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Letter to America: Panaceæ On:2022-07-08 05:14:36

My Dear Americans,
    what was it Patrick Henry is reputed to have said, "Give me a cuppa tea, or give me death!" Of course that WAS before news of Boston Harbour's famous Tea Party had reached him, so it's a quite excusable sentiment, and indeed I have expressed myself similarly on many an occasion during my sojourn in America, and that's in spite of the fact that since the Boston Tea Party all tea in the United States has had a tendency to taste as if it came out of the aforementioned harbour.

But, luckily, that isn't exactly the topic of my letter today. I shan't be mentioning any further the benefits of tea as a revolutionary tool, but let me tell you of its wonders in other spheres of human endeavour.
About three quarters of a century before the good folk of Boston embarrassed the Hell out of the art of tea brewing, back in England, Nahum Tate, who had just been appointed the poet laureate, wrote Panacea: a Poem upon Tea in Two Cantos or to be (as we always try to be in these essays) absolutely accurate "in Two Canto" inverted comma "S" with an apostrophe inserted between the "o" of what would have been a single canto and its pluralising "s" thus tearing the poor things apart with an early example of the "Grocers' Apostrophe", that bane of vegetable-apostrophe-S-es throughout the land (mine and yours), either that or he thought the plural ended in "-es" like potatoes or tomatoes, but wasn't absolutely sure, so he omitted the "e" but hedged his bet by putting in an apostrophe instead.
Anyway, he went on for 37 pages (small pages, but still... 37 pages!) about how wonderful tea was with such lines as:

which sentiments he more than adequately illustrated himself: by going on and on for those 37 pages.

But, luckily, that isn't exactly the topic of my letter today.
You see there is an epigraph on the title page of his poem part of which says "Happy plant, glory of the earth, gift of Olympus"1 in Latin of course, and sounding much better in, as we nerds say, the original Klingon:

This is taken from a poem, also in Latin of course, in two whole books (forget mere Canto's ) by one Raphael Thorius (and isn't Thorius a glorious name?), who with a combination of mythology, medicine, and tips for cultivating also extols a plant which is also a panacea, an all healing plant, but it's not tea. It's not even coffee, let alone whisky. The poem is entitled Hymnus Tabaci so you can guess that it is in praise of tobacco. It's illustrative to pause for a moment to consider how in the early modern period tobacco was viewed (in some ways) much as marijuana is today, with some extolling it either for pleasure or for its medical uses with others hating it with a fiery hatred, and but very few being indifferent to it.

But, luckily, that isn't exactly the topic of my letter today.
You see all of the above came together the other day and reminded me of a little book in my collection, printed in 1659 for Simon Miller at the Star in St Pauls Church-yard, near the West-end

(Oh! And, in passing, St Pauls isn't given a possessive apostrophe, which I suppose makes up for those damned Canto-apostrophe-S-es-es-es).
Anyway, like the Canto's my book's title begins with the word Panacea: Panacea or the Universal Medicine being a Discovery of Tobacco Taken in a Pipe With its Operation and Use both in Physick and Chyrurgery, By Dr Everard &c. "Chyrurgery" of course being an antique form of "surgery", both as a word, and much more painfully as a practice.
Like the Hymnus my book praises tobacco, telling how it cures pretty much everything including Cancers "especially of the breasts"

and, again like the Hymnus, adds gardening tips such as "It wonderfully desires water, and therefore it must be watered, especially in such days as a very fair when there falls no rain".

It is a fascinating read, but, sadly, even that isn't exactly the topic of my letter today, because, because having finally got to my topic I've run out of time...
Kindest regards,
Richard Howland-Bolton
and, of course,
Cheerio for now
from me!


1 Innocuos Calices et Amicam Vatibus Herbam
Vimque datam Folio —— Thor. de Pœt.
Planta Beata, Decus Terrarum, Munus Olympi!

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