June 28, 2016

In my role as manuscripts cataloger, I get to experience the joy of encountering new and different material every day. A recent acquisition that came across my desk was a handwritten manuscript compiled by William Hustler for Jane Fell (the two wed in 1796), titled Salmagundi: A Miscellaneous Combination of Original Poetry Consisting of Amatory, Elegiac, Sonnets, and Other Palatable Ingredients.

Title page of Hustler's Salmagundi, with the note 'Written by William Hustler for Jane Fell" also visible.

I wondered what on earth “salmagundi” meant; I had never heard the word before. In my effort to better understand the context surrounding this manuscript, I found that “salmagundi” is a salad made up of a variety of disparate ingredients.

But what does a salad have to do with poetry? William Sayers’ look into the etymology of the word notes “The apparently indeterminate ingredients […] quickly led to figurative use [of the word] as a synonym for a hodge-podge.”1 Hustler’s Salmagundi is just that, a hodge-podge of poetry, odes, elegies, and more by various authors including John Gay, the Della Cruscans, and Mary Locke, among others. Stanford University Libraries has several other similar works featuring mixtures of different types of writing (though these are published, not handwritten), including Salmagundi; a miscellaneous combination of original poetry: consisting of illusions of fancy; amatory, elegiac, lyrical, epigrammatical and other palatable ingredients and “Salmagundi; or, The whim-whams and opinions of Launcelot Langstaff, esq. and others.”

William Hustler and Jane Fell had three children, and it appears this volume was passed down in the family from Jane to her daughter Sarah Hustler, then to Juliet Mary Fox, and finally on to Fell’s great-granddaughter Millicent Evelyn Backhouse, whose name is on the inside cover of the volume.

I hope that you’ll explore this lovely, lovingly-written volume, perhaps whetting your appetite with a single ode, and satiating yourself with the rest of the lyrics, elegies, and other writings.

1Sayers, W. (2012). Salmagundi. Notes & Queries, 59(3), 335-337.