Eye - 15 September 2023

From A myth to On this day

'There would be no hunting of the animals. Elephants would dance with mice.'

A myth

In a Quaker museum near Dorset
On display was a period corset.
It was said to look swell
Upon Margaret Fell,
But that may be a myth, so don’t force it.

Alec Davison

The first tea-party in Nantucket

John Lynes, of Hastings Meeting, has added a spoonful of sugar to a tea-based tale.

He writes: ‘Thank you for publishing the note about the Boston Tea Party in the Friend (25 August).

‘This is particularly timely as Hastings Meeting is planning a symposium, probably after Meeting on Sunday 17 September, on “Quakers and Tea”.
‘Readers of Q Eye might also be interested in a charming letter on “Tea at Nantucket”.’

Well, Eye finds it hard to resist charming letters! The missive from the island in Massachusetts is related in an edition of The Journal of the Friends Historical Society in 1931 and can be read at https://bit.ly/TeaNantucket.

In Flora Thomas’ introduction she writes: ‘While diligently delving among the ashes of the past for certain dry historical data, it was lately my good fortune to come upon a very live fragment, entirely free from the grey dustiness of its surround­ings. This was the letter of a young girl belonging to a past generation of the family among whose records I was searching. A delightful letter, simple and sweet, exceedingly well written, breathing the spirit of the quiet Quaker folk and giving a vivid picture of American home life at that time [1745].’

In the letter Ruth Starbuck Wentworth, who was living in Nantucket, writes to her mother about the comings and goings of the family home, including the giddy excitement of romance. ‘Cousin Nat and his friend Captain Morris’ arrive for a tea-party, supplied by a sea chest sent ahead of them – a chest containing the first tea seen on the island.

This presents a challenge to ‘Aunt Content’ who ‘has been much pestered in her mind because she knew not how to serve the tea’. But hearsay inspires an attempt, which sees three quarters of a gallon of loose tea boiled in a five gallon kettle for an hour.

‘Aunt Content said to her son and his friend: “I have made a dish of tea for you, but I am fearful it is not rightly made, and would like to have your opinion”; whereupon my cousin and the captain looked and sniffed at the tea, and my cousin made answer: “As my loved mother desires my opinion, I must needs tell her that a spoonful of this beverage, which she has with such hospitable intent prepared for us, would go nigh to kill anyone at this table”.’

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