Sunday, December 14, 2014

Update: The 1772 "Grippine" Mystery Solved

Sunday, December 14, 2014
Isabella reporting,

One of our most popular blogs last month was The Hazards of Traveling by Chaise, which included a letter by Hester Pitt, Countess of Chatham, recounting the trials and setbacks that she, her daughters, and the rest of their party encountered on their journey to Hayes Place in Kent from their home at Burton Pynsent.

While most of the letter described rutted roads, broken traces, and other travelers' mishaps, there was one passage that puzzled me, and many of you readers as well.

"...William [went] forward to fetch a fresh chaise from Amesbury to meet Bradshaw, who was to march on foot till they came to him with his grippine."

What could "his grippine" be? Reader suggestions included overshoes, a saddle, and a small suitcase, as well as another horse, but the correct answer was tantalizingly unknown.

But we Nerdy History Girls hate to leave a history-question unanswered, and fortunately for us, historian Jacqui Reiter (who provided us with the original quotation) is just as persistent. Since the version of the letter we were discussing had been transcribed and printed in a 20th c. biography (William Pitt, Earl of Chatham by Brian Tunstall), Jacqui decided to seek out the original letter to see what could be learned from the complete text, and made a journey of her own to the UK National Archives in Kew, where the Chatham papers are housed. The letter is several pages long, written in Lady Chatham's brisk hand, and the page with the "grippine" passage is above.

But as often the case with transcriptions, the one in the Tunstall book was not quite correct, nor was it complete. The actual words - underlined for emphasis by Lady Chatham -  in the letter are "with his favorite Gippine." The capital G makes it seem as if Gippine is a proper name, and a further passage in the letter leaves little doubt that Gippine is a horse, referring to Gippine as Bradshaw's "faithful attendant":

"The Fresh Chaise found Bradshaw got forward with his faithful attendant about a mile and a half, so he was quit for only a Comfortable perspiration."

Jacqui also found another letter that humorously refers to Bradshaw as "Gippine's travelling Friend." As she notes, "The way Lady Chatham refers to Gippine as nearly human is quite typical of the Pitts' attitude towards their horses. In fact I am still somewhat confused about which names in the correspondence refer to horses, and which to servants...not sure whether this reflects better on their attitude towards their animals, or worse on their attitude towards their staff!"

Incidentally, Bradshaw was a trusted upper servant in the Pitt household. As Jacqui notes, he was sufficiently literate and valued to witness Lord Chatham's will. And yet in the letters, he does indeed seem to take second place to the noble Gippine.

One final note: once we had the horse's name identified as Gippine, I wondered what, if anything, the name might mean. The "ine" ending seemed more French than English to me, and given the 18th c. penchant for phonetical spelling with foreign words, I tried searching for Jippine - and had success. While the name doesn't appear to have a translatable meaning (and if any of you know it, please share!), I did discover that today it's still a name used for French horses, as seen in this performance record for a pony called Jippine du Rietz.

Another history mystery solved!

Many thanks once again to Jacqui Reiter for tracking down this information for us.

Above: Excerpt from Letter from Lady Chatham to Lord Chatham, UK National Archives, Chatham MSS, PRO 30/8/9f 100, dated 9 April [probably 1772]. 
Below: A Saddled Bay Hunter, by George Stubbs, 1786. Private collection.


Anonymous said...

"Jip" was a popular name for dogs in the nineteenth century. There are dogs called Jip in David Copperfield and in Dr. Doolittle. Also Abraham Lincoln owned a dog named Jjp. Might be a connection to Jippine as generic animal name?

Sarah said...

Fascinating, an excellent piece of detective work, and incidentally I, too, was going to mention Jip as a dog's name. My Great Aunt, born 1897, used to quote a poem told to her by her aunt, of a cat addressing a dog;
"Go on barking, Jip," quoth she
"It pleaseth you, and don't hurt me!"
I believe it may hail from the same source as the naval term 'to jib or gybe' which involves making a smart turn, and possibly therefore refers to agility. My Norman French is a bit limited, though.

Anonymous said...

Loved this post! I love a mystery and following a trail! Thanks!

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

On twitter, a reader noted that the word "jippine" may be of Maltese origin. Perhaps we're not to the bottom of this mystery yet!

Cindy said...

Wonderful. Thank you for solving the mystery -- and what a beautiful horse and picture.

Drayton Bird said...

What immense pleasure your posts give!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this interesting story and the fruitful search it encouraged !
May I add, as an Italian, that the original name Gippine looks to me like an Italian derivate, not necessarily through French, but directly from Italian, a language that at the time was fairly well known by upper classes people.
The original name could be Geppina, a shorter version of Giuseppina, the feminine of Giuseppe (Joseph, of course).
While Giuseppina is (or was, as the name is completely out of fashion since at least 100 years) the more common variation, many others exist(ed), such as
Giuseppa, Geppa, Beppa, Beppina, Peppa, Peppina, Pina, Pinella, Pinetta, Pinuccia, Giusi, Giusy...

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