Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Frozen Man of Weymouth

Buffalo, New York, 2014. Reuters photo.
© 2015 Christy K Robinson 
Boston’s Mayor Marty Walsh says people shouldn’t be jumping out of windows or off roofs to land in snow drifts, because it’s dangerous. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/17/boston-jumping-out-windows-into-snowbanks-mayor-speech_n_6699228.html

He’s not the first Massachusetts official to describe the behavior. Governor John Winthrop wrote of it in his Journal (a public history of the colony, not a private diary) in February 1638 (New Style calendar).

There was serious trouble in the Puritan/Congregational churches of the colony, not only from the Anne Hutchinson “Antinomian” controversy drawing off many prominent members of the church and community, but strife from within the approved churches: the clash of salvation by God’s grace versus the “covenant of works,” that is, proving your love for God by strict adherence to Old Testament laws. The churches had stopped approving memberships, which meant the men couldn’t be freemen voters, but worse, as non-members, they couldn’t be saved for heaven if they died by disease, accident, or age. So non-member men and women were deeply perturbed. No matter how they behaved or what they believed, if they didn’t have the approval of the Elect (the ministers and members), they were probably going to hell.

In the extremely harsh winter of January-February-March 1638, Anne Hutchinson was on house arrest in Roxbury between her heresy and excommunication trials, and her adherents were on a real estate trip to scout and purchase Rhode Island, and make a start on surveying and marking land allotments. Back in Boston and Salem, the 25,000-35,000 new emigrants of the Great Migration were existing on short rations and short tempers, and crowded living quarters.
If you're not trained as a hungry red fox diving for a vole,
it's probably best not to leap into a snowbank.

One nor’easter after another battered the colony that winter. Probably also a polar vortex or two, if you consider that the Boston Harbor froze over several times. And then a man who couldn’t bear the stress leaped out into a snowbank.

Winthrop wrote on Feb. 7: 
“A man of Weymouth (but not [a member] of the church) fell into some trouble of mind, and in the night cried out, “Art thou come, Lord Jesus?” and with that leaped out of his bed in his shirt, and, breaking from his wife, leaped out at a high window into the snow, and ran about seven miles off, and being traced in the snow, was found dead next morning. They might perceive, that he had kneeled down to prayer in divers places.”

Leaping into a snowbank, dressed only in a nightshirt and stocking feet, in darkness and deep snow: it’s a wonder the man made seven miles, and still kept ahead of the search party. As the song goes, "Lord, have mercy on the Frozen Man."  

Christy K Robinson is the author of The Dyers trilogy, a deeply-researched series of books and a blog, showing the earliest settlement of Boston and Rhode Island through the eyes of Anne Hutchinson and her son Edward Hutchinson, Gov. John Winthrop, and William and Mary Dyer. The books and Kindle versions may be found at  http://bit.ly/RobinsonAuthor

Friday, February 13, 2015

William Dyer’s most dearly beloved Mary

© 2015 Christy K Robinson

In William Dyer's own hand: "to one most dearely beloved."
In petitions the attorney William Dyer wrote to the General Court of Massachusetts Bay Colony, he described his imprisoned wife in loving terms. William also mentioned their children and the entire family’s grief at being deprived of Mary by Massachusetts’ unlawful, unjust policies.

William appealed to the members of the court as husbands and fathers, to show compassion both to the prisoner and especially to an honorable, Christian woman who was obeying Christ's command (Matt. 25:40) to love one another by visiting the sick and imprisoned. 

These are some of the ways William described his wife of 26 years to men he detested, but to whom he must needs be courteous (intentional use of “court” in courteous) and persuasive, if he was to secure the release of Mary. If William used these terms in a professional communication to his enemies, imagine how he must have spoken to Mary in their home.

"...my deare yokefellow"

·        tender soul
·        Christian
·        a tender woman
·        came to visit her friends in prison
·        my wife
·        my deare yokefellow
·        mine and my family’s want of her will crye loud in yo' eares
·        my dear wife
·        husband … to one most dearely beloved
·        oh do not you deprive me of her… Pity me, I beg it with tears
To read a full transcription of two letters William wrote, as well as an explanation of words and phrases lost to most of us in the 21st century (Bonner, cobhole, Dr. Bostwick, etc.), purchase the Kindle or paperback of Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This.  <-- Click the highlighted link. The first of two letters begins on page 227.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Fifty Shades of Blushes

© 2015 Christy K Robinson

Ah, but this 1820 edition of Aristotle’s Complete Master-Piece, a book about copulation, coition, pregnancy, and childbirth published in New England, is not the complete masterpiece it claims to be. How do we know? Because when the 1684 first edition was published in London during the reign of Charles II, there was a section on how to have satisfactory lovemaking. Apparently, that section was banned in Boston! The later edition acknowledges the “unlawful bed” (adultery) and illegitimate babies, but it’s directed at the married couple only. Coition, as the anonymous author (not Aristotle) often refers to it, is for procreation.

In a recent article in The Guardian about the auction of the 1684 first edition sex manual, is a paragraph that doesn’t appear in the PDF of the 1820 edition that I downloaded several years ago. The 1684 is much more racy than the 1820 American version influenced by its puritanical founders. Here’s the 1684 English version:

The manual offers “a word of advice to both Sexes in the Act of Copulation.” One passage advises that “when the Husband commeth into his Wives Chamber, he must entertain her with all kinds of dalliance, wanton behaviour, and allurements to Venery [sexual indulgence], but if he perceive her to be slow and more cold, he must cherish, embrace, and tickle her ... intermixing more wanton Kisses with wanton Words and Speeches, handling her Secret Parts and Dugs, that she may take fire and be inflamed to Venery.”

An image of the original 1684 edition.
The appendage is a dog's tail, not
what you might suspect.
Well, well, well! One can see why, with “Fifty Shades” passages like that, the book was a bestseller in 100 editions for more than two centuries.

By the time it made it through Boston editors in 1820, however, it was a medical book. The drawings of “monsters” looked like the females were wearing bikini tops. In fact, in my PDF is a passage that says this:
Since nature has implanted in every creature a mutual desire of copulation, for the increase and propagation, of its kind; and more especially in man, the Lord of the creation, and master-piece of nature, that so noble a piece of Divine workmanship might not perish, something ought to be said concerning that, it being the foundation of all that we have been hitherto treating of, since without copulation there can be no generation. Seeing, therefore so much depends upon it, I thought it necessary, before I concluded the first part, to give such directions to both sexes, for the performing of that act, as may appear efficacious to the end for which nature designed it. But it will be done with that caution, as not to offend the chastest ear, nor put the fair sex to the trouble of a blush in reading it.
It would be very proper to cherish the body with generous restoratives, that so it may be brisk and vigorous; and if their imaginations were charmed with sweet and melodious airs, and cares and thoughts of business drowned glass of racy wine, that their spirits may be raised to the highest pitch of ardour and joy, it would not be amiss.
And therefore I do advise them, before they begin their conjugal embraces, to invigorate their mutual desires, and make their flames burn with a fierce ardor, by those endearing ways that love can better teach than I can write. And when they have done what nature requires, a man must have a care he does not part too soon from the embraces of his wife… And when, after some convenient time, the man hath withdrawn himself, let the woman gently betake herself to rest, with all imaginable serenity and composure.

Click image to enlarge
 As an editor myself, I’m sure that was the replacement of the text on women “taking fire and being inflamed to Venery.” Rats! Darn! No fifty shades of blushing! Not only that, but I had to read half the book before I discovered that this one had no naughty bits. Publishers to Kindle and e-book sites know that they should put the hook or cliffhanger up front and put the acknowledgements at the back of the book, so readers can get the good stuff by browsing.

Dr. not-Aristotle, using classical medical literature, plagiarizing a 1554 text on midwifery, and showing personal experience as a 17th-century physician, described the anatomy of the reproductive organs, how to best conceive, and ways of dealing with problem deliveries. He used both superstition and contemporary medical knowledge in his book. Ovaries were called testicles, common terminology of the time, since they believed that both man and woman contributed “seed” in conception.

Perhaps he remained anonymous because he was very well acquainted with internal anatomy, and was surely conducting autopsies on both humans and animals. For that, he had to pay grave robbers to obtain cadavers, and perhaps hold his labs or demonstration lectures in secret locations.

Conception of a child, diet and posture
Though here he describes the best way to select the gender of a baby, a few pages after this, he explains that the baby’s sex comes down to God’s determination.

Then since diet alters the evil state of the body to a better, those who are subject to barrenness must eat such meats as are of good juice, and that nourish well, making the body lively and full of sap; of which faculty are all hot moist meats. For, according to Galen, seed is made of pure concocted and windy superfluity of blood we may therefore conclude there is a power in many things to accumulate seed, and other things to cause erection; as hens' eggs, pheasants, wood cocks, gnat snappers, thrushers, black birds, young pigeons, sparrows, partridges—all strong wines taken sparingly, especially those made of the grapes of Italy. But erection is chiefly caused by scuraum, eringoes, cresses, crysmon, parsnip, artichokes, turnips, asparagus, candied ginger, galings, acorns bruised to powder, drunk in muscadel, scallion, sea shell-fish, Etc, But these must have time to perform their operation, and must use them for a considerable time or you will reap but little benefit by them.

The act of coition being over, let the woman repose herself on her right side, with her head lying low, and her body, declining that by sleeping in that posture, the caul on the right side of the matrix may prove the place of conception, for therein is the greatest generative heat, which is the chief procuring cause of male children, and rarely fails the expectation of those that experience it, especially if they do but keep warm without much motion, leaning to the right, and drinking a little spirit of saffron and juice of hyssop in a glass of Malaga or Alicant, when they lie down and arise, for the space of a week.
For a female child, let a woman lie on the left side strongly fancying a female at the time of procreation, drinking the decoction of female mercury four days from the first day of purgation; the male mercury the like operation in case of a male; for this concoction purges the right and left side of the womb, the receptacles, and makes way for the seminary of generation.

The book goes on to describe why children look the way they do: it’s because of what the mother thinks about most intensely, or with “fright or extravagant laughter.” If she saw a hare cross the road before her, the baby might be born with a “hairy lip” (cleft palate). The author writes, “It therefore behooves all women with child if possible to avoid such sights, or at least not to regard them.”  I depicted this common belief in my first novel, Mary Dyer Illuminated, and I used some of the information about midwifery to depict Anne Hutchinson’s profession. In 1637, Mary Dyer miscarried the first recorded “monster” in America, an anencephalic spina bifida girl. All babies born with severe defects like that were called monsters, and were considered proof of the mother’s heresy or evil thoughts.

Aristotle’s Master-piece also says that babies look more like their mothers because she “contributes the most to it,” or they resemble their mother’s (cuckolded) husband if, in an adulterous liaison, the woman imagines the face of her husband.

The author tasted human ovum!
Oh, no he didn’t! (Yes, he must have.)
The truth of this is plain for if you boil them, their liquor will be the same colour, taste and consistency, with the taste of bird's eggs. If any object, that they have no shells; that signifies nothing: For the eggs of fowls, while they are in the ovary, nay, after they are fastened into the melus, have no shell.

 You can read an 1846 version online at https://archive.org/details/8709661.nlm.nih.gov that’s also a redaction of the jazzy release in 1684. But it, too, is missing the original how-to. No blushes, nothing to offend the most chaste ear. Which begs the question, "What is a chaste ear?"

Monday, January 19, 2015

Chance to win a free e-book of Mary Dyer Illuminated

Go to The Review blog <--- (click that highlighted link) to see their very nice review by Kristie Davis Dean, of Mary Dyer Illuminated, and leave a comment there (not here) for a drawing to win a free e-book that can be read on Kindles and other devices with the Kindle reading app*.

Don't want to wait that long? You may go directly to Amazon for the paperback or Kindle edition.
Paperback, 390 pages. $19.99 (Amazon discounts this price to just less than $18) 
Kindle edition Amazon price $7.99 

*Click the graphic below to get the reading app for your computer, tablet, or smart phone.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Adding insult to injury--Boston justice in 1639

Carpenter, ca 1635, by Jan Joris van Vliet
© 2015 Christy K Robinson

Edward Palmer, a carpenter, came to Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630 in the Winthrop Fleet with 700 others. As the English settlers followed, perhaps 35,000 of them over the next 10 years, there was a building boom, and Palmer was surely kept busy with building houses and shops, machines like looms or mills or spinning wheels, or furniture, or perhaps working in the shipbuilding trade. 

The colony was ruled as a theocracy, basing their laws on the Old Testament, and combining ministers and magistrates as rulers. In addition to the obvious laws about adultery, fornication, stealing, and lying, one could be punished in the stocks for cursing, drunkenness, and speaking against the authorities. The iron "bilbo" they'd brought from England, which was a bar with movable shackles and padlocks, was worn out from regular use or broken/rusted and needed a replacement. Iron was expensive to ship from England, and wood was plentiful in Massachusetts, so a carpenter, Edward Palmer, was commissioned to build a stocks for Boston. 

He charged them £1 13s. 7d. for the wood and his labor in building the stocks. 

Lathe operator, ca 1635, by Jan Joris van Vliet
That's about 23 days' labor in carpenters' wages if the wood was free, but it probably wasn't, and I don't know the cost of the wood. Of course, he'd have to hand-hew the lumber into the wood pieces of proper size and shape, and fasten them with nails or iron clasps, and affix locks. Also, the stocks would require a platform on which to seat or stand the prisoner. So Palmer's job was not an afternoon in the workshop with power tools. 

The first client for the new instrument of punishment was, ironically, Edward Palmer, who was "fyned £5 & censured to bee sett an houre in the stocks." 

Five pounds' fine was about $45 in today's money, but if you look at it in terms of carpenter's wages in 1639, the fine was about 128 days' worth of dawn-to-dusk labor.  

It appears that after Palmer's expert work, he was stiffed for the expenses and labor, and fined for his pains. Boston still got its new stocks and made five pounds on the deal, and Palmer had the dubious honor of being the first man to demonstrate the proper use of the device. 
Boston, 1639. Edward Palmer was employed to build the stocks (a place in which to set criminals for punishment); when completed, he presented his bill of £1. 13s. 7d. This was thought to be exorbitant, and poor Palmer got placed in his own machine, and fined five pounds. The next year Hugh Bewett was banished, "for maintaining that he was free from original sin."  A Chronological History of the Boston Watch and Police: From 1631 to 1865, By Edward Hartwell Savage, 1885. 
Incidentally, Hugh Bewett went to Rhode Island, where he was elected as the colony's first Solicitor General in 1650, and Providence's first police sergeant in 1651. In 1652, he was accused and tried for treason, but was acquitted on December 25.


In addition to this incident, the only Edward Palmer I could find in records was a man on a Massachusetts commission with John Winthrop Jr., Joseph Dudley, and other first-generation immigrants, that disputed the Rhode Island boundary with Connecticut and Massachusetts in 1683, and sent a petition to the King. If that was the same man, he would have been in his 70s. But Edward was a common name, and there were many Palmers in New England by then.

If you enjoy the articles and images in this blog, you'll love this book about life in England and New England in the 17th century, The Dyers of London, Boston, & Newport. It's full of anecdotes about famous people like John Winthrop, Anne Hutchinson, and the amazing Dyers, but also people and events that have been forgotten for 350 years. Paperback and Kindle.

Friday, December 26, 2014

If you have these, I have THESE

If you have these... 


I have THESE:

 FIVE-STAR reviews!
Recent, original, ground-breaking research of English 
and New England primary sources.
Available in paperback or Kindle e-book
Click here:  RobinsonAuthor

Monday, December 1, 2014

Christmas in 17th century England and America

A very happy holiday season to friends, readers, Dyer descendants, author colleagues, and those who enjoy this blog for its wide-ranging historical research presented in laymen's terms.

If you know of others with similar interests, I hope you'll share the three Dyer books and the Mary Dyer letter poster, either by giving them as gifts, or by sharing the links to them in this blog.

I hope you'll enjoy this small collection of articles and images of what Christmas and Advent season would have been like for our ancestors of 11 to 14 generations ago! And feel free to share it in Facebook and Twitter.

Mary Dyer and Christmas
by Christy K Robinson
This article describes customs of Advent and Christmas in the early and mid-1600s, across Great Britain and the colonies of New England, including Rhode Island, where William Dyer was a government official.

Also in this blog:
by Christy K Robinson

Oliver Cromwell cancels Christmas
by Sarah Butterfield