Monday, March 30, 2015

New England - 1629 A few problems including mosquito bites, snow, snakes & serpents

A Short and True Description of New England

by the Rev. Francis Higginson, written in 1629 
Printed for Michael Sparke, London, 1630.

Francis Higginson (1588-1630) was an early Puritan minister in Colonial New England, and the first minister of Salem, Massachusetts.

Thus of New England’s commodities, now I will tell you of some discommodities that are here to be found.

First: in the summer season for these three months June, July and August, we are troubled with little flies called mosquitos, being the same they are troubled with in Lincolnshire and the fens, and they are nothing but gnats, which except they be smoked out of their houses are troublesome in the night season.

Secondly: in the winter season for two months space the earth is commonly covered with snow, which is accompanied with sharp biting frosts, something more sharp than is in old England, and therefore we are forced to make great fires.

Thirdly: this country being very full of woods and wildernesses, doth also much abound with snakes and serpents of strange colors and huge greatness. Yea, there are some serpents called rattlesnakes, that have rattles in their tails that will not fly from a man as others will, but will fly upon him and sting him so mortally, that he will die within a quarter of an hour after, except the party stung have about him some of the root of an herb called snake weed to bite on, and then he shall receive no harm. But yet seldom falls it out that any hurt is done by these. About three years since an Indian was stung to death by one of them, but we heard of none since that time.

1603 German ed of Badli Angeli Abbatii's De Admirabili Viperae natura.  First published in 1589.  Dresden's Sächsische Landesbibliothek

Fourthly and lastly: here wants as yet the good company of honest Christians to bring with them horses, kine and sheep to make use of the fruitful land. Great pity it is to see so much good ground for corn and for grass as any is under the heavens, to lie altogether unoccupied, when so many honest men and their families in old England through the populousness thereof, do make very hard shift to live one by the other. Thus you know now what New England is, as also the commodities and discommodities thereof.

17C Woman by Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677)

Wenceslaus Hollar (Czech artist, 1607-1677)  'Ornatus Muliebris Anglicanus. The severall 'Habits of Englishwomen, from the Nobilitie to the 'Country Woman, as they are in these times. 1640.'  An English lady standing whole length to left, with head in profile and hand folded; wearing a cap, shoulder wrap trimmed with lace, gloves, and scissors suspended from a cord from around her waist at left.

We have few depictions of women in the 17C British American colonies, but the prints by Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677) allow us to see the hairstyles & fashions being worn on the other side of the Atlantic during the early years of the English colonization of America. 

The artist Hollar was born in 1607, the son of an upper middle-class civic official. He left his native Prague at age 20. He was almost blind in one eye but became a skilled artist. His 1st book of etchings was published in 1635, in Cologne, when Hollar was 28. The following year his work caught they eye of English art collector the Earl of Arundel who visiting the continent.  Hollar became a part of his household, settling in England early in 1637. He left London for Antwerp in 1642, where he continued to work on a variety of projects for 10 years.  In 1652, he returned to England, working on a number of large projects for the publishers John Ogilby & William Dugdale. Hollar died in London in 1677. By his life's end, he had produced nearly 3000 separate etchings.