This year I'm looking at some of the entries in the "The Diary of a Country Parson". This was a diary kept by an English clergyman, James Woodforde (1740-1803). Woodforde lived in Somerset and Norfolk, and kept a diary for 45 years recording all kind of ordinary incidents which paint a picture of the routines and concerns of what Ian Hislop terms "the middling folk" of 18th century rural England.
A few notes on the text:
William Buchan (1729-1805) was a Scottish physician. Buchan wrote the first edition of his Domestic medicine (1769), which sold for only 6 shillings, which is mentioned by Woodforde in the text. Published in 1772, it's full title was:
Domestic medicine, or, The family physician: being an attempt to render the medical art more generally useful, by shewing people what is their own power both with respect to the prevention and cure of diseases ; chiefly calculated to recommend a proper attention to regimen and simple medicines.
This was an immensely popular work, selling 80,000 copies. Here's one extract, which combines good advice about the spread of disease though lack of cleanliness with social comment!
"We are sorry to say that the importance of general cleanliness does by no means seem to be sufficiently understood by the magistrates of most great towns in Britain; though health, pleasure, and honor, all conspire to recommend an attention to it. Nothing can be more agreeable to the senses, more to the honor of the inhabitants, or more conducive to their health, than a clean town ; nor can any thing impress a stranger with a more disrespectful idea of any people than its opposite. Whatever pretensions people may make to learning, politeness, or civilization, we will venture to affirm, that, so long as they neglect cleanliness, they are in a state of barbarity."
"Frequent washing not only removes the filth and sordes which adhere to the skin, but likewise promotes the perspiration, braces the body, and enlivens the spirits. How refreshed, how cheerful, and agreeable does one feel on being shaved, washed, and shifted; especially when these offices have been neglected longer than usual."
"In places where great numbers of sick people are kept, cleanliness ought to be most religiously observed. The very smell in such places is often sufficient to make one sick. It is easy to imagine what effect that is likely to have upon the diseased. In a hospital or infirmary, where
cleanliness is neglected, a person in perfect health has a greater chance to become sick than a sick person has to get well."
Yellow basilicum, which Woodforde applies after reading Buchan, is made as follows (in the book):
"The ointment called yellow basilicum is prepared in the following manner : Take of olive oil an English pint, yellow wax, yellow resin, and Burgundy pitch of each one pound, common turpentine three ounces. Melt the wax, resin, and pitch, along with the oil, over a slow fire ; after taking them from the fire, add the turpentine, and whilst the mixture remains hot strain it. "
How efficacious that would be, I have no idea. I would note that in "Hysteria and Enlightenment", Doctor Roy Lisker notes that:
"The 18th century , even more than today,( if possible) was the golden age of home remedies, cornucopian medicine chests and unrestrained pill popping. "
We see this too with the child who dies, mentioned in Woodforde. On this, Rootsweb contributor David Booty notes that:
A distant relative (not ancestor) of mine was Elizabeth SPINKS of Weston Longville, who had an illegitemate son Garthon SPINKS by James GARTHON. The death of this baby forms a famous incident in the journals of Parson WOODFORDE of Weston, viz:- 1790 Feb 8 "I privately baptised a little boy by name Garthon. The child that I christened was a spurious child of Eliz: SPINCKS by one GARTHON an auctioneer"
The Weston registers have:-
1790 Feb -- C Garthon, spurious son of Elizabeth SPINCKS by John GARTHON, born Feb -- 1790
1790 Sep 19 B Garthon SPINCKS an infant, spurious son of Elizabeth SPINCKS by James GARTHON, aged 6 months
Mr Booty also notes that this is "death of a baby who was given laudanum (probably) to keep him quiet while mother went labouring" and accidentally killed the child, probably because of misunderstanding the dosage.
Hazel Fuller, notes that "Labouring Life in Norfolk Villages" reports that:
"The BMA reported in 1867 that Lincolnshire and Norfolk between them consumed more than half the opium imported into this country. There was not a labourer's house in the west without its penny stick or pill of opium, and not a child that did not have it in some form. Godfrey's Cordial, a mixture of opium, treacle and infusion of sassafras, was the usual comfort administered to a squalling baby when its mother was too busy working in the fields to feed it."
She also notes that: "The habit of taking large doses of opium was apparently common in the marshlands of the west to counteract the effects of rheumatism and neuralgia brought on by the biting west winds and damp conditions."
September - The Diary of a Country Parson
SEPT. 6, MONDAY. . . . Mr. Bodham sent me over this Morning early (by Willm. Ward his farming Man) a nice black greyhound Puppy, a. Dog, seven Weeks old. I gave Willm. for the trouble of bringing it 0. 1. 0. I set the Name of Snip to it. Mr. Jeanes called on us this Morning to ask us to dinner on Saturday.
SEPT. 8, WEDNESDAY. . . . Norwich Musick Festival begun this Morning. I did not go having had enough of the last Musick Meeting in September 1788 -- at which I experienced a great deal of uneasiness and for which it cost me besides about 7. 0. 0. It was a very good day for the Harvest.
SEPT. 9, THURSDAY. . . . Mrs. Custance called on us this Morning and very good-naturedly and genteelly offered us places in her Coach to Morrow Morning to go with her to the Musick at Norwich in the Morning at St. Peters Church -- The principal Parts of the Divine Messiah &c. being to be performed there.
SEPT. 10, FRIDAY. . . . We breakfasted before 7 o'clock this Morning: at half past eight Mrs. Custance took us up into her Coach and carried us to Norwich and put us down at St. Peter of Mancroft Church before eleven o'clock and there we stayed till three in the Afternoon highly delighted indeed with the Musical performance. Select Pieces from the Messiah, Joshua &c., a great Band with the Abbey Double Drums; between 8 and 900 People present. Tickets 5s/0d each. Segniora Storace the principal Singer, Miss Pool the second. Saw Sr. Edmd and Lady Bacon, Sr. Thos. and Lady Beauchamp, Sr. John Woodhouse, Mr. Hobart, Mr. Windham and our New Bishop Dr. Horne and
Family &c. We returned with Mrs. Custance to Weston House about 5 in the Afternoon and there took a Family Dinner with her and Mr. Custance. The latter was but just returned from Scottow having been there ever since Monday last in adjusting the late Sr. Thos. Durrants Affairs, he being left joint Executor with Lady Durrant. We returned home to Weston Parsonage by 8, rather fatigued with the hurry of the Day. On our return home found a Note on my Table from Mr. Jeanes, to put off our dining with him, on Monday next instead of to Morrow. As the Haunch of Venison will be better by being kept till then as supposed by some-Hope it will be sweet.
SEPT. 17, FRIDAY. . . . The young Woman Spincks (who lately had a Bastard Child by one Garthon of Norwich) called on me this morning to acquaint me that her Child is dead., died last night, owing it is supposed to her [having] given him a Sleeping Pill which she had of her Neighbour Nobbs whose Husband is very ill and had some composing Pills from Mr. Thornes, one of which Nobbs wife advised her to give her Child to put him to sleep whilst she was out. The Child slept for about 5 hours, then he waked and fell into convulsion fits wch. continued for 4 Hours and half and then died in great Agonies. If the Child died owing to the effects of the Pill, I believe it not intentionally given to destroy the Child as she always had taken particular care of him and looked remarkably healthy. I advised her to make herself easy on that respect. Mr. Peachman and Mr. Buck also called on me this morning soon after and talked with me a good deal on the death of the Child. They both think that the Childs Death was owing to the Mothers giving the Pill to it. I had no objection I told them of burying the Child without the Coroners Inquest, as It was possible the Child might have died without taking the Pill, however it ought to be well considered on for the public good.
SEPT. 18, SATURDAY. . . . Sent Briton early to Norwich this morning with my little Cart, returned not till 3 this Afternoon the Cart being obliged to have something done to it. No Letters at all. He brought 2 pair of Soals and half a Dozen new Maccarel the first this Season. Mr. Thorne called here about Noon having been to see the dead Child and said that its Death was owing to the Mothers giving it part of the Pill. Soon after the Doctor went, the Mother of the Child Eliz. Spincks came here to know what to do, I told her to go to the Overseer (Emery) to send for the Coroner and inspect the Body before I could bury it. To Largesses; to day, gave 0. 4. 0.
SEPT. 19, SUNDAY. . . . I read Prayers and Preached this Afternoon at Weston Church. Mrs. Custance with her 2 Daughters at Church. It being a fine Day Nancy was at Church. But few Farmers at Church this Afternoon on Account of an Inquest being taken by a Coroner from Norwich on the Body of Eliz. Spincks Boy. They were from 1. till near 5. on the above business. The Jury brought in their Verdict -- not intentionally given by the Mother to her Child. This Evening between 6. and 7. I buried the Child (by name Garthon Spincks) in the Churchyard. As we were walking back from Church we met with Mr. Forster in his Market-Cart and with him Mr. Priest whose intention was to have been at Weston Church this Aft. but they were too late. We saw them just by our House. I asked them to walk in but they did not. Mr. Priests Wife is at Lenewade Bridge at Forsters. Mr. Forster asked us to drink Tea to Morrow in the Afternoon to meet the Priests of Reepham there of Norwich whose intention was to have been at Weston Church this Aft. but they were too late. We saw them just by our House. I asked them to walk in but they did not. Mr. Priests Wife is at Lenewade Bridge at Forsters. Mr. Forster asked us to drink Tea to Morrow in the Afternoon to meet the Priests of Reepham there.
SEPT. 24, FRIDAY. Nancy was taken very ill this Afternoon with a pain within her, blown up so as if poisoned, attended with a vomiting. I supposed it proceeded in great measure from what she eat at Dinner and after. She eat for Dinner some boiled Beef rather fat and salt, a good deal of a nice rost duck, and a plenty of boiled Damson Pudding. After Dinner by way of Desert, she eat some green-gage Plumbs, some Figgs, and Rasberries and Cream. I desired her to drink a good half pint Glass of warm Rum and Water which she did and soon was a little better -- for Supper she had Water-gruel with a Couple of small Table Spoonfuls of Rum in it, and going to bed I gave her a good dose of Rhubarb and Ginger. She was much better before she went to bed -- And I hope will be brave to Morrow.
SEPT. 2, TUESDAY. . . . Herring sent me this Evening a brace of Partridges.
SEPT. 14, SUNDAY. . . . I read Prayers & Preached this morning at Weston Ch. Miss Corbould with my Niece were at Church. In the Afternoon we took a Walk to Mr. Courboulds and drank Coffee & Tea, with him, Mrs. Corbould, Miss Corbould, a Mr. Hastings, Rackham & his Wife of Hockering Park Farm, belonging to old Mr. Berney of Brecon-Ash. ... Hastings appeared to be a modest well behaved young Farmer. Rackham & Wife very bold & high, and but low in the World neither.
SEPT. 15, MONDAY. . . . Took a ride this morning in my little Curricle to Mr. Mellish's at E. Tuddenham, to make him a Visit after his return from London on Friday last, after the very late melancholy Event in his Family, the Death of his Mother, who was taken off very soon indeed, by a very violent Fever, she is much regretted by all that knew her. We never saw her but twice, once at Mr. Mellish's & once at my own house and that not above two Months ago, and then she appeared as well & in as good Spirits as I ever saw any Person. Pray God! she may be happier and send Comfort to her much distressed Family-- As so good a Parent must occasion on her decease such sorrow as is not to be described or felt but by those that have experienced it -- The Loss of my dear Parents I feel to this Moment, and never can forget it during Life. I stayed with Mr. Mellish about an Hour, and then returned home to dinner. I found him very low. Mr. Jeans had been with him this Morning before. At Harwich all Day, having Masons white-washing my Study Ceiling &c. &c. Dinner to day, Neck of Pork rosted &c. Mr. Collison sent us 2. brace of Partridges this Aft.
SEP. 25, THURSDAY. . . . My ankle very painful in the night at times, which made me sleep but very little, dismal dreams. My ankle having given so much Pain last Night & having applied nothing at all to it but our Family Plaster, soon after breakfast I sent to John Reeves at the Heart who practises something in the doctoring way, for some Yellow Basilicum Ointment, which I immediately applied to my ankle, & wch. Dr. Buchan recommends, pray God! it may do good -- But I have my doubts of its turning out a very serious matter -- I mean my ankle which I am afraid. is much worse than it appears to be -- very dangerous. It makes me I must confess very low. Mr. Corbould made us a morning Visit. Dinner to day, boiled Tongue & Turnips &c.
SEPT. 26, FRIDAY. . . . Had a better night of Sleep than the last Night and my Ankle not so painful, better I believe from my applying the Basilicum Ointment Yesterday, and it appeared better this morning on being fresh dressed. My Spirits (thank God) much better to day. Very busy all the morning from breakfast to dinner in cleaning my Study Pictures thoroughly. Dinner to day, Eels fryed & boiled, and boiled Beef. I relished my Dinner very well to day & eat hearty.
SEPT. 29, MONDAY. . . . Slept very well all night & ankle very easy. Paid my Butcher, Willm. Stoughton, this Morning for Meat, for the last four Months, a Bill of 10. 17. 6. Dinner to day boiled Chicken & Pork & Veal Cutlets. I had one Person, by name Anna Harrison, come to me to day to be examined, against the Day of Confirmation at Reepham on Tuesday the seventh of October.
SEPT. 30, TUESDAY. . . . Pretty busy this Morning at home having had thirteen young People come to me to be examined against Confirmation next Week. I gave them all Cake and a Glass of Wine. Dinner to day Knuckle of Veal boiled with Pork & Greens and a brace of Partridges rosted &c. In the Afternoon or rather Evening we walked to Hungate Lodge and drank Coffee & Tea with Mr. [and] Mrs. Carbould, Mrs. Corbould's Brother, a Mr. John Warren a Clergyman, and Mr. Girlings eldest Son who had been shooting with Mr. Corbould all the whole morning. We returned home to Supper.
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