Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Coffee Pots and Quinces (2)

Herewith I present the second part of this fascinating glimpse of Cornelius Hump, Antiquarian & diarist of 18th century Norwich, taken from the pages of a rare surviving copy of The Coffee Pot & Shag magazine (1750 - 1772). The Norwich equivalent of London's The Spectator, this occasional periodical gives us a tantalising peek through the keyhole of the door of history, so that for a moment we overhear what the wealthier gents of the Fine City were discussing over their expensive coffee and favourite mixes of shag.
For those who recently took part in that wonderful recreation of Messrs Tangle & Hump's historicke perambulation (see posting 9th October thereabouts), the following extract will be particularly rewarding... huzzar!
~ Gregorius ~

The second of four extracts from The Coffee Pot & Shag (October 1762)

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.

A friendly hand
clasped mine, and the Norfolke Dandy himself was before me, resplendent in deep scarlet and boots of Spanish leather.
"Have you ever heard the like of it, old friend?" he declared. "I am agog with excitement at it, and 'tis two gentlemen of my acquaintance to do it, ye know, and fine merry fellows to be sure."
I made to reply, but was cut short as, his eye lighting upon the gathered ladies, of which my wife, I must say, stood most prominent among 'em, he breathed "By George that be a clutch of beauties if ever t' was," and was gone, rather as a large red fox through a farm yard hedge, me thought.
Of an instant, a great voice cried out "HUZZAH!" causing a dropping of monocles, a clutching of hats and one or two feminine shrieks, before some jolly fellows returned "Huzzah, huzzah!" in kind.
"HUZZAH!" came again in the voice of a lion, and with a beating drum and a calling to one and all to gather round, it seemed our "merry fellows" had arrived.
The caller was a swarthy fellow of sturdy, weathered appearance, beating a somewhat battered drum and carrying upon his back a pedlar's basket.
"Come gather old and young, rich and poor, come all!" he roared in most cheerful manner, if perhaps a little unnervingly, as the Haymart and nearby Fishmart harbour not just those categories of person, but every other kind as well.
His companion I recognised from occasional visits to the Library, where I did hear him amongst others read from papers upon antiquarian Norfolke matters.  A pleasant and well read gentleman I had found him, though I could not but help recall how once, while climbing upon the small lectern to begin a discourse, he did drop a great fart.
Looking about to catch sight of my wife, I saw her wig surrounded by ladies & gentlemen and that she was well attended, and did find the crowd had indeed swelled, though not much to it's improvement.
The two Antiquarian gentlemen introduced themselves as Cornelius Hump, Esquire (he of the fart) and Mr Daniel Tangle (he with the drum and basket). Mr Tangle's name did strike some chords of memory, but t'were dim.
"We are PEDLARS of The PAST!" they cried, and announced they would freely give of their knowledge of the people & incidents of life, both common and extraordinary, both humorous and tragicke, of our own city, from past ages, as we perambulated it's ancient ways.  This was received with much delight and "huzzahs" by all, and as I was nearby Mr Hump I did hear him murmur of his trepidation, which caused me to acknowledge that this was indeed a rare & uncommon event we were to witness.
"I tell you, Dan, " quoth he, "I'm all of a nerves at this."
"Take courage, Cornelius" said the other, "and if that be hard to reach, take this - " and he brought forth a coachman's flask, by which his companon did bolster himself freely.
Mr Tangle with great panache then laid out the route to be taken, and Mr Hump then applied himself to remarking how kind it was to see so many friends before him, which then put him in mind of a particular absent friend, and thence upon the instant sorely out of humour, as he then turned upon Mr Tangle and laid the blame for it squarely upon him.
"Are we not all denied this day, sir, " he cried, "privilege in the company of Pariah Greengrass, Gentleman, the most esteemed mind in matters historicke in this and many another county because you sir, yes you, did only yesterday allow to fall upon him, from an upper gallery of our fine Cathedral church, your very own filthy vomit and puke?!"
It did seem for a moment as if the whole city, let alone the Great Mart, did hold its breath, and then Mr Tangle answered, in manner so surprising and unexpected of one so accused, that I can only provide an estimation of his words, thus;
"If t'was me, sir, then know you this, that I did so honour Mr Greengrass by elevating him in rank, for t'was in the year 1640, in that very same seat did the Mayor himself sit, when was dropped upon his head a great and malodorous TURD!"
A pandemonium of female screams, manly oaths, and various chokings, swoonings and gaspings then ensued, during which, as gentlemen attended to distressed ladies and common folk jeered and guffawed, our two Antiquarians fell to a vicious exchange of ancient insults, so vile that only one may be safely inscribed: "chicken licker" (Mr Hump to Mr Tangle).
At this a particularly sweet & fragile creature did scream so as to bring Hump to a spluttering halt, and he then did make a red faced, lame show of assuring us t'was all concocted in jest, mere humorous play with insults from Tudor times, culled from the Bard for our amusing - pish!
Trying to reach my wife through the tumult, and seeing her well cared for by the Dandy, I came nose to nose with Mr Tangle.  With wild glare he thrust his drum into my hands and hastened off along St Peter's Street, calling all to follow.  Seeking to relieve myself of this greasy instrument, I sought Mr Hump, but found him busy with his flask.
"Pray husband," quipped my wife as she, with the other gentles, swept after the striding Tangle, "that you do not even think to beat upon that thing!"
Hurrying after, I saw a street urchin trying to speak to all who passed, inspite of receiving a boxed ear from Mr Tangle, and as I came up he pointed downwards, saying "Mind the turd, sir!"
Avoiding the said hazard, I gave him tuppence and made after the straggling crowd, slinging the fetid drum over my shoulder as I best could.

to be continued...


  1. Isn't 'Swarthy' just the most wonderful of words. Yes do continue old friend-I for one can't wait for another instalment!

    +Many Coats+