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153. Aqua Vitæ.

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One Theoricus (Episcopus Hermenensis in Romanula juxta Bononiam) wrote a proper treatise of Aqua Vitæ, says Stanihurst[1], wherein he praise it it unto the ninth degree. “He distinguished three sorts thereof, Simplex, Composita, and Perfectissima. He declareth the simples and ingrediences thereto belonging. He wisheth it to be taken as well before meat as after. It drieth up the breaking out of hands, and killeth the flesh worms[2] , it 297you wash your hands therewith. It scbureth all scurf and scalds from the head, being therewith daily washt before meals. Being moderately taken, saith he, it sloweth age, it strengtheneth youth, it helpeth digestion, it cutteth phlegm, it abandoneth melancholy, it relisheth the heart, it lighteneth the mind, it quickeneth the spirits, it cureth the hydropsy, it healeth the strangury, it pounceth the stone, expelleth gravel, it puffeth away all ventosity, it keepeth and preserveth the head from whirling, the eyes from dazzling, the tongue from lisping, the mouth from maffling, the teeth from chattering, and the throat from rattling; it keepeth the weason from stifling, the stomach from wambling, and the heart from swelling; the belly from wirtching, the guts from rumbling, the hands from shivering, and the sinews from shrinking, the veins from crampling, the bones from aching, and the marrow from soaking.”

The bishop writes of aqua vitæ as if 298he loved it. No doubt he was full of his subject, and the spirit moved him to pour forth this panegyric, which it might have puzzled any body except Stanihurst to translate. Stanihurst himself, in thus expatiating upon “the commodities of aqua vitæ,” seems to have been no water-drinker. “Truly, (he adds,) it is a sovereign liquor, if it be orderly taken.” The clerks of Ireland, according to old Higden, had a very orderly way of taking it,.. “they ben chaste, and sayen many prayers, and done great abstinence a-day, and drinketh all night[3].”


  1. Holinshed, Vol. 6. p. 8,
  2. What is meant by this?
  3. Polychronicon, 1, 36.