Monday, March 20, 2006

Illuminated manuscripts and handguns

In one of my seminars today, a professor pointed us to an obituary of his former colleague, Madeleine Cosman from yesterday's edition of The New York Times. Cosman was a medievalist who took the subject very seriously:
Ms. Cosman took her work seriously. She could sing madrigals, play the lute and eat with her fingers off a trencher in the proper medieval style. Her house in suburban New Jersey was appointed with ornately carved period furniture. Arms and armor lay about, the walls were hung with Flemish tapestries, and the cellar was stocked with mead.

On special occasions, visitors might find Ms. Cosman, wearing a flowing velvet gown, presiding over an elegant table that could include blankmangere en doucette (chicken cooked with cumin and cream, served in pastry) and lentil mawmenye (a lamb and lentil stew). Utensils were not supplied.

Apart from medieval food and birthday cake, the only thing Ms. Cosman knew how to cook was hamburger, a dish that took her nearly 15 years to master. Her family was fond of hamburger, which was always served by candlelight.

Later in life, she became active in anti-immigration groups in California. The final sentence of the obituary is brilliant:
Ms. Cosman also leaves behind a vast library of illuminated manuscripts and a large collection of handguns.

I can only hope that my glass-encased dead bat (bats? maybe I'll collect more) makes an appearance in my obituary.
Anonymous Christine on Tue Mar 21, 11:38:00 AM:
of course this crazy lady totally went to barnard. hilarious.
Blogger a Reader on Tue Mar 21, 05:05:00 PM:
I'm going to have to start collecting something suitably eccentric so that my obituary writer has something to comment on. But what? I don't have an encased stuffed mammal, and until today I've never felt the lack.