LSH Pre-release

Friday, December 21, 2012

A brush with history - MR. EVELYN'S ROMAN CHRISTMAS


In honour of the season, one of Ms. Stuart's historical stories from the seventeenth century - Diarist John Evelyn and a Roman Christmas.

While Samuel Pepys is well known to you for his diaries, the diarist  John Evelyn may be less familiar.  

John Evelyn's Diaries
Evelyn was born in 1620 and died in 1707. His diaries cover the great events of the period, such as the death of Cromwell, the Restoration, the Great Fire, the Monmouth Rebellion. It is no surprise that he and Pepys were great friends and references to Pepys frequently occur in his diaries.

Like Pepys his career took off following the Restoration and he was a founder member of the Royal Society.  During the Second Anglo-Dutch War, beginning 28 October 1664, Evelyn served as one of four Commissioners for taking Care of Sick and Wounded Seamen and for the Care and Treatment of Prisoners of WarHe had a great interest in horticulture and was a prolific writer on gardens and matters arboreal. His interest in urban design led him to submit plans for the rebuilding of London after the Great Fire and interestingly he wrote the first known treatise on urban pollution:  Fumifugium (or The Inconveniencie of the Aer and Smoak of London Dissipated).

John Evelyn as a young man
As a young man, John Evelyn found himself embroiled in the English Civil War (1642-1648). He served for a short time in the Royalist Army but finding warfare not to his taste, he went abroad to avoid any further involvement. In Italy he studied anatomy and in 1644 visited the English College in Rome where priests were trained for service in England.  

On Christmas Eve 1644 he writes: 
            “...I went not to bed, by reason I was desirous to see the many extraordinary ceremonyes performed then in their Churches, as midnight  Masses and Sermons; so I did nothing all this night except go for church to church with admiration at the multitude of sceanes; and pageantry which the Friers had with all the industry and craft set out to catch the devout women and superstitious sort of people with, who never part with them without droping some money in a vessell set on purpose: But especially observable was the pupetry in the Church of the Minerva, representing the nativity etc.: Thence I went and heard a sermon at the Appolinaire by which time it was morning.
            On Christmas Day, his holyness saying Masse, the Artillery at St. Angelo went off; and all this day was exposed the Cradle of our Lord...”

His diaries contain many references to Christmas over the years, but of them all this is an unusual insight into a celebration of Christmas unknown in England at the time.
  
In honour of Mr. Evelyn, a seventeenth century Christmas recipe...SUGARPLUMS


TO DRIE APRICOCKS, PEACHES, PIPPINS OR PEARPLUMS 

Take your apricocks or pearplums, & let them boile one walme in as much clarified sugar as will cover them, so let them lie infused in an earthen pan three days, then take out your fruits, & boile your syrupe againe, when you have thus used them three times then put half a pound of drie sugar into your syrupe, & so let it boile till it comes to a very thick syrup, wherein let your fruits boile leysurelie 3 or 4 walmes, then take them foorth of the syrup, then plant them on a lettice of rods or wyer, & so put them into yor stewe, & every second day turne them & when they be through dry you may box them & keep them all the year; before you set them to drying you must wash them in a litlle warme water, when they are half drie you must dust a little sugar upon them throw a fine Lawne.
-- Elinor Fettiplace's Receipt Book, 1604 (from 
Gode Cookery website)

A HAPPY AND SAFE CHRISTMAS AND HOLIDAY SEASON TO YOU ALL

3 comments:

J.T. Webster said...

Thanks for an interesting post. I had never heard of Evelyn. He sounds like an interesting man.
A Merry Christmas to you and yours, Alison.

Anita Davison said...

I really like John Evelyn - if I could go back to the 17th Century I would get him to guide me round London - he knew everyone!

Alison Stuart said...

Thanks for dropping in JT and Anita. Evelyn lived in the shadow of Pepys but in a way he's much more interesting. I think a longer post on Mr. E may be called for...one for the Hoydens and Firebrands methinks.