I’m back in York after ten days away, during which time I managed to pick up an irritating cold whose effects I am still trying to shake off. Perhaps I should have tried one of the remedies in Gervase Markham’s handbook for housewives.
The English Housewife was written in the early 17th-century, but the recipes and remedies it contains would have been familiar, I think, to Hawise and Nell, and to Jane, whose story, The Edge of Dark, will be available in March 2015. I’m not sure I fancy raw egg, though – or hot milk and ale, come to that. I’m very glad to be living in the 21st century and to be able to dose myself up with Lemsip capsules instead!
For quotidian fever
First then for the quotidian fever (whose fits always last above twelve hours), you shall take a new laid egg, and opening the crown you shall put out the white, then fill up the shell with very good aqua vitae*, and stir it and the yolk very well together, and then as soon as you feel your cold fit begin to come upon you, sup up the egg, and either labour till you sweat, or else, laying great store of clothes upon you, put yourself in a sweat in your bed; and thus do whilst your fits continue, and for your drink let it be only cool posset ale.**
*Distilled spirits, infused with herbs
**Spiced milk curd made by pouring hot milk into ale
From Gervase Markham, The English Housewife: Containing the inward and outward virtues which ought to be in a complete woman; as her skill in physic, cookery, banqueting-stuff, distillation, perfumes, wool, hemp, flax, dairies, brewing, baking, and all other things belonging to a household, ed. Michael R. Best (1994, reprinted 2008), p.9.