death, in 1849, when Prince Albert was rowed to the opening of the Coal Exchange.

Amazingly, what we're seeing now was reconstructed from three pieces (the barge having been sawn up and stored in the Royal Barge House at Windsor Great Park for over 100 years). You can walk right alongside it and see the rather worn green velvet seats where the royal bottom would have been planted, while the ceiling is painted with a design representing the royal coat of arms. Given the crowded state of the London streets, this was probably a highly convenient - not to mention pleasant - way to travel!

Photographs © Memoirs of the Celebrated Mrs Woffington.
Portrait of Prince Frederick (1724), engraving after Georg Wilhelm Lafontaine: Wikimedia Commons.

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Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Nelson's Coat

I blogged a while ago about our trip to Greenwich and our brief visit to the National Maritime Museum, but I wanted to mention it again, since we went back to the museum recently to see an exhibition of toy boats. While wandering around we saw quite a few things of interest from the Georgian and Regency periods, not least Admiral Lord Nelson's Trafalgar coat. I wasn't allowed to use flash, so excuse the poor photograph: there's a clearer image on the Port Cities website.

But what you don't get from a photograph is the scale of the object. I never realised how small in statue Nelson was - of course, people in the 18th century were smaller, generally, than we are today, but even so, I wasn't quite prepared for this neat, petite piece of clothing. You could see the hole from the bullet that killed Nelson in the right shoulder of the coat (a passing American thought it looked a superficial blow, until he was told it came from above and went downwards through Nelson's body). Along the back of the display they had Nelson's stockings, still stained with blood (probably that of his secretary, John Scott, who was killed earlier in the battle). Rarely have I seen such an evocative piece of clothing, and the museum also had some excellent mourning artifacts on display related to Nelson's death, including funeral jewellery and vases.


Photograph © Memoirs of the Celebrated Mrs Woffington.
 

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Monday, 7 June 2010

Chips off the Old Block

A while ago we got wind of a fundraising scheme by The Friends of Lichfield Cathedral to auction off damaged sections of the cathedral that had been removed from the North and South Clerestory during the restoration of the East End of the building. Currently scattered around the cathedral lawn, the advert promised that the stones (which are 17th-century) could make a great garden feature and would come with a proper certificate of authentication. So off we went last Saturday to the stonemason's booth (above) to place bids on 1) part of a quatrefoil taken from below copings 2) the upper section of pinnacle and 3) copings from the Lady Chapel.

We'll get to know today if we've been successful. Perhaps, because the money goes towards the cathedral, we won't be subject to the harsh judgments of the monk, St Wulfstan, whose upset over the demolition of St Oswald's Anglo-Saxon cathedral at Worcester led him to remark: 'We miserable people have destroyed the work of saints, that we may provide praise for ourselves. The age of that most happy man did not know how to build pompous buildings, but knew how to offer themselves to God under any sort of roof, and to attract to their example subordinates. We on the contrary strive that, neglecting out souls, we may pile up stones.'


Photographs © Memoirs of the Celebrated Mrs Woffington.

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Thursday, 3 June 2010

Two Blogs to Cherish

Things have been pretty busy lately but I'm glad to say I've been steered towards a couple of great blogs that have proved to be really pleasant diversions. I thought I'd share them with you here.

I think of myself very much as a nerdy history girl, so was delighted to find some like-minded individuals at the Two Nerdy History Girls blog. Written by bestselling authors Loretta Chase and Susan Holloway Scott, it's a cornucopia of quirky historical facts ranging from proper conduct between married persons of the 1830s to the miseries of Regency London. These ladies are experts at winkling out amusing and surprising facts, and the blog is great to dip into.

For those of you who share my twin enthusiasms for Georgian architecture and landscape, David Nice's blog, I'll Think of Something Later is a very engaging read, touching on subjects such as Georgian Dublin and Wotton House in Buckinghamshire. Nice's natural writing style and his lovely photographs make you feel as if you're strolling around some splendid grounds engaged in erudite conversation. Do have a look if you can.

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Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Georgian Leeds: Part Two


I can't help feeling sad for Leeds Assembly Rooms. In the late 18th century it was a glorious venue where balls and card parties were held for prosperous merchant families, now it's the site of restaurant chains and nightclubs and feels slightly down-at-heel. The railway - which was extended through the town in 1865 - really destroyed the original grandeur of the building, though attempts have been made to jazz up the area (known as the Exchange Quarter) as a destination for urban professionals.

The life of the "New" Assembly Rooms began in 1777, when Sir George Savile and Lady Effingham launched them above the third white cloth hall. Thanks to some sensitive restoration you can still see the front of this building (right, now occupied by Pizza Express). It was planned by wealthy Leeds merchants - spurred on by the opening of a rival cloth hall at Gomersal - and built on the Tenter Ground in the Calls. As the name suggests, the white cloth hall sold undyed cloth, whereas the mixed or coloured cloth-makers used the market in Briggate. It was constructed around a large central courtyard and it was two storeys high at the northern end (as mentioned, The Assembly Rooms were on the second floor). Big public events were sometimes staged in the courtyard, such as Mr Lunardi's balloon ascent in 1786.

The cupola you can see in my photograph, above, actually came from the second white cloth hall, and was installed in 1786, when that building was demolished. The third white cloth hall was restored in 1991, and it was at this time that a small bell was put into the cupola (it's struck by an internal electric clock hammer, though rarely sounds now).

With the coming of the railway in 1865, they actually had to build a fourth white cloth hall (though the North Eastern Railway company did foot the bill for it). You can see in my photograph below how the North Eastern Viaduct literally sliced the New Assembly Rooms in half. Ironically this fourth hall was never fully used, and was demolished in 1895, though the building that now stands in its place (a hotel) also sports the original cupola, carefully preserved for posterity.


Photographs © Memoirs of the Celebrated Mrs Woffington.
 

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Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Georgian Homes Brought Back to Life

I noticed a stirring bit of news in an article in Saturday's Telegraph. Somersham Park House in the Cambridgeshire fens (left) and Eardisley Park in Herefordshire are just two lovingly-restored Georgian buildings which are now in the final of Country Life magazine's Restoration of the Century award. Somersham Park House, for example (which was built in 1802 on the site of the Bishops Palace of Ely) had virtually collapsed but in 2002 new owners began piecing it back together, even getting a local potter to reconstruct the four-foot-high chimney pots using remnants of the damaged originals. Check out Richard Johnson Restorations for some incredible before and after photographs.

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Monday, 31 May 2010

Word of the Week: Kittle Pitchering

A jocular method of hobbling or bothering a troublesome teller of long stories: this is done by contradicting some very immaterial circumstance at the beginning of the narration, the objections to which being settled, others are immediately started to some new particular of like consequence, thus impeding, or rather not suffering him to enter into, the main story. Kittle pitchering is often practised in confederacy, one relieving the other, by which the design is rendered less obvious.

From: Captain Grose's 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue

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Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Georgian Leeds: Part One

Well, it's been some time since my Georgian Liverpool series and a trip, last weekend, to see Opera North in Leeds (left) proved to be the perfect opportunity to investigate another modern British city, looking for the traces of its 18th-century heritage.

Even though Leeds was a prosperous centre for woollen-cloth manufacture in the Georgian period, 18th-century traces were much harder to spot here than in Liverpool. Perhaps this is because we know Liverpool better, but also because Leeds - like Birmingham - is essentially a 19th-century city, packed with the grand buildings of Victorian commerce. Liverpool's Georgian glories are the genteel residents of the rising middle classes - the Regency terraces of Rodney Street and places like The Exchange where a tribute to that great Naval hero Lord Nelson can still be seen today.

In A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain (1724), Daniel Defoe observed: 'Leeds is a large, wealthy and populous town, it stands on the north bank of the River Aire, or rather on both sides of the river, for there is a large suburb or part of the town on the south side of the river, and the whole is joined by a stately and prodigiously strong stone bridge, so large, and so wide, that formerly the cloth market was on the bridge itself. The increase in the manufacturers and of the trade, soon made the market too great to be confined to the bridge, and it is now kept in the high street [Briggate], beginning from the bridge, and running up north almost to the market house, where the ordinary market for provisions begin.

'The market is here twice a week. At seven the market bell rings (in the summer earlier, in the depth of winter a little later). It would surprise a stranger to see in how a few minutes, without hurry or noise, and not the least disorder, the whole market is filled; all the boards upon the tressels are covered with cloth, close to one another as the pieces can lie long ways by one another, and behind every piece of cloth, the clothier standing to sell it.

'Merchants in Leeds go all over England with droves of pack horses, and to all the fairs and market towns all over the whole island. Other buyers of cloth send it to London. They not only supply shopkeepers and wholesale men in London but for exportation to the English colonies in America and to merchants in Russia, Sweden, Holland and Germany.'

As I mentioned in my article on the Yorkshire coiners, it wasn't always plain sailing for 18th-century wool merchants in the north of England, but certainly the waterways (including the Leeds to Liverpool canal, built 1770-1816) were a major catalyst for the growth of Leeds as an industrial centre. As Defoe noted, it was the movement of the cloth market from the bridge into Briggate itself in 1684 that created the beginnings of the city of Leeds as we know it. Leeds soon became a prosperous centre, with the population (10,000 at the end of the 17th century) soaring to 30,000 by the end of the 18th. The Aire and the Calder rivers were made navigable, putting the Ouse, Humber and the sea in reach and propelling Leeds into the heart of the Industrial Revolution.

Walking beside the river, we found a couple of handy interpretive panels including the one above showing Samuel and Nathaniel Buck's South East Prospect of Leeds from 1745; the figures look out on fields full of tenter-frames on which the woollen cloth would have been dried and stretched. There was also a copy of the first map of Leeds by John Cossins in 1725 titled, A New and Exact Plan of the Town of Leedes. Perhaps the most interesting building in this area, though, is Fletland Mills: a collection of late 18th-and 19th-century mills that sprawl along the wharfside. Bought in 1887 by Wright Bros, the complex is now 42 The Calls (an upmarket hotel and restaurant). Just a glance at the back of the building (below) shows its antiquity.

That's all for now but don't go away because next week I'll be looking at Leeds Assembly Rooms in Georgian Leeds: Part Two.


Photographs © Memoirs of the Celebrated Mrs Woffington.

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Friday, 21 May 2010

Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat

I mentioned in my Horace Walpole post that I'd picked up a copy of Horace Walpole's Cat by Christopher Frayling, which has turned out to be a very elegantly written, very entertaining, read (see left). For those who don't know the story, some time in 1747, poor Selima the cat, who lived with Horace Walpole at his home in Arlington Street (this was before he moved to his gothic mansion, Strawberry Hill), got up on the rim of a large Chinese porcelain tub containing goldfish, fell in, and drowned.

Walpole was, understandably, upset and wrote to his close friend, the poet Thomas Gray, asking if he would compose some sort of epitaph for the unfortunate creature. Gray replied saying that he couldn't begin to grieve properly until he knew which cat Walpole was referring to (his other cat was called either Zara, after the heroine of Voltaire's The Tragedy of Zara or Zama, nobody seems sure which). Once the identity of the cat had been cleared up, Gray enclosed the first draft of the poem that would become Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat (see full text below). 'There's a poem for you,' said Gray, 'it is rather too long for an epitaph'.

Apart from Frayling's expert biographical slant on the poem and his analysis of it in terms of 18th-century culture, another joy of Horace Walpole's Catare the huge reproductions of Richard Bentley's quite wonderful engravings. There's a full reprint of Bentley's (pictured left) explanation of his Frontispiece which just as much of a mock-heroic masterpiece as the poem itself. Witness 'the cat standing on the brim of the tub... Two cariatides of a river god stopping his ears to her cries, and Destiny cutting the nine threads of life... At the bottom are mice enjoying themselves on the prospect of the cat's death; a lyre and a pallet.' Fantastic stuff.



Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat,
Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes.

I.
'TWAS on a lofty vase's side,
Where China's gayest art had dy'd
The azure flowers, that blow;
Demurest of the tabby kind,
The pensive Selima reclin'd,
Gaz'd on the lake below.

II.
Her conscious tail her joy declar'd;
The fair round face, the snowy beard,
The velvet of her paws,
Her coat, that with the tortoise vies,
Her ears of jet, and emerald eyes,
She saw, and purr'd applause.

III.
Still had she gaz'd: but 'midst the tide
Two angel forms were seen to glide,
The Genii of the stream:
Their scaly armour's Tyrian hue
Thro' richest purple, to the view
Betray'd a golden gleam.

IV.
The hapless Nymph with wonder saw:
A whisker first, and then a claw,
With many an ardent wish,
She stretch'd in vain to reach the prize.
What female heart can gold despise?
What cat's averse to fish?

V.
Presumptuous Maid! with looks intent
Again she stretch'd, again she bent,
Nor knew the gulph between.
(Malignant Fate sat by, and smil'd)
The slipp'ry verge her feet beguil'd,
She tumbled headlong in.

VI.
Eight times emerging from the flood
She mew'd to ev'ry watery God,
Some speedy aid to send.
No Dolphin came, no Nereid stirr'd:
Nor cruel Tom, or Susan heard.
A fav'rite has no friend!

VII.
From hence, ye Beauties, undeceiv'd,
Know, one false step is ne'er retriev'd,
And be with caution bold.
Not all that tempts your wand'ring eyes
And heedless hearts, is lawful prize;
Nor all, that glisters, gold.


PS: Horace Walpole's Catalso explores Christopher Smart's For I Will Consider My Cat Jeoffry as well as Dr Johnson and his cats; follow the links above to see previous blog posts from me on these topics. And the cat in the frame, above, is my own cat, Boris.

Photographs © Memoirs of the Celebrated Mrs Woffington except the engraving of the Richard Bentley portrait, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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Wednesday, 19 May 2010

A Georgian Supper at Darwin's House



The Parlour, Erasmus Darwin House, Lichfield, Christmas 2009

Well, I hang my head in shame for taking so long to tell you about a dinner for Erasmus Darwin's birthday that we attended on 12th December 2009 but better later than never! The Erasmus Darwin House in Lichfield (above) is a wonderful museum and was originally Darwin's home between 1758 and 1781. Regular readers of this blog will know about the pleasant herb garden at the back - tucked away from view behind the Cathedral Close - and, of course, Erasmus Bunny who lives at the back of Lichfield Cathedral Bookshop. The garden is a fitting memorial to Darwin, whose interest in plants contributed to our understanding of many biological processes, including photosynthesis.

For those unfamiliar with Erasmus Darwin's life and work, he was born at Elston, five miles southwest of Newark in Nottinghamshire, and he worked as a physician, first in Lichfield and later in Derby. He was a remarkable man with an endless curiosity about the world and his influence was far-reaching. He investigated topics such as physics, chemistry, geology, meteorology, plant growth, nutrition and biology; he was also a keen poet whose 1792 work Botanic Garden was much admired by the Romantic poets, particularly Coleridge. As a member of the Lunar Society, he joined with friends such as Mathew Boulton, Joseph Priestley and James Watt to develop and promote Birmingham’s new industrial technology, and - perhaps most importantly - his thoughts on evolutionary biology were the catalyst for his grandson, Charles Darwin’s, famous treatise on natural selection, On the Origin of Species.

Not a great deal is known about the house during Darwin’s residence, though it’s clear that he was responsible for the way it looks today. Having qualified as a doctor in 1756, the 26-year-old Darwin married Mary Howard the following year at St Mary’s Church in Lichfield, and settled into an old half-timbered house at the western end of the Cathedral Close. The building he modified to suit their tastes, turning the back (on Beacon Street) into a grand new fa├žade with Venetian-style windows. The old semi-circular moat around the Close was still visible at this time, so Darwin built a bridge of shallow steps and Chinese paling from his front door to the pavement, clearing the bottom to make a terrace planted with lilac and roses.

Yet unlike Lichfield's other major 18th-century attraction, the Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum, Darwin’s house was derelict 15 years ago and - thanks to the support of Darwin scholar Dr Desmond King-Hele and Gordon Cook (now Chairman of the Erasmus Darwin Foundation) - opened as a museum in 1999 with donations from, among others, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the European Development Fund. Last year it marked its tenth anniversary with a refurbishment of several rooms, while Darwin’s birthday on December 12th was celebrated with a six-course supper of classic Georgian dishes (a fine tribute to a man whose motto was ‘eat or be eaten’).

We had, of course, eagerly purchased our tickets early on, so as not to miss out on the feasting, and weren't disappointed by the authentic menu which drew heavily on the recipes of that great English cookery writer, Hannah Glasse. Despite Dr Johnson's rather predictable dismissal of female cooks ('No Madam. Women can spin very well, but they cannot make a good book of cookery') the results were absolutely stunning!

I have typed up the full menu so you can appreciate the full extent of the chef's art (see below), but I remember in particular the Christmas Pye which had turkey, goose, chicken and pigeon underneath a great pastry top (pictured above right). The Nasturtium berries and lime in the mashed potato - gathered from Darwin's herb garden - were an amazing combination. Meanwhile the starter (Salmon and scallops preserved in elderflower vinegar) was a clever reference to the Darwin family coat of arms which featured three scallop shells. Erasmus famously added the Latin inscription E Conchis omnia (‘everything from shells’) to demonstrate his belief in evolution, but this offended Canon Seward of Lichfield Cathedral, who claimed in a satirical verse that Darwin ‘renounces his Creator/And forms all sense from senseless matter./Great wizard he! by magic spells/Can all things raise from cockle shells'.

Dessert was a tour de force, and though we were absolutely stuffed, everything cried out to sampled from the plum porrige (a forerunner of Britain's traditional Christmas pudding) to an amazing almond soup (pictured right) and boozy sack posset. With port and kickshaws to follow, it's fair to say that we were pretty full by the end of it! Kickshaws, by the way, are trifling edible things (the word comes from the French quelque chose, literally 'something') and are, I suppose a forerunner of petit fours. Check out the full menu below and marvel at the skill on display!

Dinner At My Home, 12th December 2009.

Salmon Preserved the Jews' Way.
Salmon and scallops preserved in elderflower vinegar, dressed with pickled samphire.

Soup Cressan.

Yorkshire Christmas Pye.
Containing turkey, goose, fowl and pigeon, served with mashed potato with Nasturtium berries and limes; buttered cabbage; ragout of onions; carrots dressed the Dutch way; truffle and Morel sauce.

Puddings.
Plum porrige for Christmas; almond soup with jugged cherries Lady North's way; sack posset.

Preserved fruit and kickshaws.

Potted cheese.

Coffee and sweetmeats.


Photographs © Memoirs of the Celebrated Mrs Woffington.

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