• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • You already know Dokkio is an AI-powered assistant to organize & manage your digital files & messages. Very soon, Dokkio will support Outlook as well as One Drive. Check it out today!



Page history last edited by aliyah alleyne 6 years, 11 months ago


'Of medicines, food, or beverages: Stimulating, ‘comforting’, or invigorating the heart; restorative, reviving, cheering'  


The Oxford English Dictionary's definition of cordial is very similar to that given by Samuel Johnson. However, eighteenth-century cordial was very different from the concentrated soft drink that we are accustomed to today. According to Samuel Johnson’s Eighth Edition of A Dictionary of the English Language (1792),cordial in the Eighteenth Century was (232);


Fig.1- Eighteenth-century definition of Cordial given by Samuel Johnson who was known for writing the first complete English dictionary.


First and foremost, cordial was a medicine which could be used to help treat ailments of the heart or circulation, with invigorating and restorative properties. However, the third definition of cordial suggest that the term could also be used to describe ‘anything that comforts, gladdens, and exhilarates’. This suggests that in the eighteenth century, cordial was a broad term for any drink that had an effect on the body or mind.


It is widely believed that cordial originated from Italy and France in the Renaissance period, and the art of distillation is one that had been present long before the eighteenth century, as it was brought to Europe from Asia in the Early Medieval Period (Cook,10). In the fifteenth century, the extraction process was added to distillation, allowing physicians or apothecaries to extract plant essences to create powerful medicines. Before the eighteenth century, cordials were a primarily medicinal beverage to be taken in small doses. However, the eighteenth century saw the rise in popularity of cordial, and the social implications that accompany it. Furthermore, the intoxicating and invigorating properties of cordial led to a progression from the medicinal to the recreational. This page will explore both the medicinal and recreational uses of cordial in the eighteenth century, and will look to define its purpose, consumption and signification in eighteenth-century culture and literature both on a domestic and professional scale.



Preparation of Cordial

Cordial is rather an umbrella term for a variety of drinks that were all made slightly differently. However, the principles of cordial-making were fairly consistent and had been a staple part of the English drink industry and culture since at least the thirteenth century. On a commercial or professional scale, making cordial could be a long and laborious process, although it was also something that could be, and was often made domestically. In George Dodd's The Food of London, he claims that the making of cordial by the nineteenth century was 'more frequently the handiwork of some Lady Bountiful, some housewife more than the ordinarily clever in domestic economy, than of the manufacturers who prepare them for sale' (498). This could be because in the eighteenth century, the market for professionally made medicinal cordial was declining rapidly, while the demand for recreational beverages began to boom.


The first step in making cordial was to source the natural ingredients. Herbalism had been an integral aspect of medicinal treatment long before the eighteenth century and despite the declining demand for medicinal cordial, the majority of botanical ingredients used to make it were still chosen for their supposed health benefits (Bryant,5). These ingredients varied widely depending on cost and availability. Many were relatively inexpensive and easily sourced in England during the eighteenth century, thus establishing cordial as a popular drink amongst all classes. However, some ingredients, such as Cinnamon and aniseed had to be imported, making cordials that contained them more of a luxury beverage. As cordial-making was at its peak in the eighteenth-century, so was the rise in literature detailing the process and explaining the ingredients used, along with the wealth of medicinal benefits that they supposedly possessed. George Smith's A compleat body of distilling, explaining the mysteries of that science, in a most easy and familiar manner, containing an exact and accurate Method of making all the Compound Cordial-Waters currently in use with a particular account of their several virtues is a popular example of this and provides several recipes for eighteenth-century cordial. Some of the most popular ingredients used to make cordial in the eighteenth century according to George Smith are listed below;


Apples- known to refresh and invigorate the sick.


Cinnamon - ease palpitations of the heart, as well as comforting the stomach (107). See Cinnamon for more information on Cinnamon and its use in the eighteenth century.


Cardamom- helps to ease cholic and is cheaper than cinnamon or aniseed. If drunk warm, it was believed that Cardamom Water could dry up excess moisture or vapour in the body (143).


Peel of Lemon or Oranges- Citrus peel was a popular ingredient in cordial in the eighteenth century (28). However, it could be a costly addition due to the costs associated with importing citrus fruits. It was believed that citrus peel could invigorate and strengthen the stomach and brain, thus reviving and refreshing a person from their ailment when drunk. Its acidic taste meant that it needed to be mixed with Sugar or figs to sweeten the cordial to make it more palatable. See Oranges for more information on sourcing and using Oranges in the eighteenth century.


Nutmeg- This was not as popular in cordial as some other ingredients were, which could be due to the costs and availability issues that were associated with importing spices in the eighteenth century. However, Nutmeg made cordial much more palatable and was known for being particularly effective in treating nervous cases. Its warming effect was believed to strengthen eyesight and memory (43).


Rosa Solis- Rosa Solis was believed to be an aphrodisiac and was used to create cordials whose purpose were to warm up or excite the body of those who drank it. However, it could also be used to relieve headaches or phlegm in the lungs (145).


Salvia Sclarea (Clary Plant)- The Clary Plant had been grown in England for over two hundred years and was often eaten boiled with butter. However it was also used in making cordial and was believed to be excellent at countering against hysterical disorders (Bryant, 108)


Susannah Blamire's poem Stoklewath, or the Cumbrian Village also recognises the use of botanical ingredients to make cordial. When walking through the fields and orchards, the speaker of the poem recognises various plants and refers to them as 'the doctor of the field' for their ability to 'physic yield'. This suggests that the use of plants and herbs to make cordial was widely recognised in the eighteenth century, and that the ingredients were often easily sourced through foraging.


Where the clear stream its useful tenor holds,
24  And the shorn flocks come whiten'd from the folds;
25  Where on each side the cottages are seen,
26  Which orchards shelter, and which poplars screen;
27  There many an apple, in autumnal pride,
28  Glows with red cheek, and blushes side by side;
29  Which with nice care is lock'd in oaken chest,
30  Till Christmas comes, and tarts draw out the feast.
31  Nor does the garden useful herbs deny,
32  Fenc'd round with thorns that point their spears on high;
33  There the thyme blows, from which brown bees distil
34  The sweets that all their waxen storehouse fill.
35  The parsley next extends its useful row,
36  And marjorum sweet is ever taught to grow;
37  Next balm, and sage, and hyssop, physic yield,
38  With cordial mint, the doctor of the field.
39  There spreading cabbage all their strength produce,
40  And take firm root to stand for winter's use.
41  Carrots and turnips Sunday-feasts supply,
42  Till blest potatoes meet the thankful eye.
43  There the tall pea in stately grandeur stalks,
44  And humbler bean midst her own fragrance walks.
45  The ripening currant many a warbler brings,
46  'Mongst whom the blackbird spreads his sooty wings.


Fig.2 Excerpt of Stoklewath or, the Cumbrian Village acknowledging several ingredients for their ability to make cordial



For domestic production, these herbs and spices were boiled or infused in Sugar and water, and then steeped in alcohol for several days to allow the flavours to infuse, creating a potent concentrate. In regards to mass or commercial production, cordial ingredients were most commonly placed distilled or fermented over time to create a more potent liquid. Distilling the cordials often resulted in a much smoother, less cloudy, and more palatable cordial. As this was undoubtedly a much more expensive and time consuming process, distilling was reserved to the mass production, sale and consumption of cordials, and was used primarily by physicians and apothecaries. It is possible to infer from this that professionally made cordials were more frequently for medicinal use, and domestic cordials more suited to meet the needs of recreational demand.



Figure.3- Image showing a drawing of an Eighteenth-Century distillery used for making Cordials. The extensive list of equipment suggests that this is a complex process that would not be suitable for domestic production of cordial. (Smith), Historical Texts


There were certain cordials that appear to be particularly popular in the eighteenth-century. This could quite simply be because they were sold and thus were accompanied by printed literature in the form of pamphlets, newspapers or chronicles. These were advertisements as such, detailing the important properties and ingredients of cordial and were used to promote their sale and usage in the eighteenth century. Dr Solomon's Cordial Balm of Gilead is an example of this, as is Golden Cordial. Golden Cordial was one of the most popular cordials in the eighteenth century, and could be made at home as well as in shops. Unlike other mass produced cordials, Golden Cordial was not made using the distillation method. Instead, the ingredients are muddled or shaken together in a bottle with the addition of proof-spirits, and were then sweetened and drawn off to produce a cordial, making it also suitable for domestic production where distillation technology was not available. George Smith’s A Compleat body of Distilling, explaining the mysteries of that science, in a most easy and familiar manner details that burnt sugar should then be added to Golden Cordial before it is bottled or sold (32). As the burnt sugar was little more than a colouring to the cordial, this suggests that Golden Cordial was commercially produced and sold in the eighteenth century and thus needed to look more appealing or attractive to customers. Golden Cordial was believed to encourage a softening and smoothing of the body and mind, and could be drunk or used as an emollient or lubricant. The settling nature of Golden Cordial meant that it could be used to sooth sickness or nausea, and was believed to even out the humours of the body. 




Consumption of Cordial

Cordial was a very versatile liquid and could be administered in a variety of ways. The eighteenth century was a period of transitioning for cordial, as medicinal cordial syrups began to fall out of fashion, but the concentrated soft drink more akin to that which we recognise today would not come to fruition until the mid-nineteenth century. When medicinal cordial was produced or sold, it was often accompanied with a printed pamphlet detailing its ingredients, benefits and instructions regarding dosage. These are particularly helpful in examining consumption patterns of cordial in the eighteenth century.



Fig.4 Front cover of Daffey's instruction manual for cordial. (Historical texts)


Directions given by Anthony Daffey for taking the safe, innocent and successful Cordial Drink called Elixir Salutis gives instructions for the consumption of a medicinal cordial in the eighteenth century. According to Daffey, cordial should be taken in small dosages, such as common medicine is administered today. By taking up to three teaspoons before going to bed, Daffey claims that Elixir Salutis can cure many illnesses including constipation, kidney stones or scurvy (3). However, Daffey warns against excessive consumption of cordial, stating that it could have an adverse effect on the body and could in fact, be fatal (3). This suggests that there was an awareness of the abuse of cordial in the eighteenth century, and that is was discouraged by those who produced or advocated medicinal cordial. However, there was also no real difference in ingredients between the types of cordials used as medicine and those used for social drinking.


By the end of eighteenth-century, consumption of cordial had turn more towards being recreational rather than medicinal, thus consumption shifted to diluting Cordial in order to make it more palatable and enjoyable to drink. This is more akin to the cordial that we know and use today. Cordial could be diluted with a variety of different liquids, such as water or TeaHowever in the eighteenth century, it was most popularly diluted with alcohols such as Wine , Gin, Beer or Brandy (Stoughton,1) This was in addition to the alcohol content of the concentrated cordial itself, thus making a potent and intoxicating beverage. However this also meant that the medicinal benefits that cordial proposed were reduced as well.


Cordial was often drunk in specifically created cordial glasses. Cordial glasses are long stemmed with a round funnel-shaped bowl and they were often highly decorative and ornate. However it is also worth noting that cordial glasses do not hold a significant amount of liquid in them and this could have been in an attempt to limit excessive consumption of these drinks. The production of cordial glasses reached their peak in the eighteenth century due to the growing popularity of drinking cordial as a social convention. These glasses were a refined version of the heavy baluster glasses that had been used in the seventeenth century. As this glass-making technology was fairly new, and cordial glasses were often very intricately decorated, they are more associated with the social convention of drinking cordial by the upper classes, as opposed to the working class which really established cordial's popularity in the eighteenth century. However, these glasses were also used for the evolving liqueur market which was more popular amongst the upper classes in the eighteenth century, thus while these are called cordial glasses, it could be inferred that they were used more frequently for drinking liqueurs.



Fig.5 Image of cordial glasses showing the variety and intricacy of design, Victoria and Albert Museum




A glass of cordial a day keeps the Doctor away...

Cordial comes from the Latin stem cor- meaning heart. In its first usage, cordial was a word of medicinal origin. Early cordials were made to be used as medicines for ailments of the heart. This certainly resonated throughout the eighteenth century, as the majority of cordials advertised claimed to treat dispositions of the heart of nervous system. However, the eighteenth century also gave rise to the practise of social drinking, and this encouraged the consumption of cordial as a recreational drink.


Commercially made cordials were usually advertised in newspapers or pamphlets that detailed their medicinal properties, and frequently included testimonials from those that were supposedly cured of their nervous dispositions after drinking the advertised cordial. The majority of these advertisements claim that the patient turned to drinking cordial after having no avail with 'Public Medicine', thus we can infer that there was a demand for alternative medicine in the eighteenth century, potentially due to the inadequacies of public medicine. Samuel Solomon's An account of that most excellent Medicine the Cordial Balm of Gilead is a useful example of this type of advertising for Cordial in the Eighteenth Century.




Fig.6 Front page of a pamphlet for Dr. Solomon's Cordial Balm of Gilead, Historical Texts. This type of literature was popular in the eighteenth century and served as advertising for medicinal cordials.



The Cordial Balm of Gilead was made and sold as a medicine rather than a recreational soft drink, claiming to yield a host of benefits and cures for those who drink it. Solomon claims that the Cordial Balm of Gilead can be taken daily, not dissimilarly to modern vitamins. For the young, this cordial offers lasting health, strength and spirits, akin to the invigorating definition of cordial. For the aged and infirm, taking this cordial daily was believed to provide comfort and relief (2). The Cordial Balm of Gilead is thus a medicinal rather than recreational cordial in its definition, as it boasts invigorating and comforting properties. Taken as a medicine, Dr. Solomon's Cordial Balm of Gilead claims to be able to cure all manner of ailments from fevers, asthma, and consumptive habits to easing the discomfort of those who have drunk too much alcohol the evening before or have partaken in licentious love (4). As these forms of literature were used to promote the cordial, it is worth noting that a level of subjectivity is prevalent. Dr. Solomon even goes as far as to say that 'if it be in the power of medicine to gild the autumn of declining years, and calmly and serenely protract the close of life beyond its narrow span, this restorative is capable of effecting that grand desideratum' (2). Regardless of any medicinal properties that cordial might possess, it is undoubtedly an exaggeration to suggest that it can prolong life, thus the authenticity and accuracy of information is questionable. However, we can infer from this that in order to sell cordial, one had to boast, or even invent its benefits and properties. Perhaps this is because there were so many cordials being sold in circulation that it was necessary to compete with one another for sales, thus exaggerating its medicinal properties could help encourage customers.


However, the true medicinal benefits of cordial in the eighteenth century are unknown and are highly debatable and not everyone believed in the power of domestic medicine. Dr. Solomon seems to acknowledge this in his work, stating that 'Let it not be objected, that because this medicine appears to be prescribed for many disorders, that it can be good for none' (3). Due to the alcohol content of most Cordials, it is possible that the supposed effects of drinking cordial on the nervous system are those attributed to intoxication rather than any true medicinal merit.


Doctor in his last Chariot, is a comedy criticising private medicine in the eighteenth century. Prudence suggests that Aliwou'd see a professional doctor rather than resorting to 'quacks' that make 'universal balm restorative cordial, that turns water into asses milk' (I.iii). Prudence compares cordial production to that of shoe-making, saying that 'if I wanted a pair of shoes, I would rather go to an established shoemaker, than lay out my money at a Yorkshire warehouse' (I.iii). This is particularly helpful in understanding the tension between public and private medicine, as the apparent lack of legislature dictating the production, sale or consumption of cordial meant that in the eighteenth century, a person without any medical qualifications or training could sell cordial under the guise of it being medicinal.  At the end of the play, Dr. Last is confirmed to be the 'quack' he is suspected of being, as when he is accused of poisoning Aliwou'd, he reveals that his famous cordial is nothing more than chalk and vinegar, much to the outrage of Aliwou'd who has been drinking it as he believed it cured him of all dispositions he may have had (III.xii). The ingredients used in cordial were chosen for their supposed medicinal benefits as well as their taste and availability, however these benefits could not be scientifically proven leading some to doubt their supposed abilities. In Susanna Centlivre's A Bold Stroke for a Wife, Periwinkle also conveys cynicism towards the effect of Cordials by saying;



Fig.7 excerpt from A Bold Stroke for a Wife showcasing eighteenth-century cynicism towards cordial, The Broadview Anthology of Restoration and Early Eighteenth-Century Drama


From this we can infer that while Cordial was often considered private medicine, for some it was expensive and did not possess any advantages that one could not obtain from drinking straight alcohol on its own .


In John Gay's The Beggar's Opera, cordial is drunk for both its supposed restorative and intoxicating properties. When Peachum and Mrs Peachum discover that Polly has secretly married Macheath, Mrs Peachum flies into a sort of hysteria, causing Peachum to demand that Polly fetch her a glass of cordial, claiming that it ‘is the only comfort your mother has left’.(I.viii, 2797) The idea of an attachment or addiction to cordial is something that is also prevalent across the eighteenth century.

Fig.8 image showing a song taken from The Beggar's Opera showing an awareness of the intoxicating properties of drinking cordial, or Strong Waters, The Norton Anthology of English Literature


The above extract taken from The Beggar's Opera shows an awareness of the intoxicating properties of cordial, which suggests that although many cordials in the eighteenth century were bottled, sold, and even likely purchased under the guise of being medicinal, they were also drunk for social purposes. Alternatively, the belief that cordial could cure almost all nervous dispositions may lend to its addictiveness. This can be seen in Polly’s response to her mother, in which she says that ‘my mama drinks double the quantity whenever she is out of order. This, you see, fetches her’ (I.viii, 2797).


Social Convention and the Gendering of Cordial in the Eighteenth Century

In the eighteenth century, the drinking of cordial was undoubtedly associated more frequently with women than men and there are a variety of possible explanations for this. Firstly, the majority of the illnesses associated with the medicinal aspect of cordial were commonly attributed to Women. Galen's theory of the Four Humours was widely believed and practiced in Early Modern and Renaissance England, at a time when medicinal cordial was at its height. Women were associated with the cold, wet humours and so medicines for women sought to oppose this. Medicinal cordials were renowned for being warming and invigorating, whilst also absorbing excess liquid in the body, thus making it the perfect remedy for balancing a woman's humours. Whilst belief in the Four Humours had begun to fall out of fashion by the eighteenth century, the precedent was already set and the humours were still used in prescribing and administering medicine (Baldwyn,177). Hysteria, fevers, and madness have long been classed as women's illnesses (The Female Physician, 495). As many cordials were made to relieve such nervous dispositions, it is evident that they are thus linked with women rather than men.


This belief that Cordial was a female gendered beverage is also evident in eighteenth-century literature. The West Indian by Richard Cumberland is an example of this.



Fig.9 extract of The West Indian in which the characters discuss the gendering of cordial


When Lady Rusport falls out of her chariot, Lucy offers to fetch her a glass of cordial to calm and restore her. When Lucy brings in ‘the cordial restorative elixir, or the nervous golden drops’(II.ii, 405), she tells Major O'Flaherty that they are solely for use by women. While this clearly shows the gendering of cordial in the eighteenth century, O'Flaherty argues against this by saying that men suffer from the same illnesses as women and so drinking cordial would be beneficial to men too. This is somewhat of a controversial argument to make in the eighteenth century, as it suggests that men are prone to the same supposed "weaknesses" as women, however it could signify that cordial was rising in popularity amongst men as well as women in the eighteenth century.


Furthermore. the social convention of drinking cordial is one that is associated with women in the eighteenth century. Cordial was a drink that women kept and drank in their private chamber and this can be seen in John Gay's The Beggar's Opera. Both Mrs Peachum and Lucy describe cordial as part of their ‘private drinking’ (I.vi,2826), which is kept secret from the public drinking in cafes and tavern houses that Macheath and the other men in the play partake in. Lucy in The Beggar's Opera even suggests that there is a value attributed to a Women’s private collection of Cordial in her closet. Scene II of Sheridan's The Rivals also details the many components of a lady's dressing room, which includes a bottle of cordial drops similar to those in The West Indian (I.ii,81) What we can infer from this is that in the eighteenth century, recreational drinking of cordial was a notable aspect of female culture, which was kept separate from male culture. In Gay's The Beggar's Opera, a comparison is made between women and cordial and men and the culture of Brandy drinking (III,x,2827). Just as Brandy offered men the opportunity to gossip such as Edward Ward satirises in The London Spy, women were able to talk freely while drinking cordial (54).  


Fig.10 Picture showing an eighteenth-century ladies dressing room. Note the cordial glasses on the left side of the print, Victoria and Albert Museum


Conduct Literature not only taught women proper manners and moral behaviour, but many also taught the domestic skills and values which were considered invaluable to every good-standing woman in the eighteenth century. In this sense, The Whole duty of a Woman or, an infallible guide to the Fair Sex details various recipes for popular cordials that the author believed a woman should be able to make. The author calls the group of recipes 'Cordials for the closet' (666) which further supports the idea that women drunk cordial in their private chambers. Thus, it is evident that women were the primary producers of domestic or recreational cordial and that making cordial was a respected and valued aspect of a woman's domestic attributes.



Fig.11 image showing recipes for cordial taken from an eighteenth-century conduct book, Historical Texts



A dangerous beverage?

The eighteenth century proved to be a transition for cordial between the drink solely being sold and used as a medicine, to the recreational soft drink that we recognise today. The alcohol used in both the production and dilution of cordial, combined with the sweet and pleasant taste made it an appealing recreational drink. However, its intoxicating attributes and availability made cordial an addictive and dangerous beverage for those who could not afford the luxury of more expensive liquors or wines. Alcohol consumption reached new heights in the eighteenth century, and cordial and spirits were particularly popular due to the rising tax of beer. As alcohol consumption rose, so did alcohol dependency and whilst cordial reached peak popularity in the eighteenth century, that is not to say that they did not have opposition. Many believed that the medicinal origins of cordial had been abused and corrupted as an excuse for people to become inebriated.



Fig.12 Front page of a petition submitted to parliament concerning the abuse of cordials in the eighteenth-century, Historical Texts


This petition to parliament made in 1720 details someone's grievances with the growing consumption and apparent abuse of Strong Waters. The author suggests that there are no regulations governing the consumption of cordial, which has caused 'tumults, disorders and complaints' (Anon,9). The lack of literature regarding regulation or legislation of cordial certainly seems to agree with the author's belief that there were not any in the eighteenth century. This partition conveys the uncontrollability of cordial and suggests that many people abused its intoxicating properties through excessive consumption (10). Furthermore, the author states that many women have been neglecting their children and domestic responsibilities in favour of drinking strong waters, and that many have even been selling their valuables to buy cordial (10). The petition also states that those who enjoy these types of beverages are often those of bad, or common character (11), which supports the idea that cordials were the drinks of the lower classes in the eighteenth century. However, it is worth noting that the term 'strong waters' was used interchangeably for both cordial and alcohol in general. Thus, while these sources can tell us of the potentially dangerous effects of drinking or abusing cordial, it is possible that they are in fact talking about alcohol without cordial in it. This is still be useful in examining rising alcoholism in the eighteenth century, and can help to explain the anti-alcohol sentiment that rose in nineteenth-century England.


Gay also draws attention to the potentially harmful nature of cordial in The Beggar's Opera, as Macheath claims that ‘strong waters will in time ruin your constitution’ (II,iv,2806). As with any alcohol, excessive drinking of cordial over long periods of time could be detrimental to a person's health, despite being advertised as a medicine. However it must also be noted that while all of the people in this scene are drinking, Macheath's comment is directly aimed at the women drinking cordial. As women were the primary consumers of cordial, and their composition was believed to be weaker than that of their male counterparts in both mind and body, people in the eighteenth century were conscious of the dangerous effects of drinking of cordial, and this may have contributed to the turn towards recreational soft drinks in the nineteenth century. Furthermore, Lucy uses a glass of cordial in her attempt to poison Polly under the guise that her ‘strong waters’ will raise Polly’s low spirits. Polly believes that Lucy is using the Cordial to get her drunk so that she will reveal secrets about Macheath, however, the reality of Lucy’s actions is much more sinister (III,vii,2825).  


The supposed medicinal benefits of cordial, contrasted with its addictive and intoxicating properties were also subject to criticism in eighteenth-century literature. The Doctor Last in his Chariot by Isaac Bickerstaff and Samuel Foote is a comedy mocking those who drink cordial based on a translation of Molière's La Malade Imaginaire. The play's protagonist Aliwou'd is a comic hypochondriac who has become dependant on drinking cordial as he believes it cures him of his ailments. Aliwou'd even claims that he can 'feel the bad effects on his emission' as it has been 'three hours and two minutes since [ he] last took it; and don't you know the prescription says every three hours' (I,iii). When challenged about the effects of cordial, Aliwou'd argues that if cordials were not effective, then they would not be so popular in eighteenth-century culture, even saying that King George III has given royal letters patent to cordials as he believed in their medicinal abilities. This suggests a certain level of ignorance amongst cordial drinkers, who claim, or pretend to claim that drinking cordial recreationally is beneficial to their health. 





On a Gentleman who ran mad with Love of a Physician's Daughter. Jeffreys, George, 1678-1755  


Employ'd to cure a love-distracted Swain, 
   The boasted aid of Hellebore is vain; 
  None but the Fair the storm she rais'd, can calm;  
Her smiles the cordial, and her tears the balm:  
  In Cynthia 's bosom dwells the Magic pow'r, 

   Sov'reign to heal, and vital to restore:  
But, oh! what medicine e'er could reach the heart?  
   The Daughter's eyes have foil'd the Father's art:  
For, matchless were the learn'd Physician's skill,  
   If he could save as fast as she can kill.






Primary Sources


Baldwyn, George Augustus, A New, Royal, Authentic, Complete, Universal system of Geography or: A Modern History and Description of the Whole World, (London, 1794) p.177 [https://data.historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/view?pubId=eccoii-1365700100&pageId=eccoii-1365700100-1770&terms=women%20humours%20health%20galen&date=1700-1800&undated=exclude&pageTerms=women%20humours%20health%20galen] This source is like an encyclopaedia of history and geography in the eighteenth century. It was helpful in obtaining some background on eighteenth-century opinion of Galen's four humours.


Bate, George, Pharmacopoeia Botanea, (Published by S. Smith and B. Walford, London, 1694) p.59 [https://data.historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/view?pubId=eebo-ocm12256262e&pageId=eebo-ocm12256262e-57532-59&terms=this%20rightly%20made%20is%20a%20great%20cordial%20both%20the%20spirit%20and%20the%20extract&pageTerms=this%20rightly%20made%20is%20a%20great%20cordial%20both%20the%20spirit%20and%20the%20extract

This source describes botanic ingredients and their medicinal properties and so was particularly helpful when compiling a list of ingredients used to make eighteenth-century cordials.


Bickstaff, Isaac and Foote, Samuel, Doctor Last in his Chariot, 1769, (Chadwyck Healey, Cambridge, 1996) [http://0-literature.proquest.com.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/searchFulltext.do?id=Z000057917&childSectionId=Z000057917&divLevel=0&queryId=2978311811029&trailId=15A1E1D06EB&area=drama&forward=textsFT&queryType=findWork]

This play is a comedy that was performed in the Theatre Royal and conveys eighteenth-century cynicism towards cordial. This was particularly useful for analysing opinion on cordial as the majority of other sources are written by cordial-makers themselves and thus may not be accurate.


Blamire, Susannah, Stoklewath: or, the Cumbrian Village, in The Poetical Works, (1842)[ http://0-literature.proquest.com.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/searchFulltext.do?id=Z200282557&childSectionId=Z200282557&divLevel=2&queryId=2978311810993&trailId=15A1E1D06EB&area=poetry&forward=textsFT&queryType=findWork#Hit6]

A poem detailing some common cordial ingredients and emphasising their availability in the eighteenth century.


Bryant, Charles, Flora Diactetica: or, History of Esculent Plants, Both Domestic and Foreign. (Printed for B.White, London) 1783 [https://data.historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/view?pubId=eccoii-1396100900&pageId=eccoii-1396100900-10&terms=recipe%20%20cordial&date=1700-1800&undated=exclude&pageTerms=recipe%20%20cordial] Source relaying the history of herbalism in England, including the medicinal benefits of a variety of different plants and herbs that were used in making cordial in the eighteenth century.


Centlivre, Susannah, 'A Bold Stroke for a Wife', in The Broadview Anthology of Restoration and Early-Eighteenth Century Drama, ed. by J. Douglas Canfield, (Peterborough, Ont: Boradview,2001) p.918 A play conveying cynicism towards cordial.


Cumberland, Richard, 'The West Indian' in British Theatre comprising Tragedies, Comedies, Operas and Farces from the most classic writers by Owen Williams (Leipsic, Brunswick), 1828,pg.404 [https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=FcVOAAAAcAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false]

This play gives an example of the gendering of cordial in eighteenth-century literature. However, this gendering is also contested making it a particularly interesting source.


Daffey, Ellen, Directions given by Anthony Daffey, for taking the safe, innocent, and successful cordial drink called Elixir Salutis, truly prepared by me Ellen Daffey, now living in the Square in Salisbury-Court, in the house that was formerly Dr. Brown's near Fleet Street, a large Golden Ball being over the Gate, (Publisher unknown, 1700) [https://data.historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/view?pubId=eebo-99897283e&terms=cordial%20dose&date=1700-1800&undated=exclude&pageTerms=cordial%20dose&pageId=eebo-99897283e-137002-1] Pamphlet containing instructions for taking a medicinal cordial.


Dodd, George, The Food of London, a sketch of the chief varieties, sources of supply, probable quantities, modes of arrival, processes of manufacture, suspected adulteration, and machinery of distribution or The Food for a Community of Two Millions and a Half, (Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, London),1856 Pg.498 [https://archive.org/stream/foodlondonasket00doddgoog#page/n514/mode/2up/search/more+frequently] 

While this source is of Nineteenth-Century origin, it was helpful to show the lasting prevalence of cordial and the change in production, distribution and consumption from the Eighteenth Century.


Gay, John, 'The Beggar's Opera', in The Norton Anthology of English Literature, 9th edn., ed. by Stephen Greenblatt, Vol C: The Restoration and Eighteenth Century, ed. by James Noggle and Lawrence Lipking, (New York, Norton, 2012) This play provided the inspiration for this wiki page. After reading, I was struck by how important of a role cordial played in the lives of these characters and was interested in finding out more about cordial in the eighteenth century.


Jeffreys, George, On a Gentleman who ran mad with love of a physicians daughter, 1754

Although I have not analysed this poem, I felt that it ended the wiki page nicely as it summarised the medicinal benefits of cordial, but also presented the appeal of cordial that could be linked to its recreational drinking.


Johnson, Robert, Praxis Medicicinae or the Practice of Physick Reformed being an Epitome of the whole art, (Brabazon Aylmer at the Three Pigeons in Cornhill, London) 1700, Pg.77 [https://data.historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/view?pubId=eebo-99828303e&pageId=eebo-99828303e-32730-1&terms=cordial%20ingredients&date=1700-1800&undated=exclude&pageTerms=cordial] Source detailing the health benefits of Apples.


Johnson, Samuel, A dictionary of the English Language, in which the words are deduced from their originals, explained in their original meanings and authorised by the names of the writers in whose works they are found, eighth editions, (printed for A. Millar, W. Law and B. Carter, London), 1792. pg.232 [https://data.historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/view?pubId=ecco-1056100101&terms=samuel%20johnson%20dictionary&pageTerms=cordial&pageId=ecco-1056100101-2320]

This was an incredibly useful starting point in my research of cordial as it allowed me to understand the meaning of cordial in the eighteenth century, compared to that of now. Samuel Johnson's dictionary is regarded as the first authoritative English Dictionary.


Sheridan, Richard, 'The Rivals', in The Dramatic Works of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Vol.1, (Oxford,2014), p.81

The famous dressing room scene was useful in emphasising that women regarded cordial as an aspect of their private drinking.


Smith, George, A compleat body of distilling, explaining the mysteries of that science, in a most easy and familiar manner, containing an exact and accurate Method of making all the Compound Cordial-Waters currently in use with a particular account of their several virtues, third edition, (Printed for Henry Liltot, London) 1738.[https://data.historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/view?pubId=ecco-0703500300&terms=A%20compleat%20body%20of%20distilling&date=1700-1800&undated=exclude&pageTerms=cordial&pageId=ecco-0703500300-20] A comprehensive guide to cordial in the eighteenth century. This details all of the main ingredients and recipes for popular cordials in the Eighteenth Century and was very useful in understanding the process of making cordial.


Smith, George, The Nature of Fermentation explained, with the method of opening the body of any grain or vegetable subject, so as to obtain from it a spirituous liquor, (Printed for Bernard Lintot, London, 1729) p.40 [https://data.historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/view?pubId=ecco-0542400500&pageId=ecco-0542400500-400&terms=a%20cordial%20medicine&date=1700-1800&undated=exclude&pageTerms=a%20cordial%20medicine] Same author as above meant that George Smith was a fairly authoritative figure on cordial-making in the eighteenth-century that his work was generally reliable and useful. 


Solomon, Samuel, An Account of that most excellent medicine the Cordial Balm of Gilead which is prepared only by S. Solomon, M.D., (printed by John Fletcher,1799 [https://data.historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/view?pubId=ecco-0216401100&terms=a%20cordial%20medicine&date=1700-1801&undated=exclude&pageTerms=a%20cordial%20medicine&pageId=ecco-0216401100-20] Pamphlet containing information about a well known cordial in the eighteenth century. This source was interesting in that it was created to persuade people to buy cordial, and so its information and claims could be wildly inaccurate or biased.


Stoughton, Richard, Pray vouchsafe it the reading over elixir stomachicum: or the great cordial elixir for the stomach, (Publisher unknown, London) 1700[https://data.historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/view?pubId=eebo-ocm99888785e&terms=a%20cordial%20medicine&date=1700-1800&undated=exclude&pageTerms=a%20cordial%20medicine&pageId=eebo-ocm99888785e-196000-1] Another source detailing a recipe for cordial. These were helpful or comparing and distinguishing between cordials in the eighteenth century. 


Ward, Edward, The London Spy compleat in eighteen parts, (printed for J.How and sold by Eliphal Jay, London) 1702, pg.54 [https://data.historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/view?pubId=eccoii-1490000900&pageId=eccoii-1490000900-540&terms=brandy%20drinking%20men&date=1700-1800&undated=exclude&pageTerms=brandy%20drinking%20men] Famous piece of satire in the eighteenth century. This source showed that not everyone believed the vast benefits that cordial claimed to posses.



Unknown, A discovery of some gross abuses and disorders in the retail of Strong Waters humble proposed to the consideration of the Parliament, (London) 1720 [https://data.historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/view?pubId=ecco-1211503700&terms=strong%20waters&date=1700-1800&undated=exclude&pageTerms=strong%20waters&pageId=ecco-1211503700-10] This is a petition to government asking them to intervene in the sale of cordial in the eighteenth century. This source was helpful in emphasising that despite reaching peak popularity in the eighteenth century, not everyone was pleased with the mass consumption of cordial.


Unknown, The Whole duty of a Woman: Or, the infallible guide to the fairer sex, (Printed for T.Reed, London, 1737) p.704 [https://data.historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/view?pubId=ecco-0802000200&terms=the%20whole%20duty%20of%20a%20woman&pageTerms=cordial&pageId=ecco-0802000200-7040] A piece of conduct literature detailing recipes for cordial which helped in defining the gender of cordial in the eighteenth century.


Unknown, 'The Female physician or: Every Woman her own Doctress', in Monthly Review or Literary Journal, ed. by Ralph Griffiths, Vol.44, (Published by Hurst, Robinson and Co, London, 1771) p.495 [http://search.proquest.com/britishperiodicals/docview/4619357/6881163ABA643DBPQ/20?accountid=14888] Associating women and medicine with cordial.


Secondary Sources


Cook, Harold J, 'Medicine in Western Europe', in The Oxford Handbook of The History of Medicine, ed. By Mark Jackson, (Oxford, 2012) p.10[http://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199546497.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780199546497-e-011?rskey=wMtjPZ&result=1] Useful context in the history of cordial as medicine,


Emmins, Colin, 'Part III- Dietary Liquids' in The Cambridge World History of Food, (Cambridge, 2008) pp. 702-712 [https://0-www.cambridge.org.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/core/services/aop-cambridge-core/content/view/9FB59E06A80AE2953776D1600EDDC173/9781139058636c75_p702-712_CBO.pdf/soft-drinks.pdf] This source provided some background into the history of cordial in England which I struggled to find from primary sources.


Cordial in the Oxford English Dictionary [http://0-www.oed.com.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/view/Entry/41449?redirectedFrom=cordial#eid] - Thursday 16 March 2017





Figure 1.- Johnson, Samuel, A dictionary of the English Language, in which the words are deduced from their originals, explained in their original meanings and authorised by the names of the writers in whose works they are found, eighth editions, (printed for A. Millar, W. Law and B. Carter, London), 1792. pg.232 [https://data.historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/view?pubId=ecco-1056100101&terms=samuel%20johnson%20dictionary&pageTerms=cordial&pageId=ecco-1056100101-2320]



Figure 2.-Blamire, Susannah, Stoklewath: or, the Cumbrian Village, in The Poetical Works, (1842)[ http://0-literature.proquest.com.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/searchFulltext.do?id=Z200282557&childSectionId=Z200282557&divLevel=2&queryId=2978311810993&trailId=15A1E1D06EB&area=poetry&forward=textsFT&queryType=findWork#Hit6] - Thursday 16 March 2017


Figure 3.- Smith, George, A compleat body of distilling, explaining the mysteries of that science, in a most easy and familiar manner, containing an exact and accurate Method of making all the Compound Cordial-Waters currently in use with a particular account of their several virtues, third edition, (Printed for Henry Liltot, London) 1738. p.2 [https://data.historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/view?pubId=ecco-0703500300&terms=A%20compleat%20body%20of%20distilling&date=1700-1800&undated=exclude&pageTerms=cordial&pageId=ecco-0703500300-20] - Thursday 16 March 2017 Image showing the distillation process for making cordial. This was useful for showing the complex process required for commercial production.


Figure 4.-Daffey, Ellen, Directions given by Anthony Daffey, for taking the safe, innocent, and successful cordial drink called Elixir Salutis, truly prepared by me Ellen Daffey, now living in the Square in Salisbury-Court, in the house that was formerly Dr. Brown's near Fleet Street, a large Golden Ball being over the Gate, (Publisher unknown, 1700) p.1 [https://data.historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/view?pubId=eebo-99897283e&terms=cordial%20dose&date=1700-1800&undated=exclude&pageTerms=cordial%20dose&pageId=eebo-99897283e-137002-1] - Thursday 16 March 2017


Figure 5.- Assorted Cordial Glasses, (Made between 1760-1780, England) [http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O5572/cordial-glass-unknown/]- Thursday 16 March 2017 Image from the V&A Museum showing three different cordial glasses. This was chosen as it showed the variety and complexity of eighteenth-century cordial glasses.


Figure 6.- Solomon, Samuel, An Account of that most excellent medicine the Cordial Balm of Gilead which is prepared only by S. Solomon, M.D., (printed by John Fletcher,1799 p.1 [https://data.historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/view?pubId=ecco-0216401100&terms=a%20cordial%20medicine&date=1700-1801&undated=exclude&pageTerms=a%20cordial%20medicine&pageId=ecco-0216401100-20] - Thursday 16 March 2017


Figure 7.- Centlivre, Susannah, 'A Bold Stroke for a Wife', in The Broadview Anthology of Restoration and Early-Eighteenth Century Drama, ed. by J. Douglas Canfield, (Peterborough, Ont: Boradview,2001)p.918 [http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/english/currentstudents/undergraduate/modules/fulllist/third/en330/syllabus/1._centlivre_bold_stroke.pdf]- Thursday 16 March 2017


Figure 8.- Gay, John, 'The Beggar's Opera', in The Norton Anthology of English Literature, 9th edn., ed. by Stephen Greenblatt, Vol C: The Restoration and Eighteenth Century, ed. by James Noggle and Lawrence Lipking, (New York, Norton, 2012) p.2827 [http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/english/currentstudents/undergraduate/modules/fulllist/third/en330/syllabus/2._gay_beggars_opera.pdf]- Thursday 16 March 2017


Figure 9.- Cumberland, Richard, 'The West Indian' in British Theatre comprising Tragedies, Comedies, Operas and Farces from the most classic writers by Owen Williams (Leipsic, Brunswick), 1828,pg.404 [https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=FcVOAAAAcAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false]- Thursday 16 March 2017


Figure 10.-Harriet in High Keeping, (Printed by Carington Bowles,1780) [http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O203875/print-unknown/]- Thursday 16 March 2017 Print of a women in her dressing room. Although the artist is unknown, this print was chosen as it showed a woman with cordial glasses in her dressing room which supports the idea of private cordial-drinking.


Figure 11.- Unknown, The Whole duty of a Woman: Or, the infallible guide to the fairer sex, (Printed for T.Reed, London, 1737) p.704 [https://data.historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/view?pubId=ecco-0802000200&terms=the%20whole%20duty%20of%20a%20woman&pageTerms=cordial&pageId=ecco-0802000200-7040] - Thursday 16 March 2017


Figure 12.- Unknown, A discovery of some gross abuses and disorders in the retail of Strong Waters humble proposed to the consideration of the Parliament, p.1 (London) 1720 [https://data.historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/view?pubId=ecco-1211503700&terms=strong%20waters&date=1700-1800&undated=exclude&pageTerms=strong%20waters&pageId=ecco-1211503700-10]- Thursday 16 March 2017






Comments (0)

You don't have permission to comment on this page.