Yesterday I started to retell the Rev. Samuel Peters’s anecdote about “a shoal of good old women” berating a minister from some Northeast port after he had preached in a rural town against bundling, implying that women who participated in that custom were “naughty.”
Invoking the newly fashionable sofa, the local women suggested that the minister preach that “a sopha is more dangerous than a bed.” And then things got ugly:
The poor priest, seemingly convinced of his blunder, exclaimed, “Nec vitia nostra, nec remedia pati possumus,” hoping hereby to get rid of his guests;…That’s a quotation from Livy: “We can bear neither our shortcomings nor the remedies for them.” I think the real meaning was: I’m a clergyman; I know Latin; so you ladies should stop bothering me.
…but an old matron pulled off her spectacles, and, looking the priest in his face like a Roman heroine, said, “Noli putare me haec auribus tuis dare.”From Trebonius to Cicero: “Don’t think I speak this only to your ears [i.e., to flatter you].” (Though in most editions I see hoc in place of Peters’s haec.) Additional meaning: Don’t assume that we women are ignorant and easily cowed!
Others cried out to the priest to explain his Latin. “The English,” said he, “is this: Wo is me that I sojourn in Meseck, and dwell in the tents of Kedar![”]Psalm 120.
One pertly retorted, Gladii decussati sunt gemina presbyteri clavis.And I can’t find a source for that line. It may mean, “Crossed swords are double the key of priests” or “are twins of the key of priests.” Anyone?
The priest confessed his error, begged pardon, and promised never more to preach against Bundling, or to think amiss of the custom; the ladies generously forgave him, and went away.Peters was a Loyalist in the Revolution, but he later came back to live in Vermont and New York. Connecticut authors of the 1800s spent a lot of pages arguing that he made up most of his claims about their colony’s bundling, blue laws, and other customs out of political spite. But does contemporaneous evidence support Peters’s claims?
TOMORROW: When did sofas become common in America?