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59272.  Sun Mar 12, 2006 1:02 pm Reply with quote

Mat drew my attention to this:

Sir Kenelm Digby (1603-1665), son of Gunpowder Plotter Everard Digby, was a noted 17th century adventurer, privateer, diplomat and natural philosopher.

(Everard Digby was the only one of the Gunpowder Plotters to plead guilty, and the first to be executed. Sir Francis Bacon relates that when he was being drawn and quartered the executioner pulled out his heart and announced, as was customary, 'Here is the heart of a traitor', to which Digby replied 'Thou liest'.)

Kenelm was a founder member of the Royal Society, an early espouser of the idea of the circulation of the blood, the first to record the importance of 'the vital air' (oxygen) to vegetation, and influenced the thinking of both Boyle and Newton. He was a friend of Descartes, Oliver Cromwell, Francis Bacon and Christopher Wren and invented the method of glass-blowing used to make modern wine bottles. He spoke six languages and was a noted raconteur (or liar, according to some), and the holder of the monopoly on sealing-wax in Wales.

He married his childhood sweetheart, a courtesan named Venetia Stanley, but she died in her sleep aged 32 because of the viper wine that he gave her as a skin tonic - finding her dead in bed, Digby called van Dyck round to paint the portrait of her, apparently asleep, which is now in the Dulwich Picture Gallery.

He has been stigmatized as the proposer of a scheme for communicating with ships using 'Powder of Sympathy' or 'Wound Salve', an alchemical preparation which was supposed to cure wounds remotely by being applied to the knife which had caused the wound (or to bandages which had been used to dress it) rather than to the wound itself. The idea was that all ships would carry a dog which had been stabbed with the same knife. The knife would be plunged into this Powder every day at noon, and this would cause the dogs to yelp - so all British ships would know when it was noon in London, and so would be able to work out their longitude.

This scheme (which was never put into practice) is nowadays commonly attributed to Digby, although the earliest mention of it that anyone can find came in a pamphlet dated 1687, 20 years after his death. Digby did encounter the Powder of Sympathy and experimented with it - but the blame for his being erroneously linked with the naval dog suggestion seems to be attributable to none other than … Stephen Fry.

Stephen played the part of Sir Kenelm Digby in the BBC production of Dava Sobel's Longitude, and delivered this speech:

Now, it is vital to my process, Sir Edmund, that each dog be wounded with the same knife, as these three animals have been, under my instructions, some three days ago. Now, the animals are then to be conveyed aboard one of His Majesty's ships, uh, under the supervision of a designated officer, whose task it is to prevent the wound from healing. Now the knife, however, would remain here, in London, and at precisely noon, each day, is to be plunged into the Powder of Sympathy, which would immediately aggravate the wound, so that each dog, now matter how many thousands of miles away he may be on his particular vessel, would begin to howl... thus!

It is clear from the book that Sobel does not believe the idea to be Digby's, so this would seem to be a deliberate misrepresentation by the TV programme.

Having said this, it was perhaps not such a bizarre idea at the time. The question of how actions could be caused at a distance was the stuff of everyday philosophical speculation, particularly in light of the discovery of orbiting astral bodies.

I wonder if there's some way of sticking this to Stephen? Or should he just 'fess up?

Last edited by Flash on Sun Mar 12, 2006 1:06 pm; edited 1 time in total

59273.  Sun Mar 12, 2006 1:03 pm Reply with quote

Albert Digby was Dan Dare's comical Wigan-born batman.

59274.  Sun Mar 12, 2006 1:03 pm Reply with quote

Jane Digby (1807-1881) was an aristocratic English beauty who had many marriages and liaisons, resulting in 5 children from different fathers. Her first husband, the Earl of Ellenborough, went on to become Viceroy of India, while her last was a Bedouin named Sheikh Medjuel el Mezrab. (the other husbands and paramours were Sir Frederick Madden, Prince Felix zu Schwarzenberg, King Ludwig I of Bavaria, Freiherr Karl Theodore von Venningen-Ullner, Count Spiridion Theotoky (who fought the Freiherr in a duel when eloping with her), and Cristos Hadji-Petros, the leader of a band of Albanian brigands). This is the Sheikh, who was 20 years her junior:

Last edited by Flash on Sun Mar 12, 2006 4:15 pm; edited 1 time in total

59278.  Sun Mar 12, 2006 1:26 pm Reply with quote

Another Jane Digby was 'one of the most abandoned women in Trieste', and she made an abortive attempt upon the affections of Richard Burton (that Richard Burton, not the other one):

Like women of that class she was extravagant beyond belief, and consequently always in difficulties. Hearing the everlasting talk about Midian and its supposed gold, the depraved woman305 made up her mind to try to detach Burton’s affections from his wife and to draw them to herself. To accomplish this she relied not only on the attractions of her person, but also on glozing speeches and other feminine artifices. Having easy access to the house she purloined private letters, papers and other writings, and after all hope of recovery was over, she would put them back. She slipped love letters, purporting to be from other women, into Burton’s pockets; and whenever Mrs. Burton brushed his coat or dried his clothes she was sure to come upon them. Mrs. Burton also received pseudonymous letters.

But whatever Mrs. Burton’s faults, she, as we have seen, passionately loved, trusted and even worshipped her husband; and whatever Burton’s faults, he thoroughly appreciated her devotion. They were quite sufficient for each other, and the idea of anyone trying to come between them seemed ludicrous. Consequently Mrs. Burton carried her letters to her husband and he brought his to her. Amazing to say, neither of them suspected the culprit, though Burton thought it must be some woman’s intrigue, and that need of money was the cause of it.

The real truth of it did not come out till after Burton’s death, and then the unhappy woman, who was near her end, made Lady Burton a full confession, adding, “I took a wicked pleasure in your perfect trust in me.”

Thomas Wright
The Life of Sir Richard Burton

59284.  Sun Mar 12, 2006 1:49 pm Reply with quote

A number of Old English Sheepdogs have been used in Dulux ads over the years, but the quintessential one was Fernville Lord Digby. He had a chauffeur-driven car, the personal attentions of Barbara Woodhouse and three doubles for nude scenes, stunts, etc.

Mind you, I suppose all dogs who travel in cars have chauffeurs.

Has there ever been a more successful advertising campaign, in terms of the way lots of people now call these dogs 'Dulux dogs'?

Maybe in the sequence about doubles and decoys: we tell the story about Everard Digby and his heart, then ask

But why did Fernville Lord Digby need three doubles?

... which suggests a joke about large whiskies, for a forfeit.

Needs more work.

59293.  Sun Mar 12, 2006 2:11 pm Reply with quote

Digby was somewhat of a blade too, it seems.
Digby's most impressive work with the sword was performed not in a duel, but in a street fight in Madrid in the summer of 1623. On the evening of the day he arrived in that city, he dined at the home of his uncle, the Earl of Bristol, then England’s ambassador to Spain. By the time Digby was ready to return to his lodgings the hour was late and the streets were deserted. However, it was a clear night with a full moon, so Digby turned down the offer of an escort of torch-bearing servants in favor of walking with Lord Bristol’s son and another friend. As they strolled the streets, enjoying the cool serenity, they heard a woman singing on a balcony. Lord Bristol's son knew her, and as the three of them approached to listen, they were attacked by a party of fifteen armed men. An account of the combat is included in Digby's memoirs.

...which follows on that page. Sounds like a bit of a self-promoter...

59294.  Sun Mar 12, 2006 2:23 pm Reply with quote

Digby, Nova Scotia was recently voted Canada's Most Romantic Town.

In 1783 Digby was settled by a hearty band of United Empire Loyalists led by Rear Admiral, Sir Robert Digby, Captain of the HMS Atalanta, a 24 gun Brigantine, leading the North American Squadron.
In appreciation of Adm. Digby's leadership and guidance our early settlers from New York and New England named their new town in honour of their benefactor.

59335.  Sun Mar 12, 2006 4:36 pm Reply with quote

Using animals in your advertising, the way Dulux does, has the advantage that they don't bring your product into disrepute by being caught with a prostitute, but the disadvantage that the legal regime surrounding their use is more stringent than for human actors - unlike the humans, animals can't just be flushed down the loo once you're through with them. The flying pigs in the Zurich Financial Services ads have a permanent billet in an animal sanctuary ....

59337.  Sun Mar 12, 2006 4:38 pm Reply with quote

... which allows me to shoehorn into this thread the following, also thanks to Mat:

Lord Brabazon of Tara, aviation enthusiast, took a pig up in his plane in 1909 to ridicule the saying 'and pigs may fly'. "The poor creature was strapped into a bucket on which the slogan 'I am the first pig to fly' had been written." People mock the aristocracy, but you know, where would we be without them, eh?

(e-mail from Mat. Source: THE SUBTERRANEAN RAILWAY by Christian Wolmar (Atlantic Books, 2004), a history of the London underground).

59341.  Sun Mar 12, 2006 4:48 pm Reply with quote

Incidentally, the longitude problem was eventually solved by the creation of an accurate and seaworthy chronometer. In 1714, an Act of Parliament was passed, offering £20,000 for a method of finding longitude within 1/2°, £15,000 for 2/3° and £10,000 to within 1°. A clockmaker named John Harrison eventually solved the problem, although the Board of Longitude (chaired by Astronomer Royal Maskelyne, poss link to the WW2 decoy maestro), jibbed at awarding him the prize until the direct intervention of Prime Minister Lord North in 1773 - by which time Harrison was nearly 80 years old. The first four clocks he built for the trials are all on display, and running, in the lower floor of the Royal Observatory.

59420.  Mon Mar 13, 2006 5:32 am Reply with quote

Flash wrote:
unlike the humans, animals can't just be flushed down the loo once you're through with them

Seriously, you're allowed to do that to actors? Brilliant - what an excellent bit of legislation!

59422.  Mon Mar 13, 2006 5:40 am Reply with quote

Just remember to lift the seat first.

59438.  Mon Mar 13, 2006 7:00 am Reply with quote

Sir Kenelm Digby invented bacon & eggs, according to Mitch.

59652.  Tue Mar 14, 2006 7:40 am Reply with quote

Further to the Powders of Sympathy, above:

“Dogs were feared as possible carriers of rabies; sometimes even a healthy dog was killed if it had bitten someone, because of the belief that if the dog later developed rabies, even many years afterwards, the bitten person would also be afflicted. Remedies for the bite of a mad dog often included the patient being forced to eat a part of the dog in question, such as its hairs or a piece of its cooked liver. Dogs were also used to cure other illnesses; one old charm which was often used for childrens' illnesses was to take some of the patient's hairs and feed them to a dog inbetween slices of bread and butter; the ailment was believed to transfer to the animal, healing the patient.”


60404.  Fri Mar 17, 2006 7:23 am Reply with quote

“London’s first sandwich bar opened in 1919, when the travel writer Bassett Digby sold sandwiches with fillings of reindeer tongue, sheep's milk cheese, tuna and other delicacies opposite the New Statesman offices in Great Queen Street.”
- ‘The Compendium of Nosh’ by Jack McLean (John Murray 2006).

I can’t find another source for this, but if it can be confirmed it might make a question along the lines of what were the popular fillings in the first sandwich shops; I’m fairly sure “reindeer tongue” would be a rare guess.


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