All text copyright Stephen Coates 2006 - 2015


Like many, I was languishing over Christmas with  a bad bout of man-flu.  Fortunately I was stationed in a lovely old house by the sea on the North coast of Scotland with only the odd seal between us and the Orkneys.  After a couple of weeks of coughing and sneezing I was casting around for a solution and was contemplating trying to mix up some  London Treacle.  This is a semi-mythical concoction developed in the seventeenth century as a treatment for the bubonic plague.***

I eventually found the recipe and was rooting around in an outhouse before being persuaded (against my better judgement) to opt for lemsip instead.  My 'If it was good enough for Samuel Pepys, it's good enough for me' argument had failed to persuade my companions of the efficacy of its ingredients:

-Sack (a fortified wine)

I had already found the gunpowder so I suppose I can understand their anxiety - mind you it seemed preferable to those other plague preventives: 'Pomme d'amber' which contained whale vomit; the placing of a toad sewn up in a bag on your stomach or the application of 'oil of scorpion' to the boils.

One of the great advantages of being unwell was that it finally allowed time for the long-postponed creation and publication of the new The Real Tuesday Weld website - a kind of archive of the story so far.  It has been interesting to start to pull it all together - 'How time flies!' I kept thinking and it was quite nice to re-discover some things I had completely forgotten about.

Still trying to find some use for the gunpowder though..

***The Great Plague wreaked havoc in London in 1665 and Charles II asked the Royal College of Physicians for advice. They came up with:

- Keeping the streets clean and flushed with water in order to purify the air
- Lighting fires in streets and houses and the burning of certain aromatic materials such as resin, tar, turpentine, juniper, cedar and brimstone.
-The digestion of London Treacle, Mithridatium, Galene and diascordium

Here is their recipe for the “Plague-water of Mathias” should you need it:

"Take the roots of Tormentil, Angelica, Peony, Zedoarie, Liquorish, Elacampane, of each half an ounce, the leaves of Sage, Scordium, Celandine, Rue, Rosemary, Wormwood, Ros solis, Mugwort, Burnet, Dragons, Scabious, Agrimony, Baum, Carduus, Betony, Centery the less, Marygolds leaves and flowers, of each one handful; Let them all be cut, bruised, and infused three days in eight pints of White wine in the month of May, and distilled. 
Take of London Treacle two ounces, of Conserve of Wood-sorrel three ounces, of the temperate Cordial species half an ounce, of Syrupe of Limons enought to make all an electuary: Of they may be taken a dram and half for prevention, and the double quantity for cure."
Which reminds me:


Spilly Jane said...

Haha - this reminds me exactly of something that I would attempt - but as my companions are of a similar mind to yours I expect I would be, erm, thwarted "for my own good."

I didn't know that one could ingest gunpowder...I suppose one could ingest anything, really...

As for the Plague-water of Mathias recipe; oh, nothing excites me moer than a wee snippet of historical botanical curiosities such as this! Just reading that list of herbs I am itching to sit down with my seed catalogue and a cup of tea. I already have a few of the listed plants in the garden.

I am all for growing odd old herbs for their historical, physical (and metaphysical) delights - this year I had. much success with my Horehound, Lady's Bedstraw and Meadowsweet patches. I've got Dyer's Broom, Curled Dock, Weld and WOAD lined up for this Spring: Guess who's going to be NAKED and BLUE this Summer?!

Haha, don't answer that!

paulo said...

Ooh, I like the new website, but mostly I love the news about a musical version of The Last Werewolf! Do you have a rough timescale of when it will happen? As long as it won't take as long as that I, Lucifer film.....

Also, I went swing dancing for my birthday a couple of weeks ago, and thought I would wear a special t-shirt with all of the mini-creations I've bought from Antique Beat - all the girls loved it, and wouldn't stop stroking my chest! Kinda.

Kari Mathias said...

The fact that it's called the "Plague-water of Mathias" is unbelievably delightful to me. It makes me want to try it out, just on principle.

Also, Jane's comment makes me long for summer. I miss my garden. We're in the process of trying to save it from all the wild things that are trying to take it over, and the battle will probably continue as soon as the snow melts. The only thing I don't want to clear out is the columbine. I don't care if it's a "weed"-- who doesn't want their garden full of lovely purple stars?

clerkenwell kid said...

Haha Kari - yes it's just your thing - but I wouldn't want to put it together in an emergency - sounds very complicated. Maybe Jane can let us know what it tastes like..

Paul! I like your style man - like a travelling antique beat salesman - but where's Tallula?

Yes, the musical is looking good - we are meeting the choreographer next week. The plan is production this year for a show at theatre royal york in 2014 all being well. Fingers, er I mean claws, crossed. The third book is out late this year

The film is also in production with Scott Free - but we will believe when we are sitting down in the front row with the popcorn!

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