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The Scrivener: Of Rocket, Weesils And Venery

"Kissing the daughter of the house and having merry talk with a plain bold maid, well, that was the sort of chap he was,'' writes Brian Barratt of diarist Samuel Pepys, a man who was valiant in the Venus camp.

We know Samuel Pepys (1633–1703) as a great English diarist. He recorded the events of his daily life from 1660 to 1669 as well as matters of national importance. He was at various times a Member of Parliament, President of the Royal Society, Secretary of the Admiralty, musician, singer, heavy drinker, and avid reader. And he was a womaniser. Sample this extract from his diary for 27 February 1660:

'So we went to our Inn, and after eating of something, and kissed the daughter of the house, she being very pretty, we took leave, and so that night, the road pretty good, but the weather rainy to Epping, where we sat and played a game at cards, and after supper, and some merry talk with a plain bold maid of the house, we went to bed.'

Kissing the daughter of the house and having merry talk with a plain bold maid, well, that was the sort of chap he was. He might have read or at least known about a comprehensive tome which was published the same year as this diary entry — 'Eighteen Books of the Secrets of Art & Nature, being The Summe and Substance of Naturall Philosophy, Methodically Digested. First designed by John Wecker Dr in Physick, and now much Augmented and Inlarged by Dr R. Read',

One section titled 'Of Venery' detailed ways 'To make one valiant in Venus camp'. Here is a recipe for an electuary 'to provoke Venery':

'Take Chestnuts steeped in Muskadel, then boyl them, being twenty in number, Satyrions ten, land Crocodils two, Pine Kernels, Pistaches, of each four ounces, Rocket seed two ounces, Cubebs one ounce, Cinnamon half an ounce, Sugar twelve ounces, make an Electuary.'

Let's have a look at what other writers said about these ingredients.

Nicholas Culpeper (1616–1654) wrote a lot about chestnuts in his 'Complete Herbal and English Physician', including:

'...if eaten over-much, they make the blood thick, procure head ache, and bind the body...The whole nut being dried and beaten into powder, and a dram taken at a time, is a good remedy to stop the terms in women.'

Satyrions are a type of orchis, known in those times as dog-stones, goat-stones, fool-stones, fox-stones, satirion, cullians. John Gerard (1545–1612) wrote in his 'Historie of Plants':

'These kindes of Orchis have not bin much written of by the Antients, neither by the late writers to any purpose... There is not great use of these in physicke, but they are chiefly regarded for the pleasant and beautifull floures wherewith Nature hath seemed to play and disport her self.'

On the other hand, Culpeper observed:

'They are hot and moist in temper, provoke venery, and increase seed... under the dominion of Dame Venus, and provoke lust exceedingly'.

A Land crocodil was a skink, a small lizard then supposed to have stimulating medical qualities.

Culpeper lists many uses for pine Kernels including: '...it is so powerful upon those feminine parts.' I think we'll leave it at that.

Pistache is another spelling of pistachio. 21st century herbal and alternative medicine websites inform us that the medicinal properties of pistachios are well known in the world of medicine. They help to lower cholesterol, regulate bowel movement, and to revitalize and promote overall good health. Perhaps modesty forbids any specific mention of venery.

Those of us who enjoy a salad might need to be more careful in our choice of the type we buy, in case of unwanted side-effects. Culpeper writes:

'Garden Rocket is rather used as a sallad herb than to any physical purposes' but 'the common wild Rocket... is more strong and effectual to increase sperm and venerous qualities.'

Cubeb is rather more difficult to track down but has a comprehensive entry in the first edition (1771) of Encyclopædia Britannica:

'...a small dried fruit, resembling a grain of pepper, but often somewhat longer, brought into Europe from the island of Java. In aromatic warmth and pungency, they are far inferior to pepper.'

Cinnamon was known in Britain from around 1400. Like cubebs, it had to be brought by sailing ship from places as far away as Java. The journeys took months rather than weeks. The cost would have been enormous. But, of course, if you want something as good as Viagra you have to pay for it, don't you?

If all this is not exciting enough, how about some more obscure suggestions mentioned by Dr Wecker?

'To provoke Venery
It is wonderfull that the great toe of the right foot annointed with the ashes of a Weesil with Honey or Oyl, will suffice abundantly for those that by reason of age or otherwise are almost dead in this matter, and are very unfit to serve Venus in her Wars any longer. (The Authors of this were those old searchers into Natures Secrets, and many modern Writers confirm it.)'

'To make women lusty
If weomen do presently eat Ganders stones, so soon as their terms are past, these will not only make them prone to Venery, but also to conceive; I have read the same of the Matrix of a Hare.'

Samuel Pepys, judging by his diaries, was already valiant in the Venus camp and probably didn't need any of these remarkable stimulants. Nevertheless, I feel sure he would have been delighted to have some merry talk about them with a plain bold maid.

© Copyright Brian Barratt 2012


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