Exploring CPP 10a214: Enter Lady Honywood

By Rebecca Laroche with Hillary Nunn

It was one of those priceless moments in academe when conversation with colleagues leads to electric discovery. Having just completed a full transcription of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia manuscript, I was attending the Sixteenth-Century Society Conference in Cincinnati in 2012.  I was telling Richelle Munkhoff, University of Colorado Boulder, about how my intimacy with the manuscript had me imagining an historical novel set at the brink of civil war, with a full cast of characters, requisite diseases and injuries, and a quaff or two at the local tavern.  “After all,” I said, “one just has to take advantage of a name like ‘Lady Honywood’ if it’s given to you.”  (In the Layfield section of the document are three recipes attributed to Lady Honywood, all for the gout.) [1]

“Lady Honywood?” Richelle replied.  “I know her.”

Richelle, who had been spending some time with the diary of Ralph Josselin, proceeded to tell me about the historical Lady Honywood, a nonconformist and medical practitioner. With a quick search through Alan Macfarlane’s edition, she was also able to find in the diary mentions of a Mr. Layfield, according to Macfarlane, one Edward Layfield, the rector of Wakes Colne from 1640 to 1666. [2]

Now Lady Honywood, Ralph Josselin, and Rector Layfield, were all located in Essex, about 50 kilometers away from the London suburbs where Hillary Nunn and I had previously located the recipe collection, thus complicating the standing hypothesis of the manuscript circulating in Middlesex.

As of now, I can think of four possibilities for this convergence of names and the inclusion of Lady Honywood, an Essex gentlewoman, in this manuscript:

  1. Our original hypothesis about Edmund Layfield, published pastor, is incorrect, and an Essex rector, Edward Layfield, is the compiler of the document.
  2. There are two clergymen E. Layfield, and the coexistence of these two gentlewomen (Toppisfield and Honywood) in the same book is merely coincidence.
  3. Edward and Edmund Layfield are related to each other, and the recipes circulated between them.
  4. Edmund Layfied of St. Leonards-Bromley relocated to Essex sometime in 1640 [3] and there established an acquaintance with Lady Honywood. The first mention of Mr. Layfield in the diary is in 1648, and the Honywood recipes do come after that of Mrs. Toppisfield discussed in an earlier entry.  In pursuit of this hypothesis, we’d have to confirm or refute the first name Edward as recorded in Alan McFarlane’s note.

Once again, the research continues.

Layfielde_MS Honywood
The Historical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, Manuscript 10a214, fol. 221.

[1] “Medicinae Liber,” The Historical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, Manuscript 10a214, fols. 221, 214.

[2]The Diary of Ralph Josselin, 1616–1683,  edited by Alan MacFarlane (London: The Oxford University Press, 1976) 120fn.

[3] The Diary of Ralph Josselin, 120.

This is the twelfth in a series of posts on this topic.


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