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Entertaining reading from a little-known Englishman

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Anybody in the mood for a little morning “Jeopardy!”?

Category: English history.

Dollar amount: $1,000.

Answer: He was an English chronicler whose work was one of the major sources used by William Shakespeare for a number of his plays.

Question: (Please tell me you didn’t know so I won’t feel so stupid.) Who was Raphael Holinshed?

That’s right, a gentleman about whom little is known, who is thought to have come from Cheshire, but lived in London, where he worked as a translator before receiving a commission to record a history of the world from the time of the flood to the reign of Queen Elizabeth. The ambitious project was never completed, but a portion of it was published in 1577 as “The Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland.”

Susan Malabre sent me excerpts from Chapter VI, on matters pertaining to the food and diet of the English.

“The situation of our region,” so the chapter begins, “lying near unto the north, doth cause the heat of our stomachs to be of somewhat greater force: therefore our bodies do crave a little more ample nourishment than the inhabitants of the hotter regions are accustomed withal, whose digestive force is not altogether so vehement, because their internal heat is not so strong as ours, which is kept in by the coolness of the air that from time to time (especially in the winter) doth environ our bodies.”

On the Scottish: “(They) far exceed us in over much and distemperate gormandise, and so ingross their bodies that divers of them do oft become unapt to any other purpose than to spend their time in large tabling and belly cheer ... their vehement alteration from competent frugality into excessive gluttony.”

On the English nobility, “(whose cooks are for the most part musical-headed Frenchmen or strangers), and as all estates do exceed herein, I mean for strangeness and number of costly dishes, so these forget not to use the like excess in wine, insomuch as there is no kind to be had, neither anywhere more store of all sorts than in England, although we have none growing with us but yearly to the proportion of 20,000 or 30,000 tun and upwards, notwithstanding the daily restraints of the same brought over unto us, whereof at great meetings there is not some store to be had. ... For, as I have said in meat, so, the stronger the wine is, the more it is desired, by means whereof, in old time, the best was called theologicum, because it was had from the clergy and religious men.”

“... Both the artificer and the husbandman are sufficiently liberal, and very friendly at their tables; and, when they meet, they are so merry without malice, and plain without inward Italian or French craft and subtlety, that it would do a man good to be in company among them.”

These and other observations are replete throughout the chapter and make for some very interesting and entertaining reading.

And now, before moving on to another subject, here’s another “Jeopardy!”-type question as relating to Shakespeare that some may find a little easier than the above.

Category: English history.

Status: Daily Double!

Answer: He is believed by some to have been the “real” Shakespeare and that the historical Shakespeare was merely a front to shield his identity.

Question: Who is Sir Francis Bacon? (Bacon was a philosopher and essayist. Most Shakespearean scholars discredit the Baconian theory.)

Way back when I ran a column on some of the local gentlemen’s societies. Randy Conklin only recently found out about and read the column. “I recently read your article on Charleston’s ancient societies,” he writes, “and was sorry to see that you were unaware of ‘the Fellowship Society.’ The Fellowship Society was established April 4, 1762, and meets every Wednesday evening in West Ashley.”

No, he’s right. I hadn’t heard of it. Mr. Conklin is secretary of the society.

On the topic of nicknames, Beverly S. Johnson enjoyed that particular column and brings to my attention the correct spelling of Hazlehurst — not Hazelhurst — as in “Wee” (Waring), “my little but much older cousin.”

I blew it! Sorry. I knew it was one or the other, made a phone call, and we were both wrong. Anyway, Beverly writes that her mother, Lois, was “ ‘Loddie,’ thanks to her boarding school roommate, Dina Merrill (Deena Hutton). My father was called ‘Bubber’ instead of Theodore.”

Walter Duane recalls several old nicknames. “Mayor Henry W. Lockwood was always referred to as ‘Tunker.’ A Dr. Wilson was always known as ‘Red Tie.’ Monsignor Joseph L. O’Brien was affectionately known as ‘Doc’ by one and all.

“Some politicians or public servants were referred to by their initials; hence ‘J.C.’ and ‘O.T.’ respectively for Long and Wallace. And anyone named Murphy had ‘Spud’ attached to it. (Spud Murphy was an American jazz multi-instrumentalist, bandleader and arranger.)

“I think it was Ring Lardner who said, ‘The red-haired boy was given a first name in case he ever had to use it.’ ”

Edward M. Gilbreth is a Charleston physician. Reach him at edwardgilbreth@

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