The antiquity of the Posset-pot—Its national use—The Porringer—The two forms contemporary 안전놀이터 with each other—Stuart examples—The seventeenth and eighteenth century potters—The merging of the two types into the bowl.

A cold climate demands hot cordials. There was no elaborate system of hot-water pipes in the draughty, cold, and damp Elizabethan mansions with their rush-covered floors. It was a necessity, apart from long and deep potations of strong drinks, to take a nightcap or caudle-cup of something hot. In the eighteenth century the drinking of hot punch superseded this. But in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the custom of the posset of hot sack with spices and having milk and eggs, as a supper beverage was universal. Not that the posset-cup was idle in the daytime. It succeeded, even if it did not replace, the standing or loving-cup at weddings and other ceremonies. “Mix a posset for the merry Sir John Falstaff,” might, and possibly did, refer to any hour of the day, for that jovial soul did not stand on ceremony as to when he drank, so long as it was copious and oft-repeated.
That the posset-cup was of something thicker than mere spiced ale or hot wine is shown by Shakespeare’s “Thou shalt eat a posset to night at my house” (Merry Wives of Windsor). And Lady Macbeth, as a last act before the final commission of the treacherous crime, says:—

I have drugged their possets,
That death and nature do contend about them,
Whether they live or die.
We have seen that the caudle was curdled milk, with wine and hot spices, and that it was smoking hot. Shakespeare says, “We’ll have a posset for’t soon at night, i’ faith, at the latter end of a sea-coal fire.” It was undoubtedly hot, and it seems to have been, sometimes for medical reasons, made doubly so. Hence Dryden writes:

A sparing diet did her health assure;
Or sick, a pepper posset was her cure.
The object of a vessel, in the end, determines its established form. Its purpose being to receive a hot caudle, demanded that the posset-pot or cup should have a cover to keep its contents warm. Its two handles never seem to have deserted it, until it became a shallow dish or bowl for broth. These handles undoubtedly served a purpose, but the love of ornament and the balance of vessels which were always of beautiful form and perfect symmetry demanded two handles, by which design they succeeded the style of the loving-cup handed around, but it is not possible to conceive that the posset-cup was other than for personal use.
In regard to early days the posset-cup has not survived. We have mainly posset-cups of the Stuart period which ran contemporary with the porringer. We might almost term this the transitional period. But the difference is apparent. Whereas the posset-cup or pot had a cover, the porringer had no cover. Otherwise in form there is little difference. But it must be borne in mind that the covered vessel was a protection against poison. When this fear was no longer prevalent the open vessel became safe.

The illustrations show the various types. They belong mainly to the Stuart period. It is not possible to give a posset-pot from which the contemporaries of Falstaff drank their caudle. We can only conjecture from frequent literary references that such vessels were in common use. Apparently they have long disappeared, as there are few Tudor examples. There is a fine posset-pot and cover, of gold, of the sixteenth century, at Exeter College, Oxford.

The earliest example illustrated is a Commonwealth porringer, with the hall-mark for 1653 (illustrated p. 197). Here evidently is a vessel open-mouthed, and there was no intention that it should possess a cover. It is of different form to the contemporary posset-cup, and was not used for the same purpose. Apparently it was for something intended to retain the heat to a lesser degree, hence the absence of the lid. It is futile nowadays to conjecture with exactitude for what purpose these vessels were used. But, presumably, the porringer was for something more solid and less stimulating.

The date of this Puritan porringer is a memorable{204} one. It belongs to the year when the Dutch were defeated off Portland in February, again off the North Foreland in June, and off Texel in July, when Van Tromp was killed. In the year of this porringer Oliver Cromwell forcibly dissolved the Rump Parliament. “Clad in plain grey clothes and grey worsted stockings,” Oliver sat in the House listening impatiently to Sir Harry Vane, till at length he could bear it no more. He rose, and after charging the House with injustice and self-interest, he cried, “Your hour is come; the Lord hath done with you.” Clapping his hat on his head, he strode into the middle of the House with “It is fit you should sit here no longer! You should give place to better men! You are no Parliament!” Thirty musketeers entered at a sign from their general, and the thirty members crowded to the door. The Speaker refused to quit his chair, till Harrison offered to “lend him a hand to come down.” Cromwell lifted the mace from the table. “What shall we do with this bauble?” he said; “Take it away!”[4]

On the same page is illustrated a Charles II posset-pot and cover, with the date mark of London for 1662, and by its side is a small porringer of the date of 1669. This was evidently for the use of a child, which is some indication that these smaller vessels were actually used for something in the nature of food, and the possibility that they derive their name from the word “porridge” is a conjecture not to be easily dismissed.
The bowl of Stuart days has an ogee outline contracted{207} towards the mouth, giving it a pear-shaped form; this is common in porringers and posset-pots of the seventeenth century. In the example with the London hall-mark for 1662 the body is decorated with spheroidal swelling lozenges, giving character to the piece. The cover is plain, and heightens considerably the fine proportions, and is surmounted by a knob in baluster form. The handles are delicate and of gracefully curved form. The handles of the adjacent porringer, it will be seen, are flat. From 1653, the date of the Commonwealth porringer, to this latter small porringer, it will be seen that the handles are in a transitional stage. The upper half of the handle may be likened to a fanciful letter C, the bottom curve of which ends half-way in the interior of the handle, the handle being continued until it joins the bowl lower down. In the second example, 1662, the C stretches from the juncture of the handle with the bowl at the top to its juncture again at the lower end, the continuation of the handle below this is a slight additional outward curve. In 1669 the handle had become a letter S. The C form is slightly indicated by a break in the upper curve on the inside of the handle.

A comparison of the various forms of handle illustrated in this chapter shows that the C form in combination with the S form oscillated throughout the seventeenth century. In the elaborate posset-cup and cover of 1679 (illustrated p. 201) the S form would seem to have become established; but another example, 1683 (illustrated p. 205), shows the letter C again in strong combination with the letter S in the handle.
In 1685 the potter, we see, was troubled by no such fanciful problems. In the pot illustrated he makes a straightforward simple handle, best suited to his technique. Of the same date and illustrated on the same page (p. 213) is a fine James II posset-cup, and here the handle takes the form of the letter C, and again a second C for the lower half of the handle. By the year 1690 the letter S form handle in graceful curves had become established.

The illustration on page 201 shows a posset-cup and cover, which is produced by the kindness of Lord Dillon. In date it is 1679 and the cover is 1660. The bowl is embossed with tulips. The handles are scrolled terms and cast. The cover is a flattened dome with plain flanged edge and embossed with tulips. The knob is a casting of four grotesque faces conjoined. Its height is 7¹/₂ inches.

This cup is stated to have been presented by Charles II to his daughter, the Countess of Litchfield. The marks are “London” and I. S. in shaped shield. Mark on cover W. B. in a heart.
It will be seen in comparison with the porringer of the date of 1666, illustrated on the same page, that the caryatides handles which are similar to early Italian metal-work, are part of the handle itself, and the female bust forms the swelling curve. Here in the first example of the posset-cup the head is set as though it were a thing apart and unconnected with the design of the handle in its entirety. In the lower example of the porringer the head actually becomes full face, and consequently is merely a meaningless survival of the older form{211} and not an integral part of the design of the handle.
The posset-pot and cover, with the London date mark for 1683, exhibits another form; its body has straighter sides. The scroll handles are similar to some of the older forms, and the woman’s head is retained. The acanthus-leaf decoration occurs on the lower part of the body, the rest being plain. Here the proportion of decorated and undecorated surface introduces another factor. It is seen on the lower portion of the Charles II porringer of the date of 1666, and it lingers in the Exeter piece of the Queen Anne period, 1707, with the addition of a decorative band three-quarters of the way up the bowl (illustrated p. 209).

In the Tudor period we have seen, in regard to the mottled stoneware tankards, that the potter and the silversmith worked in sympathy with each other. In late Stuart days it cannot be said that the silversmith and the potter had very much in common. We illustrate two specimens of the days of James II of the same date, 1685. The first is a posset-pot and cover of unusual form, with steeple-like cover and baluster terminal. This is on a high foot, and the handles have a massiveness about them not usually associated with posset-cups. The year 1685 is an important date in the art of the silversmith. The Edict of Nantes was revoked, and in consequence many hundreds of Huguenot refugees, silk-weavers and metal-workers, came to this country. The Spitalfield looms and the names of French makers on the silver plate date from this influx of foreign craftsmen.
Below this is a posset-cup made by the Staffordshire potter, racy of the soil, and far removed from the subtleties of the worker in silver. This is dated 1685, and inscribed “William Simpson His cup.” The handles, six in number, are eminently suited to the plastic clay. The convolutions of the smaller handle are suggestive of the glass-worker. Here the potter and the silversmith join hands, for the handle of the more elaborate piece is suggestive of the glass-worker too. It must be remembered that Venetian glass-workers had settled in London under the patronage of the Duke of Buckingham in the days of Charles II. It is not unnatural to suppose, seeing that the glass-blower, the silversmith, and the potter were all working in competition, that they cast an eye on each other’s work.

There is a peculiar design embodied in the work of the old glass-workers of Venice, for centuries embosomed on the lagoons at Murano, which design is taken straight from the waters of the Adriatic. There is a little denizen of those waters, delicate and of extreme beauty, only some 3 or 4 inches long, known as the sea-horse. He swims in the blue water or curls his tail around a weed. His head is like a Roman horse with arched neck. Those who know the delightful configuration of this creature, the hippocampus antiquorum, will realize the parallel. The Venetian glass-worker adapted this design, ready to hand, as the Copenhagen potters have taken the figures of birds and animals of the Baltic to give form and colour to their work. All craftsmen have{215} done this, from the ancient cave-dweller in Bordeaux who scratched the reindeer in motion which he has left for posterity to criticize, to the Japanese with their fishes and birds and insects. The short-nosed sea-horse with its beautiful and graceful form has been snatched by the glass-blower and transfused in the furnace, with skilful and adept art in manipulating the pliant metal, into a handle with conventionalized form. The arched back becomes a row of bead-like ornament in the bow of the handle, a style of ornamentation which peeps out from old Italian glass goblets, still in due subjection. When it crosses the Alps into Germany the foreign glass-worker, knowing nothing of the delicate suggestion of the origin of the ornament, straightway makes the handles into huge appendages, departing more and more from the initial source of inspiration.
The glass-blower of Stuart days, a craftsman in metal, and the silver worker meet at this point, and the bead-like ornament is derivative from this old form. It is shown in simpler style in the Charles II porringer of 1672 (illustrated p. 209), and in more elaborate development in the James II posset-pot. The former is nearer to nature, and possibly nearer to the glass-worker.

The potter has similarly twisted his clay with equal swiftness and ease into convolutions similar to the glass-blower’s technique, but he has gone away from the original. With an elaboration far and above the three bends he has given to his plastic body in his handle, the German glass-blower has essayed to improve on this form, according to his{216} lights; the result is that some of the German glass consists mainly in a fine elaboration of handle.

In regard to the evolution of design, something should be said of the Exeter piece with the hall-mark of that city, 1707, straight from the days of Queen Anne. The maker of this piece was Edmund Richards. Did he know that in his crane-head handle he was perpetuating something that was to live to the twentieth century? To-day modern Japan has run the crane to death. In textiles and in metal-work the design of the crane appears again and again. It is found in scissors; we have before us an elaborate pair, made for the Great Exhibition in 1851, with crane handles, elaborately finished and gilded.

Our last illustration terminates the history of the silver vessel intended for use for posset, or caudle, or porridge, or broth. The bowl (p. 217), or, as it is termed in the old inventory which has come down with the piece, a “Plum Broth Dish,” dates from 1697, the year of the Treaty of Ryswick, when Louis XIV recognized William III as King of Great Britain and Ireland. The maker is John Bodington.

Prior to Queen Anne, this example shows all the reticence of design usually associated with the Queen Anne style. It begins a new area. The posset-pot and the silver porringer were dying or dead; the days of the punch-bowl, the tureen, and all the intricacies of the modern silver vessel for tea, for coffee, for soup, and fitted for the complexities of a more modern life, were at hand.