The Rev. Richard Warner (1763-1857) was an English clergyman, local historian, and antiquary of some note. During the course of his long life, he published a number of works on walks, including journeys in Wales and the Southwest of England, local history, including Hampshire, and collections of his sermons. In 1791 he published a collection of cookery manuscripts titled Antiquitates Culinariae; or, Curious tracts relating to the culinary affairs of the Old English, with a preliminary discourse, notes, and illus. Notably, this work included a version of the Forme of Curie adapted from Samuel Pegge’s edition. The publication, no doubt, left a sour taste in Warner’s mouth, as he was quickly sued over the inclusion of a front piece illustration of a “Peacock Feast.” Warner maintained he had been given permission to include the print, but in the end the venture cost him seventy pounds in costs and damages. Copies that were not already sold had the plate torn out, making any surviving edition with the plate rather rare indeed.
What brings us to Warner is a couple of passages from his long
“Preliminary Discourse” at the beginning of Antiquitates Culinariae. Yes, it’s dated and no one should rely upon it for an accurate account of culinary history, yet at times Warner has a good turn of phrase, especially for those of us who are engaged in the study of garnishment and subtleties. For example,
“In reading the account of these feasts, the observation occurs, that the tables of our ancestors must greatly have exceeded those of modern days, in splendor of appearance. Every decoration was added to the different dishes, that the cook's imagination suggested to gratify the eye. The peacock we have already seen made a brilliant figure on the table; and the frequent use of gold and silver, the splendid representations of armorial cognizances, and the grand devices in pastry and sugar, which they termed sotelties must have given a magnificence to the ancient English table of which we at present have no idea." [p xxxvii]
References are to Stowes’ Survey p. 130.
On the court of Henry VIII, he writes:
The reign of Henry VIII was distinguished by pageantry and magnificence. No English monarch seems to have taken more delight in revelry of all kinds, than this capricious prince. The mask [masque] however, above all others, was his favorite entertainment. The minute Hollingshead has attributed the invention, or rather the introduction of this amusement, of which our masquerade is the lineal descendant, to Henry. But notwithstanding the general accuracy of Hollingshead, we have reason to believe that the mask was well known in this country two centuries before his reign; though not brought to that perfection which it attained in the sixteenth century. … [p xxxviii]
"We may form some idea of the expence of these royal amusements from the following account of a pageant and maske exhibited at court on the birth of the princess Mary Against the twelfe daie, or the daie of the Epiphanie at night, before the banket in the hall at Richmond, was a pageant devised like a mounteine, glistering by night, as though it had beene all of gold, and set with stones, on the top of which mounteine was a tree of gold, the branches and boughes frized with gold, spreadinge on everie side over the mounteine with roses and pomegranats; the which mounteine was with vices brought up towards the king and out of the fame came a ladie apparelled in cloth of gold, and the children of honor called the Henchmen which were freshlie disguised, and danced a morice before the king; and that doone re entered the mounteine, which then was drawen backe, and then was the wassail or banket brought in, and so brake up Christmasse."[xl]
Another passage will follow.