Early modern manuscript miscellanies are typically collections of verse and prose which were compiled and circulated in a variety of different locations, including the universities, royal courts, households, and Inns of Court.
The Bodleian Library, Oxford holds lots of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century manuscript miscellanies. MS Rawlinson D. 947 is one example. This manuscript miscellany comprises of poems and recipes. It is written in Latin and English and contains several hands. The name ‘Jo: Gandye’ appears on fol. 2r. According to the Catalogue of English Literary Manuscripts, 1450-1700, ‘Jo: Gandye’ may be John Gandye (b. 1604/5) of Oriel College, Oxford. This miscellany was probably compiled by John Gandye and his associates in the 1620s (see http://www.celm-ms.org.uk/repositories/bodleian-rawlinson-other.html).
MS Rawl. D. 947 is of particular interest to RECIRC because fol. 3r contains a poem attributed to Queen Elizabeth I:
Hoc e corpus meum [trans. ‘This is my body’]
Twas Christ the Word that spak it
The same took bread & brak it
And as the Word did make it
Soe I beleive & take it
As you can see, the compilers of MS Rawl. D. 947 explicitly attach Queen Elizabeth’s name to this poem and this suggests that they may consider her to be its author. This poem is also attributed to Elizabeth in Sir Richard Baker’s A Chronicle of the Kings of England (printed in London in 1643) where Elizabeth is said to have offered these words as a reply to Roman Catholic priests who examined her during Mary I’s reign (see Marcus et. al, 2002, 47 n1).
What has been overlooked by scholars working on MS Rawl. D. 947, is that this poem attributed to Queen Elizabeth is followed immediately by a medical recipe affiliated with one ‘Mris Gross’:
ffor a physik or shortnesse of breth
Ale 2 qrts
Raysons of ye sun. half a pd
Saffron 2 d
Boyl all till half the liquor be consumd
strayn it & drink 2 or 3 spunfulls att a
time. twice or thrice in a day.
The Roots of Red Nettle bruisd & streepd
in Ale over night drink of the Ale the
next morning. Good to open the breeast
in a fulnesse or fantnesse of stomik.
This recipe, according to the compilers of MS Rawl. D. 947, alleviates the shortness of breath. The copying of this recipe into the miscellany implies that it may have been deemed as useful and effective by the compilers.
The compilers of MS Rawl. D. 947 thus juxtapose two forms of female authority. The first is royal, religious, and political (emanating from Queen Elizabeth). The second is medicinal (stemming from Mris Gross). What is more, both the poem attributed to Queen Elizabeth and the recipe of Mris Gross engage with the notions of consumption (to eat, drink or ingest). Elizabeth’s poem engages with the the sacred (and ultimately, political) nuances of Christ’s Last Supper and Mris Gross’s receipt is about the make-up and consumption of remedies which alleviate physical suffering. The compilers also participate in a form of scribal/literary consumption as they copy the works of two women into their miscellany.
Analyzing how female-authored works are juxtaposed with one another in miscellanies can shed new light on the variety of ways in which women’s writing was read, used and consumed in the early modern period. MS Rawl. D. 947 provides crucial evidence for how university men were consuming early modern women’s works.
Bodleian Library, Oxford, MS Rawlinson D. 947.
Catalogue of English Literary Manuscripts, 1450-1700. 2013. http://www.celm-ms.org.uk/
Marcus, Leah S., Janel Mueller and Mary Beth Rose, eds. 2002. 2nd ed. Elizabeth I: Collected Works. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.