Dr. Sloane’s Advice in the Recipe Manuscripts of Henrietta Harley

By Lucy-Anne Judd

As part of my research exploring regional examples of receipt book manuscripts, I was intrigued and excited to discover here in Nottinghamshire further evidence of individuals recording the advice of Dr. Hans Sloane in local manuscripts such as those of Henrietta Harley (1694-1755), Countess of Oxford and Mortimer.

Henrietta Harley was the daughter of John Holles (1662-1711), 1st Duke of Newcastle (of the second creation) and Margaret Cavendish (1661-1716). In 1713, she rebelled against the wishes of her mother to marry Edward Harley (1689-1741), who later became Earl of Oxford. As a result of three generations of female inheritance along the Cavendish line in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, she became an heiress to great wealth, including the estate of Welbeck Abbey, Nottinghamshire.

Welbeck Abbey was significant in her life; she spent much of her childhood there, retired to it after the death of her husband, and then began restoring and preserving the estate she fondly regarded as ‘the Ancient Seat of the Cavendishe Family’.[i]  As part of this endeavour to restore Welbeck, Harley embarked upon her very own recipes project, and in 1743 set about compiling three ornate, separately-bound manuscript recipe volumes, with a total of 254 individual receipts. Amongst them, there are three medicinal recipes attributed to Sloane; one for a cold, another for a ‘Violent Cough’ and one described as ‘A Copy of S[i]r: Hans Sloans p[re]scription for a Tetterish Humour’.[ii]

Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753) was a London doctor (of Irish birth) and botanist, as well as a prolific collector and compiler of recipes. Upon discovering recipes attributed to him in the Harley receipts, I began to explore his connection to the household in more detail and to question how Lady Harley came to adopt them into her own collection.

It might have been easy to identify this as an example of fluidity of recipes between print and manuscript, but further investigation highlighted that there were direct social interactions between Sloane and the Harley household, which would have facilitated the sharing of recipes between the two and which, I felt, warranted further exploration.

Subsequent local archival research uncovered evidence of at least three possible mediums for recipe transmission from Sloane to Harley:

  1. Sir Humfrey Wanley worked for the Harley’s establishing the Harleian Library, and had also previously worked for Hans Sloane. As a result of this mutual connection, there survives written correspondence from Wanley to Sloane which thanks him on behalf of Lord Oxford for sending a selection of his manuscripts. These donated manuscripts offer one possible source of the three Sloane-attributed receipts which appear in Henrietta’s medical volume.[iii]
  2. Evidence indicates Sloane was also directly involved in the medical treatment of members of the Harley family with a surviving document dated 1726 recording a fee of 30 guineas paid for inoculations performed.[iv] This supports a view that, in particular, the receipt highlighted as ‘A Copy of S[i]r Hans Sloans p[re]scription for a Tetterish Humour’, which has the initials ‘HS’ copied below and a date of May 1716, would have been copied directly from a prescription issued by Sloane. This theory is also in line with the recipe in question being more chemical in nature than is commonly found in the rest of the content.Hans Sloane - Tetterish Humour
  3. In 1741, correspondence from Henrietta Harley’s daughter, Margaret Bentinck, Duchess of Portland, to her husband’s tutor, John Achard, indicates a visit to Sloane’s home with the specific intention of Achard ‘rummag[ing]’ Sloane’s collection in the hope ‘that [hers] will be much the better for it’.[v] As this only slightly predates the instigation of the Harley volumes, this attempt to rifle Sloane’s collections is a very likely source of the three highly prized recipes; two of which feature in the opening three folios of her volume of medical recipes.

In exploring correspondence and household documents in greater detail, we therefore find that there are a range of possible explanations for the presence of the Sloane-Harley recipe sharing connection which has been found in the recipe manuscripts of Henrietta Harley.

A connection via Edward Harley’s librarian, Sir Humfrey Wanley, subsequently led to the direct employment of Sloane in the treatment of the Harley household, and instigated a relationship that extended to subsequent generations through Henrietta’s daughter, who continued to actively seek and revere the expertise of Sloane. By exploring regional receipt book examples, we find we are able to gain increasing insight into the way that the advice of notable individuals such as Sloane, was disseminated into the domestic manuscripts and practices of provincial areas such as Nottingham, in the early modern period.

[i] [N]ottinghamshire [A]rchives, DD.5P.6/1/1

[ii] [U]niversity of [N]ottingham [M]anuscripts [A]nd [S]pecial [C]ollections, Pw V 123-125

[iii] British Library, Sloane MS 4044, ff. 178-179 (June 23, 1716)

[iv] UNMASC, Pl F1/3/2/13

[v] UNMASC, Pw C 47

Hans Sloane: Eighteenth-Century Mixologist

Amanda E. Herbert

Hans Sloane by Stephen Slaughter, 1736, National Portrait Gallery, London. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Hans Sloane by Stephen Slaughter, 1736, National Portrait Gallery, London. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

When it comes to seventeenth- and eighteenth-century culinary recipes, Hans Sloane (1660-1753), the famed doctor, naturalist, and collector, is best known for his chocolate. Sloane lived briefly in Jamaica, where he observed many people drinking liquid cacao; upon his return to Britain, Sloane adapted the recipe for metropolitan consumers. (This was apparently such a success that Sloane’s recipe was later used by Cadbury.) But Sloane was interested in drinks of all kinds, and wrote extensively on the fruity Caribbean cocktails which were apparently made and consumed by people in the eighteenth-century West Indies. In his 1707 treatise, A Voyage to the Islands Madera, Barbados, Nieves, S. Christophers and Jamaica, Sloane described seven of these sweet concoctions: Cool Drink, Corn Drink, Cane Drink, Acajou Wine, Plantain Drink, Perino, and Rum-Punch.

Title page of "Voyage to the Islands Madera, Barbadoes, Nieves, St. Christophers and Jamaica." Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Title page of “Voyage to the Islands Madera, Barbadoes, Nieves, St. Christophers and Jamaica.” Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Sloane explained that the first three of these – Cool Drink, Corn Drink, and Cane Drink – were very simple, containing herbs or plants like “Sorrel or Pines,” a sweetening agent like molasses (plentiful in the eighteenth-century Caribbean), and water. These ingredients were allowed to ferment, “they turning sower in twelve or twenty four hours.” Cool Drink contained just two ingredients, “Molossus and Water,” and Sloane wrote that “To make cool Drink, Take three Gallons of fair water, more than a Pint of Molossus, mix them together in a Jar; it works in twelve hours time sufficiently, put to it a little more Molossus, and immediately Bottle it, in six hours time ‘tis ready to drink, and in a day it is turn’d sowr.” This produced a mildly alcoholic, mead-like drink which Sloane dismissed as “unwholesome.” Drinks made by fermenting fruit and water together, such as Acajou – an eighteenth-century term for cashew – and Plantain wines were, in contrast, “very strong,” but Sloane warned that they “keep not long, and cause vomiting.”

Sloane had better things to say about Perino, which was made from old loaves of cassava (Manihot utilissima) root bread. Sloane instructed his readers to “Take a Cake of bad Cassada Bread, about a Foot over, and half an Inch thick, burnt black on one side, break it to pieces, and put it to steep in two Gallons of water, let it stand open in a Tub twelve hours, then add to it the froth of an Egg, and three Gallons more water, and one pound of Sugar, let it work twelve hours, and Bottle it; it will keep good for a week.” Sloane said that Perino was “a Drink much used here” – not a ringing endorsement, but it was apparently better than Rum-Punch, which Sloane despised.

Punch bowl of porcelain, painted en grisaille and gilt. Outside are two scenes, one showing a sea battle and the other, ladies in an English park. Made in Jingdezhen, China, ca. 1785. Artist/maker unknown. Victoria and Albert Museum.
Punch bowl of porcelain, painted en grisaille and gilt. Outside are two scenes, one showing a sea battle and the other, ladies in an English park. Made in Jingdezhen, China, ca. 1785. Artist/maker unknown. Victoria and Albert Museum.

Sloane’s feelings about Rum-Punch weren’t necessarily based on the drink’s ingredients or taste. He explained that the cocktail was made up of “Rum, Water, Lime-juice, Sugar, and a little Nutmeg scrap’d on the top of it.” Although this might sound, at least to modern readers, like the most appealing of all of the cocktails described in this post, Sloane was unconvinced.  He explained that Rum-Punch was made from burnt or very low-quality sugar, scraped from “the Sugar-Pot-bottoms” of colonial refineries.  But, Sloane explained, “because ’tis cheap, Servants, and other of the poorer sort” could afford it.  Rum-Punch was a bargain, and Sloane believed that for this reason, it was problematic.

For Sloane, the consumption of Rum-Punch was bound up with assumptions about poverty, self-determination, and social status.  He explained that if lower-status people drank in Rum-Punch, they risked falling “into a fast Sleep, whereby they fall off their Horses in going home, and lie sometimes whole nights expos’d to the injuries of the Air, whereby they fall into Consumptions, Dropsies, &c., if they miss Apopleptic Fits.”  This might seem like a pretty elaborate (and perhaps unlikely) scenario, but it fit precisely with Sloane’s prejudices about the poor: that they were unable to control how much they drank, that they didn’t know how to take care of their own bodies, and that they could not monitor and treat themselves if they fell ill.  For this reason, Sloane declared, Rum-Punch was off-limits, and he finished by asserting that because lower-status people could become “very easily fuddled with it,” the drink should be classified as “very unhealthy.”

*****
Quotations in this post come from Hans Sloane, A Voyage to the Islands Madera, Barbados, Nieves, S. Christophers and Jamaica… 2 Vols. (London, 1707), xxix-xxx.

Recording Dr. Sloane’s Medical Advice

By Lisa Smith

In the hunt for good health, early modern sick people often recorded the prescriptions given to them by doctors, particularly if the remedy was useful or came from a famous source. Sir Hans Sloane was one of the best known physicians in early eighteenth-century London–as well as a collector and natural philosopher, whose correspondence is being put online here. Sloane himself collected recipe books in search of knowledge, but his patients also sometimes recorded his medical advice for later reference. The Arscott Family’s book of “Physical Receipts”, c. 1730-1776 (Wellcome Library, London, MS 981), for example, contains three recipes attributed to Sloane, which provides snippets of information about his medical practice.

Mid-eighteenth century chocolate cups, one of which can be traced to Sloane's collections. Image credit: British Museum.
Mid-eighteenth century chocolate cups, one of which can be traced to Sloane’s collections. Image credit: British Museum.

Although Sloane was best known for his botanical expertise and promotion of treatments such as Peruvian Bark or chocolate, the Arscott family recipes show a mixture of chemical, animal and herbal remedies. The treatment for worms (f. 129), for example, combined a mixture of elixir proprietatis and spirit. salis dulcis in either white wine or tea. Together, these aimed to sweeten the blood, strengthen the nerves and fortify the stomach.

The pleurisy remedy (f. 156) included pennyroyal water, white wine and “2 small Balls of a sound stone horse”—or, dung from a horse that still had its testicles. This was to be steeped for an hour, then strained. (Apparently this weakened the taste of the dung.) This delicious liquor would keep for three days. Are you tempted? Because the dose was a “large Chocolate Dish fasting in the morning and at 4 in the Afternoon”. “If the Stomach will bear it” (and whose wouldn’t?), the patient was to take the remedy for four to six days in a row. In this remedy, the dung was the most powerful ingredient, as it was considered a sudorific (causing sweat) and resolvent (reducing inflammation) that would aid asthma, colic, inflamed lungs, and pleurisies.

Heister, Operation for cataract and eye instruments, 1757 Credit: Wellcome Library, London.
Sloane’s remedy would have been preferable to being couched for a cataract. Heister, Operation for cataract and eye instruments, 1757. Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

Sloane, of course, was especially known for his eye remedy, which he made public knowledge in 1745 when he published An Account of a most efficacious medicine for soreness, weakness, and several other distempers of the eyes. But how close to the published remedy was the Arscott version? Fortunately, the most detailed of the three recipes is “Sr Hans Sloane’s Direction for my Aunt Walroud in ye Year 1730–when she perceiv’d a Cataract growing in one of her Eyes” (ff.79-80).

Although there are measurements and preparation details, just like a recipe, it was also a summary of Sloane’s successful medical advice to Mrs Walroud. Of course, what early modern patients deemed success in a treatment differs from our modern concept. For Mrs Walroud, it was enough that after she started the treatment at the age of 67, her eyes did not get any worse for ten years and “she could write & read tolerably well”. When she died at the age of 83, she still had some of her sight.

The Arscott instructions begin by recommending that the sufferer have nine ounces of blood taken from the arm and a blister applied behind the ears. Next, take a conserve of rosemary flowers, pulvis ad guttetam (ground human skull mixed with various herbs), eyebright, millipedes, fennel seed and peony syrup. Last, the patient was to drink a julap (medicine mixed with alcohol) of black cherry water, fennel water, compound peony water, compound spirit of lavender, sal volat oleos and sugar. Mrs Walroud took both twice daily and kept a “perpetual Blister between her shoulders”.

One crucial difference between Sloane’s published remedy and the Arscott one is that no mention is made in Mrs Walroud’s treatment of using an ointment made of tutty (oxide of zinc), lapis haematites, aloes, prepared pearl and viper’s grease. Three possibilities for the ointment’s absence occur to me.

  • The Arscott family may have simply assumed that the listed directions were intended to accompany the purchase of Sloane’s ointment and didn’t specify something so obvious.
  • The reference to using the ointment was lost when the instructions had been passed between family members.
  • Or, Sloane did not always prescribe the ointment.

The remaining directions, though, do have overlaps. In his Account, Sloane prescribed drinking a medicine that also contained rosemary flowers, pulvis ad guttetam and eyebright—though he included more ingredients: betony, sage, wild valerian root and castor. This was to be followed by a tea (rather than julap) with drops of compound spirit of lavender and sal volat oleos. In this case, it was the Arscott version that included extra ingredients.

The type of bleeding in the Account was also slightly different than Mrs Walroud’s, with the recommendation that six ounces of blood be taken either from the temples using leeches or by cupping at the shoulders. Sloane’s eye remedy was supposed to be useful for many types of problems, he did not prescribe it exactly the same each time. Variations were possible, according to the patient and the problem.

The Arscott recipes suggest not only what advice from Sloane the family had found most useful, but what sorts of remedies Sloane might prescribe to his patients. But whatever Mrs Walroud’s rave review, the next time I suffer from eye strain at the computer, I won’t be reaching for Sloane’s drink with pulvis ad guttetam and millipedes in a hurry.

 

An earlier version of this post first appeared at The Sloane Letters Blog.