Do It Yourself: Perfume

According to Lady Ann Fanshawe (1625–80, wife of Sir Richard Fanshawe, English ambassador to Spain), ‘All Perfumes are best made in July’, so you’ve just got time. Here is her recipe for making perfumed ‘paste beades’:

Grind the quantity of Amber you please upon a stone of purpose such as the Painters use &c & one quarter part of Algalla [civet]; & the like of Almisile [almizcle or musk] of so much quantety as the Amber & then putt thereunto a little Alquitira [tragacanth gum], & boyle the same together to a Mass, & there of make the Beades with your hands as you please, putting thorough them a thred with a nidle, & so drie them.

Or you might like ‘To perfume Damaske Roses’ to make scented sachets for your clothes:

Take Damaske Roses putt them into a wide mouthed glasse, & stopp them Close with partchement. sett them upon leades in the sunne, or some other very hotte place where the sunn comes, shaking them twise or thrice a day till they be dry, then make a powder thus.

Take Cleare & faire Beniot [?Benzoin], Storax [a resin from the Levant storax tree with a vanilla scent], Galean [?Galia aromatica, which included musk], Lignum Aloes [agarwood, which smells a little like sandalwood], Amber Grise [ambergris, from the gut of the sperm whale], Mace of Levanto, Lemon Peele, Cittorn [citron] Peele, Orange Peele, Orange Flowers, sweete Marjoram, Lemon time [thyme], Myrtell Leaves, bruise the Leathes, beate your Powders, & take what proportions will seve [serve] your Roses, & mixe your Quanteties as best pleas your Sence; then putt all your Powders into the Glasse, tye them with paper & parchment & wax, & a parchment over that, that no ayre possibly can gett in, nor sent come out, sett em in the heat of the Sunne as longe as it Lasts & in the Evenings & night keepe it in a Stove, this do for a mounth or five weeks, then you may use it, putt into little sarsenett baggs, & layer amunge your Clothes. it will last longest with woollen. this is a rare perfume putting a little of it into a perfuming pann, with Orange Flower water or Rose water or lemmon time water.

Source: Wellcome Library, MS/7113



Do It Yourself: Ink

Mike Rendell’s blog post on ink reminded me of some recipes for ink that I’d seen in manuscript recipe books. Here’s a simple one:

Take a quart of Wine or Rain water which put into a pot, and put to it 4 ounces of Galls grossly Beaten; let it stand 4 days now and then stirring it, put it to two ounces of Coperas and 2 of Gum Arabech and in 14 days it will be good Inke. (Wellcome Library, MS.8002)

An oak gall (or oak apple) is an outgrowth on the tree created by a reaction to wasp larvae, which use it as a type of nest and a source of nutrients. These are high in tannic acid and have been used for ink and dye since the time of the Roman Empire. Those from the horned oak are spiked, as in this, slightly more complex recipe:

Four ounces of Spicked Galls, Two Ounces of Logwood Chips Two Ounces of Green Copperas, One Ounce of Gum Arabic Boil for one Hour the Galls and Logwood Chips in two quarts of rain Water, strain the liquor into a pitcher, put to it the Copperas and Gum Arabic, stir it occasionally for forty eight Hours, that the Gum may be perfectly dissolved, then strain it again into a Bottle for use. Let the Bottle be well corked. (Wellcome Library, MS.3082)

Copperas or green vitriol is ferrous sulphate, manufactured on the Kent and Essex coasts since the seventeenth century and also used in the woollen industry. Gum arabic is hardened sap from the acacia tree and is still in use as a stabiliser, in food as well as inks and glues. Logwood chips are another source of dye, which would have been purple, grey or black depending on the acidity of the preparation, so this second recipe may have produced a stronger colour than the first.

I’ve found varieties of this recipe in many manuscripts, but I’ve also seen red ink used and even one that was positively sparkly! If anyone knows what would have been added to produce that effect, I’d love to know.


Oh so sleepy

In addition to suffering from gout, Sir Edward Filmer was prone to excessive sleepiness. His brother Beversham Filmer wrote to him on March 30, 1754:

I shall be heartily glad to have an account of your perfect recovery & particularly if the Docter could any way take off your sleepiness which you have been subject to some years.

An ardent keeper of lists, Sir Edward noted down in his medicinal notebook ‘Mr Dorringtons Rules to Prevent Sleepyness’:

  1. Never to eat to the utmost extention of your stomach [or, as we used to call it as kids, tummy touching table]
  2. Divert yourself as much as you can
  3. Bleed often & always keep your body open
  4. Eat no suppers
  5. Use a sharp stimulating snuff
  6. To ride, or walk, as much as you can
  7. When sleep is the effect of exercise it is natural
  8. Don’t indulge it after dinner [in the eighteenth century this was a late lunch], tho you may possibly fall into it a little without much hurt in very hot weather

So there you are – you can sleep in the middle of the day when you’ve been out exercising, but woe betide those who indulge in a little post-prandial somnolence!


A regimen for gout

Sir Edward Filmer, whom we met in the previous post, suffered badly from gout, as did many in the eighteenth century. Gout is an inflammatory form of arthritis that causes intense pain and swelling in the joints, and frequently the big toe. It is caused by a build-up of uric acid in the bloodstream, produced by the breakdown of food in the body. Nowadays it is treated by anti-inflammatory drugs or steroid injections and by attention to diet, particularly eating fewer foods rich in purine, such as offal and oily fish, and drinking less alcohol and more water.

Here is the regimen followed by Sir Edward in 1751, as he records in his medicinal notebook:

  1. Eat several slices of brown bread & butter cut very thin & 2 or 3 dishes of coffee and milk sweeten’d with brown sugar about 9 o’clock in a morning – for change 2 dishes of green tea.
  2. About 12 o’clock took 20 of Turlingtons Drops which he calls his Balsam of Life, on a lump of lofe suger. Sometimes for a change a glass of tar water.
  3. About noon (or a little before) took the air in a one horse chaise with a top to it, to defend him against wind & weather, to get him a stomach.
  4. Went to dinner about 2 o’clock eat what ever was most agreeable to his appetite; & as soon as he had eat moderately drank a large glass of cold spring water after it, & soon after that a wine glass of good strong sweet mountain [fortified Malaga wine] to keep the water from pauling the stomach, and after that, 4 or 5 glasses of good strong red port wine.
  5. About 7 o’clock drank 2 dishes of light quick green tea blood warm & a 3d with 1 tea spoonfull of tincture of cardamoms to correct the windiness of the tea. Went to bed on or before 11 o’clock, in a bed warm’d only knee high & but little clothes, turn’d down upon the shoulders. He rose at 7 & wou’d not suffer him self to lie long a bed after he had slept a reasonable time & was distinctly awake. But rose quick out of his warm bed, in the open air by way of a cold bath which Dr Cheyne says in his Essay of Health p.84 makes a free & brisk & more compleat circulation, & braces up the solids, which lying a bed long, lolling & soaking in sheets, dissolves in moisture. The erect posture & the activity of watching make the perspiration more plentiful & the gross evacuations more readily thrown off.
  6. He did not wear flanel next him as he had don in former winters, thinking it relax’d the fibres & glands too much & made him faint & weak…
  7. He dri’d up an issue which he had had in his left thigh for 17 years on account of its being very troublesome to keep a bandage on the part, & by the taring & dividing the meetings of several tendons was very painful & created a lameness; & being inclin’d to heal, & being hinderd from it by steptics & escharoticks, a spunky flesh grew up about the edges of the orifice, & the sore bleeding often, it was thought best to dry it up.
  8. At bed time he constantly took 3 gulps or swallows of Dr Cheyne’s a tincture of Rhubarb & 4 or 5 godowns or swallows of cold water after it, in order to give him a stool the next morning & keep his body open.

We can see here the contemporary preoccupation with purging and evacuation, as well as the perceived importance of fresh air and cold baths, and the use of ready-made medicines such as Turlington’s drops (compound tincture of benzoin) and tar water (pine tar or resin steeped in water). However, one can’t help wondering whether the five or six glasses of alcohol at lunchtime might actually have been causing the problem…

Source: U120/F28, Filmer Manuscripts, Kent History Centre.

From little swellings giant problems do grow…

Here is a rather gruesome tale of eighteenth-century medicine making a problem worse. Beversham Filmer was a younger brother of Sir Edward Filmer, 3rd baronet, of East Sutton in Kent. He was a barrister and is described in The Baronetage of England as ‘one of the most able conveyancers this kingdom has produced’. In 1750 he consulted Mr Webb, a London surgeon, about ‘a small swelling upon the buttock’. The story is told in letters to Sir Edward from Beversham and from Christopher Hargrave, his servant.

From Bev. Filmer to Sir Edward Filmer, Oct 6 1750

Dear Brother

… I have consulted Mr Webb the surgeon about my swelling and as soon he saw it he said there matter in it & advised to have opened and as it lay deep he first laid a little caustic to deaden the flesh and then made an incision & lett out a tea cup full of blood & corrupition I am in more pain to day then when the operation was performed you will see by my writing that my hand shakes so I fear you cannot red it therefore I must conclude from your most affec brother & your humble servant

B Filmer

From Chris. Hargrave to Sir Edward Filmer, Oct 9 1750


My Master has just now been fav’d with yours, & is concern’d that his illness has made you & the Family so uneasy, he has been in great pain since he wrote to you, but I think is rather easier, tho’ yet the part that was cut is very painful when ever he stirs, and is oblig’d either to sit on a cushion, with a great hole cut thro’ it, or lye on a couch, the greatest part of the day, but the surgeon assures him, that he is in a fair way of doing well, tho’ it will be some time before he can go about…

From Chris. Hargrave to Sir Edward Filmer, Oct 11 1750

Mr Webb the Surgeon, has assur’d my Master to day, that the part that was cut, is in as fine a way, as he could possibly expect, and that the pain will be less every day, & that the matter will soon thicken, which I shall be very glad of, for my Master was in great pain all yesterday, & is in a good deal now, tho’ I think his Spirits are something better, & if Mr Webb had not found him so, he did design to have had a Physician to day, but now thinks there is no occasion, I hope by next Saturday’s Post, to send you an account of my Master being easier, for till the Pain ceases, & the discharges lessen, he can’t have much comfort from the assurances which Mr Webb gives him, tho’ I really believe he speaks as he thinks, & has assur’d me of the same, when my Master was not present, tho’ he owns that he did not expect him to feel much Pain, & attributes it to some bad habit of the body, for the discharges have been so large, that it supris’d Mr Webb very much & I hope neither you, nor any of the Family will be too much alarm’d at what I have wrote, & you may depend on it, that I won’t deceive you, in the accounts that I send, by making my Master’s case better, than I really apprehend it to be…

Copy of letter from Mr Webb, Oct 13 1750

In compliance with your request, I send you this account of Mr Filmer’s case, who has been so unfortunate to have two complaints unhappily complicated, the first external (and the only apparent one) was a small swelling upon the buttock, which was so situated & of such a kind, as cou’d furnish no occasion for fear, but since that was open’d, a large collection of matter has formed very deep under the great muscles of the thigh, & made it self a passage into the opening that was made to discharge the contents of the little swelling & as the discharge of matter for these two days past is in great abundance & the seat of the mischief very deep, I cannot say that I am without apprehensions, that the case will prove tedious & troublesome. I have therefore desir’d Mr Filmer that some other person of character may be consulted, & Mr Sharpe is the gentleman appointed, who is to meet me to morrow morning.

From Chris. Hargrave to Sir Edward Filmer, Oct 13 1750

As my Master’s pain, has continued as great as ever, I desir’d Mr Webb wd let me know how his case is, that I might acquaint you with it, & this afternoon he wrote to me, & the above is a copy of his letter, I was in hopes to have been able to have sent you a more favourable account, & shall be glad if I can do it by Monday’s Post, please not to take any notice of this letter, nor Mr Webb’s, when you write to my Master, unless he grows better, for fear of affecting his Spirits too much, for the great pain he has endur’d, has made him very low spirited, & indeed wd have done so, by any person…

PS Mr Webb in the morning said, that the matter, “was good matter”

From Chris. Hargrave to Sir Edward Filmer, Oct 15 1750

Yesterday morning before the Surgeons came, my Master found the pain very much lessen’d, & he had continued easier ever since, & can now rise from his chair without pain, which is a happy change – Mr Sharp was here yesterday, & is to meet Mr Webb here again next Wednesday, as they both now very well understand the case, they seem to think that the shall make an entire cure, without cutting again, tho’ they can’t determine that till next Wednesday, Mr Webb said to day, that every thing appear’d better, than he cou’d have expected, I will write again next Wednesday…

Copy of letter from Mr Webb, Oct 17 1750

This day Mr Filmer being inform’d by Mr Sharp & my self, how very improbable it was, that he shd be cur’d without suffering the diseas’d parts to be laid open, submitted to the necessary operation, & behav’d under it with great resolution, tho’ it was severe enough I hope I may now say, that he is in a very said way to be made well, tho’ it must be a work of time, because the wound is very large, we being oblig’d to follow the disease, wch had spread its mischief far and wide

From Chris. Hargrave to Sir Edward Filmer, Oct 17 1750

The above is a copy of Mr Webb’s letter to me this day, wch I am very sensible will make both you & all the family uneasy, & indeed this has been a terrible day, & what I have all along dredded wd be the consequence, but as they have now cut as deep & as wide, as they have occasion, Mr Webb assures me, that there’s no danger of cutting again, Mr Sharp perform’d the operation, & is to be here again to morrow with Mr Webb, soon after the surgeons were gone, my Master was fav’d with your letter, & notwithstanding the fatigue & pain he had undergone, he was chearful when I read it to him… He is now dozing, & I hope to morrow will be much easier, I never thought that he cou’d have gone thro’ such a violent operation, without fainting away…

From Chris. Hargrave to Sir Edward Filmer, Oct 18 1750

My Master has lain pretty easy ever since I wrote last night, nor has he been feverish to day, Mr Webb & Mr Sharp was here this morning, but defer’d undoing the bandage till to morrow, when they both will be here again, they both now assures me, that there’s no danger, of any more of these violent operations, wch are terrible to think on, more especially to feel, nor cou’d I have resolution to see either of ’em perform’d

My Master desires his compliments to you & all the family, is sorry that his illness has made you all so uneasy… he has been wholly govern’d by his surgeons in every thing, & I hope that next Saturday, either Mr F Filmer [Sir Edward’s son] or I, shall be able to send you an account of his being much better, at present he’s oblig’d to keep constantly in bed, which is tiresome to him, but as it’s necessary he submits to it…

From Bev. Filmer to Sir Edward Filmer, Nov 10 1750

Dear Brother

… I thank God I am a good deal better than I have been but very weak so that I can but just make a shift to take a turn or 2 in the square in the middle of the day which I think does me good I have now been confined 6 weeks & doubt it will be a good while yet before the wound is quite healed Mr Webb dresses it every day but Mr Sharp has not been here since Sunday & then he would not take any money but said he came only as a visitor he examined the wound with his probe & said every thing went on as well as he could wish so I suppose he has taken his leave…

From Bev. Filmer to Sir Edward Filmer, Jan 17 1750

… I am able now to walk upon plain ground very well, but in going up & down stairs I cannot move my right thigh with that freedom I used to do, the muscles being I believe contracted for the flesh is not near grown up even with the other…

As a postscript, we know from jottings in Sir Edward’s medical recipe book that he was prone to problems with his uvula, the lobe that dangles down from the rear of the soft palate. In June 1755 Beversham writes to Lady Filmer:

Dear Sister

I am very sorry to hear my brother has been so very much out of order with the same complaint he was troubled with last winter but am in great hopes the discharges the Docter has made by Physick Cupping & blistering will relieve him I sent this morning to young Mr Webb the surgion who assures me there is not the least danger in cutting the uvula…

Whether ‘young Mr Webb’ was the original surgeon or his son, not surprisingly there is no indication that Sir Edward took his brother up on his suggestion.

Source: U120 C29, Filmer Manuscripts, Kent History Centre.