Sunday, 28 November 2010

Coffee Pots & Quinces (4)

Herewith I present the concluding extract to this rare & precious glimpse into the lives of wealthy Norwich folk circa mid 1700's. The little known periodical The Coffee Pot & Shag survives in only a few fragments scattered in libraries worldwide, and so I thank my good friend Abbé Rougearche for sharing this one with the Society, knowing as he does that any light shed at all on the life & acts of Cornelius Hump, Antiquarian of that Fine City, will be of the utmost enrichment to many Members. You are invited to read the previous three extracts - and what a tale they make! - simply by scrolling down below.
~ Gregorius ~
The fourth & final extract 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.

I began to stammer that I must seek my wife, but he hushed me kindly.
"You are in no fit state, sir, Ned shall go at once and make thorough search.  Come you now and rid yourself of the city's staines."
So saying, he and his companion, the warden Jonas Cramm, proceeded to show me every kindness, helping me from my besmirched and torn apparel, fetching a wash bowl and even clean linen to replace my own, beyond repair.  Ned, a lad whom I perceived spoke not, listened carefully to my words and was gone, and it seemed in only a few moments that I was sat, weary but cleansed, by the stove with a pot of ale and had begun my sorry tale, when he was back.  He conversed with Greengrass by the lightest gestures of the hands, and the old Antiquarian reassured me all was well.
Ned was known in the Guildhall, and it seemed numerous ladies had been ushered into its shelter, amongst them a lady gowned as was my wife, with not a one injured, save for some "dishevelment" of dress.  Some gentlemen had attended closely on their safety, numerous carriages were come and almost all were now departing.
There was it seems the notion of a possible warrant to be issued for the instigator of the unrest, one "Angerton Umps", believed to be an itinerant gambler of Scots origin.
"So has the storm has passed, sir, calm your fears." Greengrass reassured me.
I must confide I feared him only half correct, and a great weariness overcame me, that longed to have me tarry in this quiet church, full of kindness.
"I knew of 't, " said Jonas Cramm, knocking out his pipe.  "I knew of 't, as Dan Tangle had notion of bringing the circus here, in to this very church."
"This be St John of the Maddermarket, where you have washed ashore, " explained Greengrass, upon seeing my perplexion.
"But nay, I said, " continued Cramm. "For my misgivings were many.  Dan, I said, thou does tempt the Fates too often.  Why, look at the outing to the old ladies' Almshouse at Castle Rising: to this day, they now still restrict gentlemen visitors to only two at any one time!"
"Aye so," said Greengrass, "yet his heart is noble.  But look you, did you say Cornelius Hump was set upon, injured maybe?"
Recalling Mr Hump's pugilistic prowess before the Guildhall, I speculated he may only have some bruising of the knuckles.
Mr Greengrass' kindness knew no framing, for he offered his arm to my house, but I prayed he and Cramm should trouble themselves no longer.  To my shame I was unable to offer them so much as a farthing in gratitude, my purse proving long gone, heaven alone knew at exactly which frightful moment.
So clad now in churchwarden's hat & coat, which I hoped also would prove guard against recognition by friend or foe, even shoes not my own, I limped my way towards Surrey Street.  As in some wyrde dream, the Great Mart was busy as usual, as if not a single event heretofore told had passed, save a man sluicing water from buckets down the south side of the Hill, past the now empty stocks.  I saw some carriages there, but none I recognised and most certainly no sign of my own amongst them.
Clutching Mr Cramm's garb tight about me and avoiding the Walk, fortune put no one of acquaintance in my path, and no man ever made more shamefaced or sorry return to his own house than mine at last to Surrey Street.
Davies admitted me and taking my strange hat & garb without a single flicker of surprise, merely murmured immediate orders for my bath to be readied.  My lady was not returned, it seemed, nor had my carriage been sent for; instead a note had come for Beth her dress-maid to pack some garments and be ready for departure when called upon.  These orders I contradicted not. 
Barely had I gained my banyan about my shoulders and a glass of port in my hand when such summons arrived, and as I am not given to peering from my own street windows, I did enquire by what manner of conveyance the girl departed.
"A mustard curricle, sir" was the answer, which I knew to be in ownership of the Dandy.  A note had been left:
"Husband, should you care to recall you have a wife, know that only by the gallant effort of others you are not yet a widower.  I am to sup with Lady Arnolfia and will inform you of my return, in due course."
Of that return, gentlemen, I shall spare you the details.  Meantime I, like one carried from battle, cancelled all that day's engagements, sought solace in bath & nerve calming remedies and slipped into much needed, though sadly fitful sleep, wherein I was tormented by dreams no man should suffer.
In some large place, beneath portraits of past gentlemen, which seemeth like unto the Blackfriars but was not, in that way of dreams, I saw Mr Tangle lying full length beneath some cloth, scrawled over with curious, antique designs.  Standing over him, Mr Hump did beat and curse him roundly for his sloth, to no sign of response, while all about fine ladies stood watching, in wigs fashioned after church towers, spires and castles, screeching with laughter most horrid, oh, horrid!
Fleeing sleep, I ordered carriage for the Assembly Rooms, where I knew to find good company and soothing distraction, and while dressing a note came from young Ditherus.  He begged favour that I would stand surety for him and secure his release from the Guildhall cells, till following Tuesday when he would answer charge for "incitement to affray".  I despatched Davies with a letter and suitable coin to soothe any concerns which may weigh upon the beadles' judgement.
My friends, this tale is almost run, with but one more frightful moment to relate, so let all that has passed be warning to husbands, though even so warned, I see no means of turning forces as primeval as the tides of this Earth.
As I set out through the late afternoon city, my thoughts were only of my wife and whatever words lay in store, so you may imagine the jolt to my senses when of sudden I saw her, standing with some rough trulls outside The Greyhound tavern!  My bowels froze a second, as my eye did struggle for meaning, for 't was her and yet not her also - then awful recognition flooded my loins as in a cold dousing.  That misshapen nest of hair was indeed her's, or what remained of the Great Quince, perched now atop the cackling face of that very same ancient hag so lately occupying the stocks!  I fain did call to turn round again, but lay in breathless swoon instead, and praying this day ever would reach an end.
No surprise, then, that I must relate I did then lose most forty guineas at the tables that very eve...

The Coffee Pot & Shag, October 1762


  1. Huzzah! and what a woodcut-A perfect likeness of Cornelius Hump!

    +Many Coats+

  2. My dear friend, Gregorius has asked that I gently point out that the woodcut is believed, by many authorities, to be an almost contemporary depiction of that legendary figure, Pariah Greengrass. It seems the detail of the pipe - being one of the "Churchwarden" kind - is the nub of the matter.
    A fairly well attested depiction of the enigmatic Daniel Tangle graces the second instalment, with his drum. The figure below him, of a man drinking, is merely a 17th century chap-book detail which seemed to fit the moment in the narrative - alas, as yet no confirmed representation of Hump himself has come to the attention of scholars.
    your servant,
    Cont Sec RSAR

  3. I stand corrected.

    +Many Coats+