More Medical Recipes from Thomas Scattergood’s Diaries

Thomas Scattergood copied a number of recipes into one of his later diaries, one that dates from just after the turn of the 19th century. As he notes on one page, he took many of these recipes from “the Countess of Kent.” The “Countess of Kent” was Elizabeth Grey. Shortly after she died in 1561, her medical recipes were collected together into a book published in two versions:

  • A choice manual of rare and select secrets in physick and chyrurgery collected and practised by the Right Honorable, the Countesse of Kent, late deceased ; as also most exquisite ways of preserving, conserving, candying, &c. (London, 1653)
  • A choice manuall, or rare and select secrets in physick and chyrurgery collected, and practised by the Right Honourable, the Countesse of Kent, late deceased. Whereto are added several experiments of the virtues of gascon pouder, and lapis contra yarvam, by a professor of physick. As also most exquisite waies of preserving, conserving, candying, &c. (London, 1653).

The Countess of Kent’s recipes were clearly popular. Expanded versions of the book were published at least nine times before the end of the century, 1654, 1659, 1661, 1663, 1664, 1667, 1671, 1683, and 1687. More than a century later her recipes were still circulating such that Scattergood could copy them.

The Countess of Kent’s A choice manual of rare and select secrets in physic was a popular recipe book in the latter 17th century.
The Countess of Kent’s A choice manual of rare and select secrets in physic was a popular recipe book in the latter 17th century.

He copied four plague recipes directly from the Countess of Kent:

Plague
Take 1 lb of green walnuts 1/2 an Ounce of Saffron 1/2 an ounce of London Treacle beaten together in a Mortar and with a little Carduus or some such Water, vapour it over the Fire…

One of the many recipes for the plague Scattergood copied from the Countess of Kent.
One of the many recipes for the plague Scattergood copied from the Countess of Kent.

To preserve a Man from the Plague
Take aloe Apaticum, & aloe Succatrine, fine Cinnamon & Myrrh of each of them 3 drams—Cloves, mace, Lignum aloe, Mantick, Bole Armoniack, of each of them 1/2 a dram, let all these things be stampt in a Mortar mingle them together, and keep them in a close vessel, take of it every morning 2 penny weight in half a glass of white wine with a little water, and drink it in the morning at the dawning of the day, an so by the grace of God you may go into all infection of the Air and Plague.

An Eluctuary for the Plague
Take the weight of ten grams of Saffron 2 ounces of the kernels of Walnuts, 2 or 3 Figs 1 Dram of Mithridate, & a few sage leaves stampt together, with a sufficient quantity of Pine kernal water, make up all these together in a lumb or mass & keep it in a glass or pot for use, taking the Quantity of 12 Grains fasting in the Morning, & it will not only preserve from the Pestilence but but expel it from the in fection

Another plague recipe from the Countess of Kent.
Another plague recipe from the Countess of Kent.

A most certain & approved Medicine against all manner of Pestilence & plague, be it never so vehement
Take an Onion, & cut in 1/2 then make a little hole in either piece the which fill with fine Treacle & set the pieces together as they were before, after this wrap them in sine white linnen Cloth putting it to roast, & covered in the embers or Ashes, and when it is roasted enough, press out all the Juice of it, and give the Patient a spoonful, and immediately he shall feel himself better, & without fail be healed—

For some reason he did not copy the other dozen or so plague recipes from the Countess of Kent’s A choice manual.[1] He did, however, copy other recipes from the her book:

Scattergood copied medicines for the yellow jaundice and “dead palsey.”
Scattergood copied medicines for the yellow jaundice and “dead palsey.”

A proved Medicine for the Yellow Jaundices
Take a pint of Mucadine a pretty quantity of the inner bark of a Barbarry Tree, 3 spoonfuls of the greenest goose dung you can get, and take away all the white spots from it, lay them in steep all night on the morrow strain it, and put to it one grated Nutmegg, one penny worth of Saffron dryed & very finely beaten, & give it to drink in the Morning.

Dead Palsey or those who have lost their speech
Take Borage leaves, Marigold leaves or Flower, of each a good handful boyl it in good Ale posset, the person must take a good draught of it in the morning, & sweat, if it be in the arm or Legs, they must be chafed for an hour or two, when they be grieved & at meals they must drink no other drink till their speech comes to them, if the herbs be not to be had the seeds will do.

Scattergood claimed to copy a recipe for kidney stones from Digby’s Medicine, though I have been unable to find Digby’s original recipe. Scattergood also copied recipes from other authors. Perhaps more likely, the source he was using collected together recipes from diverse other authors (I have not found sources for these recipes):

A French Cure for a cancer and to cure a “whenn.”
A French Cure for a cancer and to cure a “whenn.”

For a Cancer A French Cure
Pound Garlick fine on a puler plate, mix it with honey and apply it as a poultice repeating it. And if [??] in a hole, take a piece of Fresh lining [?] beef dip it in the Oyntment and lay it in the hole repeating it

Although the Countess of Kent offered a recipe to cure a wen, Scattergood did not copy out her recipe:[2]

To cure a Whenn
Mix powdered blue Vitriol in a sweet oil, make a plaster & apply it, until it breaks and runs out continuing the plaster until cured.

To make green salve or Ointment—
Into a clean pipkin that holds about a Quart put the bigness of a Pullets Egg of yellow rosin when it is melted over a midling fire add the same Quantity of Bees was, when that is melted pu t in 1/2 a pound of hogs lard when that is melted put in 2 ounces of Honey, when that is melted put in 1/2 a pound of common turpentine, when that is melted put in 2 ounces of Vardigrease, take off the pipkin or else it will [??] in the Fire in an Instant; put it on the Fire again and give it two or 3 wabbles & strain it through a course Sive into a clean Vessel through the dreggs away—An Extraordinary Ointment for a wound or a bruise — Nothing takes the Fire out of a Burn or scald so soon.

Finally, bed bugs seem to have been a problem. Fortunately, this last recipe not only killed the little critters, it also put a fine polish on the furniture and didn’t stink:

A recipe for killing bed bugs and polishing furniture.
A recipe for killing bed bugs and polishing furniture.

Destroying Buggs
Take 6 d worth of Quick silver and the whites of 6 or 8 Eggs heath them together until the Quick silver appears like a black sediment at the bottom of the basin, then rub it over the Joynts and crevices of the Bed stead with a Painters Brush
It will certainly have the desired effect with the addition of giving a varnish to the Furniture, and have not the least smell.

What we can’t tell from Scattergood’s diaries if he used any of these recipes or if he found them effective. We also can’t tell if he adapted them to reflect the ingredients available to him locally. Maybe clues to those questions are hiding in some of the other Scattergood papers.


  1. It is possible that he he was copying recipes from a copy that did not include these other plague recipes.  ↩

  2. “Whenn,” or “wen” as the Countess of Kent labels it, seems to be some sort of skin disease. Her recipe is:
    A Medicine for a Wen.
    Take black Soap and unquencht Lime, of each a like quantity, beat them very small together, and spread in on a woollen cloth, and lay it on the Wen, and it will consume it away.  ↩