Monday, January 4, 2010

But I spied crabs

It is three hundred years to the day that Richard Newdigate, the Squire of Arbury, a Warwickshire gentleman, and father to 18 children, passed away. He might have been forgotten but for an extraordinary series of news-letters, written for and to him in the country from London, and the remnants of his diary. This latter becomes particularly interesting when Newdigate decides to take a trip to France, where, on his first day, he had trouble finding a decent supper. The news-letters and the diary extracts were collated two centuries after his death, by a relative, and published with the title Cavalier and Puritan.

Born in 1644, Richard Newdigate was the son of an eminent judge, Richard Newdegate, a distant relative of Oliver Cromwell. (The son took the surname spelling used by his grandfather, Sir John Newdigate, rather than his father.) He tried to get into politics, and was elected as MP for the county of Warwick, but Parliament was dissolved a week after the election. He settled down to manage his estates as Squire of Arbury, and had 15 children by his first wife, and three by a second. He died on 4 January 1701 - three centuries ago this very day.

The most comprehensive information about Richard Newdigate available on the internet can be found in the book Cavalier and Puritan, published in 1901 by Smith, Elder and Co in London, which is freely available at Internet Archive. Since then, it has been republished many times.

Cavalier and Puritan was originally compiled by Lady Newdigate-Newdegate from, as the sub-title explains, the private papers and diary of Sir Richard Newdigate, Second Baronet with extracts from MS news-letters addressed to him between 1675 and 1689. A contemporaneous review can be found on the archive website of The New York Times, and further information on the historically-important Newdigate news-letters is provided by Philip Hines Jr. Also, The Diary Junction has some information and links.

Here is part of Lady Newdigate-Newdegate’s introduction to Cavalier and Puritan: ‘The private diary of Sir Richard Newdigate needs a word of introduction and explanation. It consists, for the most part, of fragments of torn sheets of folio paper containing unconnected and mutilated portions of what must have been a minutely kept record of daily life extending over some thirty years. When the manuscript volumes were doomed to destruction, certain parts were thought worthy of preservation, mainly because they noted matters of estate interest, or were of significance in other ways. Whole sheets were then rent apart from the diary at irregular intervals, interspersed in order of date with rough-edged slips of paper torn from the middle of a page. Some curious entries have been retained which might not have escaped destruction had not the folio sheets been closely written upon on either side. Thus a note on some matter of mere local importance has safeguarded a more interesting entry of candid self-revelation on the reverse side of the paper.

In these remnants of a day-by-day record there is no reference to politics or public life, not even during the period when Sir Richard was a representative of his county in Parliament. The diary is chiefly noteworthy for the naiveté and frankness of the writer, and for the fulness of detail with which he helps us to realise the private life of a country gentleman more than two hundred years ago.’

Among the interesting remnants of the diary are the parts that relate to a journey Newdigate undertook to Paris. Preparations for the trip had been under way for several days, but the trip itself started on 8 July 1699 when he set off from Harefield, about 15 miles northwest of London at the time (now part of Greater London).

8 July 1699
‘Rose at five, got out by seven. Rode to Bagshot. Baited. Took Coach. (Mem - Jack Royl rode away Tempest against my order.) Drove to Farnham, ten miles. Then to Alton, seven miles. Drove to Woodcote, eight miles. Went forty-four miles to-day. Was very weary and dry, and drank too much. Went to bed at twelve.’

9 July 1699
‘Went to church twice. Walked in Woodcot Grove.’

10 July 1699
‘Rose at six and went to Winton. . .Went to Southampton. There found Parker without, my Son Stephens, his brother Hodges, his Cousin Newland and Mr Scot, all waiting for my arrival. . . Embarked my Coach in a Hoy and then myself on the Governor’s yacht. West of Calshot Castle got into the long Boat; was tost, being rowed by four hands six mile and a half. Walked from Cowes, where we landed (having drunk a glass of Canary at Captain Newland’s), half a mile. There we met the welcome Coach. Found at Barton four of my dear Daughters; Moll, Nan that are married and Betty and July. Hasted to bed.’

11 July 1699
‘Took four Quarts of Posset Drink. . . At four afternoon eat boiled loin of Mutton, then drank burnt Wine, yet continued unwell. So discoursing several, spent this day.’

12 July 1699
‘Very hot. Rose pretty early. Agreed with Captain Radzee for his Yacht and with Thos. Harly and Wm. Cook for their Hoy (which is called the Success of Cowes) to carry our horses and Coach. Returned to Dinner and spent the rest of the day with our Company.’

13 July 1699
‘Rose at three. Rode to East Cowes, ferryed over; went thro’ West Cowes to Radzee’s, boarded the yacht, saw how my goods were stowed, went on board the Successe, prevented their spoiling the carriage of my Chariot, which they would have knocked to pieces. Stowed her aboard the Yacht, Slinged my three horses on board. Returned to Barton. Gave my Daughter Mary a Breast Jewel (Diamond) worth £40, and my Daughter Nan a Diamond Locket worth £16. Gave little Wm Stephens a half Jacobus, and little Dick Sedley a quarter Carolus. Yesterday gave the servants half Crowns apiece. Breakfasted, and embarked first on the Hoy, to which Captn Radzee had returned the Carriage of the Coach, which I required him to take aboard his Yacht again. But he said he could not. Then I went and fetched my goods from aboard him, and sending back Nan and July, my son Stephens and Mr Scot, who were on board, we set sail in the Hoy and got against South Sea Castle that night. Lay rough. All were sick but Dick and I. Next day were becalmed. Could not lose sight oth’ Island. Lay rough again. About two ith’ morning a North East gale blew fresh and sent us forward.’

‘After two days and nights,’ writes Lady Newdigate-Newdegate, ‘of much discomfort on a stormy sea, the little company of six arrived within reach of Cherbourg on the French coast. The appearance of the ‘hoy’ with its unknown freight caused no little excitement in the inhabitants of the town. Sir Richard, as usual, is found equal to all emergencies, and nothing seems to escape his ‘roving’ and observant eye.’

Here is Newdigate’s first day in France.

15 July 1699
‘About 4 ith’ afternoon landed at Chirburgh, being a Port where the “Sun”, the great French ship, was fired. The Sea shore had hundreds of people upon it, it being their St James’s Day. When they saw the English colors they drew near our boat, and the third man we met with addressed us in very good English. He was a Merchant of that place, knew our swearing Seaman, Abraham, his name John Baily, but entitled Cobizon, from a Village he possesses of that Name. He led us to Mademoiselle du Val’s house, the Sun, where there were Stone Steps as to our Steeples, no boarded Floors but bricked, two Beds in a Room, no blankets under, but first a Great Mattress of Straw, then a small thin Feather-bed, and then a large Quilt, then a Blanket and Counterpane, round Bolster, no Pillows.

Mr Cobizon advised me to wait upon the Commissary, who is their only Governor, the Sieur Menevill. He was very Civil. Then we went to the Inn, and Mr Cobizon undertook to finish all with the Master of the Vessel, Mr Harly. But I had a mind to go on board our Ship, where I found the Custom house Officers and many people on board, and hundreds on shore to see the Sight.

After two hours spent in shewing all our goods to the Custom house officers, who were very strict but very civil, we slung our Horses and Coach ashore and put it together, and four men carried our Goods in great Handbarrows. The Coach was accompanied by the multitude into town, who had (as Mr Cobizon said) ne’er seen a Coach before, and I was forced to take it off the Wheels and carry it into a Bachelor Merchant (Mr Bousselaer) his Yard, to have it safe. Otherwise it had been torn in pieces and those kept as Relics by the people. This held me till near eleven.

In the meantime I went to bespeak Supper, but could have no flesh; they durst not dress it. ’Twas Saturday, a Fish day, and tho’ to break the seventh Comandment is venial, eating Flesh is a mortal Sin. Nor could we have fish; Mrs Du Vail said ’twas all gone. But I spied Crabs, of which she bought six for three pence, and we got Thornback and made a pretty good Supper. Prayed and went to bed after twelve, I having read myself half asleep and then went to bed. After my first sleep I slept heartily, I thank God, till after eight.’

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