Thursday, 12 February 2015

Latin at Anstey's Cove

Pursuing the reference in Harper's 1907 The South Devon Coast to the Latin sign that adorned Mr Thomas's tea-house, formerly at Anstey's Cove, Torquay: here's a transcript and a bit more about its background.

Detail from Discovering Britain, Coves and cliffs
Low-resolution image as fair use for comment/critique

Invenies casula ponti prope litus amœna
Pocula Sinensum tuta calentis aquæ,
Et (raro Salmone) rubros glaucos quoque mullos
Nulla cancrina est esca neganda die.
Gaudendum est nitidis modica mercede phaselis,
Quicquid et ut pisces fallere possis adest.
Casta pudicitiam velant dûm claustra, puellis
Ut decet indutis æquor inire licet:
Præterea præbens THOMAS ea cuncta docebit
Neptuni pueros salsa per alta viam.
- C.A.B. B.T. August 1808 [?]
Would any reader who knows Latin be kind enough to translate it back?

This is the Latin translation, done by a visiting scholar, of Mr Thomas's tea-house advertisement on the signboard about the cove. Charles Harper wasn't the only visitor to be tickled by Latin version.
With the exception of Mr. Thomas's tea-house, where, if the above-quoted verse done into Latin over the door may be credited, you can get almost anything from hot water to a bathing machine, there are no buildings at Anstis Cove.
- The coasts of Devon and Lundy Island; their towns, villages, scenery, antiquities and legends (JLW Page, 1895, Internet Archive coastsofdevonlun00pageuoft).
And the 1898 edition of the Black's Guide to Devonshire comments:
Above, near the entrance to the cove, is now displayed that board of doggerel verses which has made copy for so many guide books ; below, the refreshment room exhibits a still more comic Latin version of the same, a little scorched, for the for the place was once set fire to, as is believed, the original owner of these conveniences having been a somewhat unpopular character.
The sign was evidently there until the 1930s, as it's noted in the archives of The Radleian (the house magazine of Radley College) in issue 551, November 17th 1935, page 217. The correspondent, "PEDANT", jokes that "there is a translation in rhyme at the top of the cove, but it is a very poor one".

We may well never know who did the translation, but there's more to the story. Mortimer Collins' 1880 Thoughts in my Garden tells of a translation of the Anstey's Cove sign in a journal entry dated October 9, 1873. The cited author, Colonel Drury, doesn't match the initials on the sign in the photo, and the Latin text is also different:
This useful gentleman [Mr Thomas], who supplies the ladies with 'quite correct bathing-gowns,' deserves a visit from any explorers of the sweet South Devon coast. A graceful Latinist,* whose name Harrow knows full well, being at Anstis Cove a few weeks ago, turned this quaint legend into capital verse, as thus :

'Lympha calens frondesque herbæ Sinensis emuntur
Hæc casula in ponti margine munda nitet ;
Sæpe illic salmo et mulli glaucique rubrique,
Cammarus et cancer semper habendus inest.
Conduces nitidos modicâ mercede phaselos,
Aptaque captandis piscibus arma libens.
Membra lavaturas quæ velent claustra puellas,
In freta vestitas ut decet ire sinunt.
Et pueros idem Thomas qui cuncta ministrat
Per vada Neptuni salsa natare docet.'

How charmingly the decent bathing gowns are rendered in vv. 7, 8 — ut decet ire — not in the fashion of the foam-born goddess! Thomas of Anstis Cove has got his fly buried in fine classic amber: 'Implicuit tenuem succina gutta feram.'
* Colonel Drury
- Thoughts in my Garden, vol. 1 (Mortimer Collins, ed. Edmund Yates, 1880, Internet Archive thoughtsinmygard01coll).
Again, I'd love to see a back-translation of this. It looks fun: "herbæ Sinensis" is tea!

The mention of classic amber and "Implicuit tenuem succina gutta feram" is a reference to a description by Tacitus of an ant buried in amber; and "Colonel Drury" seems to refer to the banker and soldier Edward Robert Drury, whose father was a master at Harrow.

To recap, this is the original poem as quoted in Harper's 1907 The South Devon Coast:
Picnics supplied with hot water and tea
At a nice little house down by the sea;
Fresh Crabs and Lobsters every day,
Salmon Peel sometimes, Red Mullet and Grey;
The neatest of pleasure-boats let out on hire;
Fishing Tackle as good as you can desire;
Bathing Machines for Ladies are kept,
With Towels and Gowns, all quite correct.
Thomas is the man who provides everything :
And also teaches Young People to swim.
Harper, in his earlier From Paddington to Penzance (1893, Internet Archive frompaddingtont00harpgoog) commented:
Excellent and most moral Thomas! Mindful both of provisions and the proprieties, your truly British characteristics shall excuse your errors of rhyme and rhythm; and though your lines don't scan, I trust your actions là bas have attained a ready scansion haut.
- Ray

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