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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day, EEBO!

Like success, EEBO has many mothers, and since today is Mother's Day (delightful history provided by the Swedish embassy to the US, to enlighten its diplomats), we at BtR want to honor them. Using "mother" as a title keyword through 1660 yields 196 records. Disregarding those that merely mention mothers generically (like the many mothers killed by their children, or the ballad mother who "beguiled her daughter") gives us, by my count, eighteen proper "Mother"s--that is, instances of the phrase "Mother X."

Some are personifications: Mother England, Mother Tongue, Mother Church (and her Scottish sister, Mother Kirk), Mother Mass (appearing only in an "indictment" against her, not a very good Mother's Day present).

Some are witches: Mother Dutton, Mother Devell, Mother Margaret, Mother Lakeland.

Some are religious: Mother Mary, Mother Teresa (of Avila, not Calcutta), Mother Suor Maria Maddalena de Patsi (a Florentine Carmelite nun, whose children-biographers hailed from the English college at St Omer)

Some are famous literary figures: Mother Bombie, Mother Hubberd.

Two are well-known for brewing ale: Mother Bunch (the jestbook hostess) and Mother Watkins (whose ale was highly popular with the ladies--if you aren't familiar with Watkins' ale, well, there's many jokes I could make here, but instead I'll just refer you to STC 25107)

The most popular Mother in EEBO is Mother Shipton, the prophetess.

But my favorite EEBO Mother is Mother Cunny, one of the women who "approved" a short pamphlet printed in 1660 (Wing L151), which contains what may well be my favorite early-modern title page ever (click to enlarge):

Where to start? Eugenius Theodidactus (the "Well-born Godly Teacher") was the pseudonym of astrologer, neoPlatonist, and Rosicrucian John Heydon (1629-c.1670; best unblocked link I could find), who (among other exploits) married fellow astrologer Nicholas Culpeper's widow and was charged in 1667 with conspiring with the Duke of Buckingham to astrologically calculate the date of the king's death. The DNB, not surprisingly, does not list this text among Heydon's actual works.

The Wandering Whore, to which this piece responds, was a multi-part English adaptation (1660-61) of the mock-epic Puttana Errante, attributed (falsely, according to Ian Moulton's Before Pornography, p. 148) to Aretino. The Ladies Champion (so far as I can discern from the incomplete EEBO copy) is a satiric, obscene, somewhat Nashean mock-defense of prostitutes:
these poor Creatures term'd whores will serve to supply a mans wants better than marrying a wench, having nothing to show for't but two pairs of legs in one pair of sheets ... a wife a man cannot put off as one may a whore with eighteen pence or a couple of boards[?] without any disturbance or greater prejudice, if he scape pockyfying ....
The author also notes that prostitutes have so much sex that, unlike wives, they "seldom prove with Childe, as Peg Cross the short A-- Wanderer is," which makes me wonder exactly what Peg Cross's particular sexual talent was. The author speculates that the anti-prostitution author of The Wandering Whore is really a patron of whores
or else has lost thy Evidence, or been serv'd as they do Eunuchs in other Countryes, where their stones are cut out, who would otherwise prove the stoutest stallions ... [and] who would lie tickling and towzing with his Mistriss with his standing T-- for three or four hours, nay all night sometimes together, without tyring, but with no Ejection, it being impossible ...
Someone alert Sting. The sex-negative author of The Wandering Whore, Eugenius continues genially,
would have [women] go to't with Carrets and Parsnips, as the milk-maids did with one another till they let them slip over head and ears, for want of tying a string about them irrecoverably ...
And it only gets dirtier from there. The women listed as approvers on the title page are, I believe, the noms de guerre of various London prostitutes.

In some way, the text is also a satire and mockery of John Heydon "the Universal Mountebank," but I don't know enough about Restoration politics and astrology to explain why or how this is.

Of course, all of this is mere prelude to the greatest thing about this pamphlet's title page:


Ladies, you really couldn't ask for a better Mother's Day gift from your son EEBO than that spectacular coinage.

  • At 5/13/2007 01:44:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    That has to be the most hilarious title page to date! Wow! More! More!

    [Conspiracy Theory] Maybe the Powder-Monkey moniker hints at Guy Fawkes and at the same time gives a premonition of Heydon's 1667 Tower plot/mutiny. Was Fawkes perhaps an early roGUY-crucian? Ahem. [/Conspiracy Theory]


  • At 5/13/2007 02:01:00 PM, Blogger Hieronimo wrote…

    Just to follow up on Henrik's point: a powder monkey is a boy employed to carry gunpowder for soldiers. I suspect the joke here is on the "powdering" (salting or brining--here, with mercury baths) that was used to treat syphillis victims.


  • At 5/13/2007 02:23:00 PM, Blogger Greenwit wrote…

    This is a great post, H. Didn't I read somewhere that the U.S. Pimpmaster General is going to start a federally funded parsnip-string distribution program in high schools with especially large milkmaid populations?


  • At 5/13/2007 04:28:00 PM, Blogger Inkhorn wrote…

    Fabulous. I would like to say I'm particularly fond of the power monkey. Though I think we should all appreciate fully the fact that "Mathematician" and "Lawyer" apparently can take their places in this list without any kind of inflection. They don't have to be "Mathy-rogues" or "Law-Pimps." Just lawyers and mathematicians.


  • At 5/13/2007 04:28:00 PM, Blogger Inkhorn wrote…

    Oops. I meant powder monkey. Though now I'm interested in the power monkey, too.


  • At 5/15/2007 01:18:00 AM, Blogger Pamphilia wrote…

    I think we should reinstate the office of Pimpmaster General. Or, H, maybe you could write him in as a character in 2 George 2?

    I'm particularly curious about Damrose Page: girly boy or boyish girl?


  • At 5/15/2007 01:20:00 AM, Blogger Pamphilia wrote…

    PS Thanks for the great laugh. 8 hours of nonstop grading made me really need it.


  • At 5/16/2007 06:58:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    I have a sneaking suspicioun that he's actually listing his previous work experience as a kind of Silly CV!

    Imagine the job interview:
    "Err, and then, when I got bored with overthrowing the government I decided to quit being a Rosicrucian and become Pimpmaster General, you know... I might go back to blowing up public buildings at some time, though"


  • At 5/19/2007 09:17:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    This comment is mostly for Lady Truewit. I just got back from Kazoo. Though there were no international djs for comparison, my hotel was the motherload for teenage angst, hosting a Barbizon model/actress audition in the morning and what appeared to be two proms that night (there were three in town if you count the Congress'!) Hold onto the nights, y'all.


  • At 5/19/2007 01:11:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    whoops. meant to say motherlode. though it was also the mother of all loads, and thus, relates to the eebo posting. the barbizon casting call sort of had a pimpmaster-general vibe to it, too.


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