Deer heads for Mr Secretary

This inclosed to your lordship is from francis Seagar seruant to the lantgraue of Hess [.]  he hath sent also to your lordship 2 deeres heades the one of a Rayne deere, the other of an Ealand a kynd of deer soe caled ther [.] the heades are heer att my chamber att somersett howse vntill I vnderstand your lordhip‘s pleasure for the tyme it please you to haue them brought to Cort to see them, they were sent to me by Garter king att Armes francis seagars brother, who wold haue attended your lordship with them him selfe but that he is sicke. It may please your lordship to lett me knowe wheI shall send bringe them vp, bycause the messenger that brought them desyres to be att the deliuery of them.

Somersett howse
9ber 30. 1605 .

your lordships most humble seruant
Tho: wilson.


(Thomas Wilson to the Earl of Salisbury, CP 113/60)

I should of course only post this blog with some commentary on the above, but it will have to suffice for me to say that I was amused by the idea of someone sending deers’ heads as a gift to Cecil. I am presuming they are mounted for display. Which raises the question, how long has taxidermy been around to decorate the smoking rooms of the rich and famous more rich..?

I could do with a rent like this

From a document in TNA WARD 5/39, listing the lands etc of the recently deceased John Bowyer, knight:

                               Comitate Cestrie

A messuage and twoe Cottages with thappertunances
in the County of Chester in Bradwall Are holden of
Thomas Venables esquire as of his Baronie
of kindertone in the said county of Chester by
the yerly Rent of one paire of white gloves
or one penny at Ester
for all Services And are
worthe in all issues aboue Reprisented    }   –   xl shillings

The reliability of “Winwood’s Memorials”

The three-volume Memorials of affairs of state in the reigns of Q. Elizabeth and K. James I, collected (chiefly) from the original papers of … Sir Ralph Winwood, edited by Edmund Sawyer, published in 1725 (2nd ed. 1727), is a hugely convenient work for those working on late Elizabethan and early Stuart State Papers, since it prints hundreds of letters from the English diplomatic correspondence with Ambassadors on the continent. However, it is not a reliable source of information, and one should bear this in mind. Not that there is such a thing, of course! But my gripe to you today is a simple one. Observe:

Winwood, vol. 2, p. 357 (1727 ed.):

TNA SP 94/14 f. 214, draft of the same letter:

Now, regular (?) readers will know that I have a Thing About Dates, and here, too, it is a date that is the matter at question. In Winwood, Sawyer has Cecil say his last letter to Cornwallis was of the “6th of September.” In the draft in the State Papers, however, the date for the same letter is given as “27. of Septembre”.

Okay, you say, so Sawyer printed the wrong date. So what? Well, if you are charting a correspondence – consisting primarily of when letters were sent and received, and to some extent of the paths they took and who they were carried by – and particularly if you are trying to establish the transmitting of information, three weeks makes a world of difference, even in the Early Modern period, even for distances such as that between London and Madrid. For instance, when there was a real emergency at either end, news of which would be transmitted immediately, reconstructing the sequence of events today becomes frustrating to the extreme if dates do not match. Particularly since the matter is compounded by the usage of Old Style and New Style dates, which add a ten-day bracket to every date anyway..

In the end, I suppose more important than one antiquarian-minded scholar’s griping at imperfect editions, is the fact that it is cases like this – coming across and resolving conflicting sources – which helps develop one’s understanding of the inherent unreliability of the surviving records of the past.

(By the way, ironically, the letter from Cecil to Cornwallis of 27.9.1607 does not survive as a draft in TNA SP 94/14, but it is printed in Winwood (1727 ed.), vol. 2, p. 340…)

on the wagon

charretten. a final, intensive effort to finish a project before a deadline

Thus saith Futility Closet. And I thought, there’s a definition of my state if ever one was. But of course one has to check these things (words) in the OED, which says:

charet | charette, n. Obs. A wheeled vehicle or conveyance.

..que? Only by scrolling to the bottom, there is more:

Draft additions March 2007

Chiefly N. Amer. (orig. Archit.). A period of intense (group) work, typically undertaken in order to meet a deadline.

[Probably originally with reference to the former custom among French architecture students of using a cart to carry their work on the day of an exhibition: see Trésor de la Langue Française s.v. charrette.]

A relatively new coinage, then. I’ll still take it.

Sir Charles Cornwallis in his valley of misery

The first English Ambassador in Spain post-Elizabeth, Sir Charles Cornwallis, got bit of a rough deal. English trade with Spain had just been opened up again (in 1604), but relations were still somewhat strained, and many English merchants found themselves in trouble in Spain – some of it their own causing, but much of it not. These merchants naturally sought redress by going to the Spanish Court themselves, but more frequently through contacting the English Ambassador and asking – if not demanding! – his help in pursuing their suit. Cornwallis did his best, but received flak equally from importunate English merchants who put much more effort into complaining than actively trying to sort their matters out, from local nobles at the Spanish Court who felt Cornwallis demeaned his post as Ambassador by acting as a solicitor for the English merchants, and also somewhat from the Lords of the Privy Council of England who perhaps did not fully appreciate Cornwallis’s situation.

In this light, the following closing of a letter written 16 November 1607 (Old Style), is not particularly uncommon:

And so my good lord, trauayling on in this vale of mysery,
with none other earthly hope, & comfort, then to serue my
master & my cuntry with myn vntermost [sic] dilligence, & deuty, I
recommend myn humble seruyce & affection to your lordship to
whom I wyll neuer be other then

one of your faythfyllest
seruantes, and truest poore
frendes ./

Charles Cornwaleys

Madrid 16o Nouember 1607
stilo veteri ./

(TNA SP 94/14 ff. 212-213)


What’s Early Modern English for “Tom, Dick & Harry”?

The other manner of my prosecution of my cuntrym{ens} causes they so farr myslyke, as one Don francisco (a Judg delegate for the assisting of the Councell of warr, in Causes ther depending in law) hauing lately receaued very sharpe letters from his majestie here, reprouing his slow proceeding in those of ye King my masters subjects) vpon tewsday last sayd vnto one of my secretaries, that he so much honored and loued me, as he must of Necessity lett me know playnly what he thought, and others sayd of me, which was, that I performed here rather the part of a solycitor then an Embassador ./ […]
He then […] sayd; That were he in my place, he would wright to the King playnly, tho{ugh} yt neyther agreed with his majesties honor nor with the reputation of the place that I represent of his person to make me a solycitor of the Causes of Peter, Jhon, and James; That yt was not an office becomming an Embassador […]

– Sir Charles Cornwallis, English Ambassador at the Spanish Court, to the Privy Council in London, 27 June 1607 (TNA SP 94/14 ff. 65-68)

Here’s the real question: is “Peter, John and James” i) the/an EModE equivalent English idiom we now know as “Tom, Dick and Harry”, or ii) a calque from Spanish? (“Pedro, Juan y Diego”?) I leave it to you, dear hypothetical reader, to google for the answer.


“I like not these gold-makers”

I haue had ferther conferrence with the Scotsman / which came from madrid 15 dais past, he sayeth he hath Letters from my lord Ambassador and that his lordshipp gaue hym fyve hvndred Crowns per order from his majestie of England /. and that an vnckell he hath in madrid gaue hym fyve hvndred Crowns more. and as he passed per the monts of ronsevall per a place called Santa Crus. an abbat or Churchman Cozoned hym of all his money he hauinge delyverd it vnto hym to keepe it, & the other denyed the recept theirof /. soe he came to my lodginge & offered me ringes & Jewls in pawne to lend hym money vpon them for that he would dispach his man back into Spaine / I promis yow I was loth to enter in with hym because as he said he hath the vse of the philosofers ston to make gould and siluer / & that he had Spent more gould then would fill my Countinghouse in seekinge for it / […]

in fine. I lyck not these gould makers. that want gould at the first accointance a man hath with them, & the rather because the[y] Aske to borrow money of them the[y] never say in ther life before / he is called sr. Cornelius / he is determened to stay heare for 20 dayes or a moneth & hath taken a Chamber / & sent to a glashouse to haue Cyrten glasses made accordinge to the mark in the margent. soe it seemeth he meneth to trye his art heare /.

Sounds like a great character! Cocks goes on to say,

he speketh latten, English, french Spanish and Italian. hie duch & nedarlandish. & as he sayeth the Arabian tonge / & as he sayeth he hath byn at Constantianople. Jerusalem / & other places ferther then those. soe I think he will proue a second Sir John mandeuill / out of dowbt the man hath som extraordenary qualletys in hym / once it is Cyrten he wanteth noe tonge –

I like the tone of Cocks’s description – bemused, slightly exasperated, relishing the irony, subtly sarcastic. Cocks was a man who appreciated a good story, whatever the truth value of the account. Of Sir Cornelius we hear no more..

(From TNA SP 94/13 f. 138, Richard Cocks to Thomas Wilson, prob. 12 January 1607)

Ahh, procrastination

Where doth time fly? That is the question. Although here are two answers to where some of my time this month has gone (to my shame).

– the other day, I spent most of the afternoon chasing after an obscure geographical location on the coast of the Bay of Biscay, only to realize in the end that the name I was chasing after was a scribal error

– yesterday and today, I’ve been plotting 17C maps of postal routes in France and Spain into Google Maps

..although these do seem rather arcane pastimes, at least a couple very useful understandings arise from doing these. Firstly, I have a renewed sense of the Truth value of historical documents. Secondly, I now have a much better understanding of just how demanding the route from Irun on the coast in the North-eastern corner of Spain to Madrid was, as it passed over high mountains and through winding valleys. The first point will greatly facilitate the interpretation of my data. The second will help explain movements of letters to and from the Spanish Court. So time not (entirely) wasted.

Nonetheless, these are luxuries I can’t really afford at the moment. I guess it’s just hard to change bad habits.

ETA 23.5.2012:

It turned out that the first point above was not, in fact, a scribal error after all. But I did find out how frustratingly difficult it can be to track down places based on Early Modern English spellings of foreign, now obsolete place-names! (To wit, the “Bay of Alqueson” or the “coast of Alcason” refer to the stretch of coastline from St-Jean-de-Luz to the mouth of the Gironde. Probably from the place-name Arcachon, at the northern end of the coast).


anecdotal evidence

I must tell you a ridiculous Incident, perhaps you have not heard it. One Mrs Mapp, a famous she Bone:setter and Mountebank, coming to Town in a coach with six horses on the Kentish Road, was met by a Rabble of People, who seeing her very oddly and tawdrily dress’d, took her for a Foreigner, and concluded she must be a certain great Persons Mistress. Upon this they followed the Coach, bawling out, No Hannover whore no Hannover whore. The lady within the Coach was much offended, let down the Glass, and scream’d louder than any of them, she was no Hannover whore, she was an English one, upon which they all cry’d out, God bless your Ladyship, quitted the pursuit, and wished her a good Journey.

– William Pulteney to Jonathan Swift, 21 December 1736

(from The correspondence of Jonathan Swift, D.D., Vol. 4, 1734-1745, ed. by David Woolley, Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2007. p. 373.)