Friday, 29 October 2010

Coffee Houses & Quinces - A Warning to Gentlemen

For those privileged to enjoy the splendid event Tangle & Hump: Pedlars of The Past, (a historic walking tour of the Fine City of Norwich, Sat 9 October - see earlier in this month's postings) I anticipate these fragments should prove most fascinating.
As a seeker after facts of Cornelius Hump, Antiquarian and diarist of 18th Century Norwich, I am infinitely grateful to Abbé Rougearche of the Heidelberg Institute, for this undoubtedly unique glimpse of Hump as his fellow citizens saw him.
The following extracts come from a rare survival of a little known, and seemingly short-lived Norwich periodical, produced in small circulation sometime between 1750-1772. Although probably printed on the same presses as the Norwich Mercury, little details of editorial and - in this case alas! - authorial facts survive. Entitled The Coffee Pot and Shag, the name suggests a strong connection with the now invisible coffee house culture of the city, very much the domain of the wealthy gentleman. Enjoy!
~ Gregrorius ~

Taken in four extracts from The Coffee Pot & Shag October 1762 (Part 1)

Being a true & faithful account of events in this city of NORWICHE rendered in full earnest hope of warning & benefit to others by the author though it spare him not certain details most unbecoming to a gentleman.

Must it be a universal truth that where a man has a wife, that wife must needs have a wig?

So t' would seem, and after what to my mind was a most bewildering number of visits to a Queen Street wig maker, my wife did declare herself satisfied, and that I would now pray settle the account.

T' was a lightening of me pockets, dear friends, I shudder to recall, the notion striking me at the time that much of the cost went into the verbosity of the little man's explanation of his work, at perhaps a guinea per word.

My lady's - how to describe? - "structure" was a good foot or more high, of palest lemon and seemed, from what I could catch from the gushing torrent, to have as inspiration, a quince. This, I did gather, was the latest fashion at court, the Queen herself being thus "quinced".

The impact of the thing upon the women of my household can hardly be imagined for noise and commotion, and then began endless female consultations upon the care, management and indeed very own life of The Wig. This soon included the notion of hiring yet another girl, whose sole duty would be to attend upon it, a notion I did quickly put me foot upon, sirs, let me tell you!

Chief however amongst all deliberations was the selection of a suitable occasion to launch this Great Quince upon the world. In vain did I suggest a box at the theatre, or an eve of musicke at the Ranelagh Gardens, none of these being "special", and thus it is that I come to relate how we, on the Saturday morning the ninth this October, did find ourselves approaching the tower of Peter Mancroft to attend a most unusual diversion.

It was to be a historicke discourse upon our city , promising to be humorous, theatrical and, if this was not diverse enough, to be conducted upon the very streets and alleys of the auncient towne itself. Thus, those inclined to attend would be obliged to walk the very fabric historicke of which they would hear tell!

Trepidation, gentlemen, I assure you, accompanied my every thought, but my lady would hear none of it, for it seemed that gossip of the event had spread amongst the city dilettante as if by some magic aether, and dissuasion was impossible. Nearing the appointed place, I saw a goodly sized crowd of perhaps thirty already gathered. My wife did, true to character, forget entirely my pleadings that she remain safely in sedan until I could reconnoitre, and sprang forth (as much as the Great Quince would permit of haste) while my own passage was blocked by a passing large dungman.

I was reassured to see however that her arm was immediately taken by good Lady Arnolfia, most sensibly, (and may I say fetchingly?) herself attired in riding habit & hat, who directed much admiration upon my lady's headgear, which of course did please her mightily.

Heartened though I was to see a personage of rank present, and also that I met with some familiar faces, the young Timothy Ditherus being one, Jebediah Mondrake another, I must relate it was indeed a rare mix of the orders altogether, and I did wonder upon attempting once more to breach my lady's bastion of resistance to our becoming in absentio. At that moment young Ditherus did remark:

"Why, sirs, look about us, 'tis like a congregation in this great church, the mighty & the humble come together under one roof in common goodness." And so touched by this youthful wisdom, did I in likewise folly dismiss the sedans...

to be continued

1 comment:

  1. I await part two of this recently rediscovered extract with both excitement and trepidation.

    A wonderful discovery Gregrorius!

    +Many Coats+