Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
The Natural Commodities of Hampshire
By Thomas Fuller (16081661)
From the History of the Worthies of England
GREAT store of these were lately in the New Forest, so called because newly made by King William the Conqueror. Otherwise, ten years hence, it will be six hundred years old. Indeed, as Augustus Cæsar is said to have said of Herod King of Judæa, that it was better to be his hog than his child; so was it most true of that King William, that it was better to have been his stag than his subject; the one being by him spared and preserved, the other ruined and destroyed: such was the devastation he made of towns in this country, to make room for his game. And it is worth our observing the opposition betwixt the characters of
Templa Deo, templis monachos, monachis dedit agros.1
Templa adimit Divis, fora civibus, arva colonis.2
And now was the south-west of this country made a forest indeed, if, as an antiquary hath observed, a forest be so called, quia forts est, because it is set open and abroad. The stags therein were stately creatures, jealous, revengeful; insomuch that I have been credibly informed, that a stag, unable for the present to master another who had taken his hind from him, waited his opportunity, till his enemy had weakened himself with his wantonness, and then killed him. Their flesh may well be good, whose very horns are accounted cordial. Besides, there is a concave in the neck of a green-headed stag, when above his first crossing, wherein are many worms, some two inches in length, very useful in physic, and therefore carefully put up by Sir Theodore Mayerne and other skilful physicians. But, I believe, there be few stags now in New Forest, fewer harts, and not any harts-royal (as escaping the chase of a king); though in time there may be some again.
Although this country affordeth not such lakes of honey as some authors relate found in hollow trees in Muscovy; nor yieldeth combs equal to that which Pliny reporteth seen in Germany, eight feet long; yet produceth it plenty of this necessary and profitable commodity.
Indeed Hampshire hath the worst and best honey in England; worst, on the heath, hardly worth five pounds the barrel; best, in the champaign, where the same quantity will well nigh be sold for twice as much. And it is generally observed, the finer the wheat and wool, both which are very good in this county, the purer the honey of that place.
Honey is useful for many purposes, especially that honey which is the lowest in any vessel. For it is an old and true rule the best oil is in the top; the best wine in the middle; and the best honey in the bottom. It openeth obstructions, cleareth the breast from those humours which fall from the head; with many other sovereign qualities, too many to be reckoned up in a winters day.
However, we may observe three degrees, or kinds rather, of honey:(1) Virgin honey, which is the purest, of a late swarm which never bred bees. (2) Chaste honey, for so I may term all the rest which is not sophisticated with any addition. (3) Harlot honey, as which is adulterated with meal and other trash mingled therewith.
This is the cask, where honey is the liquor; and, being yellow by nature, is by art made white, red, and green, which I take to be the dearest colours, especially when appendant on parchment. Wax is good by day and by night, when it affordeth light, for sight the clearest; for smell the sweetest; for touch the cleanliest. Useful in law to seal instruments; and in physic, to mollify sinews, ripen and dissolve ulcers, etc. Yea, the ground and foundation of all cere-cloth (so called from cera) is made of wax.
Hampshire hogs are allowed by all for the best bacon, being our English Westphalian, and which, well ordered, hath deceived the most judicious palates. Here the swine feed in the forest on plenty of acorns (mens meat in the golden, hogs food in this iron age); which, going out lean, return home fat, without either care or cost of their owners. Nothing but fulness stinteth their feeding on the mast falling from the trees, where also they lodge at liberty (not pent up, as in other places, to stacks of peas), which some assign the reason of the fineness of their flesh; which, though not all glorre3 (where no banks of lean can be seen for the deluge of fat), is no less delicious to the taste, and more wholesome for the stomach.
Swines flesh, by the way, is observed most nutritive of mens bodies, because of its assimilation thereunto. Yet was the eating thereof forbidden to the Jews, whereof this reason may be rendered (besides the absolute will of the law-giver), because in hot countries mens bodies are subject to the measles and leprosies, who have their greatest repast on swines flesh. For the climate of Canaan was all the year long as hot as England betwixt May and Michaelmas; and it is penal for any butchers with us in that term to kill any pork in the public shambles.
As for the manufacture of clothing in this county (diffused throughout the same) such as deny the goodness of Hampshire cloth, and have occasion to wear it, will be convinced of its true worth by the price which they must pay for it.